Light of the World
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12
What images do you think about when you hear the word “light?” This word is used over 230 times in many different ways throughout the Scriptures. God spoke light into existence. (Genesis 1:3) His Word is light (Psalm 119:105; Psalm 119:30) Jesus calls us light (Matthew 5:14) God is the Father of Lights (James 1:17) Heaven is described as a place that does not need the sun because the glory of God gives it light (Revelation 21:23-35).
On the night Jesus was born, God put a bright star in the sky to light up the dark night and point people to Jesus. It was like a proud father showing off his new baby and He couldn’t keep it to himself any longer and this was the moment they all had been waiting for. Christmas means that God was willing to come into a dark place to bring the light of salvation.
You are a light. Jesus says so. The question is, how bright is your light? Are you a flickering candle, a 100-watt light bulb, or a bright spotlight? Your willingness to allow the light of Jesus to transform your life determines how brightly your light shines in a dark world.
What are you pointing people to? Is your light shining brightly for Jesus? As we shine in the midst of darkness, people will be attracted to the Light and Jesus becomes irresistible.
How can you shine brightly for Jesus today?
“Jesus sat down near the collection box in the Temple and watched as the crowds dropped in their money. Many rich people put in large amounts. Then a poor widow came and dropped in two small coins. Jesus called his disciples to him and said, ‘I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on.’”
This is one of those classic Bible stories that we’ve probably heard a million times, but it gets more intimidating (at least for me) the older we get. It really illustrates a simple Bible truth; “God doesn’t need the best of the best; just your best.” That’s what offering ourselves to God is all about. Literally, it has nothing to do with you having A+ work or being known for having a lot of great things to offer. If we take this story in Mark 12 seriously, God’s happier with two (pretty worthless) coins than he is with a large chunk of an even larger surplus. Really think about that; that should kick our butts a little bit.
I was talking with a junior high student about offering last week within the context of how he can be a light and a witness to his brother, who isn’t a Jesus-follower. We talked for a long time about how it’s not his job to say all the perfect things at the perfect time. It’s not his job to be the perfect brother all the time, that’s not possible. It’s not his job to save his brother’s eternity. Offering ourselves is simply about giving all we have to God; “God, this is the best that I have right now, take it. Use it.” That’s beautiful, and that’s offering. Stop feeling the pressure that this society puts on us so often to be perfect and without blemish. Also, stop making excuses like, “I’m not ready to give it up, yet. I’ve not perfected it enough.” God doesn’t need perfect; he uses the willing. So willingly give yourself to Him today, even if all you have are two coins.
“God is in Control”
“In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.” Luke 2:1-5 ESV
Way before Mary and Joseph even existed, God ordained that the Messiah would be born in the tiny town of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2-5). He knew the day, time, and exact location long before the holy event happened. At the right time Caesar Augustus decrees that there was to be a census of “all the world.” Because of the census, even though Mary and Joseph were from Nazareth, at the time for Jesus to be born they are in Bethlehem. These events are all fully orchestrated by God and fully fulfill the prophecy.
It would be easy to see the census decreed by Caesar as a coincidence or chance. Instead it is through Caesar, God moves and shifts an entire empire of people from town to town in order to fulfill his plan and his purpose. God made it happen. What a great reminder that God is in charge and as much as we want to be at times, we are not.
My hope is that you are comforted by this fact. Even though we may feel very small and insignificant in this world, we follow a God who is way bigger than any world power. Be reminded that God can move entire empires, or governments, to accomplish His purpose. Praise God because he is constantly on the move and in control.
“The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God!’” – John 1.35-36
John the Baptist has been a long time hero of mine, but I’ve never contemplated his joy in seeing Jesus two days in a row.
The Apostle John says that Jesus came to where John was baptizing back-to-back days. On the first day, there is a proclamation fitting with the message of repentance: ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!’ (v29) followed by testimony of the Spirit’s presence: ‘I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him’ (v32).
As someone who speaks in public, I haven’t given much thought to what would happen if I made such a bold claim and then was back in the public eye the following day. What would have happened if Jesus never came back after that?
On the second day, I imagine that unexplainable joy came over John when he saw Jesus again. The fulfillment and satisfaction in his direction to those two disciples, Behold; the astonishment in his voice as he repeats his claim, The Lamb of God; the sheer relief of not misreading the Spirit must have been overwhelming.
I get a similar feeling around Christmas. I see the manger or a swaddled baby and I can’t help but Behold, the Lamb of God! Is there a sense of joyful awe for you at this time of year? When we sing, “Joy to the world, the Lord has come…” do you think of John the Baptist on that second day?
I didn’t before, but I will this year.
“They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.”
Luke 2:16-19 (NLT)
Luke chapter two captures the story of the angels appearing to shepherds near Bethlehem, announcing the birth of Jesus our Rescuer. This announcement was “good news of great joy.” The Shepherds decided to go to Bethlehem and see what the angel told them about. I love their response. They told everyone! Those who they told were all amazed, astonished, and wondered at what they were hearing. Verse 20 tells us that as the shepherds returned to the fields they glorified and praised God. I can picture them talking excitedly with each other saying, “can you believe what happened tonight?!” They might have been jumping up and down, smiles on their faces. God has kept his promise! Their response was exuberant celebration.
We celebrate this way when announcing good news. We cheer when couples get engaged, babies are born, someone is healed miraculously, or even when our favorite teams win championships. We love good news.
I also notice Mary’s joyful response, even though it is quieter. She “kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.” Pondering. Wondering. Contemplating. This baby in front of her is The Rescuer, and heaven celebrates this (according to what the Shepherds are telling her).
I pray that we will all celebrate this good news of great joy this week, whether with excitement or with pondering hearts.
Read: Read the quote below by Blaise Pascal and then read the passage in Luke. Read the Luke passage a second time, paying attention to why Jesus left heaven to come to earth.
“Jesus Christ came to blind those who saw clearly, and to give sight to the blind; to heal the sick, and leave the healthy to die; to call to repentance and to justify sinners, and to leave the righteous in their sins; to fill the needy, and leave the rich empty.”
- Pascal, Thoughts (New York, 1910), #771
Luke 4:14-21 (The Message)
To Set the Burdened Free
14-15 Jesus returned to Galilee powerful in the Spirit. News that he was back spread through the countryside. He taught in their meeting places to everyone’s acclaim and pleasure.
16-21 He came to Nazareth where he had been reared. As he always did on the Sabbath, he went to the meeting place. When he stood up to read, he was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll, he found the place where it was written,
God’s Spirit is on me; he’s chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor, Sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, To set the burdened and battered free, to announce, “This is God’s year to act!”
He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the assistant, and sat down. Every eye in the place was on him, intent. Then he started in, “You’ve just heard Scripture make history. It came true just now in this place.”
Think & Pray: What you just read in Luke 4 occurred right after the temptation of Satan in verses 1-13. I bring that up to remind you that when Jesus came to earth, it wasn’t all presents brought by wise men, people waving palm branches, and gathering by the thousands for free bread. Jesus’ life on earth was tough. From beginning to end, his life was not one of earthly luxury. Why would he leave paradise and enter into our mess? Why did he pursue us, die for us, take steps toward us even as we were his enemies?!?! God clearly loves us.
Pray and thank God for giving you spiritual sight, for healing you, for setting you free.
Live: Today as you go about your day, ask yourself why you are doing what you’re doing. Are you cooperating with God’s purpose on the earth to continue to help people to see, to heal the sick, to set people free? Are you motivated by love? Ridiculous love?
God With Us
“In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God.” John 1:1-2
This passage has always seemed complex to me. What is the author John referring to when he uses the word, “Word?” John is speaking of Jesus. You could change this to say, “Jesus always existed. Jesus was with God and Jesus was God. Jesus existed since the beginning of time with God.”
John 1:1 made sense after I heard this story: Dorothy Sayers was a famous murder mystery writer from England that lived in the early 1900’s and was the first woman to graduate from Oxford University. She wrote a series of novels featuring Lord Peter Wimsey. He was a single man, awkward, but always solved the crimes. Half way through the writing of her series, she introduced a new character: Harriot Vane. Harriot was a murder mystery writer, and also happened to be the first woman to graduate from Oxford University. Eventually, Harriot and Peter fall in love and married. Why is this significant? Because many believe that Dorothy Sayers looked into the world she had created, fell in love with the character, and wrote herself into the story to save him.
That’s exactly what God did for us! God looked into the world He created and loved us so much that He wrote Himself into human history as the main character. (John 3:16) This is the reality of the incarnation. God with us: Immanuel. God came into the world as a man, Jesus Christ.
If you ever feel like your life is too complex for God to understand, remember that He created the world from nothing. God created you. He is alive and His love for you is bigger than any problem that you face.