Devotional

Facing the Darkness

18 May 2021, 12:00 am

In the mid-1960s, two people participated in research on the effects of darkness on the human psyche. They entered separate caves, while researchers tracked their eating and sleeping habits. One remained in total darkness for 88 days, the other 126 days. Each guessed how long they could remain in darkness and were off by months. One took what he thought was a short nap only to discover he’d slept for 30 hours. Darkness is disorienting.

The people of God found themselves in the darkness of impending exile. They waited, unsure of what would take place. The prophet Isaiah used darkness as a metaphor for their disorientation and as a way of speaking about God’s judgment (Isaiah 8:22). Previously, the Egyptians had been visited with darkness as a plague (Exodus 10:21–29). Now, it was Israel that found herself in darkness.

But a light would come. “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned” (Isaiah 9:2) Oppression would be broken, disorientation would end. A Child would come to change everything and bring about a new day—a day of forgiveness and freedom (v. 6).

Jesus did come! And although the darkness of the world can be disorienting, may we experience the comfort of the forgiveness, freedom, and light found in Christ.

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Pursued by Love

17 May 2021, 12:00 am

“I fled Him, down the nights and down the days,” opens the famous poem “The Hound of Heaven” by English poet Francis Thompson. Thompson describes Jesus’ unceasing pursuit—despite his efforts to hide, or even run away, from God. The poet concludes “I am he whom Thou seekest!”

The pursuing love of God is a central theme of the book of Jonah. The prophet received an assignment to tell the people of Nineveh (notorious enemies of Israel) about their need to turn to God, but instead “Jonah ran away from the Lord” (Jonah 1:3). He secured passage on a ship sailing in the opposite direction of Nineveh but the vessel was soon overcome by a violent storm. To save the ship’s crew, Jonah was thrown overboard before being swallowed by a large fish (1:15–17).

In his own beautiful poem, Jonah recounted that despite his best efforts to run away from God, God pursued him. When Jonah was overcome by his situation and needed to be saved, he cried out to God in prayer and turned toward His love (vv. 2, 8). God answered and provided rescue not only for Jonah, but for his Assyrian enemies as well (v. 10).

As described in both poems, there may be seasons of our lives when we try to run from God. Even then Jesus loves us and is at work to guide us back into restored relationship with Him (1 John 1:9).

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Guilt and Forgiveness

16 May 2021, 12:00 am

In his book Human Universals, anthropologist Donald Brown lists more than four hundred behaviors that he considers common across humanity. He includes such things as toys, jokes, dances, and proverbs, wariness of snakes, and tying things with string! Likewise, he believes all cultures have concepts of right and wrong, where generosity is praised, promises valued, and things like meanness and murder understood to be wrong. We all have a sense of conscience, wherever we’re from.

The apostle Paul made a similar point many centuries ago. While God gave the Jewish people the Ten Commandments to clarify right from wrong, Paul noted that since gentiles could do right by obeying their conscience, God’s laws were evidently written on their hearts (Romans 2:14–15). But that didn’t mean people always did what was right. The gentiles rebelled against their conscience (1:32), the Jews broke the Law (2:17–24), leaving both guilty. But through faith in Jesus, God removes the death penalty from all our rule-breaking (3:23–26; 6:23).

Since God created all humans with a sense of right and wrong, each of us will likely feel some guilt over a bad thing we’ve done or a good thing we failed to do. When we confess those sins, God wipes away the guilt like a whiteboard wiped clean. All we have to do is ask Him—whoever we are, wherever we’re from.

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Shining Stars

15 May 2021, 12:00 am

I can close my eyes and go back in time to the house where I grew up. I remember stargazing with my father. We took turns squinting through his telescope, trying to focus on glowing dots that shimmered and winked with eye-catching brilliance. These pinpricks of light, born of heat and fire, stood out in sharp contrast to the smooth, ink-black sky.

Do you consider yourself to be a shining star? I’m not talking about reaching the heights of human achievement, but standing out as a light against a dark background of brokenness and evil. The apostle Paul told the Philippian believers that God would shine in and through them as they held “firmly to the word of life” and avoided grumbling and arguing (Philippians 2:14-16).

Our unity with other believers and our faithfulness to God can set Christians apart from the world. The problem is, these things don’t come naturally. We constantly strive to overcome temptation so we can maintain a close relationship with God. We wrestle against selfishness to have harmony with our spiritual brothers and sisters.

But still, there is hope. Alive in each believer, God’s Spirit empowers us to be self-controlled, kind, and faithful (Galatians 5:19-23). Just as we are called to live beyond our natural capacity, Gods supernatural help makes this possible (v. 13). If every believer became a “shining star” through the power of the Spirit, just imagine how the light of God would repel the darkness around us.

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