Meditating on the Commands of Christ (81): Confusing Light and Darkness

Trying to navigate this COVID pandemic is the perfect time to learn how to walk in the light rather stumble in the dark, don’t you think? “Shall I go here or there, or stay home?” “Shall I allow my children to visit or ask them not to come yet?” So many decisions, and one false move could literally cost us our lives! In today’s passage, Jesus warns us that we can think we’re doing what’s right when in reality we are doing just the opposite: “Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness” (Luke 11:35). How can we be sure what we think is a good idea is not really a bad choice, and what we think of as right is not really wrong?

For those who believe the Bible is true, there is an answer: “Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God” (Isaiah 50:10). If you’re not sure what you’re thinking about doing is “the right” thing to do, and if you are willing to obey God, then simply pray and ask Him for guidance. In my experience, God gives me a sense of peace if I’m pursuing “the right” path or a sense of disquiet and restlessness if I am not. If your heart is restless, then “trust in the name of the Lord” and wait patiently for Him to direct you. Don’t rush ahead and do whatever. “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord” (Psalm 27:14). Be patient. Keep praying for the Lord to guide you. Don’t make a decision before you really have to, but when it’s time, make the best decision you can, trusting that the Lord is leading you (which He will be doing if you are willing to follow).

Jesus taught: “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12). This is a promise, but it is made to those who are following him. If you have not been following Jesus, then you may not be able to make wise decisions or discern good from a very bad mistake. In fact, you may have walked so far away from God that you have totally inverted right and wrong. As humans, we are capable of “doing that which is right” in our own eyes even though we are doing great evil (Joshua 17:6).

It is possible that our conscience will alert us if we’re heading into trouble, but if we continue ignoring the warnings, we can become hardened in sin. Isaiah 59 relates this grim warning: “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear . . . The way of peace they know not; and there is no judgment in their goings: they have made them crooked paths: whosoever goeth therein shall not know peace. Therefore is judgment far from us, neither doth justice overtake us: we wait for light, but behold obscurity; for brightness, but we walk in darkness” (Isaiah 59:1-2,8-9).

What can we do if sense that our hearts are dark and we have no peace or direction? The Apostle Paul had an answer for this: “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8). Paul was writing to the Church at Ephesus, so these were believers. Even those who believe in Christ and have been followers of Him can (often through inattention) lose their sense of direction. If you find that over time you’ve mindlessly walked out of the light and are now groping around in the darkness, come back to the light: “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:6-9).

There’s a lot of instruction here, and it may feel like bitter medicine to swallow, but this is God’s remedy for sin and lostness for both those who have become children of God through faith in Christ and those who have not yet. #1. Get honest with ourselves and admit to what we know we’re doing that is wrong. #2. Confess our sins to God and stop “pretending” that everything is okay. #3. Ask God to cleanse us and restore us to spiritual health and wholeness. #4. Walk in the light that God provides through the Holy Spirit, through the example of Jesus, and through the Word of God.

If you’ve been feeling very much in the dark and this message resonates in your heart, please join me in praying this prayer written by King David, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24). If you have never asked Jesus Christ to save you and become your Lord, please do so now! He is the Light of the World and promises to give you the Light of Life to guide you! Wouldn’t you love to have a heart full of light and someone leading you safely from here to heaven? Jesus will do just that if you’ll let him!

Text for today’s meditation: “And when the people were gathered thick together, he began to say, This is an evil generation: they seek a sign; and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet.30 For as Jonas was a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of man be to this generation.31 The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation, and condemn them: for she came from the utmost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.32 The men of Nineveh shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.33 No man, when he hath lighted a candle, putteth it in a secret place, neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light.34 The light of the body is the eye: therefore when thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light; but when thine eye is evil, thy body also is full of darkness.35 Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness.36 If thy whole body therefore be full of light, having no part dark, the whole shall be full of light, as when the bright shining of a candle doth give thee light (Luke 11:29-36).

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (77): Finding Rest in the Yoke

In India, I learned some striking lessons about being under the yoke! “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). Although I’d memorized those verses years ago, I must have stopped at the “and I will give you rest” without paying attention to the rest of what Jesus directs us to do. This isn’t just an offer for a life of ease!!

Riding on an ox cart in Lumbini, India

Jesus does offer us rest, but he’s not promising us a life of rest per se (i.e.—freedom from labor). He is challenging us to find rest for our souls while laboring with Him (rather than without Him). A yoke is not a pillow! It’s a wooden bar laid over the neck of beasts of burden so that they can pull together and share the load.

Most all of us labor “and are heavy laden,” although if we try to carry all our burdens alone, it can be unbearably grueling at times.

Sometimes, we are tempted to make our burdens lighter by teaming up with those who do not share our faith, but we are warned against this: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14).

The offer Jesus gives us is to partner with Him! He is the Light of the world, and when we walk with Him, we will always know where to go! “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12). I’ve found that Jesus often carries me altogether, but even during the hardest times when I feel like I can hardly keep going, I know He is with me, also bearing my load and walking beside me.

Although we may find it initially hard to surrender to being “under the yoke” with Jesus (and indeed—a yoke is a sign of surrender to someone else’s authority), the best news is that by partnering with Christ, we have a new master! We’re no longer bond slaves to sin, but rather we become spiritually free! God becomes our Father— the one to whom we are ultimately surrendered . . . and who provides lovingly for us!

In India, the ox cart driver guides his team by putting pressure on their tails. This makes me think of our sweet Holy Spirit, who also puts pressure on us. We may resist at times, but ultimately his promptings help us know which way to go, and because we know He loves us, we can trust his counsel.

Once we surrender to Him, he sets us to work caring for others and bearing one another’s burdens: “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). We might be tempted to fuss and fume—or rebel altogether and run away, but the beauty of living with Jesus is that we eventually begin to love others supernaturally, so helping them becomes a burden we want to bear: “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:3). In fact, we discover that it actually makes us happy to help others! “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:6). Haven’t you noticed that?

I think if we can only keep practicing these verses—learning to come to Jesus and find our rest in Him—then we will discover what it means to want to partner with him . . . to become “meek and lowly in heart”. . . to find rest for our souls . . . to share His yoke . . . to accept the burdens He gives us and experience them as “light” because He is pulling with us.

Text for this meditation: Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). However, to understand the context more fully, here is the entire passage: “Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not: 21 Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. 23 And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee. 25 At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. 26 Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight. 27 All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him. 28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:20-30).

Two Brahman Bulls Yoked Together

(*A special thank you to Yongsung Kim for permission to use these two wonderful portraits of Jesus. http://Havenlight.com )

Rise Up, My Love (294): Who Are Our Companions?

Song of Solomon 8:13 “Thou that dwellest in the gardens, the companions hearken to thy voice; cause me to hear it.” This is the husband’s cadenza. What is his last request for his beloved? That he might hear her voice. Tell me, if you can’t be physically present with the one you love, what’s the next best thing? For me, it’s talking on the phone.

Someone asked me what convenience I’ve enjoyed most since the beginning of the new millennium. Without a doubt, it’s having a cell phone small enough to slip into my purse and carry with me everywhere. My cell phone is programed and voice activated, so all I have to do is say my loved one’s name, and that person’s number is automatically dialed. With kids scattered from California to New York and even Italy now, one of my chief delights in life is being able to hear their cheery voices any old time I want! What a blessing! It takes a lot of the sting out of being separated. (And today, thanks to smart phones and internet, we can even see their faces!)  “The companions hearken to thy voice; cause me to hear it.” Our companions hear our voice…but how much more does the Lord long to hear us speaking to him! Actually, the verse doesn’t say our companions, or even your companions, but rather the companions. Who are “the companions?” According to the dictionary, a companion is “a person who accompanies or associates with another; a comrade; a person employed to assist, live with, or travel with another” (American Heritage, 384).  The root words refer to those who eat bread together. I was struck by the fact that being a companion is not exactly synonymous with being a friend, although certainly companions may also be friends. “The companions” is more closely related to “the business associates,” such as those individuals with whom we work every day. There is a sense in which this verse should encourage us to pay more careful attention to what we say to our coworkers, because “the companions hearken to thy voice.” Those we work with day by day are listening to us, whether or not we can tell, and they are being affected by what we say!  Above all, what is the message that God wants us to be telling “the companions?” In Exodus 3:16-18, God told Moses to gather the children of Israel together and tell them that God would deliver them from slavery and lead them “unto a land flowing with milk and honey.” God concluded by saying, “And they shall hearken to thy voice.” Listen to that! “And they will hearken to thy voice.” “The companions hearken to thy voice.”  Those around you do hear you. What are you telling them? What is the message you are preaching by your deeds and speaking with your heart and tongue? Beloved, is there any more needed message in this world today than the message that God will deliver us from our bondage and lead us “unto a land flowing with milk and honey?” Have you thought about what it means to “flow with milk?”  When I used to nurse my babies, I produced an incredible amount of milk. Sometimes while I was nursing, my husband would come over to watch, and the baby would pop off the nipple to look around and see his daddy, which would usually earn him a big squirt of milk all over his little face and ear. I mean, I was flowing!! The baby would fuss, but Alan would just smile and say, “Contented cows make good milk.”  A land flowing with milk and honey is a land where there’s peace, contentment, and an abundance of nourishing sweetness. On the spiritual level, “the companions” must be those with whom we associate because of our position as the king’s bride rather than simply the friends we have selected by personal choice. “The” companions are those who are also dwelling in the king’s gardens. We have all been engaged by the king to live together, to work together, to assist one another, to break bread together, and to travel together through the king’s gardens and into his celestial city.  “The companions” are fellow pilgrims we interact with through our church and other ministries. They also “hearken to our voice.” I graduated from a public high school but was able to attend a Christian university. My anticipation was that college would be sort of a Christian “Mecca” where I could relax and just “fit in” because everyone would love God and be zealously preparing to serve his Kingdom causes. My older and wiser spiritual brother, who was a senior at the same school, prepared me by saying, “Just remember, no matter where you go, you’re going to be either a missionary or a mission field.”  In this world, no matter how good our Christian organization or spiritual fellowship, all of us are works in process…growing, changing, backsliding, moving forward, needing encouragement, needing correction…needing each other to be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord and calling one another on to love and good works. Until we get to heaven, there is no such thing as settling in to “status quo” mentality. The companions will be listening to our voice. May our speech be holy, gracious, and full of love and truth!

(Thank you, Bob Hardee, for sharing you gift of photos with scripture verses!)

Follow Me, Boys!

If you’re ever in the mood for a charming Disney movie about small town America in the 1930’s, especially if you have any grade-school aged boys or budding Boy Scouts in tow, you might really enjoy watching Follow Me, Boys When our boys were growing up, they loved all the old Disney movies with Fred MacMurray, like The Happiest Millionaire, The Absent-Minded Professor, and The Shaggy Dog. They were family “cult classics” that got watched repeatedly.  We also had a lot of laughs over the Disney movies starring Kurt Russell like The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit, Now You See Him Now You Don’t, and The Barefoot Executive. By the way, did you know that Walt Disney personally signed up Kurt Russell with a ten-year contract when he was just a kid, and Kurt became one of their studio’s leading stars in the 1970’s? Somehow, we all missed finding the earliest Disney movie where Fred MacMurray and Kurt Russell starred together: Follow Me, Boys! It might be because it was so old (1966), but it’s full of good-spirited fun and all the themes that make Disney movies memorable!Fred MacMurray plays the role of a young musician who decides to give up city life and settle down in a small Midwest town, where he becomes involved with the Boy Scouts. Kurt plays the role of a young boy who struggles with finding his own identity because his father is an alcoholic. Although you can kind of guess the plot from the beginning, there are some twists and turns along the way, and it’s a refreshing break from modern life! It’s good to remember a time when America was safer, life was simpler, and boys were free to enjoy hard work with lots of challenge while still having fun.Both my older brothers were proud Eagle Scouts in the 1950’s, and I’m really excited that my oldest grandson has just joined Boy Scouts! If your church doesn’t offer Awana or some other program geared to help kids grow up wise and capable, at least consider Scouts. But, maybe watch Follow Me, Boys! first. By the way, there’s something even better than following a good role model who will teach you how to tie knots, fish, and work hard as a kid, and that is a role model who will teach you everything you need to know about life both now and forever. There is only one such perfect role model, and his name is Jesus. Jesus can teach you not only to fish, but to be a fisher of men!  Do you know Him? Are you a follower? It will be the most challenging thing you’ve ever done in your life—much harder than becoming an Eagle Scout— but you’ll never regret it!

“And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19)

“Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world:
he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”
(John 8:12)

“And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)

The Snow Is always Deeper on the Northern Side of the State

27So, I repent of complaining about spring taking so long to come to lower 22Michigan, because—as you can see from these pictures I took last weekend—28the snowbanks at the opposite end of our state in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, 30still conjure up thoughts of northern Alaska to me. 31(Although I promise you that all these pictures were just taken this past weekend 20while Alan and I were taking a little nostalgia tour of our old home town.) 01Sault Ste. Marie is a beautiful place to visit anytime, although I love fall the best. 14I grew up in a little house on Dillon St., but we did something very special this 05 time: We stayed at the Ojibway, a historic hotel overlooking the the Soo Locks 03 and famed for hosting the “CaChoo Club” and some notable guests.02The Ojibway is now owned by Ramada but still retains it’s 1930’s ambiance, and 06they include a lovely complimentary breakfast in their sunny dining room. 04Our room was charming and the bed comfy…definitely a pleasant stay. 10Our room overlooked the Soo Locks and Brady Park, and after we checked out, 11 we took a stroll through the park, as we have done hundreds of times over the 13 years. When we were kids, we used to sit in the crook of that tree on the left and 09watch the tourists passing by. Forty-five+ years later, we’re the tourists! 12My mother helped found the People-to-People organization nearly 50 years ago, and this gate from Japan in Brady Park was a gift from their “sister city.”15I used to have to walk up Easterday Hill every day on my way home from school. 32In those days, there were no steps and we sometimes had to pull ourselves up 29using the railings to keep us from sliding back down in the icy winter weather! 17We picked up Milt and Faye for lunch. They are like second parents to Alan. 18Alan grew up with their son, Larry, & he later worked with Milt at his dad’s shop.19(I hope you’re noticing the incredibly high snowbanks in these pictures!) 26 Milt and Faye have been a great source of inspiration to us over the years!     (This is a picture from the wall by their front door…and they really live this out!)21We stopped at “Cozy’s” for some of their famous whitefish & sour cream/chives  french fries. I’ll tell you, there’s no whitefish like Lake Superior fresh-caught! 16Oh, and I mustn’t forget to tell you about the great dinner we had the night before with Alan’s cousin, Jim, and his sweet wife, Gladys. 08What a blessing it was to head north for the weekend, even though they’ve had a 23

brutal winter and the snowbanks were unbelievably high! Next time I’m tempted to complain about the late spring in lower Michigan—or whatever challenge I’m dealing with—will you remind me that the snows are deeper elsewhere? I, for one, am glad I’m not on the other side of the fence, and I hope you are too!

“Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as you have: for He has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’.”      (Hebrews 13:5)