Day Thirty-Four:  The Promise to Be Our Light

“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘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

I went on a new adventure the other day.  I rode in a boat on a lake in a cave! I visited the Lost Sea Adventure in Sweetwater, TN.  It is America’s largest underground lake.  It’s part of the Craighead Caverns.  On this adventure we walked deep down into the earth and saw many cool things in these caverns, including a small waterfall, and at the bottom was a beautiful lake filled with rainbow trout.  We boarded a boat and went across the lake that is a registered national landmark.

At one point on our way down they took us to a dead end and turned off the lights.  First they told us to get close to those we came with because we would not be able to see anything.  And they were right.  It was pitch black dark.  I did not like this part because it was scary!  I could not even see my own hand in front of me.  If I was not hugging my family then I would have no idea they were even next to me.  It was that dark.  When the lights came back on I was relieved. I love the light and hate the darkness!

This experience made me think about what our lives are like if we don’t know Jesus as our Savior.  We walk along in pure darkness not able to see a thing.  We make choices without His help. We don’t know that there is even any light that can guide us.  Why?  Because no one has told us.

On the Lost Sea tour they told us that if you were to sit in that cave in total darkness for 2 weeks    then you would go blind.

I am so grateful for the promise of Jesus to be our light.  In John 8:12 Jesus says, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”  Jesus has promised to be our light.  He will guide our way when we cannot see.

He says that those who follow Him will never walk in darkness.  Does that mean we will never have dark times?  No.  Does that mean we will always have light and be happy all the time?  No.  He doesn’t promise that.  What He does promise is that when we know Him as our Savior, He will be our light in the darkness.  When we know Him we will be able to see Him when things are dark.  When we know Him we will never have a need to worry or fear what we cannot see. He sees for us.

Because Jesus is our light we can take His light and shine it to others.  Matthew 5:16 says, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”  When we know Jesus as our Savior, His light will shine 

 
told us if we stayed in total blackness for 2 weeks that we would go blind becaus our retinas would not be able to find light.

Day Thirty-Three:  The Promise to Draw Near to Us

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”   James 4:8

Have you ever heard the phrase, “If you feel far away from God, guess who moved?”

I used to hate it when people would say that.  It would make me feel like a big loser…like I was a bad person who was doing bad things and had no need for the Lord.  It made me feel very guilty because I was not close to God.  That phrase would eat away at me causing me to grow bitter, which would make me feel even further from God.

But you know how it makes me feel now?  

Thankful.  

First, I am thankful for the reminder of my need to draw closer to God.  I go through periods of my life where I feel far away from God.  This phrase brings me back to reality and helps me remember that I need to focus more on God.

Second, I am thankful because this phrase reminds me that God never moves.  Ever.  Nothing I do and nothing I say can ever make God move away from me.  It’s like He is glued to my side and won’t ever leave.  

However, sometimes I seem to wiggle my way out of that bond He and I share.  And it’s not God that has moved…it’s me.  So how do I draw close to God and remember the promise that He will draw near to me?

I think this verse from Hebrews 10:22 gives us a great way to draw near to God.  The NIRV is my favorite version of this verse:  “So let us come near to God with a sincere heart. Let us come near boldly because of our faith. Our hearts have been sprinkled. Our minds have been cleansed from a sense of guilt. Our bodies have been washed with pure water.”  

First, we can draw close to God by having sincere hearts.  Do you really want to be near to God or are you just faking it? Do you want that personal relationship with Him because you know you love Him or because you think you are supposed to love Him?  What is your true, deep desire for being close to God?  God knows your heart and He knows when you are being sincere and when you are not.  We need to examine our own hearts first and make sure we are coming before Him with genuine and sincere hearts.

Second, we can draw close to God by boldly coming before Him.  We can do this because of the faith we have in Him.  We know He is faithful.  We know He is not going anywhere so we can boldly approach Him because we are confident in Him.  How do we know all these things?  Because we spend time with Him…by reading His Word and by talking with Him.  Come to the Lord each and every day. Pray to Him with boldness.  Dive deep into the Word that He wrote.  Seek Him with all that you have.

Finally, we can draw close to God by remembering that “our hearts have been sprinkled with the blood of Jesus, our minds have been cleansed of guilt, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.”  We remember the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ and how when we came to know Him as our Savior, our bodies were made new.  Why wouldn’t we want to draw close to our God who loves us so much that He had His own Son take our place?

Friends, God has not moved.  He has promised that when we draw near to Him, He will be there.  Seek Him with a sincere heart, boldly come before him because of your faith in Him, and remember the sacrifice of Jesus.  God is always near us.  

If you feel far away from God, guess who moved?

Prayer:  Holy Father, thank You for drawing near to us all the time.  I pray for each person reading this that they earnestly seek You and draw close to You.  Remind them of Your presence and help them daily practice drawing close to You.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Journal

1.  How does that phrase make you feel?

2.  How can you do a better job at remaining close with God?

Day Thirty-Two:  The Promise to Set Us Free

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death.”  Romans 8:2

The weight became really heavy.  It felt like I was being pulled under water and I couldn’t make my way back up to the surface.  The chains around my legs and hands were unbreakable.  I was helpless and I couldn’t do anything to save myself. 

This is what fear was doing to me.  I felt bound by all the fears I had.  I felt like there was no way to be released from them.  And it wasn’t just one fear, but many fears.  I’ll be open and honest and share with you some of my fears.  Some are silly and some are not.

I have been afraid of dogs, elevators, tight spaces, getting sick and having to take medicine, developing food allergies, tornadoes, flying on airplanes, snakes, sharks, flesh-eating bacteria in the ocean, someone breaking into my house, something happening to my kids, and my house catching on fire.  I’m also afraid of things like not doing God’s will, not pleasing God, actually listening to God and doing what He asks me to do (because sometimes those things are scary), disappointing God, and doing things I know God would not want me to do.  And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!  I could tell you more fears too!

One day I came to my breaking point and was able to see that I could not break those chains myself.  I could not do anything in my own power to free myself from the chains of fear.  But there was someone who came to break them for me.  His name is Jesus.  I cried out to the Lord for help and was reminded of the Romans passage above. 

I have already been set free.  When Jesus came to this earth and took on my sins, He broke the chains of sin for me and for each and everyone of us.  I was allowing fear to bind me, to chain me up and feel like I was its slave. The Enemy does a real good job at deceiving us.  He likes to make us feel like we are his prisoners.  He makes us forget about Jesus and His love for us.  We become chained up and feel like there is no way we will ever be free.

My prayer is that you will have a moment of clarity…a real moment when you will see that you do not have to be a slave to your sins.  Jesus has come so that you can be free!  Don’t you want to feel the chains broken?  Don’t you want to feel the weight of sin lifted off of you?  I rejoiced at the moment when my chains fell off.  I finally gave every fear of mine over to the Lord!  It was an amazing moment for sure.  

“My chains are gone, I’ve been set free.  My God, my Savior has ransomed me.  And like a flood, His mercy reigns.  Unending love, aamazing grace.”  Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone) by Chris Tomlin

Prayer:  Merciful God, thank You for being our chain breaker.  Help us to remember that we don’t have to be a slave to sin.  Remind us that Jesus has already broken our chains and set us free.  Thank You for this!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Journal

1.  What chains are you wearing that are making you feel like a prisoner?

2.  How has God helped you to see that you are set free?

Day Thirty-One: The Promise of Love

“God’s love was revealed among us in this way:  God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.  In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another.”   1 John 4:9-11

I never knew how much I could love a person until I became a mother.  Giving birth to two children totally changed me.  I love every single thing about my two daughters.  I love their beautiful faces, sweet smiles, loud laughs, the way one is more quiet and the other is quite loud, the way they play together, the way they joke around with each other, the way they play their favorite sport of soccer, and the way they love Jesus.  I truly and deeply love my children.

When I think about the depth of love I have for my children, I think about God’s love for His children.  The love I have for my children pales in comparison to the love God has for each one of us.  We can look all throughout the Bible and see the amazing love that God had for every single child of His.  It all started with Adam and Eve and it continues to all of us today.

I love the fourth chapter of 1 John as it shows us the true character of who God is.  God is love.  And it tells us how God’s love was shown for us:  “God’s love was revealed among us in this way:  God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.” (1 John 4:9).  God showed us the greatest love ever by sending His Son to die for us.  If you don’t love someone you don’t sacrifice your own Son so that every one of your children can live eternally.  You just wouldn’t do it.  But we know that God loves us because He sent Jesus for us.

It’s from God that we know how to love.  God teaches us through His Word how we are to love.  It specifically says in 1 John 4:11 that “since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”  We are to continue spreading the love of our Father to everyone we meet.

This year in my Children’s Ministry on Sunday mornings, we have been learning all about the life of Jesus.  From His birth to His death, we are covering story after story from the Gospels.  Jesus’ life here on this earth was remarkable.  He was fully divine and fully human and He came to this earth not only to die for us, but to be an example for us.  

Friends, if you want to know how to love others…look at the life of Jesus.  I love the conversations He had with others (my favorite being the woman at the well).  I love the way He taught others.  I love the stories He shared (take a look at the parables).  I love how He showed compassion to others (Matthew 9:36).  I love how He wept with others (John 11:35).  I love how He did not come to condemn others (John 3:17).  I love how He came not to be served, but to serve others (Matthew 20:28).   I love how He came to save each and every one of us (John 3:17).  I love how He loved others…freely and unconditionally…including teaching us to love our enemies and those who persecute us (Matthew 5:43-44).

We live in a world today where there is so much hatred, fighting, and violence.  And this is happening because we are not loving our neighbors as Jesus commanded.  Yes, we will not get along with everyone.  Yes, we will totally disagree with others and their views and opinions.  Yes, we will not see eye to eye with others.  Jesus didn’t either.  But He chose to love.  And that is what we are to do as well.

We need to be showing the love of Jesus to others each and every day of our lives. Let’s follow the perfect example of love God laid out for us.  Let’s follow Jesus and truly love one another.  Go…and be Jesus to someone today.

Prayer:  Loving Father, thank You for loving us despite our flaws and mistakes.  We are grateful for a Holy Father who showed us His love by sending His Son to die for us.  Thank You for the example Jesus set for us in showing us how to love others.  Help us to love unconditionally just as You do.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Journal

  1.  What can you do to show someone love today?
  2.  How has someone showed you love before?

Day Thirty: The Promise to Prosper Us

“For I know the plans I have for you”, says the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”   Jeremiah 29:11

How would you define the word prosper?

Most of us would say that to prosper means to be successful.  So if one is successful, what defines success?  A big corporate job?  Having a lot of money?  Having a nice house?  Driving a nice car?  Wearing only the most expensive clothes?  Dining at the fancy restaurants?

Somehow I don’t think this is what God was saying to us in this verse in Jeremiah.  God has plans for each of us. Big plans.  Plans that will prosper us.  Plans that will give us hope.  Plans that will give us a future.  Do those plans involve each of the successful things above?  Maybe.  Or maybe not.

If you look up the meaning of prosper in the Hebrew and Greek form, it has several meanings:  to favor, to render successful, to thrive, to make gain, to grow, to increase.  But I think my most favorite definition of this word is “to move forward favorably”.  God’s plan for our lives is to make us thrive and grow and to move us forward (not backward) because we are favored by Him.

We can look all throughout the Bible and see that God prospered many people.  One that I want to take a look at is Jacob.  I was reminded of God’s plan to prosper Jacob by the sermon of our Associate Pastor his past Sunday morning at church.  In Genesis 28, Jacob is on the run.  He had just deceived his brother, Esau, and stolen his birthright from him.  Esau was pretty livid and wanted to kill Jacob.  But with the help of his mother, Rebekah, Jacob was able to escape and move to another land, where he falls in love and marries both Leah and Rachel (and also has 2 concubines).  Between these four women, Jacob has 12 sons.

But if we back up a little, we will read about Jacob’s dream (the one we call Jacob’s ladder). In this dream God says to Jacob, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring.  Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I promised you.” (v. 13-15).

God spoke to Jacob in a dream and told him that he and his offspring would be great and would be blessed.  Jacob commits this promise to memory and doesn’t forget.  If we skip forward to Genesis 32, we will see that Jacob is ready to go back to the land of Canaan because God said it was time.  But there’s one thing he’s afraid of…his brother, Esau.  When he last left Esau, many years ago, things were not good.  He was afraid that Esau would try to kill him.  So he sends his messengers ahead of him to tell Esau that Jacob is coming home and that he comes in peace and hopes to find favor with him.  Esau responds saying he is coming to meet him and bringing with him 400 of his men.

Now this is when Jacob starts to freak out a little.  He panics and is worried and he cries out to God, reminding Him of the promise to prosper him.  “And Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O Lord who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,’ I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant….But you have said, “I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.'”  (Genesis 32:9-10,12)

Jacob is one bold man to remind God of His promise to prosper him.  He’s not afraid to remind God of what He said to him years before.  And what does God do?  He prospers Jacob.  He favors Jacob and moves him forward.  Out of Jacob comes the land of Israel.  Jacob’s offspring and descendants are great.  God promised to prosper Jacob.  And God kept His promise.

Jacob could come before God boldly because He knew God and knew God well.  He had faith in the Lord, followed Him, trusted Him, and knew that God would never break the promises He made.  Never.  Because his God and our God is a faithful God.

We can learn a few things from Jacob.  First we need to be walking closely with the Lord.  And that doesn’t mean only seeking Him when we need Him.  Walking closely with the Lord means seeking Him daily, reading His Word, understanding who God is, spending time in prayer.  Because when we do these things we will know God and know Him well.

Second, we need to be bold.  God wants us to be bold.  When we know God and who He is, we can boldly approach Him.  We aren’t afraid of Him or what He will say.  We aren’t fearful that He won’t listen to us.  We can boldly go to Him in prayer and remind Him of His plans to prosper us.

But let’s remember one important thing, God’s promise to prosper us does not look like the world’s definition of prosper.  God promises to grow us.  God promises to help us be successful (in His eyes).  God promises to move us forward favorably.

Are you in a place in your life where you aren’t feeling very prosperous?  Maybe you are feeling spiritually dry and need to know what God’s plan for your life is.  I believe that if you seek God, know Him, remember His promises, and boldly go to Him in prayer then you will be able to recognize the many ways God DOES prosper you.  You will see the ways that God favorably moves you forward.

Prayer:  Faithful God, thank You for the promise to prosper us.  Forgive us when we long for the success of this world.  Help us to know that You don’t prosper us as the world would, but You prosper us by moving us forward in our faith.  Thank You for having great plans for our life.  We love You.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Journal

  1.  In what ways has God prospered you.
  2.  If you are in a spiritually dry desert, what can you do to seek God and know the plans He has for you?

Day Twenty-Nine: The Promise of Healing

“But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.”     Isaiah 53:5

Healing happens daily on this earth.  People are cured from cancer, cuts and scrapes on a child’s leg are healed, broken bones are healed, people who were once paralyzed are healed and are able to walk again, flu viruses invade our body only to be healed, a migraine or a nagging headache is healed, a stomach virus that overtakes us is healed within a day or two, surgeries needed to remove a gall bladder or an appendix are successful and we are healed, by-pass surgeries that are needed to remove blocked arteries in our heart are performed and we are healed.  And then there’s the emotional and spiritual healing we receive each and every day, too.  So much healing takes place daily.

I have seen God heal many people in my life:  my mother was healed from breast cancer and has been cancer-free for 17 years, two friends at church have been healed from melanoma, a friend was healed from back pain, a friend’s daughter was healed from an infection in her blood stream, my daughter’s bad eye infection was healed when she was an infant, my little sister’s leg was healed when she broke it at the age of 3, my nephew, who swallowed amniotic fluid when he was born and developed a hole in his lung, was healed.  And there are many more instances of healing.  Healing occurs daily.

But then there’s the question and confusion as to why some people are healed and some are not.  Why did my mother and my childhood best friend’s mother get cancer around the same time but her mother died yet my mother was healed?  Why did my friend’s brother-in-law die from heart problems before he was able to get his second heart transplant?  Why did my friend and I get pregnant around the same time, but she had a miscarriage yet I was able to deliver a healthy baby?  Why was a pastor who was in a car accident not healed from his injuries and soon after passed away?  Why were these people not healed, Lord?

I wish I could give an answer for you.  But, I cannot.

Here’s one thing I do know….our God is a healer. I do not know why God chooses to heal some on this earth and some He does not.  He never promises that we will be healed on this earth.  Does that mean He cannot heal on this earth?  By no means.  Just look throughout the Scriptures and you will see the many miracles that Jesus and His disciples performed.  Open your eyes to see the daily miracles of healing that take place on this earth.  Healing happens on this earth and it is through the power of God our Father.

The one thing God does promise is that we will be healed in heaven.  The verse above from Isaiah 53 says it best for us.  Jesus was sent to this earth to take on the sins of the world.  He would be beaten, persecuted, wounded, and crushed for the sake of all of us.  All because He loves us. “He became sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  (2 Corinthians 5:21). 

Jesus was perfect.  He did not deserve to be punished and crucified on the cross. Yet He loved us so much He was willing to die for us so that we could ultimately be healed.  When we get to heaven, we will be free from pain.  We will not suffer from cancer, heart problems, lung problems, diabetes, headaches, back pain, chronic pain, mental illness, or any type of disease or sickness. Those who have special needs on this earth will no longer have them in heaven.  We will be completely healed.  Gone are the days of suffering.  Only pure joy is in heaven.

My friends, I hope that you will never doubt the healing power of our Lord.  He is able.  And if it is in His will, He will heal you.  Our minds cannot comprehend why some are healed on this earth and others are not.  I can only pray that no matter where your healing takes place, you will continue to pray and give God the glory, honor and praise that belongs to Him.  May your faith remain strong.  And may you continue to seek Him and go to Him in prayer when you are in need of healing.

Prayer:  Powerful God, there are so many in this world in need of Your healing touch.  We pray that You extend Your healing hand upon those in physical, emotional, and spiritual pain.  Hear our cries, Lord for healing.  Thank You for promising us ultimate healing in heaven.  Give us hope and may every person continue to walk closely with You, no matter what.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Journal

  1.  How has God healed you in the past?
  2.  How can you keep your faith strong when you or others are not healed?

Day Twenty-Eight: The Promise to Reveal Himself to Us

“They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”    John 14:21

Do you ever pray that God will reveal Himself to you?  Are you ever in a place where you so desperately want to see God and ask that He would make Himself known to you?

I have been there.

Some of those times come in dark moments when nothing seems to be going right.  Some of those times come when I have a decision to make and I just wish He would reveal Himself and let me know what I am to do.  Some of those times come when life is going well and all I long for is a glimpse of Him.

Jesus is speaking with His disciples in the John 14 verse above.  He tells them that those who know His commandments and keep them are the ones who love Him.  It is these people whom the Lord will reveal Himself to.  These are the people that seek Him.  These are the people who long to find Him.  These are the people who desperately want for the Lord to reveal Himself.  Why?  Because they love Him.

God reveals Himself daily to us, but are we looking?  Do we miss those flashes of Him because we are too preoccupied with our busy lives?  I know I am guilty of this.  But I pray daily that God would open my eyes and reveal Himself to me and that I would not miss Him.

I believe that God reveals Himself to us in three ways.  The first is through His creation.  Just look out the window and see the trees growing, the flowers blooming, the birds singing, the wind blowing, the leaves falling.  God is there.  Go outside and take a deep breath and inhale the air.  God is there. Look up in the sky and notice the bright blue color and the white clouds.  God is there.  He created every single thing in this world.  And He makes Himself known to us through it.

One day while my daughter was practicing soccer, I was running in the park.  I love to listen to worship music while I run and the song, “Love Ran Red”, by Chris Tomlin began to play.  As I was listening and singing in my head, I looked up and there, clear as day, was a bright white cross made from the fluffy clouds.  God was there. He revealed Himself to me through His creation.  I loved that moment.

Another way God reveals Himself to us is through His Son, Jesus Christ.  Take a look at Hebrews 1:1-3:

“Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds.  He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word.”  

Did you see that?  Jesus is the reflection of God.  The EXACT imprint of who God. is.  When God sent Jesus to be born on this earth so that He could one day die for us, He wasn’t just sending some random person.  No, He was sending His Son, the One who was with Him in the very beginning (John 1).  The One who knows Him like no one else.  The One that God chose to reveal Himself to us through.

Finally, God chooses to reveal Himself to us through His Word.  I have heard of people who ask how we know that the Bible is God’s Word.  How can we believe what is written and know that it’s true?  I believe because of my faith in God.  I also believe because of what is written in 2 Timothy 3:16-17:

“All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.”

The Bible is the Truth.  It’s God’s Word that was given to us.  He reveals Himself to us through every single page.  As we read the stories and listen to the Scriptures proclaimed, we can find great comfort and assurance in knowing that every single word is God-breathed.  Yes, God used other people to write His Word.  But, He inspired them and they obeyed and wrote what He said.  That way all those who love Him and seek Him will find Him when they open the Bible and look and listen for Him.

I’ll ask again…Do you want God to reveal Himself to you?  If so, believe in Him.  Believe in His Son, Jesus.  Open your eyes to see His glory all around you.  Look for Him in creation.  Read His Word.  God is ready and willing to reveal Himself to you.  Are you looking?

Prayer:  Father God, today our hearts are heavy with so much stuff that weighs us down.  We long to find You and to see You in the midst of our crazy lives. We humbly ask that You would reveal Yourself to us. Show us Your mighty ways.  Help us to open our eyes so we do not miss You.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Journal

  1. What is going on in your life where you need for God to reveal Himself to you?
  2. What can you do today that will help you see God?