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Posts Tagged ‘darkness’

 

 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” ~John 3:1-2

We.  Nicodemus speaks in plural.  This religious leader is not just speaking for himself.  He says, “…we know…”  It is very likely he is speaking on behalf of himself and several, if not many, religious leaders of his day.  The Pharisees.  They knew.  They knew, at the very least, that Jesus was from God – yet – they still hated him.  They still sought ways to discredit and undermine him.  They still publicly challenged and slandered him.

This is amazing!  Jealousy makes power-hungry religious men do terrible things even though they know better.

Jesus takes Nicodemus immediately to the reason and the solution for why he doesn’t know him for who he actually is.  Jesus is not just from God – he is God.  The reason Nicodemus doesn’t know that is because he has not been regenerated by the power of God.  He is a just another guy who is interested in religion.  He lacks spiritual insight and wisdom precisely because he has not come to know Christ truly yet.  He knows all about religion.  He fails to know God.  This is tragic.

What does Jesus do?

He wastes no time explaining who he is or setting Nicodemus straight about his identity.  Jesus gives him the solution.  “You must be born again.”  He proceeds to preach the gospel to Nicodemus adding that it is quite peculiar that he is in a position and in fact is a teacher of God’s people and yet has no understanding of the things of God. (verse 10)

Nicodemus is bewildered.  He is confused.  He is astonished at what Jesus tells him saying, “How can these things be?” (verse 9)

After Jesus makes the point that a teacher of God’s people ought to know these things, he reveals the real issue in Nicodemus’s life.

 “Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony.12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?”~ John 3:11-12

You don’t believe me, Nicodemus.  I have repeatedly told you and showed you the truth in simple, lisping lessons but you simply do not believe it.  If you don’t believe me about things on earth – things you can see – how will you believe about things in heaven – things you have not seen?!  He gives Nicodemus the gospel as well as the reason men just like Nicodemus do not believe it.

We tend to forget that this whole John 3:16 business is in the context of Jesus talking to one of the most religious men of his day.  Think about that.  Consider the implications of that truth.

So what does Jesus say to this very religious teacher guy?  Grace is here – but, as Jesus has already told this man, it is for those who believe.  You do not believe.  Light is here.  The problem is not that you do not have enough light.  You love darkness.  That is the problem.  And why do you love darkness?  Because you’re hiding.  You are afraid that your wrong deeds will be exposed.  You care more about how you look on the outside than you do about whether you are in God’s favor.  You would rather hide behind religion than come into the light and be made clean.

The main idea here is that Jesus is not the one hiding.  God is waiting and willing no matter how or when we come to inquire of him.  We are always the ones who hide from God.  Nicodemus comes at night because he is hiding.  Likely he fears his religious friends seeing him talk to Jesus – because God forbid one of them get to know Jesus rightly and for who he truly is.  They were much more content to make him who they needed him to be in order to keep their sin hidden and their people – their followers – deceived about who they really were.

Jesus is not the one hiding.  The religious men are hiding.  When asked indirectly who he really is, Jesus pulls no punches.  He tells the inquirer the solution and the problem for why he does not know the answer to his own question.  Jesus does not have to say, “I am God” because it is extremely clear that Nicodemus has already repeatedly refused to believe the truths that would lead to that conclusion.  Instead, Jesus mercifully gives him the solution.

Here’s your problem, Nicodemus.  Here’s what needs to happen in your own life, Nicodemus.  There’s grace, Nicodemus.  Believe and be saved, Nicodemus.  If you do not believe, you are already condemned despite all your religious work and knowledge, Nicodemus.

Have you ever had someone try to be your friend secretly?  Or treat you differently when others were around vs. when they were not around?  Religious people are infamous for this kind of behavior because they not only fail to recognize and believe who God is, they fail to know who they themselves are.  Therefore, they are not genuine in their dealings.  Jesus shows us how to deal with this kind of pretense.  Say this:

Here’s your problem, religious man.  Here’s what needs to happen in your own life, religious man.  There’s grace, religious man.  Believe and be saved, religious man.  If you do not believe, you are already condemned despite all your religious work and knowledge, religious man.

Jesus deals with pretense, fear, a religious spirit, and sin all in one blow.  He tells this spiritually impoverished soul the truth of the gospel and the solution to his sin problem.  He makes sure that guy knows exactly what is required of him and shows him that he has not yet been willing to do it.

God’s grace is waiting.  He wants people to come to the light.  We must believe, confess our sin in the light, and repent of our hiding it in the darkness.  God is faithful to meet us there and do a great work in our lives.  He will change us from religious pretenders – people who have (as the Bible says) a form of godliness but deny its power – and false friends to real sons and daughters; brothers and sisters of his very own.

Come to Jesus.  Confess your sin to him.  Ask forgiveness.  Allow his Holy Spirit to do his work in you and you will be a new creation.  You will be born again.  Amen.

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darkness

After Pharaoh reneged on his word to let God’s people go following the removal of the locusts, God instructs Moses to stretch out his hand to heaven in order to bring darkness.  This ninth plague was no ordinary darkness.  It is described as a “darkness to be felt.”

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness to be felt.” ~Exodus 10:21

This passage teaches us that spiritual things may be physically felt.  How does one “feel” darkness?  This was a supernatural darkness.  It was not only a natural, physical darkness, it was a spiritual darkness.  It was a profound, fearful, physical presence of judgement placed upon Egypt, and Egypt”felt”it.

We rarely “feel” the spiritual, but we may indeed.  God does not fit in a neat, 3-dimensional, (insert denomination label of choice), box.  Sometimes we do “feel” the Spirit of God working.  We can also “feel” darkness working at times if God so chooses.

The Egyptians felt this darkness.  They failed to even move for fear.  Still, Israel had light.  Fib-happy Pharaoh humbled himself ever so slightly and called for Moses’ help.  He told him to go, take his people, take his children, and worship God…on one condition: leave your animals.

No, Pharaoh.  I already told you, we are not bargaining.  God is commanding you to let us go along with our children and all that is ours.

It was a great scheme, really.  Genius.  Satan knew that God’s people needed to make sacrifices.  He knew they couldn’t compromise and still be able to serve God.  Compromise kills obedience.  With this condition, he used Pharaoh to try to kick the legs out from underneath the Hebrews’ ability to worship God.  Without the animals, they could not obey.  Satan targets the very thing God wants to use and seeks to separate God’s people from it. 

It must have been a great temptation to accept such an offer.  You can go, guys!  You can take your kids!  You’re free!  Do whatever you want out in the desert!  No Pharaoh to oppress, no pyramids to build, and no more slavery…at least for a time.  But Moses obediently, with great wisdom, sticks to his guns saying:

But Moses said, “You must also let us have sacrifices and burnt offerings, that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God. 26 Our livestock also must go with us; not a hoof shall be left behind, for we must take of them to serve the Lord our God, and we do not know with what we must serve the Lord until we arrive there.” ~Exodus 10:25-26

We do not know which or how many animals we will need for sacrifice.  We must take them all, Pharaoh.  When Moses refused to compromise and submit to this control-freak’s condition, Pharaoh freaked out saying:

 Then Pharaoh said to him, “Get away from me; take care never to see my face again, for on the day you see my face you shall die.” ~Exodus 10:28

“Yet it exasperated him so far that, when he might not make his own terms, he broke off the conference abruptly and took up a resolution to treat no more.”  ~Matthew Henry

Anger always follows when a man living for his own kingdom and control is met with one who simply will not compromise.   If you want to make a self-proclaimed demigod really angry, just refuse to compromise.  Keep obeying God exactly how he has instructed with all that he has provided when others seek to tie your hands.  Worshiping God in truth requires all that we are and all that we have. We cannot allow compromise to entice us.  Compromise kills obedience. Never let anyone kick the legs out from under you with compromise – especially if they are seeking to hold hostage what God has given to you specifically for the purpose of worship and sacrifice to him. His terms are what matter, not theirs.

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It’s four a.m.  The wind is howling like an underfed wolf.  The few dim lights which remain begin to flicker.  Sirens abound.  And then…darkness.

Darkness sets in upon darkness.

The dimness of what was left is now gone, too.

I’m left with a choice.  Do I lay in the darkness and close my eyes hoping light will come later?  Or do I forge into the darkness alone and create new light – light unrestricted by favorable conditions?

I am a creature of habit.  I am a lover of light.  I will not retreat.  I will fight the darkness and create light.  I will search for light more diligently than the ravenous wolf of darkness seeks to snuff it out.

I light a candle.  I load batteries into a flashlight.  I pray for those whom the sirens are sounding.  I wait for the Lord to make his presence known as I pour over his Word.

Light wins.  The darkness may be thick and thorough, but the light is always more competent to attract.

How tempting it is to resist our call to be the unrestricted, unconditional light!  To stay in bed; to wish for dreams; to refuse the work and discipline it takes to be pioneers of the Light.

It reminds me of my daughter and her math.  She will spend hours beligerently completing what would take mere minutes with proper compliance.  She will work much harder trying not to work than she would if she’d just do her work obediently.

But the flesh is saying, “Anything but that!  Don’t touch me there, God.  I’m willing to waste time, whine, cry, sit in a chair for hours, but I will not do that.”

In the flicker of my candle, in the eye of my prayer, in the wisdom of the Word, I see myself.  When faced with whatever creates utter darkness for me, I am again a bantering eight year old.  I’ll say things like, “I’ll go anywhere except there, God.  I’ll befriend anyone but them.  I’ll repent of anything but that.  I’ll give you anything but this.  I’ll trust you for everything except _________.”

In this refusal of the Light, I cease to shine.  I give in to the darkness.  I close my eyes and I sleep in doubtful hope – which is not hope at all.  I allow darkness to overcome me and I begin to lose the battle.

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good…8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. ~Romans 12:21, 13:8

Goodness.  Love.  Unrestricted; unconditional.  That’s what I have been given.  That is the mission of the Light.  That is my call as a lover of it – of Him.

Pray that no matter how the dark the darkness becomes that I stay hungrier than the wolf.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hchsGFGd24E

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When I was a little girl we spent a lot of time at my grandfather’s house.  Daddy, Pappy, and sometimes my uncles would play music together.  Once it got dark outside, there wasn’t much for a little girl to do there.

There did, however, just so happen to be a cement floor in the kitchen and a pair of old roller skates that were just my size.

Every time we were there I’d lace up those old skates and zoom from one end of the kitchen to the other for what seemed like hours.  Eventually, I kinda got the hang of it.

Sometimes Daddy would take me to the real roller skating rink.  We held hands.  Every time I lost my balance he’d pull up on my hand and keep me from falling.  I loved roller skating.

Last night I had the pleasure of being the puller.  The girls and I went roller skating.  Mia did pretty well all by herself.  Addie and Maylee spent a lot of time on the floor, though.  They needed a puller.

I did my best to hold their little hands, balance all three of us, and keep them from falling.  They did fall often, but they didn’t feel often.  The brunt of their falls were absorbed by my strength.  By the time they hit the floor, the impact was as gentle as a tender tap.

I couldn’t help but think of my heavenly Daddy, too.  When it gets dark, I always begin to hear his rhythm and melodies streaming from the next room as I practice the best techniques on staying upright.  When we get to the real test, he’s always right next to me, holding my little hand.  Being the untrained, unskilled, and immature little girl that I am, I tend to fall a lot, but the pain is absorbed by his strength which pulls me from every punishment and ever keeps me from falling flat on my face.

As much as I loved them, it wasn’t my roller skates that gave me confidence and joy when I was small and afraid.  It was Daddy’s hands.  Remembering that can make me a puller instead of a faller when the circles of life get dark.

 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. ~Jude 1:24-25

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FspAl-LDUUE

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ImageDavid is riding out to battle with the Philistines.  They are in pursuit of Israel, who is still being led by none other than David’s worst enemy, King Saul.  When Saul sees them, he is terrified. His fear drives him to his knees but God is silent.  What’s a terrified unbeliever to do?  Saul seeks the services of a fortune-telling witch.

Note, pulling God down off the shelf in times of great need or trouble is not wise.  If we’ll refuse to know him daily, he’ll refuse to know us transiently.  The Great I Am will not be molded or reduced into a genie or a good luck charm for men’s convenience.  Someone should have informed Saul of these things.

Oh, right, they did.  Saul knew the sinfulness of necromancy.  So much so that he himself had excommunicated all such people from the entire land of Israel.  The penalty?  Death.  What Saul was willing to execute others for, he found himself involved with.  Saul knew the wickedness found in pursing this evil rather than God.  (Coincidentally, when we are pursuing evil it is always instead of pursuing God.)  Saul simply refused to listen to even his own scarce wisdom.  Here’s what he did instead: (more…)

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ImageSaul has just reneged on his promise to give David his daughter, again.  David had fulfilled every obligation twice over, yet Saul has held him in contempt and upstaged him again.  Let’s see what happens next.

Now Saul’s daughter Michal loved David. And they told Saul, and the thing pleased him. 21 Saul thought, “Let me give her to him, that she may be a snare for him and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him.” Therefore Saul said to David a second time, “You shall now be my son-in-law.”22 And Saul commanded his servants, “Speak to David in private and say, ‘Behold, the king has delight in you, and all his servants love you. Now then become the king’s son-in-law.’” 23 And Saul’s servants spoke those words in the ears of David. And David said, “Does it seem to you a little thing to become the king’s son-in-law, since I am a poor man and have no reputation?” 24 And the servants of Saul told him, “Thus and so did David speak.” 25 Then Saul said, “Thus shall you say to David, ‘The king desires no bride-price except a hundred foreskins of the Philistines, that he may be avenged of the king’s enemies.’” Now Saul thought to make David fall by the hand of the Philistines. ~1 Samuel 18:20-25

This account begins with ill-motives.  Even when Saul promises to do the right thing, he has the wrong motives.  As we learned yesterday, his promises are empty and his words mean nothing.  He never intends to make good on what he pledges.  His disguise may be kindness and generosity, but his intentions are murderous.  Saul’s main goal is to bring David down so that he may lift himself up.  Those who exalt themselves by abasing others follow fittingly in Saul’s footsteps.   (more…)

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