Light For When The Darkness Comes

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Where were you when…. The total eclipse of 2017 occurred?

I was at work standing on the top deck of our parking garage sharing glasses with a stranger because I hadn’t gotten around to buying my own. The news reported that somewhere in the neighborhood of $7B (that is a whole bunch of zeros) would be lost today due to un-productivity. I admit, I contributed to that number as I watched the eclipse happen several times across the nation via the NASA observatory telescopes that were streaming live throughout the day.

Zoomed in on the sun, the telescope tracked the moon as it moved its way across the face of the sun. Ever so slowly, the visible sun became a crescent, then a sliver and then… with what looked like a last hurrah bright flash of light, the sun was snuffed out. Total darkness.

With the same abruptness, like the lighting of a gas-stove burner, the darkened disc of the moon was surrounded by a halo of light. The telescope zoomed even further in and you could see solar flares in the halo. Then, again, it was abruptly dark. Ever so subtly, a tiny sliver appeared as the sun and moon continued their paths, growing ever larger until the sun was revealed in all of its bright glory. It was startlingly breathtaking. The whole thing took less than 5 minutes.

The eclipse was visible in some fashion everywhere in our nation: from total eclipse to 50%. In Georgia, where I live, we were in the high 90% range. We would not witness the complete darkening of the sun. But it would be pretty darned close. Based on what I saw from the telescope, I had certain expectations of what I might see in real life.

I stood there on the roof of that parking deck sharing glasses with that kind stranger, looking up at the almost 100% eclipse. It was the tiniest sliver of sun. And yet, if someone had walked outside not knowing what was going on, they would have simply thought it was a bit hazy – certainly not dark. Not even close. I was initially tempted to be disappointed when I was overcome by the remarkable truth God was showing us – all of us – believers and non-believers alike – in that moment.

From the perspective of the telescope, all you saw was the sun and the moon. And when the moon crossed in front of the sun, the world (my computer screen) went black. Without any other context, it might be tempting to believe that darkness can triumph over light.

Photo by Aaron Wilson on Unsplash

The truth is, the darkness of the moon could not block the light. The tiniest little sliver was enough to make it seem like the middle of the day (which it was). The mere presence of the sun behind the moon was enough to cast a dim glow even in the darkest areas. Videos from total eclipse areas bear witness to this phenomenon. It was dark enough to trigger streetlights and fireworks. But it was never totally dark.

The presence of light always triumphs over darkness. Always.

God’s Word is the light. Jesus is the light. God showed off today. He made a point. Let’s not miss it.

The presence of light always triumphs over darkness. Always. Click To Tweet

There is so much we can take from this. I don’t want to tell you how to apply this thought. I’m going to leave that up to you and the Lord. I’d love to hear your comments and have you share the “light” of God’s Word that is meaningful to you though. Please do.

I know what it means for me. Go. Be a light.

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Are God’s Boundaries Good?

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When our son’s fraternity dog, Hudson, came to live with us permanently, we needed to establish some rules with him. Number one: No leaving the yard. Our HOA has rules about dogs and leashes and the golf course doesn’t like dogs tearing across the greens. But try explaining that to a Labrador chasing the deer!

More than just following the rules, though, we wanted to ensure Hudson would be safe. Running loose put him at risk of being hit by a car, injured in the woods, or even attacked by other animals. He had no idea of the dangers out there, but we did.

Our solution? Install an electric fence. This underground wire, looped around the perimeter of the yard and marked visually with small white flags, has a low level electric current running through it that a receiver on a special collar detects when within a predefined range. The receiver emits a tone, then a vibration, and eventually a small electric shock when your pet gets too close to the wire.

Training consists of walking your dog, with the collar on the lowest, tone only, setting, around the yard and toward the flags. The idea is that your dog will see the flag, hear the tone, and learn to associate the tone with the perimeter of your yard.

It took one time approaching the perimeter for Hudson to hear the tone. He bolted back to the center of the yard.

Faster than I could have imagined, he was cured of running away.

But we had another problem. Now he would not leave the center of the yard. We have a large yard and we fenced in the whole thing – so he had a good bit of territory. We wanted him to learn to enjoy all of it.

Bribery works wonders with dogs.

Each morning I’d fill a scoop with food, grab his bowl, put his collar on him, and coax him outside. Then I’d walk around the yard enticing him to come to me with breakfast.

The exercise became less about teaching him where the boundaries were in order to keep him from running away, but to teach him where they were so he could discover how much freedom he really had.

Isn’t that an awesome life lesson? Good boundaries teach us less about what we can’t do and more about what we can do. But have you ever felt like you just weren’t sure where the boundaries were? Where is the white flag that warns you are approaching the zap zone?

God’s Word is not about punishment, but protection. Click To Tweet

Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them. Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. (Pr 4:5-6)

We installed the fence because we love Hudson and want him to be safe. The tone he hears is a nudge to turn away and stay inside his yard. The purpose is not to punish him for getting too close. The purpose is to warn him not to keep going.

To those who are unfamiliar with the Bible, it can certainly seem like it is full of thou shalt nots designed to make life un-fun. Maybe it seems hard to grasp a loving God who sets such boundaries. Maybe you believe God is waiting for you to get to close to the edge in order to zap you.

That is not what the Bible is at all. The Bible is an invitation to free living. God establishes boundaries in his Word precisely because he knows the dangers we face and desires to protect us.

There is no guessing. He clearly defines boundaries on our language, our marriages, our friendships, our habits, our leisure activities, our thoughts, and our money because he loves us and wants the best for us.

When we seek God’ wisdom through his Word, we will know exactly when we are about to get that warning zap that says you are flirting with danger.

God’s boundaries are steadfast and unchanging. Click To Tweet

I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts. (Ps 119:45)

The wire is buried in our backyard. Once Hudson learned where it was, he was able to confidently walk about his yard with confidence that the boundary would always be in the same spot. It wasn’t going to change.

God’s Word is the same way. It is the unchanging standard of truth by which we are to live our lives. What makes a God-honoring marriage doesn’t change. How we are to speak to one another doesn’t change. The command to forgive doesn’t change. Grace does not change.

We can breathe a sigh of relief that God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. God wants us to live free of fear, shame, bitterness, and everything else that keeps us from experiencing joy. God’s boundaries are designed to help us live in freedom and experience his joy.

Everything inside God's boundaries is good, and pleasing, and ours to enjoy. Click To Tweet

There are other ways we could keep Hudson from running off but none of those gifted him with the entirety of the yard. Hudson can roam, investigate, sniff, and do whatever else dogs like to do. I’d love for him not to trample my flowers, but there aren’t any restrictions on him inside the boundaries. He is free to enjoy the whole thing.

Life with God is the same way. Far from being restrictive, God’s Word gifts us with abundant, joy-filled, strength-infused, life. We are invited to enjoy the entirety of what he lavishly gives us.

God promises that where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom (2 Cor 3:17). The Spirit of the Lord is squarely inside the boundaries of God’s Word. This is where we will find our freedom too.

This article and other great articles that focus on freedom are in this month’s Christian Community News magazine. I hope you take a few minutes and join us all over there.

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Will Failure Be The Last Word You Hear?

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Three weeks does not seem like a long time. It’s only 21 days. 504 hours. Certainly I could commit to something for such a short time. Right?

Well, yes and no.

This past Lenten season, I decided to embark on the 21-day The Daniel Fast (www.thedanielfast.com, Susan Gregory). When I “give up” a single item (coffee), I find ways to compensate (tea). Or I choose a sacrifice (chocolate) that can be accomplished without drawing on Christ. So I needed something that would invade my whole day, every part of my waking and lying down. The Daniel Fast does that.

The Daniel Fast is a commitment to give up all sugar (even as an ingredient), all processed foods (absolutely nothing with preservatives or ingredients you can’t pronounce), all dairy, all meat, all beverages except water (yep, even coffee), and all foods that contain yeast. It’s more than Paleo, not at all gluten free, and something akin to Vegan on steroids.

You cannot enter the Daniel Fast unprepared. It affects every single decision you make about food. Label reading is paramount. Menu plans are a must. Planning ahead is the only way to succeed. I knew what I was getting into. I had done this fast before.

I was about 17 days into it when it happened. I gave the devil a foothold.

My mom had been hospitalized the day before. Planning to be with her for the day, I ate breakfast at home and managed lunch according to the fast at the hospital bistro (shockingly), but I did not bring snacks for the long day. By 5 p.m. I was quite hungry.

My husband stopped by the hospital to say hello after his own long day. He was hungry too. As we left together, the only thing on our minds was to eat – and soon. My husband stopped on his way home and picked up Chinese food, remembering my favorite dish: Happy Family.

There is nothing about Chinese food that adheres to the Daniel Fast. I had food I could have prepared that would honor my fast. But I was beyond hungry. In the moment, having not planned a quick, fast-friendly dinner, I let my guard down. I took the easy option and inhaled my Happy Family.

The next morning, as I got up and went into the kitchen, defeat had already settled in my heart. You broke your fast last night. Just call it done. Give up now. It’s fine.

But, it wasn’t fine.

The sacrificial nature of the fast is to embrace bending our fleshly desires over to Christ. For 17 days I grappled with that. As I submitted every food decision to honor God through the fast, I experienced intimate communion with him and a fellowship I had been missing.

Then the Chinese food incident happened. I wrestled with the idea of abandoning the fast altogether. After all, I’d already fallen. Already failed. I couldn’t even commit for 21 days. What kind of Christian am I? I may as well go ahead and have a cup of coffee.

Instead of acting on that desire, I decided to first read my devotional for the day.

“… do not let sin reign in our mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as a instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace (Rom 6:12-14 NIV).”

Through these life-giving words, grace breathed into my weakness and arrested the temptation to keep on “failing.”

I committed to 21 days. I had 4 more days to go. Why should I offer those days over to my enemy?

Why should I let the voice of failure be the last thing I heard?

I can’t say I heard God say, no, don’t have any coffee. But through his Word, I recognized the choice before me. Who will I yield to?

There is a passage in Ephesians that implores us not to sin in our anger and give the devil a foothold.

This idea of giving our enemy a foothold catches my attention. I think Paul specifically calls out anger because anger is a strong negative emotion that is hard to control. But there are other ways to give Satan a foothold. When I broke my fast, I gave him one that allowed him to tempt me to give up. I messed up once – it’s over.

A foothold means we give our enemy a place to insert himself into our situations. It’s an opening that invites him to speak lies of discouragement, doubt, and division into our lives.

Any compromise we make that invites us to keep on compromising living a life that honors Christ is a foothold. Any “failure” we feel we have made that invites guilt, shame, or condemnation is a foothold. Anything that causes us to say I may as well quit, I’m not worthy, or I’m no good, is a foothold.

Don’t let failure have the last word. Protect your foothold. Click To Tweet

I needed to plan ahead to remain strong in Christ through my fast. We know our areas of vulnerability. We do. We know where we have chinks in our armor. Planning ahead and being prepared will help us guard against giving up those footholds. We can arm ourselves with the God-honoring responses for when the attacks come.

And, when we do react out of weakness and find ourselves contemplating offering a part of our life over to our enemy in defeat – let’s claim these words:

For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

Choose today. Do not give the devil a foothold.

 

 

 

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