Light of Our Lives

Light is certainly one of the most precious things in our world. Without it, we can’t do much of anything. The most simple tasks become all but impossible when darkness envelopes us instead of light.

A lack of light can also strike fear into our hearts and be quite dangerous. If you have ever tried navigating your way through complete darkness, you know this to be true. When you can’t even see your hand two inches in front of your face, it is impossible to walk with purpose and confidence. That is what life is like without Jesus.

Without Jesus, there is no purpose in life. Every reason our world produces for our existence comes up empty in the end. Without the light of Jesus, we would be forced to stumble our way through life, bumping into blessings without knowing where they come from; and tripping over trials and problems. As we stumble we would always have the terrifying understanding that death could be right around the corner.

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

Jesus is the Light that illuminates our lives. He gives us hope and purpose. He came to remove the darkness of sin by shedding his blood and scatter the shadow of death by rising from the grave. Since our sins have been paid for by his blood, we have the sure confidence that every single one of our sins has been removed—even the ones that weigh us down with the most guilt. Since he rose from the grave we have the rock-solid guarantee that death is not the end for us. By faith in him, we too will rise with him to live eternally.

With Jesus lighting up our lives we can live with confidence and purpose. The confidence comes from knowing that nothing can change the fact that our sins have been washed away by his blood, and our eternal life guaranteed by his resurrection. Our purpose now is to live every moment to his glory. We strive to make the best use of all the gifts he has given us and do everything we can to share Jesus with others, so they too may walk in his light.

In Due Time

Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, the weeds also appeared” . . . The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest.'” – Matthew 13:24-26, 28-30

It is easy to wonder why the Lord allows good and evil to exist side by side. Wouldn’t the world be a better place, if the Lord would uproot everything evil and allow only good to exist?

This might be an easy assumption to make since I consider myself to be “good.” Unfortunately, I tend to forget the Lord’s standard of good is different than mine. This is why I need to understand why the Lord does allow both to exist.

One reason is fairly obvious. If the Lord would rid the world of everything evil, where would that put me? As I look at my life according to his standard, I am resigned to accept what the Lord declares: “There is no one who does good, not even one” (Psalm 53:3).

The Lord allows good and evil to exist side by side as a result of his undeserved love for me. Instead of dealing with me immediately and justly, he provides a time of grace through which I can come to know Jesus and his gift of forgiveness, and then enjoy living in the peace of his forgiving love.

Another reason why the Lord allows good and evil to exist is his gracious good will for all people. “He wants all to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). The same time of grace he gives me, he offers to all. He wants no one to perish. This is why he sent his Son Jesus to be the Savior of all.

In due time, however, when his time of grace comes to an end, he will separate the good from the evil, namely believers from unbelievers. This promise of divine and eternal separation exhorts me to daily repent of my sin, and focus on Jesus to strengthen my trust in him as my Savior. It is this life of faith which gives me the confidence to know, that also in due time, the Lord will gather me to himself and bring me into his heavenly kingdom.

Blessed are the Pure in Heart

“Blessed are the pure in heart.” – Matthew 5:8

Wash your hands. Wash your hands! So often we are reminded of the need to wash our hands. After using the restroom, before eating, after eating, before cooking, after cooking. It’s so hard to keep them clean.

And that’s just our hands! Try keeping our hearts clean, and we have an impossible task! How hard it is to have perfectly pure motives! When I cut that little section of grass between my neighbors’ house and mine, the good deed is spoiled with the self-serving intent that maybe he’ll let me borrow his edger. I give some money for a worthy charitable cause, but only because I don’t want to disappoint the sincere person asking.

We may be able to hide our impure motives from others, but not from God. The Bible says, “The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). We can’t fool God. There is no covering false notions or hidden deception. God looks right through the outward act and inspects the inner motivation. He is looking for the pure in heart.

What is the measure for that kind of inner purity? God holds us up to his perfect will and measures us against it. The conclusion is that all of us have sinned and fall short of the sinless standard that God has set for us. Under God’s inspection, our hearts are not pure.

What’s the solution? Our hearts need to be washed. But how? We can’t wash them on our own, so Jesus did it for us. The Bible says, “The blood of Jesus, [God’s] Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). By his death for us, Jesus washed our hearts clean; he has cleansed us of sin’s stain. Through him all our sins are forgiven and our hearts are now pure in God’s sight.

The forgiveness of sins and purity of heart that we have received freely from Jesus powerfully motivates us to stay away from anything dirty. We’ll not want to dirty our hearts again with sinful things. Rather, we’ll be happy to strive to live according to the pure way that God teaches and thereby indicate our great appreciation for the sacrifice that Jesus made to wash our hearts clean.

Jesus is my Savior by Faith

“Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” – Mark 15:16

In many places, June ushers in warmer weather. Summer begins in earnest, and that means people like to be outside and enjoy the warm temperatures. One activity that many enjoy is swimming. It might be a backyard pool, a community pool or beach, or even a lawn sprinkler. Whatever the method, people love to get wet.

Followers of Jesus get wet too, when they are baptized. Baptism is a wonderful gift of God where water is applied and the words are spoken as Jesus commanded, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). When those words and the water are combined like this, according to Jesus’ promise, baptisms take place. Through this special means, God creates faith in people—infant or adult. Sins are washed away, and by faith in Jesus God makes them members of his family.

After baptism, learning continues so that people grow in their faith and grow closer to God for the confidence and joy of life with God both now and forever. There is much to learn and know in the Bible. It guides us. It refreshes us. And its message saves us! It is the “living water” (John 4:10) that Jesus gives us. Much more refreshing than any pool or beach or sprinkler! It quenches our thirst for belonging to God, for truth about God, and for true peace with God. The Word of God creates and strengthens faith in Jesus as our Savior.

Without faith in Jesus, people will be “condemned,” that is, lost forever in hell when they die. As Christians, we seek to invite everyone to hear Jesus’ message and be baptized, so hell is not their destiny. This is because Jesus told us to baptize and teach, so that people can have saving faith and will enjoy heaven when they die.

Many people think of summer as a gift, when we have rest and relaxation. But the real gift that lasts forever—no matter the weather—is the gift of faith in Jesus that comes through baptism and God’s Word!

Blessed are the Merciful

Mercy is certainly something we like to be on the receiving end of. A police officer pulls you over. You know you rolled through that stop sign. Will he show you mercy and not give you a ticket? You show up just a few minutes late for work. It doesn’t matter that you think you have a good reason – you are late. Will your boss show you mercy? You forgot your anniversary! There is no good excuse. Will your spouse show you mercy?

If I like to be on the receiving end so much, why is it that I often struggle to be merciful to others? Why do I have a hard time forgiving my spouse when I want her to be forgiving toward me? Why is that I have such a hard time showing kindness to my co-worker? Why do I resent my elderly neighbor when she asks me for a few minutes of help in her yard? Is it often because I feel like if I show kindness and mercy to others it will take away time and opportunities for me? Will the time I spend showing mercy to others rob me of time for myself and take away my happiness?

What is mercy really all about? For the answer we need look no further than God. He shows us what real mercy is all about. God looked at sinful people – a people that could offer him nothing, a people helpless to help themselves – and he showed mercy. In love and mercy that astounds us, he gave his son Jesus to take our place. Jesus was perfect where we could never be. Jesus paid for the sins we could never pay for. Jesus lived, died and rose again for us so we could live forever in heaven– a gift of mercy!

The opportunities that God places before us in our lives to show mercy and kindness to other people can serve as constant reminders of the mercy that God has shown to us, a mercy we certainly didn’t deserve. It is God’s mercy for us that empowers us to be merciful to others and to even find happiness in bringing kindness and love to other people.

And do you know what God promises? As we show mercy to others we will also be on the receiving end of mercy! As our verse for this month goes on to say: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” (Matthew 5:7)

Jesus is my Savior from Myself

By grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. – Ephesians 2:8-9

“I can do it all by myself!” If you have children, you have heard these words. You want them to learn how to do things on their own, but usually they pick times to try when it is least convenient for you. Walking out the door, already late is the time they want to tie their shoes for the first time.

Have you ever thought, “I can do it all by myself?” Doing a project at work by yourself may result in a raise or promotion. However, trying to get into heaven by yourself will never work.

Think about this question: “If you were standing outside of heaven’s gates and God asked you, ‘Why should I let you in?’ what would you say?” Would you answer?: “I was a good dad/mom.” “I was faithful at work.” “I never (fill in the blank).”

If you answered that way, can you hear it? It is the sound of silence; the sound of heaven’s gates NOT opening. God requires us to be perfect like him. That means that if we want to go to heaven we can never do any wrong…ever!

The truth is that no matter how hard we try, no matter how much good we do, we will never be perfect. Even just one wrongdoing disqualifies us from heaven. Honestly, we commit many, many wrongs in life. So for the prospect of heaven, each of us has to admit, “I CAN’T do it by myself!”

But we don’t have to do it ourselves! God tells us in his Word that we have been saved BY GRACE! Though we are undeserving, God deeply loved us. He sent his Son, Jesus, to open the way to heaven for us. Jesus did this by sacrificing his innocent life in our place for all of our wrongdoing. Now, through Jesus we are perfectly right before God, all because we didn’t do it ourselves. Jesus did it for us!

Why should God let you into heaven? You can point to Jesus and say, “Because of him.” Jesus is the one who opens heaven.

Thank Jesus for this wonderful gift! He is your Savior who did it all for you!

Blessed are the Peacemakers

Who really wants to be a peacemaker anyway? A peacemaker in a marriage is usually the one who has to swallow his or her pride. Who wants to say, “You’re right, and I’m wrong,” to keep the peace in a marriage? A peacemaker amongst neighbors is the one who has to rake more, shovel more, and put up with more. Who really wants to do that to keep the peace between neighbors? To be a peacemaker can be a headache!

And yet, Jesus attaches the blessing of happiness to those who are peacemakers. Jesus can say that from his own experience. He was happy to bring peace to this world. After all, he is the Prince of Peace. This title rightfully describes Jesus because he made peace between God and all the people of the world.

Talk about a headache! It wasn’t easy. He had to resist temptation, he had to resist the urge to strike back, he had to put others first, he had to go the extra mile, he had to suffer, and ultimately he had to die. But all of his sacrifices were necessary to establish peace between his Father and the world. Jesus was a successful peacemaker, and he was happy to do it. And you can be happy that he did it too!

To be a peacemaker is not easy. It wasn’t for Jesus, and it won’t be for you either. It isn’t easy to be the peacemaker between quarreling siblings. It isn’t easy to be the peacemaker between angry neighbors. It isn’t easy to be the peacemaker in a contentious marriage. It isn’t easy to be the peacemaker when grudges are involved. It isn’t easy to be the peacemaker when that involves saying, “I’m sorry.” But Jesus never said it was going to be easy. He did say, though, that he will bless your peacemaking efforts. Just take one glance at all of the blessings attached to Jesus’ peacemaking—forgiveness, joy, and peace just to name a few.

How can I be happy if I don’t take sides? That’s the point. True happiness comes when you do take a side—God’s side. To be a peacemaker is to be a reflection of Jesus. To be a peacemaker is to take to the world the peace that Jesus has brought to you. And there is no greater joy than that!

Jesus is my Savior from Death

The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 6:23

There is a reason that people don’t like to talk about death. Death is scary. Despite all of our medical advances, it is still inevitable. Death doesn’t discriminate in any way. It gets the rich and the poor, the fit and the unfit, the mean and the nice. Death always comes.

Why does death come for us all? It is because of one fatal condition that we share. We are sinful. Our sins make us death’s target. Our sins are not something that we can just ignore. Sin can’t fit in with who God is or with his plan for all things. Instead, sin brings death. Death is the consequence of sin.

Death is a great enemy against us. In our eyes that enemy looks bigger and tougher than we could ever defeat. But there is hope.

The Bible teaches, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” God loves us. Even though we don’t deserve it because we are sinners, God loves us. All of our solutions for death come up short. But God did not abandon us to death’s destruction. In his great love for us, God provides a solution that really works. His solution is Jesus.

Jesus, the Son of God, came to save us from death. He defeated that powerful enemy. Jesus defeated death by taking all of our sins on himself. He suffered the punishment we deserved for our sins; he died on the cross of Calvary to pay the “wages of sin.” By sacrificing his holy life for us, Jesus defeated death. He proved it by his resurrection from the dead.

Now “the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus.” Trusting in Jesus as our Savior, the fear of death is taken away. For Jesus promises that we will live, even though we die (John 11:25). When we close our eyes in death, he will open them to eternal life. We will wake up from death to life with God in heaven where there will be none of the hurts, disappointments, and fears that we experience now.

Jesus is your Savior from death. Trust him for freedom from the fear of death’s destruction and the hope and joy of eternal life!

Jesus is the World’s Savior

God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16

Jesus is the World’s Savior

Have you ever loved someone so much that you would have done anything for them? You wanted what was best for them, even if it meant sacrificing what was best for you. Their happiness and joy was your chief concern.

That type of self-sacrificing love inspires us. It is featured in many of the novels we like to read and the movies we like to watch. How would you feel to have someone love you like that? How would it feel to have someone who is so head-over-heels in love with you, that they would do anything, anything at all, to keep you safe?

That’s exactly how Jesus describes the love of God. Jesus tells us that the heart of God beats for you! He loves you so much that he was willing to do everything necessary to keep you safe for all eternity.

From beginning to end, the Bible traces God’s plan to rescue the world from eternal danger. His Word demonstrates just how far God was willing to go to save you, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son.”

God the Father sent his Son, Jesus, to suffer the punishment for the sins of the entire world. Why would God do that? Why would he allow his Son to endure the tortures of the cross? Why would Jesus voluntarily go through with his Father’s plan? Why was Jesus willing to suffer the agony of hell itself?

God didn’t sit back and watch the people he loved so dearly perish forever. He cared too much to see that happen to you. So Jesus stepped into human history and suffered the punishment that was meant for you.

He didn’t want anything to stand in the way of spending an eternity with you in heaven. He wants you to know just how deeply he loves you. With a God who is willing to sacrifice himself for your rescue, is there any reason to doubt his love? “Whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” You can live confidently knowing that your God loves you and through faith in Jesus you have a place in heaven your Savior has prepared for you. His love truly is inspiring! He is the world’s Savior. He is your Savior.

Jesus is my Risen Savior

“Because I live, you also will live.” – John 14:19

EMPTY

Finding something empty can leave you feeling a wide variety of emotions. When you have a craving for something sweet, you reach into the cookie jar to satisfy yourself. However, when all you find are crumbs, you feel ________. When you let your teenager use the car for the weekend and on Monday morning, when you are late for work and you see the fuel gauge on empty, you feel ________! When you prepare to pay bills and find your saving account is empty, you feel ________! When death has emptied your life of mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, child or best friend, you feel ________!

Perhaps you filled in the blanks with words such as devastated, disappointed, frustrated, angry. Finding something empty is usually never good. I do not think anyone has ever been happy finding an empty treasure chest. I do not think anyone working in the hot sun has felt overjoyed having an empty water bottle. I do not think waitressing for a table of six and find the tip tray empty has ever caused anyone to cry tears of happiness. To be honest, finding something empty is all of these—devastating, disappointing, frustrating, anger provoking!

That is until we are led to Jesus’ tomb. It is here at Jesus’ tomb where we hear the angel proclaim, “He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him” (Mark 16:6). From reading the Bible, what do we find when we look into the tomb? We find it EMPTY!

Finding Jesus’ tomb empty can leave you feeling a wide variety of emotions. When your conscience condemns you because of your sins, knowing Jesus’ tomb is empty makes you feel ________! When you are bothered by the thought of dying and being placed in the ground, knowing Jesus’ tomb is empty gives you a feeling of ________! When you know that someday you will meet your Maker, knowing Jesus’ tomb is empty makes you feel ________!

Did you fill in those blanks with words such as at peace, comforted, content, reassured, overjoyed, jubilant, relieved?

To be honest, finding Jesus’ tomb empty brings to me all of the above! May Jesus’ empty tomb fill your heart with the same!