Light of men

jesus-light

With me, it began with His word. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created. Life was in Him, and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome it. John 1:1-5. How beautiful are His words. And how beautiful is He, for He is the Word. And He is the life. He is the light of men and He shines in the dark, for darkness could not hold Him.

The Word. God’s word. I feast on it. And thus, I feast on Jesus. But I haven’t always. No, for so long I nibbled on bits and pieces of Him. But eventually, bits and pieces grew to a steady diet. And now, I cannot get enough of Him. Because the more I read, the more I know about Him. And His word is transforming. See, through the pages of Scripture God begins to speak to us… directly and individually and specifically. And that’s where it all began with me. Reading the word. Reading Jesus.

It was three years ago that I had had enough. Enough of me. It was a turning point, really. And so, I sought God fervently… through His word. And He spoke volumes to me. For it was through the pages of Scripture that I found out what I needed to do to move from where I was. In order to move away from me, and the darkness, I had to purpose to know Him in my heart. I had to determine it, and then, move towards the light… towards Him. Because if I wanted to know God, it wasn’t just going to magically happen. I had to participate…

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:10

This verse was a life-changer. But three years ago, I had a different version of the Bible. And then, I read it in light of God. Father God. But now, I see. To know Father God, I must first know His Son. That’s the only way to know God, for Jesus is the way and the truth and the life. And that’s what this journey is all about. See, upon finding Philippians 3:10 so long ago, I didn’t really know what I was asking for when I claimed that verse. Honestly, I simply purposed to know God… aside from His Son. But, oh, to know Christ is to know God. For they are One and the Same. And to know Christ… I mean really know Him… we must follow Him. All the way. And when we do, we begin to put off our old self. We begin to transform as we put on a new self who is renewed according to the image of Him who created us. Colossians 3:10. But this can be painful. For in order to be resurrected, we must first die. And just as Jesus suffered, so shall we. And not just in an eternal, end of life kind of way. No, it’s a daily thing.

I think most of us have heard, “WWJD.” What would Jesus do? Some people wear it on a bracelet, or a necklace. And it’s a nice thought… Jesus would help someone in need, or He would be kind to an unlikeable person, or He would heal the sick. You know all those great things Jesus did. But in reality, Jesus came to die. Ultimately, that’s what He did. He died for us. He put His life last, and put us first. That’s what Jesus did then, and that’s what He would do today. He died, and He expects us to do the same. The truth about God & me? I don’t want to die. Not all the way. Not like He did. I’m too selfish. The truth? All this darkness that surrounds me? Well, there’s layers to it. And one layer for certain is my selfishness. The darkness in which I dwell? Well, I’m still in the tomb. But that’s okay, for I know that I know that I know that He’s working on me. I will be resurrected. And here on earth, too, not on the other side of eternity. It’ll happen here where people will witness my resurrected life. Like Lazarus. Whatever suffering I may endure is simply me dying… to me. Following Jesus unto death. It’s what He would do. It’s what He did. For us.

It was Sunday morning as I walked up the steps to my church that a random thought came to me… “A woman shall encompass a man.” It wasn’t much later that my Sunday School teacher took us to Jeremiah 31. Although we read about the New Covenant, my eyes fell to verse 22… For the LORD creates something new in the land – a female will shelter a man. This is the verse that came to me earlier… different version. That day, I thought God was just telling me His eye was upon me. He saw me. But now, I wonder if it was something more…

Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy.  A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child,she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you. John 16:20-22

Labor is painful, but a new life bursts forth. Anguish and pain will turn to rejoicing. In the same way, dying to self is painful. But, new life bursts forth. We’ll receive beauty for ashes, and the oil of joy for mourning. WWJD? He would suffer, and He would die. But He would also burst forth – new life. Remember… He told us these things so that we would have peace. He said we would have tribulation, but to be of good cheer… for He had overcome the world. John 16:33.

You see, with me, it began with His word. And through it, I found that life was in Jesus, and that He was the light of men. I found that He shines in the darkness, and that darkness did not overcome Him. And it will not overcome me, either. For I’m following Jesus. I, too, shall overcome.

Do not rejoice over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will stand up; though I sit in darkness, the LORD will be my light. Micah 7:8

Many, mini deaths

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” Jeremiah 29:11-14

It started with a promise. God said He would be found by me. But now I see. I have found Him… again and again. Because invariably, I begin to lose sight of Him. Inevitably, something will displace Him from my view. Something will claim all my attention, and ultimately, hold me captive. And it could be a good thing, or, it could be a bad thing. But ultimately, it makes no difference whether it’s good or bad, because if I’m holding to it tighter than God, then I will lose my grip on Him. And this is when I fall into captivity. When I loosen my grasp on God, I fall back into the pit of whatever it is that claims me. And there I stay… held down. Until, I remember. Him. For He has plans for me. I do have a future. And when I remember, I go to Him and I pray to Him. And He promises to listen to me.

God said that when I sought Him with my whole heart, He would be found by me. And this is true. Because when I turn to Him with my whole heart, He leads me back from my captivity. And this is my revelation. First, I must die. Because I am flesh and blood. And the flesh wants what the flesh wants. And if it’s sin I crave, then that sin leads to a spiritual death. And if misguided passion turns into obsession, then I have an idol I place above God. And if fear holds me down, then fear is my master… not God. Always, always, something begins to hold me captive. But the key that unlocks the the chains of my captivity is death… I must die to the want, I must die to the misplaced passion, and I must die to the fear. I must die… and there will be many, mini deaths in my life. For I have seen it. But behold, there’s beauty in my death throes. For with each occurrence, God brings me back to life. He never fails. Each time, He breathes fresh breath into my heart and soul. With each agony, He revives me. He never lets me go utterly.

And each time God revives my heart, there’s an opportunity. This is part of God’s plan for me. Because someone may witness my death. Someone may notice the change in my demeanor. Someone may even wonder what set me free from my captivity. And that someone is the whole point. For they may need to know the truth… the truth that they may need to die, too. Many, mini deaths may ultimately set them free. And do you see? My death only mimics what happened over 2000 years ago when a tomb lie empty. What someone else witnesses through my life can point the way to the cross, to the tomb, and to everlasting life. Because many, mini deaths lead to many, mini revivals. Someone will see a life, my life, resurrected.

And so it’s clear to me now. See, throughout my many years with God, I may have gotten “carried away” by something. And really, it’s happened more times than I can count. But God has been so faithful. Because with each banishment, I began to wither and die. And the longer my captivity, the drier I became. And eventually, I became so parched, I had to cry out for His living water. And that’s when I neared death, spiritually speaking. And when you’re that close to a spiritual death, you realize what’s really important. You don’t want to stay there, and so you realize you must die to whatever it is that holds you down. At least it happened that way for me. And so, I called out. And He kept His promise for He heard me. He listened out for my cry, and He gathered me from where He banished me. He brought me back to where I was first carried away captive – into exile. And He brought me back to life… again and again. Each time I neared a spiritual death, He picked me up and carried me… all the way to the cross. It’s at the foot of the cross where I find my life renewed… again and again.

And someone will see this… that’s the whole point. For it’s part of His plan. For me and for you. It’s through our many, mini deaths that someone will be led to new life. And my hope and prayer is that all who see will be carried to the cross… right there with us.