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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) Ephesians 5:8-9

No one would blame you for bumping into things in the dark. You can’t see where you are going. You don’t see obstacles in your path. You make choices and decisions based on what you know.

Sometimes, if you are in familiar surroundings, you can do pretty well walking in the dark. You remember where the obstacles were and can plan accordingly. But even then, your chances of miscalculating are great. We can end up in places we never thought we’d be if we rely on our instincts in the dark.

Perhaps the  Apostle Paul was thinking of the times he wandered in the dark when he wrote these words to the church in Ephesus. He may have been reminded of the times he’d escaped with his life, or the times sitting in the dark, wet, smelly prisons. Darkness was no stranger to Paul.

Paul also knew the warmth and safety of light. Light enables us to steer clear of obstacles. Light enables us to make clear, rational decisions. Light keeps us from being deceived by the shadows that lurk when darkness surrounds us.

Paul says, “Now we are children of light”. That means things are different now. We can’t be blamed for the actions we did in the dark. We didn’t know better. But now. Now we can see. The mistakes of our past, the poor decisions we made in the darkness are behind us. In another letter Paul says “I set aside those things in my past and press on.” What he is saying is that when he was in darkness he did things that now he regrets. But he’d been forgiven. He was free. He was in the light.

As a Christ-follower we no longer need to regret the things of our past. Because of Jesus love and forgiveness we can come to Him and ask forgiveness. Then, moving on in the light, we can trust Him to guide us into making decisions that are better for us and those around us.

Don’t let the shadows of your dark past continue to haunt you. Because of Jesus we can now walk in the light!

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, I thank you that because of you I can walk in the light. While I was in darkness there were so many people I hurt. So many things I regret. So many stupid decsions I made that I still have scars from. Forgive me for those choices. Enable me, through your Spirit, to walk boldly in the light. Remove the shadows of my past from me so I can live free in you. Amen.

When we heard of it, our hearts melted and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below. Joshua 2:11

The Israelites were about to enter a new chapter in their history books. Joshua had taken over leadership after Moses, the servant of God, had died. Now it was time to enter the land promised by God years earlier.

Joshua sent two men to spy out the land in much the same way he himself had been sent by Moses. These men secretly entered the city of Jericho to gain information on the city and how it could be conquered. They hid in the house of the local prostitute, Rahab, while the King of Jericho sent his men door to door to find the spies. Rahab lied in order to spare the lives of the men sent by God.

In return for her actions, the men promised her that she would be spared when the Israelites came to overtake the city. Not only did this woman’s courage spare the lives of her family and herself, it earned her a spot in the genealogy of Jesus Christ!

The story of Rahab should give us courage as we face insurmountable challenges in life. Difficult as the road may seem at times, it’s imperative that we remember, as followers of Jesus Christ, the God has gone ahead of us to prepare the way. The King sought to capture the spies out of fear. Two men would serve as no threat to a king in a walled city with an army at his disposal. But it’s important to remember that the King wasn’t afraid of the men. He was afraid of God.

The king wasn’t the only person who was afraid. In fact, Rahab tells us that the entire city was in turmoil over the rumored attack of God’s people. Rahab’s fear however, wasn’t due to men. Rahab was afraid of God. In fact, her fear of God was so much greater than her fear of men that she risked her life to save the spies from being captured.

During those times in life when we are afraid we can gain comfort by learning from the story of Rahab and the spies. We need not fear what men can do to us. This is true in the political realm as well as in the personal realm. Our real concern isn’t what others think of us. We need to focus on what God thinks of us.

The spies didn’t need to proclaim the power of God. God did a fine job of letting the world know about His power and strength. They didn’t need to protect themselves from the King. God provided a way for them to be safe, accomplish their task and return safely from their mission. Rahab was saved from death because of simple faith. She didn’t know all the rules and regulations that God had set out for His people. She didn’t know about sacrifices and all that went with the Israelites faith. She knew God’s power and that was enough for her.

God’s people need not fear man made systems. As Christ-followers we can go confidently into the future knowing that our God, the creator of the universe, has gone before us. We can go with confidence and power to do the work that He has planned for us. Our past and our own strength are meaningless to an all knowing, all powerful, loving and merciful God. All he wants is for us to trust His power on the journey He has carefully planned out for us.

PRAYER: Father God. You know my heart. You know the fear that I have. I fear that the ‘secret places’ of my life will be found out. I fear the political and economic woes of our world will destroy me. I fear for my children and my family. Fear seems to be a constant shadow in the back of my mind. I ask that you would give me the courage of Rahab and the spies. Help me to focus more on your power and less on the power of others in my life. Empower me through your Spirit to be free me from the fear that overwhelms me. Amen

To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory. Isaiah 61:3 (NLT)

There is an old saying that states “Beauty is only skin deep.” Its meaning dates to that 15th century and has since then stood as a reminder to each of us that how a person looks is not nearly as important as what is inside. The person dressed in fancy, designer clothes may be more socially acceptable in their looks than the person with tattoos and pants hanging below their knees on the outside. However, the tattooed person may be more likely to lend a helping hand and give unconditionally to a cause or to help someone in distress.

The true character of a person is shown by how they react in times of adversity and despair. The prophet Isaiah says that those who mourn will show forth beauty. Mourning is an interior thing. It’s a feeling of remorse and despair that starts well below the surface, but beauty is what is seen on the outside.

Despair is captivates the entire body and can affect how we feel, act and respond to others. Praise on the other hand is obvious to all. Praise isn’t necessarily a physical showing of activity. It is more of a confident assurance that what we believe is true.

The prophet goes on to say that the people who exhibit beauty and praise are like oak trees, standing strong through the storm. Their roots hold fast in any stormy weather because they are grounded deep in righteousness. But that righteousness doesn’t come from themselves, it comes because of the faith they have in God through His Son Jesus Christ.

Standing firm when life attacks has nothing to do with our own strength. It has nothing to do with our past. It has nothing to do with our upbringing or the name of our church. It’s not about being baptized or any other religious activity. Standing firm comes solely through faith in Jesus Christ and His righteousness.

The Bible says that our very best behavior and our most devout spiritual beliefs are like filthy rags to God. Nothing in our past can save us or damn us. No present activities in this present time can hinder us or sustain us. It’s God’s grace and God’s forgiveness the makes us righteous. It is God’s Spirit that empowers us to stand firm.

True character is shown by how a person endures the storms of life, not by how they act when things are going right. Grow your roots deep in Jesus. Study His word. Pray often. Fellowship with like-minded believers. It is these things that will enable your true beauty to show forth in times of fear, anxiety and despair.

PRAYER: Father God, I come to you today confused, angry and afraid. I don’t know what tomorrow holds and I’m afraid what lay ahead. Forgive me for the way I’ve ignored you. Strengthen me with your Spirit so that when life’s storms attack I can rely on the roots of my standing with you. I want to be an Oak tree in the midst of a storm so others will see you through me. Amen.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24

What do you see when you look in the mirror? Not a physical piece of shiny glass, what about the spiritual and emotional mirror? Who do you see when no one else is watching? What’s hidden beneath the surface that no one else can see and no one else can understand?

Most of us don’t like to look at ourselves in a mirror (or at least we don’t admit it!). We have a vision of what we want to be like, what we want to look like and all too often a mirror doesn’t ‘reflect’ the vision we’d hoped for.

How we see ourselves in our ‘emotional/spiritual’ mirror will affect how we see ourselves in a physical mirror as well as how we react to others, to adversity and even success. Our vision of self drives our emotions, our spiritual lives and our relationships.

King David knew how fickle each of us can be. Our vision is so affected by how we see ourselves that it can change by the day or by the minute. One adverse event can ruin our whole day or even our lives. That’s why David went to the source of all knowledge for an opinion about himself.

‘Search me’, he says and with that request he gives God ‘permission’ so to speak, to shine a light on every corner of his being. That’s scary stuff! None of us would dare ask that of even our closest friends because we’d be afraid of what they’d find. There are feelings, thoughts, attitudes and painful experiences buried deep within each of us. Some we have tried to cover up with toys, with drugs and addictions and with multiple relationships. Some of the pain we suffer from has become so much a part of us that we no longer even remember why we are hurting. The pain has become ‘normal’.

David went to God for the searching because he knew that God would look upon him with eyes of love and compassion. He will do the same for you. When we let God reveal our deepest, darkest secrets, those hidden pains and fears, we take the first step to true freedom. God doesn’t reveal our hidden places to condemn us. He reveals our hidden places to free us.

John tells us, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:17) As followers of the Lord Jesus Christ we can be at peace with who we are with all our blemishes, all our bruises and all the ugly scars that we try to hide with emotional make-up. God made you as you are. You are His child. Ask Him to reveal all that you are. Trust Him to do so with compassion, gentleness and love.

PRAYER: Father God. I come to you today with fear. I’m afraid of what you will find in my life if I invite you to search every corner of my being. There are times when I don’t like myself, my past and my present. But I believe you when you say you love me and won’t condemn me. Give me the courage to open every area of my life to you. Remove my feelings of fear, guilt and inadequacy. Forgive me for the harm I’ve caused to myself and others. Free me to live for you through your Spirit. Amen.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. 1 Chronicles 16:34

In Old Testament times the Ark of the Covenant symbolized the very presence of God. For years the Ark had sat virtually ignored in a field outside Jerusalem. David made two attempts to bring the Ark home. The first attempt led to disaster, but in 1 Chronicles 16 the Ark is finally brought to the City of David, its rightful place. The entire city joined in the celebration with music and dancing. God was back on His throne and the people were ecstatic!

David wrote a praise that Asaph, the temple worship leader, led the people in. The song was full of praise and worship to God for His faithfulness throughout the years. God had done exactly as He said He would do in spite of Israel’s inability to follow God.

There is a story behind the scenes each of us needs to be aware of as we travel through life. When the Ark was gone it was as though God’s blessing was absent. The people still went about their daily duties. Worship still happened on a limited basis, but there was something missing, the true presence of God.

Because of Jesus we can experience the presence of God at anytime and anyplace, any time of the day. Unlike the days of King David, we don’t need to rely on an ‘ark’ or a church building to worship God. He is always with us, always loving us, always ready to hold us in His everlasting arms of love.

Sometimes we can feel the way David did when the Ark was gone, as though the presence of God were missing in our lives. It’s easy to let things get in the way of our worship of God and the sense of His presence in our lives. It’s as though we have left Him in the field just as Israel left the Ark in the field. We know He is there. We think of Him occasionally through the day, but have no real meaningful communication with Him.

Many things can cause us to ‘leave God in the field’. For some it’s due to a hectic schedule. We have jobs to get to, friends to visit, school to attend and children to raise. The busier we get the more likely we are to neglect the most important thing: our relationship with God.

We leave God in the field when we become disappointed. Our disappointment may be with people when they let us down. This is especially true when people who claim to be ‘christian’ act nothing like Christ. We get burned by their religious bigotry and hypocrisy

Our disappointment may be with God Himself. We pray and get no answers. We read and don’t understand. Religious ritual becomes a meaningless waste of time and energy we would rather use on the golf course or with friends.

God doesn’t move away from us. We move away from Him in subtle, almost undetectable ways. The beauty of the situation is that we can bring God out of the field. He is always there waiting. His love never fails us. His compassion and mercy are there for us. He doesn’t hold grudges.

As Christ-followers it is imperative that we take God out of the field and bring Him into a prominent place in our lives so that we can feel His presence in a real and marvelous way. Make time on a daily basis to have some honest communication with God. Read His word. Talk to Him as you would a loving father or best friend. He’s in the field waiting for you now. He doesn’t care about ‘why you left Him in the field.’ He just wants to be a vital part of your life.  

PRAYER: Father God. I’ve known You were in my life somewhere, but I have missed your presence. I realize today that I’ve let all sorts of things get in the way of our relationship. I don’t pray the way I used to. My Bible has dust on it. I miss you. I’m coming to the field. I ask that you will come back with me. I want to restore the passion I once had to follow you. I can’t do it alone. Empower me with your presence to get over the hurt I feel because of disappointment with You and others. Cleanse me from the emptiness of religion and fill me with relationship with you. In Jesus name, Amen.

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