Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Daily Light - July 27, 2011

Daily Light from the Lighthouse

"But go and learn what this means, 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice.'"
Matthew 9:13

It seems that people often try to define God based on their religious affiliation. They have made a journey trough their traditional way of thinking about God that they can pretty much summarize Him in a few nice and neat statements. They know what makes Him happy and what makes Him sad. They know what point of view that He would have on certain issues. Some of these individuals proudly boast that they are narrow minded. Others claim to be so open-minded that they can rationalize any view point. When you are genuinely trying to follow Christ and are confronted by all of these opinions, this can be a very frustrating world in which to live.
Jesus knew exactly what this was like. Every day He was confronted with those that had Him all figured out, and of course they were absolutely wrong. The God of creation in human flesh was being told by others how He should be doing things. The religious leaders who said that they were followers of the Most High God spent every day of their lives correcting that same God. When Jesus sat down with the "worst" of sinners, He faced the scorn and ridicule of the religious crowd. "How could He do such a thing? Doesn't He know what kind of people they are?" The truth was Jesus knew what kind of people they all were. That is the reason that He came to this sinful and fallen world.
He then challenged the Pharisees to go back into their scrolls and figure out what Hosea meant when he wrote, "I desire mercy and not sacrifice." If there was ever a group of people that knew how to make sacrifice, observe rituals, and obey the letter of the law it was the Pharisees. They had it down to a science if not an art. They were the finest of the religious establishment, and they knew it. You could tell that they were "right with God" by the way they dressed, the way they spoke, and their understanding of Scripture. No one knew as much as they knew, but how little they really knew! It is not just possible but also highly probable that the most religious of us today know much about sacrifice but little about mercy. We have been so intent on observing the outer things that we have completely neglected the inner man. We try to lead men to a decision for Christ and that is honorable, but then we spend the rest of our lives trying to get them to comport to our religious standards. If the outside looks well, that is all that matters. It would be good for us to remember that Jesus Himself said that the Pharisees looked good and clean on the outside but inside they were filled with the rotting flesh of dead men.
Would you take the time to explore your heart and see if you are as intent on showing mercy and delivering that message as you are trying to get someone to view things as you see them? How liberating it would be if we all began to live for Christ and not men!
May you desire mercy today!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Daily Light - July 26, 2011

Daily Light from the Lighthouse

"Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead."
Matthew 8:22

I do not know of any one that has ever claimed this to be their "life's verse". As you read the account, it almost sounds a little cruel. Why would Jesus say such a thing? Doesn't He have any compassion? Of course we know that He is compassion, and to those that are intensely following Jesus this sentence seems normal. How?
Those that are radically following Jesus Christ have come to the place that they know to live for Jesus means completely changing the way you think. There is no such thing as normal when following Him. Better yet, what is absolutely strange and weird to every one else is normal for the intensely devoted disciple of Christ. "No where to sleep? No problem." "An incredibly overwhelming storm about to capsize our boat and Jesus is asleep? That's about right!" "Stepping off the boat into a cemetery with two naked and demon-possessed men running toward us? Been there and done that!"
If you have ever had the opportunity to go on a mission's trip, especially to a third world country, you know that every one of your senses gets completely overwhelmed. The people are different, as well as the scenery, the food, the smells, the customs, etc. Usually, early on in the trip some of those who went are just ready to get back home. However, as the trip goes along, you realize that all of the things that you are experiencing are normal for every one around you, and they are fine with it. One missionary made a great statement, "If you can do this for a week, you can do it for a lifetime." Those same people that were so ready to go home when they first arrived literally weep on the day that they have to leave. Missionaries are my heroes because what is totally strange to me is their normal. They have made a radical decision to turn their lives over to Christ even as He turns their lives upside down.
Author and gifted speaker Francis Chan asked the question, "Is my life so radical for God that if it was written about in the book of Acts would people be amazed by it?" The answer for most of us is of course no. We live in the normal, but don't you ever think that God is calling you out of the normal into the supernatural? Maybe like Peter you feel the call to step out of the boat and onto the water, but the boat seems so safe. Faith knows that we will never experience the power of Christ in the places of safety and security. Live wholeheartedly for Christ, and the next time two demon-possessed men come running toward you just smile and realize that you are normal when it comes to being a disciple of Christ.
May you follow the Savior of the world today!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Daily Light - July 14, 2011

Daily Light from the Lighthouse

"Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him."
Matthew 8:3

Disfigured. Grotesque. Repulsive. Rejected. These were only a few of the words that described the life of a leper. The disease that had taken over there body was like no other. It not only led them to their death, but it had such horrible effects on their life that death was a welcomed end. Many illnesses have complications associated with it that are quite painful, but leprosy had one that could not be relieved.
With leprosy there was a constant pain and irritation that was associated with this flesh eating disease. The pain could be intolerable, but even the irritation would not allow for a moment of peaceful sleep. At some point the flesh began to literally rot away leaving bone, tissue and muscle exposed to the elements. The body was now susceptible to any and all infection. These things were horrible, but they were not the most difficult part of the disease. The most tragic consequence of leprosy was that you would never feel the compassionate touch of another for the rest of your life. Instead, you would be banished from society and seemingly banished from knowing what it means to be loved.
A leper heard of Jesus and made his way to the place where He was. As he approached the crowds, he heard the all too familiar sounds. Women began to scream and run away from him. Little children cried as they saw his horrifically disfigured face and body. Men began to shout at him to leave that place and go back to where he belonged. He pressed on however with a hope that could endure any amount of ridicule. Finally, with the path cleared from in front of him, he recognized the One whom he had heard so much about, Jesus. He did not run or shout like the others. Instead He watched the leper as he humbly approached and began to crawl in humility on his knees. In complete faith the leper said, "Lord, if you are willing, You can make me clean." He waited only for the spoken word of healing to come from Jesus' lips, but Jesus did far more than that. As He said, "I am willing; be cleansed", Jesus touched him.
Jesus did what nobody else would do. He touched the untouchable. He met this man and gave him what he so desperately needed: compassion, love, and healing. The hand of Jesus is still extended for each of us today. There is some untouchable part of every individual's life. Perhaps others know about it, or perhaps it is some area that is so private that no one knows. As we come by faith to Jesus and call on Him for help in our time of need, it is certain that He will go over and above what we could ever ask or think.
May you feel the tender hand of Jesus Christ today!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Daily Light - July 13, 2011

Daily Light from the Lighthouse

"I never knew you!"
Matthew 7:23

There can be no doubt that Jesus Christ is the only way to everlasting life. There have been and always will be those that deny it and teach other wise. One conservative radio host said that people that believe this way are no different than the radical Muslims that want to kill others. Of course, that is his opinion that he is allowed to have, but one's opinion does not change what is absolutely true. Jesus referred to a narrow gate and men like stubborn sheep have balked against it for thousands of years.
There will of course come a day in the future when all things will be revealed. Every fruit that was brought forth will be exposed for what it really is. Not only will the motives of man be revealed but also his heart. We are easily fooled by the words, actions, and performances of men. Some can present themselves as genuine children of the Light and be quite convincing. The words that emanate from their lips sound extremely persuasive and even sincere. The amount of people that their life has affected is staggering and the accolades of their accomplishments read like a description of Christ Himself. Surely no one would deny them entrance into the presence of God.
Stop for a moment however and realize that there is not a one of us that will stand before our peers and let them determine our eternal destiny. Each individual will stand before not simply the final judge but the only judge, Jesus Christ. Christ, the very God that created all things and has always been, is not impressed with our list of deeds. There are no fine speeches that will persuade Him to reject His own justice and holiness. Some will try, but try in vain. In that day it will not be so much about what you know about Christ but whether or not He knows you. How fearful and sad the words will be as they echo through the judgment hall of eternity: "I never knew you; depart from Me!"
It seems that there are many that are holding on to what good they have done. These individuals are often even ministers of the Gospel. They have accomplished something in the corner of the world that they have been placed and that it is to be commended. What is not commendable is the fact that there is sin ever before them but they act as if it does not exist. Even when this sin is public they hide behind their position and their righteous deeds. They refuse to acknowledge it and refuse to repent. Others may even come along side of them and give them support, but woe be unto the individual who covers sin. There will be no one to be our advocate when we stand before God but Jesus Christ. If we have sinned against Him and grieved the Spirit, there should be a fear and trembling in our souls.
Praise be to the Lamb that He paid the price for our sin and that there is no sin that is too great that it cannot be washed in that crimson flow and made white as snow! We must come humbly to the feet of Jesus, the only place that we can find redemption and forgiveness. It is there and there alone that He makes us His own and becomes our advocate before the Father.
May you know the redeeming power of Jesus today!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Daily Light - July 12, 2011

Daily Light from the Lighthouse

Matthew 7:7

Here in these three words we see the divine description and pattern of prayer. Jesus taught His disciples the basics of prayer so that they might make it a part of their regular spiritual discipline. Prayer is an essential element to the Christian life, but many are intimidated by it. There is a fear of not knowing how to pray properly or saying the wrong thing. As we enter into this blessed relationship with God and recognize how much He loves us, we find that He enjoys hearing from His children.
The word "ask" clearly shows us the relationship of God as our Father. He knows that we have needs. Some of them may seem small or some may be great, but in the eyes of God they are all important. We need not be a fearful child hiding around the corner afraid to approach the Father. Instead, He encouraged us to come boldly to His throne with the confidence that not only does he want to hear our requests but He longs to meet them as well. Never fear to take your needs before a God that owns the cattle on a thousand hills and has made you an heir to all that is His. Of course this "ask" is a request and not a demand. Only an insolent child would demand of their father. We are servants of the most high God; therefore we come to our Master humbly with our hearts lifted to Him.
We find in that thought the importance of the word "seek". As servants of the Almighty we must recognize that we do not always know best in every situation. Numerous times throughout Scripture we are encouraged to seek the face of God. The face of God is always pointed in the direction of His will. He is looking toward a finishing mark that we often cannot see. Therefore, as we ask and bring our petitions to the Lord, we are also to pray in accordance with His will. That should be the very first thing we seek. Too often we are so concerned about our will that we fail to consider the will of God in the situations of our lives. Perhaps how we are praying is what He wills, but it is also possible that God sees something better that might bring Him glory and accomplish His purpose. We must humbly remember as we seek the Lord that His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts.
Finally, we are told to "knock". This gives us a description of a persistent prayer life. Jesus taught a parable in Luke 18, and we are told the purpose of this story is that "men always ought to pray and not lose heart". There is most definitely power in persistent prayer. We are commanded on numerous occasions to pray continually. God never tires of hearing from His children. There are times when we have prayed again and again for something and sought His face so much that we feel as if we are being a bother to God. God is not a man that tires of his children's persistence. God recognizes that we are coming to Him because we are completely dependent upon Him and that brings Him joy. So, those things that you may ask for in prayer, continue asking. The numerous times that you have sought the will of God in a matter and still have not yet found it, continue seeking.
May you be encouraged in the fact that God loves to hear you pray!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Daily Light - July 7, 2011

Daily Light from the Lighthouse

"Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye,
and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."
Matthew 7:5

What does it mean to judge someone? This is a question that has been asked time and time again, because there is such a great misunderstanding of the issue. Obviously, God teaches us throughout Scripture that we are to use a righteous judgment when it comes to issues like right and wrong or having discernment about such things. When sin is pointed out to some individuals, they often respond by saying, "Don't judge me!" This is a misinterpretation of judgment. One who is pointing out what is clearly revealed by Scripture as sin is not passing judgment but simply passing along truth. There are of course people that do not want to hear this truth and will reject God outright, so these are the times that we need to be wise and perhaps not cast our pearls before swine.
The wrong type of judgment is one of condemnation. There is no man that has ever lived that has the power to condemn another. It is God and God alone that has this power and right. For man to pass condemnation on another he would have to be perfect. It is obvious that there is no one that has ever lived that is perfectly righteous in all his ways with the exception of the Lord Jesus Christ. Each man is a sinner by nature and this curse has fallen upon all of mankind. None of us have power over a soul and to speak and act as if we do is an affront to the work of the Holy Spirit. God calls His children to be salt and light in this world so that others may see the perfection of Christ in us and might respond to His work before their soul is eternally condemned.
The real problem that has surfaced when it comes to judgment is hypocrisy. We are too often much better at being critics than we are Christians. Many act as if they have no difficulties and at the same time have made themselves the judge and jury over the lives of others. Most of us find it easier to think that someone else's sin is worse than our own, because very simply we are filled with pride. Pride allows us to see the transgressions of others as glaring issues while completely ignoring our own. We have come up with the idea that to look down on someone means that we are above them, and that is really what is at the root of pride. Jesus calls us to look in the mirror of His Word and His perfection and see our sin as God sees it. We will never be able to help a brother with those things that afflict their lives when we have not been able to be honest with God about our own issues. God has called His children to be right with Him; He has not called us to be better than others.
May you live according to God's righteous standard today!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Daily Light - July 6, 2011

Daily Light from the Lighthouse

"Are you not of more value than they?"
Matthew 6:26

Have you ever had an opportunity to watch the television program Antique Roadshow? People will bring items that they bought in yard sales or inherited to the show to find out what the articles are worth. These items range from the truly fascinating to the absolutely weird. The highlight of the show is when people find out that the painting that they bought at an estate sale for $50 is actually a masterpiece that would command thousands of dollars at an auction. This seemingly worthless piece of art that has hung in the closet for several years is now a very prized possession.
There is something to consider that is often overlooked. The items that are brought to the show only have value because someone is willing to pay that price. Any piece of artwork is simply canvas and paint. The value comes when an individual says that they want it and attaches a certain monetary amount to it. If no one is willing to purchase it, the item is of no value.
Jesus told us to not worry about our lives. We worry about so many things that are ordinary: what to eat, what to drink, what to wear, etc. We put way too much value in our stuff, our possessions, our circumstances, and our surroundings. The external things of this life seemingly blind us to the things that really matter. We base the value of self on what we have or don't have, what we eat or drink, what we wear, who we know, or what talents we have. Our value is inextricably defined by what others think of us. This unhealthy view of life has led people to destructive habits, debt, eating disorders, and unhealthy religious practices. Our value system is completely messed up. The professional athlete that can throw a ball is worth millions while the teacher that labors each day with special education students is paid a minimal salary.
Jesus knew that this was how man perceived themselves and others, so He showed us how valuable we were to Him. He illustrated it by giving us the examples of a tiny sparrow and a lily in the field. We can look at these two things and see the tender hand of God. In both of them there is the beauty and glory of God's creation. Neither of them spends time worrying about their value. They simply live according to the provision of their Creator.
Remember the painting at the Antique Roadshow? It was only valuable because someone would pay a high price for it. 2,000 years ago, God through His Son, Jesus Christ, demonstrated how valuable you and I were to Him. He gave the ultimate price for us, His life. You are not valuable because of what you have but because of who you are to the Lord. He loves you and considers you more valuable than you could ever imagine!
May you recognize your worth in Christ today!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Daily Light - July 5, 2011

Daily Light from the Lighthouse

"The lamp of the body is the eye."
Matthew 6:22

Our eyes help us to understand and discern our surroundings. Just a faint amount of light can keep us from stubbing our toe as we walk through a dark room. That light makes us more aware of the obstacles that lay in front of us. This is the discerning light of life that Jesus is referring to. The light found in Him gives us a heart of understanding about what is going on in our lives.
Why then do people that know Christ make foolish decisions from time to time that get them in so much trouble? The problem is obviously not the light because it emanates from God Himself. The lack of discernment occurs when we take our eyes off of Christ and put it on man or try to make decisions using a clouded discernment. There are times when people that know better tolerate sin in their lives or do not confront sin that is obviously before them. It is puzzling because these people claim to walk in the light. Unfortunately, what has happened is that they took their eyes off of Christ and placed it on their own opinion of the situation. They are now seeing the surrounding events in complete darkness.
Jesus follows this statement about the light of the eye with the declaration that no one can serve two masters. This is not a change of subject but a further expounding upon what has already been said. You cannot have two definite opinions on a subject. One is right, and the other is wrong. There is a temptation for us to immediately follow and be loyal to that which makes us most comfortable, but what if it is wrong? Can we be honest enough with God and ourselves to admit it?
This passage concerning masters is just as relevant today as it was when Jesus first spoke it to His disciples. There are many masters that have taken the place of Christ in men's lives. There is of course the master of money, the master of lust, the master of power, etc. We have even allowed other people to become the masters of our lives. We bow to them and submit to their authority even when in our heart we know that something is not right. Jesus emphatically said that you have a choice to make over who or what will become the Lord of your life. Either He is Lord, which means the owner and ruler of every thing, or He is nothing. That is a decision that each individual must personally make.
May you see clearly by the light of the Lord Jesus Christ today!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Daily Light - July 1, 2011

Daily Light from the Lighthouse

"That they may be seen by men..."
Matthew 6:5

The ball is snapped and the quarterback drops back into the pocket. He can feel the pocket begin to collapse as the defensive ends bear down on each side. His agility allows him to spin away from the grasp of the nose tackle just as the offensive guard makes a tremendous block. As he rolls to the right he sees his wide receiver get free and head to the corner of the end zone. The safety is closing fast, so he knows the window is small. With incredible balance and precision he threads the ball just over the outstretched hand of the oncoming linebacker and past the defensive backs. The wide receiver catches the ball and balances on his toes just inside the line before he falls out of bounds. Touchdown!
Suddenly these grown men begin to celebrate by showing every one the number on the front of their jerseys and their names on the back. They take off their helmets so the camera can get a good shot of their faces. That is when the cynical fan realizes that the most important thing on the field at that time to that player is himself. The average fan paid a couple of hundred dollars or more not including parking and the hot dog so this guy can boast about himself. Of course, he is also getting paid several million dollars in salary and endorsements to catch the silly football any way. That is also when the fan realizes that he could have made a payment on his car with that two hundred dollars and the hot dog he ate has given him indigestion.
We are not so different than the boastful football player. Most of us love to be noticed whether we admit it or not. We like a good pat on the back or to see our name in print with remarks about something that we have accomplished. Jesus knew that we were this way, and He also knew that this would find its way in to the church as well. That is why he issued warnings about not seeking the attention of others when we give to the Lord. It is like the football player catching the ball. That is what we should be doing any way. He warns us about spending our time in prayer so that others can see or hear our prayer. They will be so impressed with how "spiritual" we are if we do it just right. How devout they will think we are when we fast as well! Can you imagine the spiritual discipline that they will think we have when they see us weak and shriveled from our time of forsaking food? If this is our motive, then guess what. Whatever attention from men that you received will be all the reward that you will ever have. God does not reward what has not been done for Him.
All the giving, the praying, and the fasting mean nothing if our motivation was so that others may see us. Our lives are to be lived in such a way that we will do those things so that others see them and glorify our Father in Heaven. No one else may ever know how much you have given to God, but He knows. There may not be a soul on this earth that knows how many nights you have stayed awake calling on God with the burdens of your heart, but He knows. The times that you have abstained from food so that you might discipline yourself to come to the Lord may be completely unnoticed by any one in this world, but He knows. Does it matter to you if someone else knows, or is God knowing all that matters?
May you do all for His glory today!