What Kind of Dirt Are You?

In the fourth chapter of Mark’s Gospel, he recounts Jesus’s telling of one of his stories that has come to be known as the Parable of the Sower or the Parable of the Soils, among other things:

“Listen to this! A farmer went out to scatter seed. As he was scattering seed, some fell on the path; and the birds came and ate it. Other seed fell on rocky ground where the soil was shallow. They sprouted immediately because the soil wasn’t deep.  When the sun came up, it scorched the plants; and they dried up because they had no roots. Other seed fell among thorny plants. The thorny plants grew and choked the seeds, and they produced nothing. Other seed fell into good soil and bore fruit. Upon growing and increasing, the seed produced in one case a yield of thirty to one, in another case a yield of sixty to one, and in another case a yield of one hundred to one.” He said, “Whoever has ears to listen should pay attention!”

Mark 4:3-9 (CEB)

I don’t know about you, but over the years, I have really struggled with some of Jesus’s parables, and this one is no exception. Evidently, I’m not alone, since in verse 10, Jesus’s disciples asked Him to explain it, which He did.

God is the One who sows the seeds, which is His word. We are the soil, the places where the seeds land. And, of course, Satan opposes allowing these seeds to take root in our hearts and mind, so he does everything he can to keep that from happening. How does he do this? One of his many strategies is to corrupt us in a number of ways, turning us into types of soil that do not allow God’s word to take root and transform us.

The Path

The first kind of soil is the path. It is packed and hard, keeping the seeds from even entering it. These are the people who are completely unreceptive to God. They have it all figured out. They think they are smarter than people like you and me, since we believe all of this (supposedly) outdated superstition called Christianity. I don’t mean to sound judgmental here–I was like this at one time myself, when I accepted the lies of the modern world and the evil one as truth. The only chance for people like this to recognize and accept the actual truth is for God to take a pick ax to their hearts, chipping away at it to soften it up and turn it into better soil. Thankfully, that’s what He did to me and for me.

Rocky Ground

People who are this kind of soil start off OK. They accept God’s words with joy in their hearts. However, it only remains in their hearts. It is only an emotional experience for them. This means that when something bad happens to them or someone they love, their faith falters.

Why is this? In my experience, cultivating a deep personal relationship with Jesus needs to be both an emotional experience and and intellectual one. Emotion and feelings may be what allows the seeds’ initial roots to take hold, but then thinking through your faith is what will enable them to run deeply into and throughout your life.

Life can be hard. Sometimes people are wicked. Even good people. And sometimes disasters strike. Health fails. It’s hard to understand why God allows these things to happen. Sometimes, it’s hard to even understand where God is when they happen.

When (not if) terrible things happen, if your faith has not gone deeper than the superficial emotional level, it can be rocked by those hard questions–God, why? God, where are you?

That’s the rocky ground, and that’s why Satan uses this tactic–so you have no answers to those hard questions.

Thorny Plants–Soil That’s Already Occupied

For this soil, everything might be great if not for the temptations of this world. The need for more. More wealth. More power. More sex. More stuff.

Most of these things might not be bad in the right context. God can use them, working through us, to advance His Kingdom. But one of the things Satan is extremely skilled at is tarnishing good things–spoiling them, making them bad. He knows that God commanded us not to put anything before Him in our lives, and the evil one also knows our natural tendency to do just that. So he helps us along down that path.

The Good Soil

We are good soil when we embrace God’s word, when we let it filter down into the depth of our being, both emotionally and intellectually. Is that where you are? If not, is it where you want to be?

The Gospel, the Really Good News

Here’s the thing: I don’t think we are ever completely one kind of soil, once and for all. I am trying to be good soil, but I have to admit that, sadly, it’s all too easy for me to slip into one of the other soil types.

But the really good news is that as soon as I recognize that I have slipped, I can ask God for forgiveness. I can reach out my hand and ask for His help. And He will help me!

He’ll do the same for you, too. He wants us to be good soil, so He will patiently help us get there. I can’t think of any news that’s better than that! Can you?

Photo by Gabriel Jimenez on Unsplash
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Sing Until You Mean It

Each month, usually on the first Wednesday of the month, the church I attend (#NewLifeChurch) has a service dedicated only to worshipping God. I love all of the services at this church, and as much as I am enriched by the preaching in the “regular” Sunday services, I have to say that these worship services are my favorites.

In our most recent “First Wednesday” service, our senior pastor (#BradyBoyd) got up to welcome everyone after we had completed the first couple of songs. As he was speaking to us briefly, he observed how challenging it can be to come to church at the end of a busy workday and shift your mindset away from the day’s struggles. It’s tough sometimes to get into it, to really focus on worshipping God.

He said that when that happens to him, he just keeps singing until he means it, until the words he’s singing are true.

I wrote a blog post along these lines in July 2022 called “Feelings Follow Faithfulness“. It’s the same idea–show up, and the feelings will follow. Or, as the famous theologian (NOT), screenwriter, and director Woody Allen said, “Showing up is 80% of life”.

I imagine that King David must have dealt with this sometimes. Even though he was a man after God’s own heart (see Acts 13:22), he must have had days when he struggled to feel God’s presence. After all, there were periods in his life when people close to him were trying to kill him (first, King Saul; then later, David’s son Absolom). I can see how this would make you wonder–even if just for a moment–if God had abandoned you.

It makes sense when you consider how many times in the psalms that David wrote, he laments about what’s happening to him. He seems sad, confused, even distraught. But then, even after those melancholy words, he has a way of turning his psalms into songs of praise. He often seems to echo the words of Habakkuk:

Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.

Habakkuk 3:17-18 (NIV)

It’s easy to imagine these guys struggling to praise God on the bad days they surely experienced. And yet, clearly, in the end they managed to do just that, to praise their Creator in the midst of chaos or disaster.

Maybe it is David’s ability to do this that led to him becoming a man after God’s own heart.

Because here’s the thing: when we make ourselves available to God, he begins working in us and through us whether we feel it or not. When we praise him even in times when we don’t feel like it, we are reminding ourselves of God’s loving presence, of his unfailing love. We begin to direct our minds and hearts to focus on the many blessings he gives us. Blessings we don’t deserve. We remember how great our God is. We are reminded of the incredible sacrifice he made for us.

And after a few songs like that, you can’t help but be engulfed in his presence, wrapped in his strong and loving arms. And before you even realize it’s happening, you mean the words you’re singing.

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My Hiding Place

I’ve done things I wish I hadn’t. Haven’t you?

Of course you have, if you’re human. Screwing up is part of the human condition, at least until Christ comes back.

Starting early in the Bible, religious leaders started focusing on our tendency to do bad things. Things that were harmful to others. Things that separated us from God. Things that separated us from ourselves–our true selves, who we were intended to be. They lumped these bad things together into a category called “sin”. God gave Moses the Ten Commandment, and voila, we had a set of rules. Lines we should never cross.

But do you think God expected that we would be able to remain always on the right side of these lines?

Let’s look at it another way. God gave us free will so we could choose whether or not to follow him and nurture a deep, fulfilling relationship with him. And with that free will, God also gave us the ability to choose whether or not to live up to nearly impossible standards. Or to even try to live up to them. Do you suppose God expected that all of us would always make all the right choices, always choosing not to sin?

I think he may have hoped we would make the right decisions every time, but it doesn’t seem likely that he expected we would. Otherwise, why would he have launched a plan, way back when Adam and Eve made the first wrong choices, to rescue us and the world from ourselves (as alluded to in Genesis 3:15)?

Why Point Out Our Sins?

So why did God give us the Ten Commandments? To make us feel guilty?

No, not really. I think the overemphasis on guilt–on hellfire and damnation–is where religious leaders and “the church” have historically and traditionally gotten it wrong more often than not. As evidence of this, ask anyone you know who is not a follower of Christ what they think the focus of the Christian church is in the world today. I suspect you would hear more answers about shame, guilt, hypocrisy, and judgment than anything else.

Surely this is not what God intended, is it?

I don’t think so.

Here’s the thing: even without the Ten Commandments, God made us with an innate sense of morality. If this were not true, then atheists or other people who neither knew nor cared about the Ten Commandments would not have even a general notion of right and wrong. But they do. Why?

Because Breaking the Rules Breaks Us

Every time you or I commit even a “little” sin (even though there is no such thing, but we label them that way so we don’t have to feel as bad about it), it erodes us. It makes us a bit less than who we were made to be. And it opens the door ever so slightly more, allowing just a little bit more sin to creep into our hearts.

You may have heard it said that sin is anything that separates us from God, and that’s true. On top of that, this is how it happens that sin also separates us from our true selves, as I mentioned earlier.

That being the case, could it be that God gave us the Ten Commandments not so we would feel horrible about ourselves, but as a mirror, so we could see the truth about how ugly and misshapen we were allowing ourselves to become?

Well Maybe, But So What?

This is where it gets really good. God gave us this mirror to make us aware of our sin, of what we were doing to ourselves, to others, and to him. But he didn’t do this to make us feel bad about ourselves, except to the extent that we would turn to him for help.

Awareness of our sin is not meant to be a heavy, unbearable burden that we lug around, dragging into confessionals or therapists’ offices. Nope. Instead, it’s meant to turn us to the only One who can take away that sin. If we confess our sin completely and honestly to God, he will completely forgive us. He takes the burden away from us. He frees us from the guilt.

This is the exchange that took place between Christ and all of us who call him Lord at the moment of his crucifixion. He said, “I’ll take that which is breaking you and let it break me instead.” And in exchange, he gave us freedom from guilt. To borrow legal terminology, we are not just pardoned, we are exonerated, declared “not guilty.” It’s like we never did the bad things in the first place.

I can’t think of any news that’s better than this!

This is why it’s tragic that so much emphasis throughout church history has been on judging ourselves and others. It completely misses the “good news” side of the equation. The church should be known for grace, mercy, and forgiveness, not hate, bitterness, and judgment.

God Becomes Our Hiding Place Only When We Stop Hiding from Him

Psalms 32 is known as one of the seven Penitential Psalms. It describes repentance as a key step in the process of reclaiming wholeness for ourselves through the exchange with God at the cross. Verse 5 starts with:

Then I acknowledged my sin to you
and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess
my transgressions to the Lord.”

Psalms 32:5a (NIV)

Then and only then, after completely and honestly admitting our sin to God, will we be forgiven:

And you forgave
the guilt of my sin.

Psalms 32:5b (NIV)

Again, that’s great news–God forgives the guilt of our sin. But what happens to us if we do not completely and honestly confess our sin to God?

When I kept silent,
my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night
your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was sapped
as in the heat of summer.

Psalms 32:3-4 (NIV, emphasis added)

So, it sounds like bad things happen to us, both spiritually and physiologically, until we recognize and confess our sin to God. Don’t try to hide from him. If you do, his hand will be heavy on you. I don’t know exactly what it would look like to have God’s hand be heavy on you, but I imagine it could range anywhere from depression and anxiety, to having the things you’re trying to hide becoming exposed. Yikes!

But God usually doesn’t deliver bad news without also offering a way out. This Psalm is no exception:

Therefore let all the faithful pray to you
while you may be found;
surely the rising of the mighty waters
will not reach them.
You are my hiding place;
you will protect me from trouble
and surround me with songs of deliverance.

Psalms 32:6-7 (NIV, emphasis added)

That brings us back to the really great news: you can give God all the rotten things you’ve ever done or said or thought. Dump all your garbage and filth on him. Tell him the truth. Then ask for and accept his forgiveness. He will carry away all of your burdens. All of your garbage and filth.

Then he will become your hiding place, your place of safety, your deliverance.

What a great deal! This is freedom. This is a return to God and the way we were meant to be.

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Spirit of Distraction

Much as it pains me to admit it, Satan is very good at his job. And what is his job? To separate as many human beings from God as he can. He hates love and loves hate.

One of Satan’s most successful methods he uses to keep us from developing a deep relationship with God is the spirit of distraction. This seems to be one of the pervasive themes in this technological age in which we live. There are many forms of entertainment and other distractions available to us across a multitude of devices–TVs, computers, phones, tablets, gaming consoles, smart watches, etc.

I should say that I am not in any way anti-technology. In fact, I have enjoyed a successful career that has been centered on helping companies achieve their business objectives through the effective use of technology. And I have at least one of most of the devices I listed.

Also, there are many examples of how technology is being used by followers of Christ for the benefit of God’s Kingdom. For instance, when COVID forced churches to close their doors, the church I attend (New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado) and many others leveraged technology to enable us to continue to worship together virtually. Another great example is something I refer to regularly (just last week, in fact)–the Daily Audio Bible, which has used the internet to allow people of several different languages to feast each day on the spoken Word of God. Further, I humbly hope that this meager offering of a weekly blog, which encourages other followers of Christ in their walk with the Lord, is another good example of using technology for the advancement of God’s Kingdom.

But, as I mentioned, there seems to be a great temptation to turn our attention toward our devices and away from God (and each other, too). I say this not to accuse others as though I have not given in to this temptation. Sadly, I have. Instead, I point it out in hopes that we can collectively become more aware. Awareness equips us to get better at (or ask for God’s help in) resisting the temptation.

But here’s one really cool thing about God: every time we are diving into the depths of God but catch ourselves turning our attention from him to a gadget or any other distraction, we can repent and receive his forgiveness. And his arms will be spread wide, waiting for us to return to his loving embrace.

Photo by Nadine Marfurt on Unsplash

He wants to be known by us, so he will help us fix our gaze back on him.

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God Speaks

Well, we did it. We closed the books on another year and opened the door to 2023. Happy New Year!

Photo by BoliviaInteligente on Unsplash

With this rolling over of the calendar, it also means that we in the Daily Audio Bible community completed yet another yearly journey through the Bible. Recognizing that we also just passed through another Christmas celebration as well, it got me thinking about the time between the last book of the Old Testament, Malachi, and Christ’s birth. It had been 400 years.

What must the people of Israel have been thinking during that time? There were probably quite a number of them who were wondering if God had abandoned them. Who could blame them?

I think we can probably all relate–it seems to be part of the human condition to wander through the desert at times and wonder where God is.

Regardless of what’s going on in our world or in our lives, though, it’s important to remember that God still speaks to us. And even when we can’t hear him, he still works for our good.

It’s not always easy to hear God’s voice, so here are a few thoughts that have helped me.

First, remember that God, despite all of his power and might, sometimes speaks to us in a “still, small voice,” as he did with Elijah:

and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.

1 Kings 19:12 (NKJV)

This means that we have to slow down and listen. It would not work for any relationship if we did not take the time to listen to what they had to say. Why should our relationship with God be any different?

We would also do well to remember that God is not in a hurry. Our lives tend to be full of activity and lived at a frenetic pace. If you’re anything like me, you need to remind yourself daily to hit the pause button on everything to give yourself a chance to speak with–and hear from–the one who is closer to us than a brother and who knows us better than we know ourselves. It is usually only in those quiet, contemplative moments that I can hear God whispering to me or feel him working on my heart.

Another thing to remember is that God has many different ways of speaking to us. It could be through direct communication, as in those moments when we hear his voice. But there are other ways as well. It could be through a Bible verse you encounter–the Scriptures are God’s love letter to us, so this should come as no surprise. This is one of many good reasons to immerse yourself in the Bible (and another good reason to jump on the Daily Audio Bible bandwagon!). God may also choose to speak to you through a friend or loved one, or even a stranger. He might pick lyrics in a song, or any other art form. He is a creative God, and he has created creative people! He is quite capable of using their art to deliver a message to you.

The point is that God speaks to us. He loves us, so he wants to comfort us, guide us, help us. Spend time listening, waiting to hear from him. Expecting to hear from him. Be attentive to the various ways he might be speaking to you and you will hear from him.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash
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Joy to the World, the Lord Has Come!

Borrowed from YouVersion
Borrowed from YouVersion
Borrowed from YouVersion

I hope you have a very merry and blessed Christmas!

Love,
Dave
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O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

This past week, I was blessed to have the opportunity to attend a Piano Guys (one of my favorite musical groups) concert. It was a moving experience. During the concert, the member of the duo who plays the cello (not the piano!), Steven Sharp Nelson, shared with the audience some struggles he has been having recently. He talked about this as part of the introduction to the song, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, saying this song has given him comfort during his trying times. He then proceeded to play a very emotional solo.

It was obviously quite remarkable and memorable. Pondering this since then, I’ve realized how much sense this makes.

The name “Emmanuel” means “God with us”:

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

Matthew 1:22-23 (NIV)

And also, when the Old Testament prophet Isaiah foretold Jesus’s coming, one of the other names he said would be given to him is “Prince of Peace”:

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6 (NIV)

So, if life is kicking your butt, sing (and pray) O come, O come, “God with Us”.

Stressed out? O come, O come, “Prince of Peace”.

Financial troubles? Beaten down by an addiction? Friendless and feeling invisible? O come, O come, Emmanuel.

Call on his name and he will give you peace. It’s what he does. It’s why he came.

Borrowed from YouVersion

My friends, as we eagerly await the arrival and re-arrival of our Lord Jesus Christ, let me wish you all a holy and merry Christmas that is blessed with hope, love, joy, and peace.

Love,
Dave
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You Want Me to Do What???

This past week, I was fortunate to be able to go see episodes 1 and 2 of the new season (season 3) of my favorite TV show, The Chosen, in a local theater. These episodes were as well done as the previous two seasons, so I’m glad to have been able to see them on the big screen.

One thing that really struck me was the portrayal in episode 2 of this passage from the ninth chapter of Luke’s Gospel:

When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. He told them: “Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town. If people do not welcome you, leave their town and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” So they set out and went from village to village, proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere.

Luke 9:1-6 (NIV)

I have to admit that as many times as I have read or listened to this brief passage, I had never really pondered the implications of this situation for the disciples. However, the way this was depicted in episode 2 was masterful. After Jesus told the disciples that he was sending them out, they were all very skeptical, as you’d expect they would be. They looked around the room at one another. their faces conveying what I think we all would be wondering: “How are we supposed we supposed to do that? What are we supposed to say? We’re not you, Jesus!”

I realized then how daunting it must have been for this band of 12 misfits, none of whom had any training as religious leaders (unless you count following Jesus around and listening to his sermons).

Anyone who has read my blogs over the last couple of years knows that I believe strongly that Jesus stands by us, closer than any other friend, willing to help us carry our burdens if we only ask him. This is the source of peace that surpasses all understanding, which he so willingly offers us. I still find comfort in that commitment from our Creator.

However, there is another aspect to following Jesus that is not quite so comforting: he may ask you to do something or go somewhere that completely disrupts your plans. He doesn’t seem to mind doing that at all.

Here’s the thing: he doesn’t care too much about your plans. He cares more about your eternity than he does about what you’re planning to do on Tuesday. Also, he cares more about other people’s eternity than he does about your lunch plans, so he may place a calling on your life that helps someone else but appears to do nothing for you.

What this translates to is that, like his calling to the disciples, Jesus may drag you, kicking and screaming, out of your comfort zone, for your own sake or for the good of others.

But that’s where growth happens–just beyond the edge of your comfort zone.

One such time in my life came when I felt called to leave my successful and comfortable IT career to transition into owning a landscaping business. After much prayer and consternation, I decided to follow that calling. This led to much more consternation since the decision was very unpopular with my wife (in retrospect, I did not handle it very well, as I should have involved her much more in the decision–God’s calling is obviously important, but so is the opinion of someone affected by a decision to follow it).

Anyway, following this calling shoved me way out of my comfort zone. I often felt overwhelmed, and many times regretted the decision. And as things played out, by worldly standards, it was not a good business decision–this was in 2008, when the US economy tanked. I had to close down the business after two landscaping seasons and return to my IT career.

It was hard to think why God had been calling me to do this. It was a miserable failure, right?

Well, not so fast.

For one thing, for me personally, God finally broke me of my misguided notion that I was self-sufficient. Up until that point, I’d enjoyed a successful IT career. I had, with help from our deceitful enemy, allowed myself to believe that I had earned my success on my own through hard work. In those days, while I believed in God and occasionally expressed half-hearted gratitude toward him for my accomplishments, in my heart, I felt I was the one primarily responsible for what I had achieved. But during the challenging times of running a business during a failing economy, I learned quickly to depend on God every single day, and all through the day. I learned that any success I’m able to achieve is only a result of God’s blessings, from the abilities and opportunities he has given me.

God probably tried to teach me this in other ways, but I missed them. Often the best lessons are the hardest ones.

Even more, there were things that happened within our family as a result of the decision to follow God down this unexpected path. Sparing you the boring details, we had the opportunity to have my in-laws live with us for what turned out to be the last summer before Jesus called my mother-in-law home. This afforded us some rich quality time to spend together. Further, we got to show my father-in-law that we could all live under the same roof without being at each other’s throats, which led to him agreeing to move back in with us about a year later–a blessing that continues to this day, especially since he has been and remains one of my very best friends.

So here’s one reason why I think Jesus doesn’t mind disrupting our well-laid plans: because he knows that ultimately, there is profound joy to be had when we reach the place in our lives where we recognize our complete dependence on him, where he breaks us of the “rugged independence” so prized in our culture and helps us to see that the plans he has for us far exceed any grand designs we had. As King David realized when he was in a pit of despair, there seems to be a connection between joy and having a willing spirit:

Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Psalms 51:12 (NIV)

The joy of the Lord is available to us, to be our strength (as observed in Nehemiah 8:10) if we will but lean into him. If you’re anything like me, you may be afraid of failing or falling, but God’s strong hands wait beneath us, just out of sight, ready to catch us nonetheless. And sometimes–maybe a lot of times–God doesn’t care as much about the results of our efforts as much as he does about the posture of our hearts once we have reached that place of surrender and dependence.

He will take care of the results. His outcomes are better than ours anyway. Trust in him, and you will find joy. He’ll make sure of that.

Borrowed from YouVersion
Borrowed from YouVersion
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At Least We’ve Still Got Jesus

I live in Colorado, which is mostly a delightful place to call home. However, my least favorite aspect of the weather here is the wind. Although windy days are not uncomon, they are not usually unpleasant. But occasionally they can become so.

We had such a day this past week. Gusts up to 100 MPH. Yuck. Time to hold on tight to Toto and all your other little dogs (ours is called Piglet).

It just so happens that we decided to add a new nativity scene to our outdoor Christimas decorations this year. Knowing that very windy days are possible, we tend to anchor our outdoor decorations very well. After the storm subsided, we went outside to survey the damage, which turned out not to be too bad. The whole nativity scene had been shaken apart, but all the pieces were lying face down on the ground. It seems that the worst thing that happened is that one of our three wisemen got blown away, and is probably halfway to Kansas by now (so in our household, the Christmas carol now says, “We two kings of Orient are bearing gifts we traverse afar…”).

In the aftermath of the storm, I was discussing the damage with my father-in-law, who lives with us. When it became apparent that the worst thing that happened was that one of our wisemen escaped, I said, “Well, at least we’ve still got Jesus.”

As soon as I said it, I thought that would be a good topic for my blog this week.

Because, while it is certainly good news for my nativity scene, it’s even better news for my life. And for yours, too.

Here’s the thing: Jesus never promised that there would be no storms in our lives. In fact, he pretty much guaranteed that there would be:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33

Of course, we all wish there would be no storms in our lives, but that’s not the way the world works right now. At least there’s good news, though: Jesus has overcome the world! We can have peace in him.

As long as we have to endure storms, what could be better than having Jesus on our side?

In the fourth chapter of Mark, there’s a story about Jesus and his disciples traveling by boat when a huge storm came up. Even the dsciples who were professional fishermen were afraid for their lives. But was Jesus worried?

Nope. He was so exhausted that he was sound asleep.

In a panic, his friends woke him up.

What did Jesus do? He commanded the storm:

“Peace, be still!”

Jesus, in Mark 4:39 (NKJV)

And the storm listened to him!

Whatever storms we are struggling against in our lives, we should call upon our friend, who is in the boat with us. The Prince of Peace can say to those storms, “Peace, be still!”

This is how he gives us the peace–his peace–that makes no sense to the watching world. And this is why it’s such great news that no matter what happens, at least we still have Jesus.

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Into His Marvelous Light

Today is the start of the Advent season on the Christian calendar–the time of year when we commemorate the blessing that Jesus left his throne in heaven to step into this cruel and broken world so he could begin to make it right. This is the ultimate disruption of the darkness by the arrival of the Light of the World.

Just like Jesus and Satan, Light and darkness are not two equal and opposite forces. When a light gets turned on, darkness is eliminated. Darkness cannot counterattack the light. Darkness has no way to overcome light. Darkness is powerless, since it is really nothing more than the absence of light.

This analogy of light and darkness resonates with me, which is probably why I write about it regularly. It’s also a recurring theme throughout the New Testament. In fact, this week in the Daily Audio Bible’s journey through the Bible in a year, we encountered the Apostle Peter’s take on darkness and the light:

Borrowed from YouVersion

At Christmas, Jesus came as the Light to eliminate darkness from the world–an ongoing process that is sadly not yet complete. He invites us to step out of the darkness of the world and into his marvelous light, to participate with him in bringing his light into the world.

I think this is why I am so fond of Christmas lights–they brighten even the longest, darkest of winter nights. They symbolize the opportunities we all have to eliminate darkness in our daily lives. They are beacons of hope for a brighter future.

Let that be our goal as we head into the Christmas season, to be bringers of light into the darkness of this world. Let us usher in hope for everyone we encounter in the coming days, show them the bright future that awaits when we step into God’s marvelous light.

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