Thursday, June 30, 2011

Daily Light - June 30, 2011

Daily Light from the Lighthouse

"Unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes
and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven."
Matthew 5:20

There is an enormous difference between the spiritual and the religious. Religion is based upon certain protocols or standards according to the views of those on the inside of that sect of beliefs. The spiritual is guided by the Spirit of God and adheres to the counsel of the Spirit as He ministers to each individual heart. Jesus came to man to challenge the ways of his religion by the work of His Spirit.
Religion is all about the external which can be seen by men, while the spiritual deals with the internal that can be seen only by God. When the two are compared, it is obvious that the higher standard of righteousness belongs to those who are living submissive to the will of God and not simply the external rules of man. Religion says that you should not murder your brother; Jesus said that if you hate your brother you are a murderer. Religion says that as long as you don't commit the act of adultery every thing is fine; Jesus said that if you look upon a woman with lust in your heart you are as guilty as if you had done the act. Religion places more weight on what we say than what we do; Jesus said that what you say is important before a God who hears all things. Religion says to do just enough to get by; Jesus said that we should strive to show our fellow man Christ in us. Religion says that you are only obligated to love those around you; Jesus says that you are obligated to love even your enemies.
The Scriptures tell us that the letter of the law kills, but the Spirit gives life. Most men and women choose religion, because they feel that they have a standard that they can measure up to. They are fine with someone telling them how to pray, how to eat, how to dress, when to worship, etc. By doing this they feel righteous and that is all that matters to them. The spiritual man seeks God and His will and desires to live only by those things that are given through His Word and by His Spirit into their hearts. Their behavior is not based upon the rules of man but by the righteousness of God.
There have been many throughout history that were deemed righteous according to the standards of man to only find later that there was wickedness and immorality in the secret places of their lives. God was never fooled; He knew what they were all along. We must remember that God never looks on the outward appearance of man but upon the deep places of the heart.
May you live according to the righteousness of Christ today!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Daily Light - June 29, 2011

Daily Light from the Lighthouse

"A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden."
Matthew 5:14

The traveler steps lightly and breathes faintly as he walks through the forest. The darkness is so strong that it feels as if it is suffocating him; it almost feels like a heavy coat upon his back with its hood wrapped tightly around his face. Trying to see his hand extended in front of him is next to impossible. That makes every step a dangerous one, because he knows there are terrors that lurk in these woods.
He has felt the sting of the darkness upon his flesh. This darkness is very natural to him, but it will never be comfortable. At times, he has tried to make friends with it and welcome it into his life. Those are the times that he was stung the worse. Just when he felt that he could see enough to find his own way, he ignorantly stumbled into a pit. There was no one to help him as he climbed his way out. If only there was some light to show him his way through this dark world.
Then the day came. He noticed through the gloom a pin prick of light. It was small and very faint and seemed to disappear as quickly as it appeared, but it caused something to stir in his soul like nothing had before. He set his face toward the light to discover what it might be. As he drew closer, it grew brighter. In fact it was so bright that he wanted to turn his eyes away from it. Strong light in the midst of heavy darkness is almost repulsive to someone who has only known darkness. The light also revealed some things about him and his surroundings. It showed him how filthy the environment that he walked in was. There were all sorts of beasts and creeping things lurking in the shadows. There were pits all around him that contained the remains of those who had gone before him. Even as he looked at his own flesh, he saw the toll that this darkness and mire had taken on his body. His skin was scaly and grimy and in desperate need of cleansing.
It was then that the light became something that he detested. It was as if the light was judging him in some way. How dare the light reveal him for who he was and cast judgment on his surroundings! Incredibly, he longed for the darkness again. He felt comfortable in that darkness not knowing the things that had been revealed, but now he would always know those things. The revelation of the light would no longer allow him to be ignorant of his surroundings or innocent of his own filth. With this knowledge, he turned and squinted as he looked into the now bright light. He had a decision to make: continue to walk toward the light until all was revealed or walk back into the darkness.
May you choose to walk toward the light today!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Daily Light - June 28, 2011

Daily Light from the Lighthouse

"Blessed are..."
Matthew 5:3

The Sermon on the Mount is famously known for the Beatitudes that are listed in verses 3-12. These beatitudes offer spiritual fulfillment and joy to those who follow the way of Christ. With each spiritual attitude there is a spiritual blessing that accompanies it. Unfortunately, we have often separated them into individual attitudes and pursued only those we felt were achievable in our lives.
This is not unusual, because we do the same thing with what is called the "fruit of the Spirit" in Galatians 5. Some will comment that they have the gift of love and peace, but they find patience and meekness to be impossible for them. God never intended for you to only have a portion of His Spirit; He desires for you to grow up in all of these areas. It is the same with the Beatitudes.
See these spiritual attitudes as a progression that you must follow. There first must be an understanding of how poor (v. 3) we are spiritually. This realization will lead us to mourn (v. 4) over our sin and the corruption of our flesh. One who is spiritually mournful cannot help but be meek (5) before both God and men. They recognize that something is missing in their lives, thus begins a hunger and thirst (6) for God and His righteousness. As God fills them with Himself, they inherit the ability to be merciful (7) as God is merciful. They offer this mercy out of a pure heart (8) with no personal motives but only the motive to demonstrate Christ to others. With Christ as their goal for all men they desire to show peace (9) and bring about peace in all things. This peace passes all understanding even in the face of persecution (10).
Through the opening words of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount we see His desire for His children. These are necessary steps that must be taken in order to live not only a life for God but to live the abundant life that He has promised to each of His disciples that will forsake all and follow Him. Our spiritual actions will be rewarded only as they follow our spiritual attitudes.
May you take the first step in the right direction today!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Daily Light - June 24, 2011

Daily Light from the Lighthouse

"They immediately left their nets and followed Him."
Matthew 4:20

The sound of the waves slapping against the side of the boat. The smell of the seaspray hanging in the air. For many these are sounds and smells that conjure up the joy of a relaxing day of fishing out on the water. Perhaps there is the anticipation of awaiting that big catch or maybe not caring if you catch any thing as long as you get to spend the day soaking in the sun.
It is much different for the disciples though. When Jesus called them to Himself, they were not on vacation or on a pleasure cruise. Fishing was their livelihood. It had been the way that they and their ancestors had lived for generations. He was not asking them to give up a day or two of their lives; Jesus was calling them to give up every thing they knew for the rest of their lives. To follow Jesus meant that they would have to give up every thing that came natural to them, to walk away from all that was familiar. It was only by faith that they would be able to put bread on the tables of their families. This offer from Jesus to follow Him brought up some very difficult questions that needed to be answered.
That is why the answer of the disciples is so surprising. Without hesitation they left all that they knew behind and followed Jesus. There was no sit down discussion on what type of salary or benefit package Jesus was offering. No one tried to reason it all out rationally before they stepped over the side of the boat. Each one simply took a step of faith in following the Messiah toward His kingdom.
There are many times in our lives when the call of Jesus seems to be difficult. Worldly reason and rationale can not make sense of such a request. It is in these moments that we must follow Jesus completely by faith with the knowledge that He will provide and take care of those who answer the call. There is nothing that we are doing at the moment of the call that is more important than what Jesus is calling us to do. It seems that without our knowledge He has been preparing us for this moment. He did not make this call at a time that was not perfect in His will or in our lives. It is not ours to understand what He has planned for the future; it is simply ours to obediently throw our legs over the side of the boat and follow Him. His will may lead you into places and circumstances that are very unfamiliar, but in those places there will always be a familiar voice calling you to move forward.
May you leave your nets today!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Daily Light - June 23, 2011

Daily Light from the Lighthouse

"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
Matthew 4:17

REPENT!! The word in itself conjures up images in one's mind of fear and judgment. Some picture a man standing on a street corner with a beard that needed to be trimmed years ago shouting the word while wearing a sign over his shoulders with random Scriptures of condemnation and judgment. Others see in their mind's eye a memory of a red-faced preacher ominously slumped over a pulpit with sweat rolling down his face and spit coming from the corners of his mouth. With these mental images the word "repent" becomes a horrid thought seemingly intended to inflict bondage over those who would follow such a command. Is that really what Jesus meant though?
It is interesting that the first recorded "sermon" of Jesus started with these words. It would become the theme of His ministry, so obviously we need to understand what He was calling for. The word itself is a combination of two words which means "with understanding". Jesus is calling people to believe by faith in Him but with an understanding that doing so they are making a conscious decision to turn from sin and live only by His call and direction. There is most definitely a change that will take place in their lives by making such a decision.
Some would argue that it is enough to have faith and believe on the name of Christ. Simply by faith believe that Jesus is who He says He is and call upon Him and all will be well. James argued against this reasoning by saying that faith without works is dead. Repentance is the evidence that faith is real. Faith without repentance is like a car without gas. It might look good, but it is not going to get you very far. Jesus would not commit Himself to some who "believed in His name" at the end of John 2, because He knew that there was no sincerity in their belief. When one can profess that they believe in Christ but there is no evidence of change, it has to be questioned whether or not they understand the true message of salvation that is found through not simply a belief system but through a holy God that is calling men to Himself through repentance.
It is not man's works that constitutes true repentance; it is a dependence on His grace through faith to live for Him so that we may be like Him. God's call was consistent from the Old Testament all the way through the New Testament: You be holy, for I am holy!
May we live with Christ in mind and not ourselves today!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Daily Light - June 22, 2011

Daily Light from the Lighthouse

"Away with you, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the LORD your God,
and Him only you shall serve.'"
Matthew 4:10

The battle between good and evil is the staple of any good story whether it be in a novel or a movie. The struggle that takes place for the main character in his decision to do right or wrong is spell-binding. The forces on both sides are so powerful that it seems the tug of war for one's conscience will go on forever. What a riveting tale this is!
The temptation of Christ by Satan is no fairy tale. As Jesus began His earthly ministry Satan came to stop Him before He even started. Satan's weapon of choice was the ages old formula of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. This arsenal had worked well for thousands of years on humanity, so surely it would work well on God who had become man. It was pride that brought Satan from his place of habitation in the kingdom of God, and it was pride that he had used to bring others to his new habitation of hell. Surely there was no one that was not susceptible to this poison that naturally flows through man's fleshly veins.
Christ however was no man of the flesh. Although He had the form of man in the flesh and felt as man feels, He was completely divine. Even though He had fasted for forty days, Jesus did not need the filling of bread to satisfy His greatest hunger. He did not need to throw Himself down from a high place and test whether or not the Father would save Him from such a death. He didn't need the Father to prove Himself. As all of the kingdoms of the world lay before Jesus, Satan sought once again to be worshipped which is his greatest craving and desire. It is in this final temptation that we see the greatest calling for all mankind.
"You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve." There is no one else that deserves our praise, attention, glory, or adoration like our God. It has been placed within all of creation to glorify God. Even the heavens declare it. If man were to shut his mouth and never utter praise to the Most High, the very rocks would break forth in sound of His majesty. It is with our tongues and lives that we should be bringing God the glory for not simply what He has done but for Who He is. To give our ultimate glory and praise to any thing else is Satanic and condemning. Worship and service to God and Him alone should be the controlling force of our lives.
May you worship the LORD your God today!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Daily Light - June 21, 2011

Daily Light from the Lighthouse

"This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."
Matthew 3:17

A life lived for 30 years with one purpose: to prepare the way for the Messiah. Every thing else in life was a trivial pursuit compared to this. Somehow even in his mother's womb there was a knowledge of who the Christ was. There was also a joy in knowing Him. John the Baptist lived in anticipation of seeing the fulfillment of Christ and His day. He had separated himself from the religious crowd, because they sought their own kingdom. He was looking for a kingdom not made by earthly hands. This life had not been an easy one. He sought for none of the comforts that this world offered, but chose instead to live a simple life that would be free of distractions from his purpose. If that meant eating bugs and honey, then so be it. He lived only for the sake of the call!
One day, the moment he had always anticipated came. As he was preaching and baptizing, Jesus, the Messiah, stood before him. There was a silent acknowledgment between the two of them that the time of Jesus' earthly ministry and the beginning of His kingdom had come. The unexpected twist came when Jesus asked John to baptize Him. After some explanation John consented and placed the Lamb of God under the water then raised Him up. At that moment the Godhead in its entirety manifested the glory of the Almighty. The Son stood with water dripping off His beard and watched as the Spirit of God swept down upon Him, then the voice of the Father shook heaven and earth.
As we look away from the glory for a moment we see the servant John standing next to Jesus with tears flowing down his cheeks and glory in his eyes. All of the sneers and scornful comments that he had received for his eccentric ways were forgotten. The barbs and stings that had been hurled at him from the religious crowd all of these years did not matter at this moment. A life spent in the wilderness preaching by faith what no one else could see was more than worth it now. When the fulfillment of God's promise comes, all of the negatives are forgotten as if they never existed.
Believers will face scorn from the ones they love; they will face insults from a world that knows not God. Any individual that chooses to walk with Jesus and therefore chooses to walk away from religion will be called every thing from liberal to self-righteous. In the flesh these words will sting, but when the fulfillment of God's promise comes at that eternal day they will all be forgotten. Living for Christ is what is well pleasing to the Father and all that really matters.
May you live for the sake of the call today!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Daily Light - June 8, 2011

Daily Light from the Lighthouse

"He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked."
1 John 2:6

There is in every generation a definite need for spiritual leadership. I would imagine that if you read writings of Christians from every age you would hear a cry of desperation for spiritual leaders in that day. It is of vital importance that men and women be leaders for Christ, but it is first and foremost imperative that those that would be leaders have learned to be followers of Christ first.
Many men and women have taken up the mantle of leadership in the name of Christ, and they have led others to a fulfilling relationship with God. Paul led young men like Timothy and Titus so that they could lead a generation that followed after them. It is also true that some have led people "in the name of Christ" and unfortunately led them to destruction. Many of these leaders may have started out sincerely enough, but too often pride, ego, arrogance, and the flesh caused them to start leading others in their direction and not Christ's. They demanded loyalty, even blind loyalty, and their followers went along with the plans to the unfortunate demise of not only their own lives but in many cases the testimony of our Lord and Savior.
This analogy came to me the other day as I was jogging and saw some ducks walking down the street in our neighborhood. There were three of them walking together in a line. The first duck was waddling down the road and wandering in no certain pattern. He would go straight for a few feet and then make a sharp left. At one point he walked in a circle. He would go to the edge of the road and walk on the grass for a while and then back to the pavement. While this all seemed strange, it is not what really caught my eye. The other two ducks walked right behind the lead duck and did every thing that he did. I at first admired the other two ducks for being such good followers, then it happened. A truck came driving down the road, but the ducks were on the other side of the road completely safe. Then, for some unknown reason the first duck quickly walked out right in front of the truck. Of course, the other two followed him into the path of the approaching vehicle. I no longer admired the other two ducks now, because their blind loyalty put their life at risk.
First, we must be careful to follow after the principles of Jesus Christ given to us through His Word and through the leadership of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Second, we must learn to perceive if the leaders that we are following are following after Christ. The greatest test for this is the first test that is given for godly leaders: are these individuals of blameless character? We are to walk like Christ and follow only those who are doing the same.
May you walk after the pattern of your Master today!
By the way, the driver of the truck noticed the three little ducks just in time and came to a stop until they crossed the road! I knew that some of you would want to know.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Daily Light - June 7, 2011

Daily Light from the Lighthouse

"Lazarus is dead; and I am glad..."
John 11:14-15

It is a surprising thought that Jesus would find any sort of gladness in the death of an individual, especially the death of a friend. He knew very well this man named Lazarus as well as his family. He had sat at supper with them on different occasions, and they were a family that seemed incredibly devoted to Jesus. Why had He not gone to them before this sad and difficult moment? Why had He not at least spoke a word of healing from across the miles as He had done before? Even more astounding, why does Jesus now say that He is glad about what has happened?
The reason that we have trouble understanding Jesus' way of thinking is because of our frail and anemic spiritual minds. God doesn't think like we do. He sees what is invisible to us and knows what we cannot even imagine. Every one around Jesus is concerned about death, but death holds no power over the One who created all that lives. Man sees the bondage of time, space, and matter. God, however, is ageless; He is not constrained by the bonds of this earth.
Before Jesus even leaves for Bethany, His own disciples question His wisdom. When He arrives there, Lazarus' sisters berate Him for His actions or lack of. The entire crowd is wailing and doubting so much that it causes grief in the heart of Jesus. So many times in our own lives we have been disappointed with Jesus. He didn't show up when we thought He should have, or He didn't do things the way we thought He should. Our disappointment led to grief and eventually for many a lack of faith. It is impossible to see what God sees when our eyes are not on Him and have full faith and assurance that He does all things well even though we don't understand what He is doing.
There is one person in this story that never complains, Lazarus. One may argue that He is dead, but that is the point. He is completely helpless and has no will of His own. Jesus is glad that He will not only see His friend again, alive, but also that Lazarus and others will understand what it means to completely trust God. Jesus stands in the midst of the doubters and nay sayers and calls Lazarus' name. Somewhere beyond the terrestrial into the heavenly Lazarus is called back to the earthly body that he once possessed. As he emerges from the tomb, the crowds cry that truly this Man is the Son of God! There are no words that can make glad the heart of Jesus like those words!
May you make Jesus glad today by dying to self with His will alone as your own!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Daily Light - June 2, 2011

Daily Light from the Lighthouse

"See that you do not refuse Him who speaks."
Hebrews 12:25

There are so many voices speaking into our lives on a regular basis, some directly and others indirectly. If we were to try and listen to them all, it would become quite wearisome and confusing. We know without a doubt that we need guidance, but who should we listen to in the different moments of life? It seems that some voices carry a message of discouragement and defeat. They tell us that we are doomed to fail and that to even try to succeed in a walk with Christ is futile. Other voices entice us with flattering words that we want to hear, but the key ingredient of honesty is missing in their speech. Thankfully, there are also those who guide and direct with integrity and encouragement so that we may lead quiet and peaceable lives for the sake of our Lord. How do we discern the truth with all of these voices calling our names?
There are three passages of Scripture that give us clear advice and one that gives us an illustration to help guide us. In the book of Ecclesiastes King Solomon says, "God is in Heaven, and you on earth; therefore LET YOUR WORDS BE FEW." When we consider God and all of His divinity, we recognize that the most important thing that we can do is listen for His voice. James wrote in his epistle to the church, "My beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, SLOW TO SPEAK, slow to wrath." We are so inclined to speaking that we often cannot hear the voice of God. This is surely why God Himself implored us through the psalmist, "BE STILL, and know that I am God." It is imperative that we listen on purpose and not simply try to catch a bit of God's voice in passing.
God's prophet Elijah was in desperate need to hear the voice of God. We are told that he stood waiting for the Lord and during that time he experienced strong winds, an earthquake, and a raging fire, but God was in none of those things. Once all of those things passed, Elijah heard a still small voice. Immediately he knew it was the Lord and responded accordingly. God speaks to the heart of His children and His sheep know His voice, but only if they are listening for it. If we allow all of the voices of discouragement, flattery, and emptiness to fill our minds and hearts, we will miss out on knowing what God is trying to say. Study the Word and meditate upon it. Ask God to reveal to your heart what He would have for you.
May you clearly hear God's voice today!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Daily Light - June 1, 2011

Daily Light from the Lighthouse

"Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth."
Ecclesiastes 12:1

The word "youth" brings up images of energy, vitality, and passion. In all honesty it also brings to mind words like naive, inexperienced, and foolish. There is some truth in all of those descriptions. Some of the most talented and life-giving young people have been known to do some ridiculously foolish things. There is most definitely a need for the elder to teach the younger, but thankfully a young person can learn quickly and well if they are taught the right things in the right way.
It is often said that the future of the family, the church, or even a nation is its young people. Actually, they are not so much the future as they are the present. Remove the young from any group of people, and it will only be a short time before that group grows cold and stale. God meant for His people to live in Him, and we are taught through the Word that He is yesterday, today, and forever.
So what is the most important truth that a young person needs to know? Solomon pointed out that every individual in their youth should recognize that they have a Creator. They are not victims of circumstance or products of mere chance. They have been created with a divine purpose, and the very God that dwells in the glory of all time considers them to be His finest work. When a young person remembers their Creator, they see that all of the unique things that they bring into this world make them special to not simply the world in which they live but in the scheme of Heavenly purposes. God Himself smiles when they use their talents to the best of their ability. When they reach out to help others outside of their comfort zone, they are fulfilling a work that was set in motion before the world began. By doing these things in their youth they are setting up a pattern of good works which will follow them the rest of their lives.
It most certainly appears that the renewal of God's people that is desperately needed in these last days will come from a generation of young people that are boldly rising up to declare the name of Jesus unashamedly. Whether you are a part of this generation or have a part in training these young people, remember now your Creator!
May you call on the God of every age for renewal today!