Let Your Little Light Shine
Remember those first days, weeks, or months after you accepted Jesus as your Savior? Everywhere I went people would say, “You look different, you have this glow!” I was hungry to learn about Him and so eager to be like Him! But, has it happened to you that as time passes you start getting more comfortable and suddenly you realize that sometimes you’re not as eager anymore? Or is it just me?
God made me take a good look at myself a while ago. I had been sharing my apartment with a friend for a few years, but my friend was not always keeping her part of the responsibilities. Many times I was the only one attending to the upkeep. Even though I tried different ways of communicating these issues and my feelings to her, she was not listening. And so the friendship became strained; nothing I did was working and I couldn’t deal with the state of our living conditions.
One day, my brother, who’s a pastor, said to me, “Sis, I’m going to tell you this as God is telling me to tell you… You must love her!” My jaw dropped to the floor; I was speechless! Then I began to cry, and I said to him, “How? I’ve done everything I know how to do!”
That word stayed with me for a couple of weeks, and one morning as I was driving to work, suddenly it dawned on me, and I said out loud, “What a hypocrite, how can I say that I love God when I can’t stand my friend!” I remember getting to my office, locking the door behind me, and telling God, “Daddy, I forgive her and I place her into Your hands. I’ve done on my own all that I can and I’m letting go of her. If You want me to love her, Daddy, You have to put that love in my heart for her, because right now I don’t have it.”
God changed my heart and filled me with His love. Even though we no longer live together and the friendship is not as close as it once was, I can be there for my friend if she needs me without feeling angry or resentful. The peace that I have in my heart is amazing.
See, we get comfortable with the idea that doing good deeds makes us more like Jesus. But there is so much more than that. The Bible says,
Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2 NIV)
I learned that God didn’t want me to carry that burden. All I needed to do was talk to Him, be honest about what I was feeling, and He would give me the answer. When we follow Jesus’ example, we will always find out that love is the key ingredient. When we surrender to God’s will, we always be on the right path, and we will be the light that God want us to be here in this world.
I know life can be hard and stressful at times, but I also know the promises that God has for me and for you. Our walk with God must be intentional, not comfortable; ask God to examine your heart every now and then, see where you are, listen to what God tells you to do. Be obedient and don’t let the worries of life turn off your light.
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of Light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. (Ephesians 5:8-10)
Deep in the heart of every true disciple of Jesus is a deep longing for more of God. But what is this more we desire? We might each describe our want somewhat differently, depending on how this longing refracts through our biology, history, and theological influences. To some degree, none of us has words for it. But at the core, what we desire is to really know God — to know him in the intimate ways that only love knows.
And we have this desire because, by God’s unfathomable grace toward us in Christ (Ephesians 2:8–9), he first has known and loved us (1 Corinthians 8:3; 1 John 4:19). It is his great desire, one he expresses in the promise of Jeremiah’s great prophecy (quoted in full in Hebrews 8):
This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. (Jeremiah 31:33–34)
At the heart of the new covenant is God’s great desire that we “shall all know” him.
Known by Love
You don’t need to know Hebrew (or Greek) to discern the knowing God desires. It is the knowing of relational intimacy, of deep friendship — the kind of knowing that only love knows. For to truly know God is to love God.
“To truly know God is to love God.”
The role of love in intimately knowing someone is profound. On one hand, we cannot intimately love someone we do not know. So, knowledge must precede love. But on the other hand, the deep love of intimate friendship is the door to even deeper knowledge of the beloved, because intimate friends entrust themselves and so disclose more of themselves to each other. So, there is an intimate knowledge accessible only through the deep love that results from and produces even more profound trust.
We see one illustration of this dynamic in play at the end of John 6, when, as a result of hearing Jesus say offensive-sounding things, “many of his [wider group of] disciples turned back and no longer walked with him” (John 6:66). But the twelve didn’t leave him. Why? Because, to use Peter’s words, that they had “come to know” that he was “the Holy One of God” (John 6:69).
For eleven of them, this knowledge wasn’t merely intellectual; they had come to love him and trust him, even when he confused them. And because they trusted him, Jesus disclosed to them “secrets of the kingdom” he didn’t disclose to others (Luke 8:10). To really know Jesus was to really love Jesus, which was the door to knowing Jesus more. This is what Jesus is getting at when he later says to them,
Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him. (John 14:21)
The Way Is Simple
Notice the simplicity in those words: Jesus will manifest himself to whoever loves him. And two sentences later, he says, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23). If we love Jesus, both the Father and the Son will manifest themselves to us through the “Spirit of truth” who “dwell[s] in” us (John 14:17).
These are precious and very great promises (2 Peter 1:4). The way to know the triune God intimately, to experience the relational communion promised in the new covenant, is not complex. Jesus calls us to keep his commandments, or keep his word, which is essentially what he means when he says, “Believe in God; believe also in me” (John 14:1). Jesus doesn’t give us a list of rituals, ascetic rigors, detailed prayer requirements, long pilgrimages, meditative practices, or instructions for creating special aesthetic environments to experience communion with him and the Father through the Spirit. The way is simple: “Believe in me.”
How Awesome Is This Place
How Awesome is this place
By Rev. Kyle Norman
“When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.” (Genesis 28:16-17)
Sometimes the most profound experiences of God’s presence occur within the ordinary places of over lives. God comes amid the regular and routine, catching us unawares. This is no truer than in the story of Jacob. One of the high points of his life with God is when he dreams of a ladder upon which the angels of God ascend and descend. Rising from his dream Jacob exults the presence of the Lord saying, “Surely the Lord is in this place!” He dedicates the spot to the Lord, and calls the place Bethel, meaning “The House of God”. Bethel becomes a recurring place of divine encounter throughout the Scripture.
Did Jacob simply happen to lie down in a thin place, a place where heaven and earth touch? Was his dream nothing more than blessed happenstance, a byproduct of resting near the stairway of the heavens? If we read the scripture this way, then we must assume that Jacob has the dream simply because he happened to lie down in the correct spot. The implication of this is clear; if we wish to have a similar occurrence, we must make our way to the appropriate location. God will come to us if we to rest in the correct place.
But what does this mean? Does God remain hidden behind secret doors and heavenly staircases? Does an encounter with God simply boil down to being in the right place at the right time – even if it’s by accident?
The account of Jacob’s dream testifies to the exact opposite. Jacob does nothing to bring about this dream, he is but a passive recipient. At the time of this encounter, Jacob had just swindled his brother out of his rightful blessing. What is more, the divine blessing which Jacob stole did not lead to immediate satisfaction. Instead, Jacob must contend with the murderous intent of his brother. When Jacob lies down that evening, he is not desiring divine communication; he is running for his life. Jacob lies down to rest in a very ordinary and routine way.
Similarly, Scripture goes out of its way to describe the place of Jacob’s resting as “a certain place” (Genesis 28:11). In fact, scripture records that the reason why Jacob lies in that place is because the sun had set. The place of Jacob’s dream is a random location; it is ordinary and nondescript. If Jacob had run more quickly or started his journey hours earlier, he would have rested in a place far from that location.
But the dream would have still happened because, in the end, the dream was not about where Jacob laid his head; it was about the presence of God. The dream testified to God’s gracious love toward Jacob, a love that is expressed despite his duplicity and deception. While we often title the dream “Jacob’s ladder,” the point of the dream isn’t about the ladder at all. Even the angels slip into the background when Jacob awakes. Instead, he rises with the knowledge that God is with him. The one who made him also sustains him. Surely the Lord is in this place. Surely this is the house of the Lord.