Rabbi

John 3:2 – 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.”

These days we often think and discuss of Jesus, among His many names, as “Teacher.” Which is an important trait; we always have more to learn as people, but especially so when it comes to embodying, applying, and sharing Scripture. But seeing as Christ came to earth among God’s people in Israel, it’s important to recognize how He did bring a radically different teaching that you could only come to God through faith in Christ Jesus, but that He was also an important teacher in their culture and time, earning Him the name “Rabbi” in many instances.

If you were like me before looking more into this matter, you may have considered Rabbi simply the Hebrew translation for “teacher.” Besides, as John 1:38 says, “And they said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’” There’s a definite notion that Rabbis were the teachers of Scripture and God’s commands, and often enacted the law based on their interpretation of God’s word in the case of the courts such as the Sanhedrin. But that apparently was a miscommunication, more of a Western way of thinking about the student-teacher dichotomy. Turns out the original Hebrew רַבִּי has that implication, but ultimately means more along the lines of “master”, or “my master” specifically. And to think of referring to Jesus in that manner seems more fitting. In calling Jesus “Rabbi”, one would admit their submission: their future found in Christ and His teaching.

It’s worth noting too with this context in mind that it’s Nicodemus talking to Jesus here in John 3:2, a Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin, acknowledging His sanctity. One of the spiritual and legal leaders of the Jewish people at the time was calling this man their teacher, their master; how fitting that even one who would lead and teach those of Christ would recognize His authority above their own. Though Nicodemus would eventually fail to sufficiently speak up for Jesus’s sake in regards to this belief (a failing Jesus would have surely anticipated here, even as he taught Nicodemus about being born again into the Kingdom of God), he still recognized and believed that only the Son of God can truly point the way to the Father.

So when we consider how Jesus is Rabbi, we can consider Him as our teacher, from whom we find wisdom about how to live in a holy manner, but that marks only the beginning. We consider Jesus our master, our mentor, our leader; someone we can look to to learn the lessons of Godly, sanctimonious living. Jesus took the Law based on following God’s commands, and turned it on its head, instead teaching that only through faith in Jesus Christ and our death and resurrection in Him could we be by God’s side. To call Jesus Rabbi is to follow His teachings; to submit to His interpretation of the Law that we read about in Scripture; to know the world is saved through Him; to know that “everyone who believe may have eternal life in Him.” (John 3:15) In doing this, we declare Jesus Christ is our master, our Lord, the Son of God. Consider today in what ways the life you lives reflects Jesus being your own master in this way. For as everyone sees how the Rabbi leads the student, so will the world learn about Christ through His students’ actions.

My Portion

Psalm 119:57 – “The Lord is my portion; I promise to keep your words.”

This verse has been a much needed reminder today of the joy the Lord brings into my life. Our portion – our share, our inheritance, our allotment in life, what we have and all that we possess – is God and His Kingdom. In our faith and love of the Father, we discover an eternity with Christ and a place in His Kingdom; what spectacular news! What greater destiny could we hope for? What grander gift could we possibly receive?

In Deuteronomy 32:9, Moses says “the Lord’s portion is His people, Jacob His allotted heritage.” We know that we are God’s people, that we are rightfully His and belong at His side; that He relentless pursues us because we are rightfully His. But it’s also true that the creator and lord over all mankind fulfills each of us & belongs to each of us individually as well. It’s an idea that arises multiple times throughout the Psalms: when we choose God, He becomes all we have and all we need. In Psalm 16:5: “The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.“ Psalm 76:23: “My flesh and heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 142:5: “I cry to you, O Lord. I say, ‘You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.” It paints a beautiful picture of how in both good times and bad, our God is with us, always there to empower, comfort, and fulfill.

I am delighted that God is my portion in life. It calms my mind, eases my burdens, and erases my fears to know that when I keep His word, I please and glorify a God much mightier than I. When I am in need, He provides. When I weep, He comforts me. When I am afflicted, He rescues. And when I am joyous, the Lord is the reason. I’ve been trying to fully appreciate lately the simple fact that I am alive, here on earth, my wonderful wife and I side by side: trying to more consciously think of how each blessing in life comes from above, and to treat it accordingly. But even as all these things of this world may fade, I am granted the knowledge through my faith, greater than all else, that I have been allotted an eternity with Christ my Lord. Celebrate with me today that as believers, our portion in life is to share in God’s kingdom. For scripture teaches that when we live our lives for the God who provides, we inherit our immeasurable reward of eternity with Him.

Offering and Sacrifice to God

Ephesians 5:2 – “And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

Why do you do kind things for people? Who do you do kind things for? From small, simple gestures to profoundly generous gifts, we Christians use acts of kindness as one form of doing good. In Ephesian 4:32, Paul commands us, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” In coming to Christ and becoming more like Him, we put aside the selfishness and impurity of our pre-Christ days and are called to display our new life through doing what is pleasing to the Lord, such as forgiving and showing kindness to others.

But Ephesians 5:2 raises this conviction within me: how do I love sacrificially, as Christ did? Back in the Old Testament, people would offer sacrifices to God to atone for sin, ask for forgiveness, as acts of humility or fellowship, or to give to God what is rightfully His, among other reasons. The smoke from these burnt offering would often be described as “fragrant”, and people would hope the Lord found the aroma from their sacrifices pleasing. The Israelites were called to give their always give their best, as in Leviticus 22:20: “You shall not offer anything that has a blemish, for it will not be acceptable for you.” The specific phrasing “without blemish” comes up again and again. I remember as well in 2 Samuel 24:24, the old King David saying “I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing.” The Lord deserves the best we have to give Him, for ultimately all we have comes from Him. Moreover, a sacrifice must be exactly that; it has to truly cost us something, be it our time, money, work, or however you may give. For if you don’t really feel the effects of your giving, how truly sacrificial is it?

What greater sacrifice could there be than the sacrifice Christ made on the cross? The blameless and spotless Son of God offered Himself as a sacrifice for our atonement. And just as Paul commands of the church at Ephesus here, so does he say to us that our actions should emanate a love that mirrors Christ’s death. Christ did not low-ball our eternal salvation. He did not try to bargain His contribution to the forgiveness of our sins. The lamb of God, without blemish, gave everything on our behalf.

We recently went through Romans in our church, and one verse that has particularly stuck with me on sacrificial love was Romans 5:8: “God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” The recurring, humbling thought I have that ties to this verse in Ephesians is how incredible Christ is that He would willingly accept death for someone who totally did not deserve it. Yet despite us being unredeemed at that time, Christ showed us sacrificial love on a level beyond understanding of those who stake their existence solely in this life. That is the incomparable quality of the offering raised on behalf of our sanctification. That mind-blowing love is what we are called to live, just as Christ did.

So again, why do you do kind things, and who do you do them for? Are your kind deeds reserved for those who deserve it? Are they done only for those close to you, so you may personally see and enjoy the benefits of those kind acts? Or are they done for all, unseen acts of kindness, even for those who you find it difficult to show kindness to? Or those who’ll never know you for your actions, nor repay you for your works? Do you give for the glory of God? By our own ambitions, it can be easier to give to those who you already know; but what of all those with hardened hearts and hopeless lives, the lost sheep who need Christ’s incomparable love more than anything else they’ll find in this life? Just as Christ offered Himself for all of us when we were not justified or deserving, the world needs us more than ever to show this Christ-centered and Christ-glorifying love.

Manna

John 6:49-50 : “Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.”

Have you ever tried eating the same meal over and over and over? Late last year I started meal-prepping my lunches for the week, cooking a big pot of curried lentil stew to eat throughout the week. On it’s own, it’s not a bad meal; it’s nutritious, very cheap, takes a short time to cook, and I do like the taste. But let me tell you, after eating that same lunch almost every weekday for seven months now, it gets a little tough to swallow some days. But still I’m grateful that I’ve been provided plenty to eat at all.

In John 6, when the crowd at Capernaum asks Jesus for a sign that He has come to do God’s work, citing their ancestors’ 40-year manna diet while wandering the desert. Specifically, they say in verse 31: “Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” This bread, which we know as manna, was allotted by God as sustenance for the Israelites in their decades of wandering. Described in Exodus 16 as “a fine, flake-like thing, fine as frost on the ground,” as well as “like coriander seed, white, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey,” the Israelites were able to gather it to make bread, owing their survival to this manna, a gift from God. It was partly to test the Israelites’ trust in the Lord, but also an act of great kindness and generosity to a people who were not at all grateful to an abundantly kind Lord. Of course, even then the Israelites grumbled at the prospect of having to live off this bread alone. I can’t say from my human perspective that I can’t relate; not only to eating the same meal over and over (it’s tough enough with the same lentil stew for seven months, I can’t imagine 40 years of the stuff), but how from time to time I can tend to overlook the bigger picture while focusing instead on my few annoyances.

But as Jesus reminds these people, even with day after day of being blessed with manna from heaven, they still died, same as the rest of us. This part of Jesus’s statement is a sobering reminder: yes, God will provide for us. As Jesus says in Matthew 6:31-33, “do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear? …Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” God has promised to meet our basic needs as long as we remain faithful, and in our faith we know He makes good every promise. But nothing the Lord will provide to fill our stomachs, or keep us warm, or protect us from the elements, or any thing of this world, will prevent death. Though they can satisfy us for the moment, no temporal good can hold off sin’s wages. This mirrors our spiritual lives as well; how often we can look to gain fulfillment in things of this world, but end up underwhelmed and spiritually malnourished in this pursuit, no closer to salvation than before.

Thankfully, God always has a plan. In this case, not only for the physical fulfillment, but spiritual fulfillment as well. Just as God provided bread from the heavens for the Israelites, Christ came down from heaven to give us the Bread of Life, of which we can eat and not perish. What better words to hear on this than verses 35 to 40:

Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.’

Only through coming to Jesus and living out His word can we experience eternal life in Him. Only by offering our lives to Christ can we endure to eternal life. While God may provide for our needs now, it is our choice to eat the true bread of life. I pray today for the hunger in my spirit; not to be content with the things of this earth, but to fully pursue Jesus with my heart and soul. I know Christ will provide food to fill my stomach and a roof over my head, but none of those earthly things bring eternity with Christ. Lord, help us today to put aside the blessings of this world in favor of something more; to appreciate and be thankful for all you’ve given us on this earth, but even more, in all we say and do, to come to Christ and partake in your word.

Lord Most High

“I will give to the Lord the thanks due to His righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High.” – Psalm 7:17

In reading David’s song to the Lord in Psalm 7, I am struck by the impartiality of David towards his own position in the Lord’s eyes. Spurned by the words of Cush the Benjaminite (an associate of Saul’s – judging by 1 Samuel and this Psalm, they were not kind words), David pleads for refuge in the Lord’s power, but not for his own benefit. Rather, he knows God punishes the wicked – as David himself says in this chapter, “if there is wrong in my hands… let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it, and let him trample my life to the ground.” David understands the Lord alone can prescribe who is right and who has done wrong, and in this knowledge finds the key for subservience and submission to a righteous Lord. Even amidst his own sin, and owning up to the consequences of it, David shows a keen enlightenment of sorts that the Lord’s judgement wholly deserves precedence over his own well-being. And in seeing this, David knows only when he wholly devotes himself to his master’s word can he do what is right.

This is a lesson we can all learn, but wow is it difficult to apply in practice. As flawed people, we can be quick to both pass judgement on others, and question their passing of judgement. All while ignoring our own wrongs! It’s so easy and so commonplace to overlook our own transgressions and get wrapped up in who is right and wrong, who has done good and who hasn’t; these concepts are so fickle by shifting human standards. Only in the Lord Most High, the one who wields true righteousness like a sword, who radiates ultimate authority over all men, good and evil, can truly know who has done right and who has not. And the truth is that none of us has done right by every one of God’s words.

Thankfully though, all who believe are not judged on their own accord. We know through our sanctification, bought through the blood of Jesus Christ who died on our behalf, we are made upright in heart. And as David says in verse 10 of this chapter: “My shield is with God, who saves the upright in heart.” Through profession of faith and expressing this faith through living lives according to His command, our Lord protects our faithful hearts from those who would do them harm. In this we can rest assured, and sing praise to the Lord whose victory is guaranteed. Greater than any evil and more powerful than anything of this world is the Lord Most High.

This passage has moved me this week to pray that God would help me remove judgement from my own heart, for I know if I were to be judged by Him as I were, I’d be struck down on the spot. Instead, I’ve prayed for a heart of forgiveness and humility; for I know only God resides over righteous judgement, and instead of judging others, I can embody 1 Peter 4:8: “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” I’ve especially asked for the conviction to see my own sin as David sees his, take accountability for the consequences of it, and to surrender it to God so that I may better reflect how He is my master and Lord. In all these things, I pray for strength for you as well. For only He establishes the righteous and delivers them, only He can rule righteously, and only He is Lord Most High over all.

My Lamp

One of the new pastimes I’ve been trying my hand at in quarantine, like many others I’ve seen, is gardening. My parents put together a small group of herb sprouts as a birthday gift for me back in March, and we’ve been working on diligently growing and maintaining our little sprouts into a small garden. Granted, it’s only a few tiny plants in a planter on our tiny apartment balcony, but it’s a nice process to witness and help along. Plus, hey, someday soon we’ll have a bunch of fresh herbs!

Reading David’s Song of Deliverance in 2 Samuel 22, one line reminds my meek little plants reaching desperately towards the sun overhead for life. In all of David’s trials in becoming king, in the war and bloodshed, fleeing from friends & family alike for his life & years of both suffering and countless victories, the Spirit of the Lord was with David & delivered him through everything. In acknowledging this and offering his praise, David says in 2 Samuel 22:29: “For you are my lamp, O Lord, and my God lightens my darkness”.

I love David’s inclusion of this line in how the Lord enables us to overcome impossible feats and achieve unthinkable things. Like those minuscule herbs depending on the sun for sustenance, David describes God as the source of light which has guided and provided for him. It must have seemed wild to those around David that any hope remained after being targeted for death by Saul and the tragedies that followed his family and friends. But when the Lord spoke to David, David listened and obeyed. Even in his moments of weakness when he sinned, David repented and accepted his punishment as God’s righteous justice. So when the world around David sought to destroy him, he found hope again and again in God’s promises. David doesn’t hesitate to admit in this chapter that he would be lost and crushed by his enemies without God. But it required being faithful and believing that God chose him to lead His people, and would see His decrees through no matter what the moment held. Like a lamp that must be kept burning in order to see your way, this faith must be held close and maintained as we navigate our way through life as our source of hope.

The world around us continually throws its worst at us; from global crises and the world itself seeming to fall apart around us, to people who delight in slandering, denigrating, and demeaning the faith of those who look to Christ. But as Psalm 119:105 also says: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” When we keep God’s word in our heart, He sees us through the worst a broken world can offer. His promises of eternal life give us hope that war, persecution, threats of murder, and worldly despair can not extinguish, even to the ends of our own earthly lives. The light of hope, that baffles those who have tried and failed to find hope in the fickle things of this world, burns brightest when we trust God and live for Him.

So in this time, what does that look like to you? What does obeying God’s word and being faithful look like in your life? From simple words of positivity and encouragement, to donating your time, money, and skills to helping those in need; from patience and trust to the leaders in charge of our country right now, to simply being able to smile and look forward to what tomorrow brings; now more than ever, acting out your faith speaks volumes. When God’s presence guides you through the hopelessness that perplexes those fixated on this world, you tell them of a God who offers greater things than the fear and anguish around us. We each need God’s word, the lamp that lightens our darkness, that lights our path, more than ever; and the people of this world need us to shine that light for them more than ever. How will you let God’s light shine in your life and for the lives of others today?

Jealous

In an era plagued by consumerism, personal gain, and comparison of self, experiencing jealously seems like second nature to a lot of us. I find myself having thoughts like this all the time before realizing it: spotting a nice new car on the road, or viewing a friend’s new house; experiencing the knowledge and expertise of a coworker or being flooded with the talents and gifts of people on social media and wanting that for myself. I hear a lot of people dealing with similar feelings, stemming from an uncountable number of all sorts of little things. It pushes people around me to resent each other, feel inadequate about themselves, and helpless at their own lot in life. Honestly, it’s exhausting to endure the jealousy that 21st century life feels to be relentlessly trying to push onto us.

Which is what makes it initially jarring to read passages like Exodus 34:14: “for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” I feel so conditioned to think about jealousy from the perspective of my own selfish & flawed human nature, to think about God experiencing anything similar seems… odd. Well, yes, that is a very wrong way to think about His jealousy. We know God acts on our behalf (Isaiah 64:4), out of true kindness and selflessness. We know God wants us to share in His eternal life, but our sin removes us from His sanctified presence (Romans 6:23). Which it reasons would lead to a just, righteous jealousy when God sees us, His precious beloved people, choosing to devote our worship to the idols of our own design.

This distinction between righteous and unrighteous jealousy is exemplified earlier in Exodus, in chapter 20 when God gives His commandments to Moses. In Exodus 20:4-5, “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

Compare this to just a bit later in Exodus 20:17: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” God describes two very different types of jealousy here: the former, one desperate for that which is good and holy to be upheld, and one pursuing selfish ambition and personal gain.

God can absolutely be called jealous, and for that we should be thankful. We are His children, and it is only natural that God would want what is rightfully His. For He loves us and pursues us in our iniquity; as our hearts wander away from Him and build idols of yearning out of the possessions of those around us, He wants us to share in His ultimately more fulfilling love. When we can’t help but yearn for things of this world, our God knows only things not of this world will satisfy. In His jealous and relentless chase of us amidst our sinful meandering, He proves that He will never leave nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6). How will you respond to your own unrighteous jealousy when it suddenly appears? Will you let your heart idolize the things of this world you see and want, or will you focus your mind on the God who brings satisfaction and contentment? Praise be to God that He would so jealously want to bring His children into eternal life with Him.

Holy

When you think of someone who is “holy”, what comes to mind? Is it a perfect person who lives a completely spotless life, someone spending every waking moment in prayer and Scripture? Someone who has devoted their entire life to helping the sick and poor in God’s name? Someone who’s given every penny they own to the church? The word has such weighty connotations it’s easy to consider anything “holy” to be unnatural in this broken world – but the reality is simpler. Coming from a Hebrew term for separation, holiness is a quality denoted to anything or anyone set apart as separate from normality. Only God is perfectly holy – separated completely from sin and anything imperfect. Nothing and no one is like God; free of fault, perfectly just, and wise beyond our understanding. Only God Most High is holy in every single aspect, but anything, from place to artifact to person, that has been recognized by God as special and not entirely of this world could be considered holy in some aspect.

Importantly, we should think of ourselves as holy. As Christians, our faith should ideally guarantee our wholehearted pursuit of holiness. But human nature is sinful and broken, and of course we have trouble committing to spiritual purity and connection with God on our own accord. Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross accomplishes with a totality we aren’t capable of achieving. It makes overcoming sin, separating yourself from the ways of the world, and forming that resulting personal connection with God a possibility. As 1 Corinthians 1:30 says, “because of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” From Jesus’s death we have been made clean, redeemed and set right, and in His resurrection, the sting of death has been eradicated and our sanctification has been made eternal.

In 1 Peter 1:16, the apostle Peter references God’s commands in Leviticus 20:26: “you shall be holy, for I am holy.” Last weekend, we celebrated Jesus’s victory over death that guaranteed our sanctification. Now that we are free to follow God’s commands, how has this verse, this call to be holy, been reflected in your own life? How have you lived differently this week in response to the call of Easter Sunday? How have you acted on God’s word and acted in the same righteous, generous, and blameless manner that we have been commanded? Think about the ways you’ve embodied holiness this week. Maybe you’ve consciously treated others more kindly when it did not come easily. Maybe you went out of your way to show generosity towards a family member or friend in need, offering help purely as its own reward. Perhaps when your old sinful habits and urges crept into your consciousness, you turned heavenward to the Redeemer instead of inward to your own self-gratification.

However you have felt changed, whatever form Jesus’s purchase of your sanctification took, it pleases God and makes you further set apart from sin: more holy, more like His example. The Lord delights in the kindness, justice, and righteousness we display, taken from His example. And of course, to further follow the Lord’s example is to further learn how to be more like the holy God we serve. I pray in the meantime for this pure holiness be revealed to you through God’s word and through the changes He makes in your life. It is not easy for people in this world to turn away from the sin that permeates it, to consciously separate themselves from its ways, but anything is possible for our holy God.

He Who Turns Blackness Into Dawn

Almost every day, I’m awake well before the sun rises, with a cup of coffee and a book or game, working on waking up very slowly as dawn breaks. There’s comfort in the sunrise; to know a new day is beginning, to know the Lord has blessed me with another day. That quiet start of the day always seems to offer a chance of solemn realization and thankfulness; a reflection of God driving away the night and giving us a new day.

We all know the imagery of light vs. darkness representing good vs. evil; we see it right off the bat as God creates light in Genesis 1, calling it good. We know and often experience first hand the danger of darkness, of promises of thieves emboldened by the cover of darkness, adulterers and criminals sinning away from the eyes of the world, of being blinded to the world around us and lost and confused. It’s easy to see the contrast in this of the light too; the world around us revealed again, the possibilities of a new day, the beginning of a new journey and new work to be done.

It’s important in these reflecting moments to think of, as Amos describes in Amos 5:8, “he who turns blackness into dawn.” To make it easily understandable for us, the Bible paints our experiences with sin as being trapped in a deep darkness, our sight of God obfuscated. It’s as Jesus says in Matthew 8:12 – “The subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Or in John 11:10 – “It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light.” When sin surrounds us, we are as if trapped in a deep darkness, without a protector to lead us. We are left helpless and hopeless, no choice but to succumb to the wages of sin: eternal death.

But just as the sun rises every day, as God turns blackness into dawn, through His grace He acts as a light, driving away our sin. For as proclaimed in 1 John 1:5-7: “This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light, in Him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with Him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin.” What a reminder to start the day with. God is perfect, flawless, free of sin; the example who’s path we can always walk in. When we try to walk on the path of our own volition, it’s just about impossible to not stumble. But God will never lead us astray into the dangers sin present.

Thinking back to the tougher times of my life, a number of my memories are swallowed by a thick darkness of sin. I remember all of the fear, the doubt, the despair, the hopelessness whenever I tried to walk on my own without God’s help. This spiritual darkness is all too present, and ready to consume those who don’t follow God’s teaching. What about in your own life – do you have a time in your life you tried to stumble your way through the dark on your own without God’s guidance? How did those moments of isolation from God’s warmth make you feel? And most importantly, how can you express that feeling of security when you returned to God’s shining grace? And how can you share that through your actions and words with those still in the darkness? For according to Jesus in Matthew 5:16, “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

With God, none of us have to endure that terror. Together, through the blood of Jesus, God purifies us, frees us from darkness and sin. He turns the blackness that seals our fate into the light and purity of His holy presence. If this darkness sounds familiar, if you’re struggling without God’s light right now, know He seeks to shine in your life and in your heart again. Don’t be afraid to express your true feelings while seeking help and support from other Christians in your life. Most importantly, immerse yourself in prayer and Scripture to receive His encouraging word. For as surely as God begins each new day until He returns, He will free you from ever needing to walk that dark path alone again. As Psalm 48:14 says: “For this God is our God for ever and ever; He will be our guide even to the end.”

God Most High

If there’s anything to be said for times of crisis, it’s that we see everyone around us displaying the inner workings of their heart on their sleeves. When the broken world around us seems to fall apart, putting on display the reality of sin, the worst facets of human nature rear themselves, and it’s tough to watch. From hearing the despair of friends and coworkers about what’s going on in our world, to seeing stores picked apart, my heart honestly breaks for those around me who do not know Christ. The fear and uncertainty are palpable and powerful.

That’s why I feel especially blessed this week to have been able to attend church services this last Sunday. To see our body of believers coming together and affirming their belief and showing their confidence that God is greater than any fear, any sickness, or any agent of death has energized me and exemplified faith’s importance in my life this week. To focus not on myself, but to engage in prayer in worship of our Most High God has demonstrated the night-and-day difference His graceful peace makes.

When you really need God, are you crying out to Him? Psalm 57:2 & 3 reads: “ I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills His purpose for me. He will send from heaven and save me; he will put to shame him who tramples on me. God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness!”

With all the infectious negativity around me this week, I’ve found myself experiencing a lot of negative feelings frightfully often. But reading God’s word and focusing on Him picks me up and brings me joy every time. Now more than ever we can see how exactly God can bring us peace when we shut out the world around us and cry out to Him. For God, Most High creator of heaven and earth, greater than any other being or any other force in the world, nothing is insurmountable. No force could stop God from saving His children, from sending out His love to those who cry out in need.

This weekend, take Jesus’s words in Matthew 6:31-33 to heart: “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”