Posts Tagged With: divine guidance

The Word, the Light, and the Lord

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path (Psalms 119:105, ESV).

bantry_church_of_st-_brendan_the_navigator_third_north_window_i_am_the_light_of_the_world_detail_2009_09_09

Jesus Christ, the Light of the World and the Word of God incarnate.  Stained-glass window at Church of St. Brendan the Navigator, Bantry, County Cork, Ireland. Photo by Andreas F. Borchert [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en), CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], from Wikimedia Commons

A few English translations adapt the wording of Psalm 119:105 to say that God’s Word is a “lantern” instead of a lamp. The Living Bible gets even more contemporary, saying “Your words are a flashlight to light the path ahead of me and keep me from stumbling.”

Whether it is a light, a lamp, a lantern, or a flashlight, this anthem to the glory of God’s Word reminds us that the Bible is intended to shed light on our paths and show us how to walk through life. If we cannot see where we are going, we are likely to get lost, trip over things, or crash into obstacles. As we walk by faith and not by sight (an absolute essential in the spiritual life), a light for our path becomes even more necessary.

 

Growing up on Long Island, I was always surrounded by light. Even at night, street lights or the light from neighboring houses would provide a way to see where I was going. An occasional journey out of the New York metropolitan area would provide a reminder of how dark the world can be without electric lights. Riding a bus to Syracuse during my college days, we would pass through some areas where I could see nothing outside the window. Eventually, there would be a faint glow in the distance ahead of us: That glow was the city of Syracuse. Light becomes more obvious when one is surrounded by darkness.

I remember one time when I lived in Missouri, making a pizza delivery on a dark country road outside the city limits. If I turned off the car’s engine, I might have a hard time finding it when returning from the front door of the house! I can only imagine what life was like for our ancestors before the invention of light bulbs and artificial light sources.

The Bible often closely associates God with light. It is an essential part of His nature. Jesus said that He is the “light of the world.” According to Genesis 1:3–5, the very first thing that God created was light. When God led the Israelites out of Egypt under Moses, He would send a pillar of fire to lead the way at night.

John (who also told us that “God is love”) tells us first and foremost that God is light:

“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (I John 1:5–7).

John would later tell us that the glory of God will be the light of the New Jerusalem, and the Lamb of God (Jesus) will be its lamp for all eternity (Revelation 21:23). Jesus shows us the way to the Father. In fact, He IS the way to the Father (John 14:6–7). If we can see Jesus, we see God, and we see the path to follow as we walk into everlasting life.

The Word of God is the light that leads us to God and shows us the path we should walk in. Jesus is the Word. He is the light. He is God incarnate.

“The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:9–14).

As we read the Bible, we should seek the answers to a few questions:

  • What does this tell us about Jesus? First and foremost, we should seek to know Christ through the Word of God. Jesus said to the religious legalists of His day, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life” (John 5:39–40). How many professing Christians make the same mistake today?
  • What is the path that God is calling me to follow today?
  • What obstacles will I face on that path today? (Temptations, distractions, or challenges will come our way.)
  • How can I avoid these obstacles, or get around them, or walk over them?

We should not read the Bible merely to read a good story or learn theology. As we open the Bible, we should ask the Holy Spirit to reveal Jesus to us and show us the path through life. God’s Word gives direction. It gives wisdom. It gives life. It reveals Jesus, Who is the very embodiment and personification of that Word and Light.

If you would like to read more thoughts about the light of the world, you can look at this series of posts:

Reflecting the Light of the World

A Prayer Acknowledging Jesus as the Light of the World

Light of the World: Exposing the Deeds of Darkness

Walking in the Light of the World. I: Time and Wisdom

Walking in the Light of the World. II: Filled with the Holy Spirit

Copyright © 2018 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Christian Life, Renewing the Mind Reflections | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment
 
 

Walking Through the Valleys. I: Entering the Valley

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me (Psalm 23:4)

lleyn_sheep

By User:Jackhynes [public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

Whenever I read the book of Psalms, something more than the colorful language and vivid imagery grabs my attention. I can relate to the emotions expressed in these poems and songs of praise. Take the familiar “Shepherd Song” in Psalm 23. It is not merely a song about some guy and his sheep. It is about each of us. Like that sheep, probably everybody has wandered into “the valley of the shadow of death.”

Have you ever reached a point in your life where all you could see was darkness? Have you ever found yourself in a place where the light of God’s love, or anything else that makes life worth living, was hidden from your sight? Maybe you felt like that lost sheep, surrounded by thick darkness with ravenous wolves hiding behind every tree. You thought you had reached the end of the line.

You may not wander into the same valleys as I have. We all wander into different valleys: Unemployment, financial distress, legal trouble, divorce, sickness, addiction, or any other crisis can ensnare you. But when you are in the valley of the shadow of death, you do not care how it looks to an observer standing on a hill. You only care about how bleak your situation looks to you.

Psalm 23 reminds us that we may wander into the valley even while we are obeying God. This sheep could say, with all honesty, that the Lord was his shepherd. He was following his shepherd, but he still found himself in a valley. You do not need to sin or lack faith in God to face a crisis. Even so, when you find yourself in the valley, immediately review your footsteps to see if you brought this dilemma upon yourself. Did your own sins bring you into the valley? Did you get lost because you wandered away from the shepherd? Or, did the shepherd lead you to a place you would not choose to go on your own?

Sheep do not have a reputation for being very intelligent animals. They are much better at following the herd than at making decisions on their own. If they wander away from the shepherd and other sheep, they are vulnerable. Christians are the same: We need to stay with the herd (the body of Christ) and be led by the shepherd (Jesus) to avoid getting lost in the valley. However, when we lose our way, our Good Shepherd will seek us. He is not willing to lose any of His sheep:

“What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish” (Matthew 18:12–14).

However, the sheep in Psalms 23 did not wander astray. In fact, the Psalmist describes the Good Shepherd meeting all of his needs: guiding him to green, grassy pastures where he can graze or lie down, or leading him to quietly flowing streams of cold water for a refreshing drink. He says that God is leading him in paths of righteousness. God may be leading you into paths of righteousness, and you may be following Him, but you may still find yourself in the valley of the shadow of death. Why is that?

Sometimes, the path God has chosen for you winds through rough terrain. David, who wrote this psalm, was acquainted with hard times. Even though he was a man after God’s own heart, a devout believer and servant of the Lord, and loyal to his king and country, he had spent years as a fugitive. King Saul had paranoid-schizophrenic delusions that David wanted to destroy him, so he devoted much of his time trying to capture and kill David. David spent years on the run, even though he had done no wrong. Because of his abiding faith in and obedience to God, and his perseverance during this time when he could have cried that “God’s not fair,” he became one of Israel’s greatest kings and the forefather of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I do not believe he could have accomplished this if he was not sympathetic, from first-hand experience, with those who suffer from injustice.

Do not grow discouraged in the valley. God leads all of His children through different valleys as He leads them to their desired haven. The journey through the valley is part of His plan for your life. In a following post, we will see how Jesus leads us through the valley.

(See https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/science-news/8335465/Sheep-are-far-smarter-than-previously-thought.html and http://scribol.com/environment/animals-environment/8-amazing-ways-sheep-are-smarter-than-you-thought/ for some recent interesting science about sheep intelligence. They are not actually stupid animals, but are much better at following a leader or a group than at leading. They have excellent ability to recognize and remember people and other sheep, something Jesus may have considered in John 10:4–5.)

Copyright © 2018 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

 

Categories: Bible meditations, Christian Life | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Daily Prayer for God’s Presence and Guidance

Christ in Gethsemane (Christus in Gethsemane),...

Image via Wikipedia

And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, [Jesus] departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed (Mark 1:35, ESV).

When one reads Mark’s Gospel, it is easy to notice the miracles and healings. Mark emphasizes action. He talks about what Jesus did, more than about what He said. In Mark 1:29–39, Jesus healed Simon Peter’s mother-in-law and others, casting out demons and performing other miracles. Although Mark tells us that Jesus preached, he does not report much of what He said.

However, in the middle of the story Mark mentions another important aspect of Jesus’ life. Although He was a miracle worker and preacher, He was also a prayer warrior. There are many ways in which we can never hope to be like Jesus; He was God in human form and the Savior of the world, two of many things we can never become. However, He was also a man of prayer, and this is one aspect of Jesus’ personality we can all learn to imitate.

The idea of Jesus praying raises some tough questions for some people. Why would Jesus need to pray? If He needed anything, couldn’t He just perform His own little miracle to get it? Didn’t He already know all things? If He has all wisdom and power, isn’t it safe to assume that He did not need any help from anybody, even His heavenly Father? Such questions betray a misunderstanding about both Jesus and prayer.

Yes, Jesus is the Son of God and He is all-powerful and all-knowing. However, as part of the triune God, Jesus always worked with His Father and the Holy Spirit. He never ministered without them. Jesus’ very nature demanded close communion with the Father. Jesus received guidance and directions from His Father, and through the Father’s guidance was able to perform His mighty miracles.

It is no accident that Jesus was praying just before He told Peter that they needed to leave Capernaum and go to the nearby villages to preach (see Mark 1:36–38). Perhaps, during His time of prayer, the Father revealed that He must not stay in one town too long. There were so many towns, so many people in need of the Gospel, and Jesus had so little time in this world. Jesus knew it was time to move on because He had met with His Father. Furthermore, since Jesus received His itinerary from the Father through prayer, it was that much more difficult for people to distract Him from His mission and His divinely ordained schedule. Jesus received counsel and direction through prayer.

Many Christians, however, tend to treat prayer like the Home Shopping Network or a department store. We pray when we want to get something. If we are sick, experiencing financial difficulties, or dealing with other serious crises, we pray. If all is going well, God may not hear from some of us for several days or weeks. In some cases, we might not pray for months until a crisis erupts.

Yet, if we find Jesus praying often, don’t we need to pray even more? If we find Jesus getting up early in the morning and finding a quiet place to pray, don’t we need to do the same? Jesus prayed for His Father’s guidance. Likewise, we should make prayer a priority. Every one of us needs to set aside time to pray, as a first priority (not just when there’s “nothing better to do”) and ask God for direction and strength to overcome any challenges we may meet.

Perhaps the most familiar story about Jesus praying is when He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane shortly before He was betrayed (Luke 22:39–46). His plea was one of the most familiar prayer requests in the entire Bible: “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).

This should be our prayer as well. In Twelve Step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, the Eleventh Step is “[We] sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.” Not only is this excellent advice for recovering alcoholics and drug addicts, but it is also an important lesson for Christians.

As we pray, our first priority should be communion with God. Particularly in evangelical and Pentecostal circles, we speak of having a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” Relationships, particularly intimate ones, involve spending time together. In recent years, there has been a debate about whether “quality time” or a quantity of time is more important in fostering healthy families. When people started emphasizing quality time, it developed into an excuse for parents to spend long hours at work, devote little day-to-day time to their children, and then justify it by “making up for it” with “quality time” on a vacation. Recent studies, though, have generally shown that relationships are best fostered by a regular quantity of time. It is more important to spend regular time together when building a relationship, than to cram a lot of quality time in at sporadic intervals.

We should nurture our relationship with God through regular quantities of time as well. As we pray, we should make intimacy with God our primary goal. We should become keenly aware of God’s presence. We know He is with us! You should be so confident of His presence that, if somebody should ask how you can be so certain there is a God, you might be tempted to say, “How can I doubt Him? I just talked to Him this morning. He was right there in my room! Of course there is a God!” Let us pray, believing that God will grace us with His presence, because He will do it.

As we pray, God reveals His will for our lives to us. He sees the big picture that none of us can imagine, so we should be eager to know His will for us. Sometimes His will is not easy. He will call us out of our comfort zones. He will convict us of our sins and call us to repent. God’s will is usually not popular. He will frequently call you to choose between doing what is right and doing what is socially acceptable. This is not comfortable, but the eternal rewards far outweigh our momentary discomfort. That is why we also need to pray for the courage to carry out His will.

In the last year or two, I have resumed a concerted effort to wake up earlier in the morning. My alarm goes off around 5:30 AM, so that I can pray for at least a half hour before driving to work. I have noticed that the days that I spend the most time in prayer are usually my best days. The circumstances I face are not necessarily easier on those days. I might face the same workload, traffic, and other sources of stress, regardless of whether I pray or not. However, when I leave my house with the peace that comes only through prayer (Philippians 4:6–7), He gives me greater strength, wisdom, and patience to get through the day.

I invite you to take that challenge. Spend some quality time with God before you leave for work in the morning. Get up a little earlier (I admit, that is the hard part; the snooze button will beckon you) and read God’s Word before you leave. Ask God for wisdom, strength, courage, peace, and all the other spiritual blessings you need. Cast all your burdens, including the needs of those you love, on His broad shoulders so that you do not have to carry them all day long. Invite our Lord Jesus Christ to walk with you, guiding and directing you throughout the day. Invite the Holy Spirit to fill you with His divine presence so that you can make it through the day.

Categories: Bible meditations, Spiritual disciplines | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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