Go home, January! No one likes you.

“The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light…”
(Matthew 4:16)

You know, back in December, I really didn’t mind the cold and the snow all that much.  The Christmas lights at night made the snow look magical. The love and joy of the season warmed our hearts, and so the wind didn’t bother us as much.  While everyone was hectic, crazy busy, it’s all okay because everyone’s also trying to make sure their getting together with their family, friends, and all the one’s they love.  Just thinking about it now and suddenly I hear Karen Carpenter singing again, which makes me smile. Christmas made December not just tolerable, but something to love and long for.

What’s January got?  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.

Face it, it’s just cold, wet, and windy.  There’s no romance or sentimentality to it – it’s just one big angry polar vortex after another, freezing your nose hairs the instant you step outside.  We’re still busy, but now it just an annoyance to have to go out for one more thing.  There’s still snow on the ground, but all that means is more shoveling, slipping and sliding, and pretty soon it will turn to a brownish muck as it slowly melts away.  There’s no soundtrack to make this month and all its brutal frigidness any better.  Don’t even try. Go home, January, I think we’ve overstayed your welcome.

Am I the only one who feels this way?  Does Christmas really make that much of a difference in the way we handle things?  Well, maybe it does.

Think about it: Christmas, with all of its tinsel and trappings, is the celebration of the incarnate Word of God, Jesus the Christ, Emmanuel, God with us.  At Christmas we are reminded that those who have dwelt in darkness, upon them a light has shined. At Christmas we take the time to focus on the joy that made the angels sing, the grace that came to seek and to save the lost, the love that moved even the stars in the heavens to announce his coming.

But what happened at Christmas doesn’t stay at Christmas. Christ’s coming changes everything.  We know now that sin has been defeated and by faith in Christ we are made new. We know now that there is grace and forgiveness – with God and for one another – so that we may be one body in Christ. We know now that there is good news to proclaim which will warm the hearts of all who hear.

Jesus changes everything.  He takes our burdens, our guilt, our sins, and gives us His yoke to carry and rest for our souls, for His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matt. 11:30). He takes our sorrows and our griefs, and in exchange gives us the joy of a new day (Psalm 30:5). He takes the obstacles and trials that cause us to tremble and says “Take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

I would not want to begin to imagine what life would be like without the knowledge of the love of God in our Lord Jesus Christ. It would be worse than a December without Christmas, even worse than January.

Stay warm. Stay faithful.

Sola Deo Gloria!

Above the Clouds

“Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.”

(Isaiah 60:1)

I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that somewhere out there, high above the clouds, the sun is shining in all its glory.  It doesn’t take a great deal of faith to make such a claim.  But it does take a great deal of faith to remember such a basic truth on a day like this.  The sun hasn’t been seen here in the last three days, and the forecast for the next week is perpetually stuck on “mostly cloudy.”  The world is grey, gloomy, and wet.

If only I could fly.  If you’ve ever had to fly in the middle of winter, you know the image that I have in mind right now.  The whole world is overcast and shadowed in cloud, but like the first spring flower breaking through the last winter snow, your plane emerges from the clouds as it ascends to its cruising altitude and the cabin of the plane is filled with a welcome and wondrous light.

I know that if I could climb high enough I’d see the sun again, bask in its warmth, revel in its light; but alas, this earth-bound misfit, no matter the effort, is unable to rise above and pierce the veil.  The harder I try, the thicker the clouds seem to get.  If I cannot rise to the light, must I remain in darkness forever?

No, because I know that there is a light that is greater than the sun that has come to cheer our downcast hearts and darkened minds.  There is the light of God, shining from the glory of his Son, that has come to us.

While I could give an exhaustive list, here’s just a glimpse of our proof:

  • Psalm 118:27 “The Lord is God, and he has made his light to shine upon us.”
  • Matthew 4:16 “The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has shined.”
  • John 1:4-5 “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
  • Revelation 21:23 “And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.”

The apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 5:8, “At one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.”  There are necessary moral implications to this verse, yes; we are to do that which is pleasing to God.  More can, and should, be said about that later.  But for now there is first this great message of hope: No matter how thick the darkness that surrounds you, you live by faith in the light of Christ. You are walking, living, basking in His light.

The common “Altar Call” parlance would have you come to the light, but while the invitation is no doubt sincere, such a journey is unnecessary.  His light has already come to you.  Jesus said, “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness” (John 12:46).  Friends, lift your head from the land of darkness, and look to the light.  “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you” (Isaiah 60:1).


Blind Man’s Bluff

“But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant,
that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away.”
2 Corinthians 3:14 (ESV)

In one of my favorite Mythbusters episodes, Jamie and Adam test whether or not it is possible to walk, swim, and drive in a straight line while blindfolded.

What I found fascinating about this was how they both thought they were walking, and swimming, in a straight line.  Neither had any idea just how off course they had gotten, that they were walking/swimming in circles.  In fact, Jamie was quite certain he was almost across the water, he felt he had been swimming pretty straight, when in fact the GPS mapping revealed the truth, he was nowhere near his destination.

The funny thing is, this show reveals a gospel truth:

Those who are lost never really know it until they have been found.

Ephesians 4:18 tells us that apart from Christ we “are darkened in [our] understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in [us], due to [our] hardness of heart.”  Like wearing the dark glasses used in Mythbusters, we go through this life blind to the glory of God, the disaster of our sinfulness, and our desperate need for salvation.  We feel like we’re heading in the right direction, never realizing how far off course our lives have gotten.  We know that there are bad things that happen in this world, and even that we make mistakes from time to time; but in our blindness, it is inconceivable that we’ve been heading in the wrong direction, swimming in circles through this journey of life.  We think we are alive, heading toward the shore; when in reality, we are dead in our trespasses and sins, blind to the truth of God’s Word, immune to the love of Christ.  In other words, we are utterly, completely, and desperately lost.

The good news is, “the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).  Jesus came preaching the gospel to those who dwelled in darkness (Mat 4:13-17).  He healed the blind, restoring their vision, but he also opened the eyes of the heart (Eph 1:17-18).  In His grace, the Spirit of God comes and removes from us the blinders of sins darkness, showing us how far from God’s glory we have fallen (Rom 3:23), but also revealing the grace and mercy of the cross.  If you have come to know and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as your savior, know that it is only because He has first loved you, and that God has “delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Col 1:13)

The question remains, though, how do we interact with those who still dwell in darkness?  Countless hours have been spent in frustrating debate with those who refuse to acknowledge the truth of God’s word and their need for a savior.  We long for their salvation, but cannot find the words that will “win the battle.”

Remember, it is God who reveals wisdom, and it is God who opens hearts and minds (Mat 11:25; 1 Cor 1:21; 2:14-15) and in Christ the veil that blinds us is taken away (2 Cor 3:14-16).  If you are dealing with someone who is blinded to the truth of God, pray.  Pray that God would remove the veil, that God would expose their sinfulness, that God would convict them of their brokenness, so that they might run to their savior, Jesus Christ.

While praying, remember also to live in such a way that the world may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven (Mat 5:16).  We have been called out of the darkness that we might be the light of the world, shining the light and goodness of Christ into a darkened world.  The people around us are stumbling and bumbling in the darkness, but our lives of faith and loving service should break through the darkness.

Finally, have hope.  John’s gospel tells us that in Jesus “was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4-5).  There is no darkness that is too dark that the light of Christ does not shine forth.  There is no soul so stained with sin that the blood of Christ cannot wash and make it new.  Jesus has overcome the world, take heart, have hope!