“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
I was in deep discussion with someone on the state of our state, our nation, and this global pandemic that we are facing. As most conversations go, it led to Donald Trump and his seemingly unemotional concerns for those families that have lost loved ones to death. After reading portions of President Trump’s niece’s book, I understand more why Mr. Trump is the way he is. His father deprived him of his love and approval; for the rest of Donald’s life probably unbeknownst to him, he has been seeking love and acceptance.
If I am honest, my fear is not the pandemic or the end of the world with some nuclear war of nations, not even death itself. What I fear most is not being loved. I believe there is nothing more destructive to the human heart than to live without love. If I were to ask you to write down what you would consider the single greatest verse of scripture in the whole Bible, what would you put down? Of course there would be a variety of answers given, I’m sure, but in all likelihood, the verse most written down would be John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life.”
With good reason, many people would select John 3:16. This single verse is a magnificent summary of the gospel, the message of the Scriptures in capsule form. It is the story of God’s seeking, redeeming, and reconciling love all in one sentence. It has been called everybody’s text. Here, for every simple heart, is the essence of the Christian faith. It is good news and God’s greatest promise.
This verse reminds us that we are indeed loved and that God Himself is the one who loves us; that God seeks us out, that God values us, that God graciously reaches out to save us, and that when we, in faith, accept God’s love, we have life eternal. We see this verse acted out dramatically the last week of our Savior’s life.
On Palm Sunday, Jesus rides triumphantly into the Holy City. He is received as a king. He comes to establish a surprising kingdom, one different from any other on earth --- one built not on power, violence, and might, but rather a kingdom built on faith, hope, and love. He shows God’s love by healing the sick, helps the needy and cleanses the temple.
At the end of the week on Good Friday (which, by the way, originally was called God’s Friday), in the greatest act of sacrificial love this world has ever known, He goes to the cross and dies there for you and for me. “For God so loved (you)and God so loved (me)that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life.”
Beloveds of God when you feel that you are not loved or appreciated, think on these things and know that our Father in Heaven loves us so much that He gave a part of Himself to die to show just how much He loves us.
“And I will pray the Father and He will give you another Helper that He may abide with you forever --- the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him, but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.
Beloveds of God, life is filled with so many challenges that bring us to the edge of our own limitations; Challenges that sometimes cause us to want to throw up our arms and give up. But something within urges us to keep fighting through pain, sorrow, and defeat. That voice within assures us of the victories to come.
Jesus knew that we would come against opposition and challenge. Repeatedly, He promised us the gift of the Holy Spirit.“Remember now,” He said to His disciples, “I will not leave you alone! I will not desert you or forsake you. I will not leave you desolate. I will be with you always, even to the end of the world. If you will put your faith in me and trust in me, come what may, I will be there for you. You will be clothed with power from on high. The Holy Spirit will come to you. The Holy Spirit will be your strength. The Holy Spirit will do great things for you and through you. The Holy Spirit will see you through.” (John 14:15-17 adapted).
That great promise should excite, thrill, and encourage you! The promised presence and power of the Holy Spirit should quicken your spiritual pulse! My brothers and my sisters these are the promises that stir my spirit and soul! These are the promises that fuel my passions! These are the promises of God that inspire me to go on to see what the end is going to be!
If you are going through something now, let me encourage you with the promises of God: (1.) God promises to be with us through the Holy Spirit to give us comfort. (2.) God promises to be with us through the Holy Spirit to give us courage. (3.) God promises to give us a commission --- a special job to be Hiswitness. Will you accept the Lord’s promises? For we all can witness to the fact that God keeps His promises. Be encouraged this week and STAND ON THE PROMISES OF GOD.
Please note that the Shepherd's Voice is moving to a bi-weekly publication. The next installment will be posted on August 31, 2020.
“The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out.” (Lev. 6:13)
Ancient Israel had a culture that was centered on proper order for worship and sacrifice. This was a nation that God birthed and its religious order was built around proper rules regarding the burnt offering, as seen in the sixth chapter of Leviticus. We see in verses eight to thirteen that God gives the command five times: “the fire must be kept burning and must not go out.” Therefore, when we look at the culture of this nation, we see that it was completely built around the keeping of the flame; the entire culture and the activity of the people had to center around one priority --- the flame can’t go out. The nation’s culture was based on tending the flame of God’s presence and ministering to Him. Their culture was defined by their priority. They understood that if they would minister to God… He would minister to them.
Can this be said of us? We are not ministering to the Lord like we need to be, and so we are run ragged in ministry, trying to meet the needs of people when we need heaven to open and heaven’s miracles to break down upon us.
The flame represents the presence of God, and tending the flame represents ministering to the Lord in the House of God. Through the nation of Israel, God is prophetically speaking to us today; The calling of the people of God has never changed… we are still to be keepers of the flame. Can this be said of our churches? Our nation?
Revolution is in the land! God is calling for keepers of the flame… individuals and churches that will fall in line with the order of His house --- the order to witnesses for Christ and in this chaotic world we live in to remind this nation that has fallen from its pledge: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, ONE NATION UNDER GOD, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
As we celebrate the liberation of this nation, this union will never be free until we who are keepers of the flame remind the nation that our God has made us all equal in His sight and until this nation acknowledges the reason for its birth, and that is to put God first and ministering to Him in worship will bring His presence to bring this nation out of chaos to order and through it stop the needless spilling of innocent blood in the streets and houses of our nation.
This is a revolutionary call, requiring revolutionary measures. May the Lord give us grace and wisdom as we learn to rightly judge and discern the priorities of our lives. As we learn to operate according to God’s order, we will begin to see Him come in greater measures in our churches, in our nation, and in our lives. Why? Because the restoration of His order becomes an invitation for His presence and of this we can be sure… where the presence of the Lord is, there is fullness of joy!
“Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full – pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” (Luke 6:38 NLT)
This past week has been filled with all kinds of challenges. This is not unusual for me. At 73 years old, I have found that the experiences of life have been great teachers. One lesson that life has taught me is that God works in mysterious; I have learned that God often blesses us so we can be a blessing to others. This week I almost missed a blessing. A young man that I have known from his birth, who I had not heard from in years, called me and asked if I could help him by sending $300 in a MoneyGram to Florida. He was facing homelessness. I must admit, I almost said “No.” God spoke to my heart with Jesus’s words in Luke 6:38, “Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full – pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” This Scripture challenged me and I sent the money not knowing where he lived or if I was going to ever hear from him again. The next day the young man called to tell me that I literally saved his life. He thanked me for doing what no other person would do. I told him to thank God for the blessing and expressed that it was a blessing for me to share with him.
I sometimes agonize over the missed blessings of others. In my youthful ignorance, I missed some opportunities to be a blessing to others myself. Let me explain: I have been the recipient of opportunities all of my life with people who believed in me and supported me throughout my life. Growing up in a family of faith, but having meager finances to support my dreams, it was my Pastor, teachers, and community people who partnered with my parents to assist me in making my dreams come true. Through academic and athletic excellence I was afforded the opportunity to be the first college-educated person in my family. That education allowed me to have a very lucrative career in medical research. There were some times when I was too busy trying to be somebody; that I missed the chance to help others as I was helped. As I progressed both in my secular career and my spiritual calling, I found the truth in what the Master was saying in this scripture.
God has blessed each of us with more than we can contain. Our blessings are pressed down, shaken together, and running over. We have enough from God to be a blessing to others and the more we give the more God blesses us. My question is: Have you maximized your opportunity to give and be a blessing to others? WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH THE OVERFLOW?
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)
My heart is saddened to see another Black life taken. George Floyd was his name. His murder demonstrates the grave injustice in this nation when it comes to race and inequality. George Floyd is the latest in a litany of Black men and women killed by police. There were many who came before George Floyd: Some lives were taken while being filmed on camera; Others were killed in the obscure darkness of the night. When will we learn?
I have hope as a veteran of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s and the Pan-African Black Power Movement of the 1970’s, that this time is different. Unlike any other time in my 73 years of existence I have seen an outpouring of discontentment from this generation which includes a multi-racial participation unlike anything that I have ever seen. Even White protesters are holding up signs saying “Black Lives Matter,” and signs that cry out “No Justice, No Peace.” I see peaceful demonstrations in all of our major cities and now around the world.
I believe God is stirring up a new generation who are tired of the hypocrisy of this nation and the same old, same old promises that have never been fulfilled. It behooves us to not be silent as God’s chosen people, but to stand up for righteousness, and justice. It is time for us to be a WITNESS for the Lord!
Second Chronicles 7:14 is God’s challenge to us, not only white folks, but black folks to repent from our wayward ways, pray and declare not only our faith in God, but put our faith in action. This action is to participate in our God given and governmental right to vote, to be accountable through our census, and to answer the call for jury duty so that we can have a jury of our peers. We are under the challenge of God to be a voice in this wilderness of despair to let people know that there is still hope in the God of our salvation that neither falters nor fails. Let us get it right this time so we won’t return to these old landmarks. This is God’s challenge to us!
“What has come into being in Him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1:4-5)
These words of the Apostle John in his Gospel are words of comfort as we have witnessed the taking of another African-American man’s life by the name of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. At the time of this writing, the news broadcasters are showing a city on fire with unruly crowds protesting. It is another contribution to the many black lives that have been taken because of the “Darkness of Prejudice” in this nation which boasts of being the “Land of the free.” This is just another page in the more than 400-year history of degradation and abuse of people of color.
It reminds me of a story that was told to me about our former President George H. W. Bush who went to visit a nursing home: He met an elderly gentleman walking down the hall. He went to the man, shook his hand warmly, and then, in a gracious and kindly tone, President Bush asked, “Sir, do you know who I am?” The man replied, “No, but if you ask the nurses, they can tell you!”
The point is that we don’t really know people until we know them well and until we walk in their shoes. That’s the problem with prejudice. It literally means “to prejudge,” and it causes all kinds of heartache and pain. But again the light of God helps us. It shows us how to reach out to others with love and respect. If every person would live in the gracious spirit of Christ, we could have heaven on earth.
The words in John 1:4-5 reminded me that God is not prejudiced; He did not prejudge you or me. He came to give us life and that life was His light. The light that even the darkness of prejudice could not overtake or consume. For you see, if we are not careful, without that LIGHT we could be the violators rather than possibly the victims.
Reminds me of a story about a missionary named Oswald Golter. He was on his way home from North China after ten years of service there. When he docked at a port in India to await passage home, he found a large group of refugees housed in a warehouse on the pier. It was Christmastime, so the missionary went to the warehouse to visit these refugees. He said to them, “Merry Christmas! What do you want for Christmas?” “We’re not Christians,” they said. “We don’t believe in Christmas.”
“I know,” said the missionary, “but what do you want for Christmas?” They asked for German pastries. The missionary searched the whole city and found the pastries and cashed his ticket home to pay for them. When he later told the story to some students they asked “Why did you do that for them? They weren’t Christians. They don’t even believe in Jesus.” “I know,” he replied, “but I do!”
This is a prominent theme in the Sermon on the Mount: “Don’t be anxious. Don’t be fretful. Don’t be afraid. Just seek first God’s Kingdom and righteousness. Let God rule in your life. Trust God and things will fall in place for you.” What a promise!
The artist Rembrandt once painted a canvas titled “Storm on the Sea of Galilee.” It’s a remarkable work of art for two reasons. First, after all it’s a Rembrandt, a priceless masterpiece, a portrayal so real you can almost feel the spray of the waves and the movement of the boat. Second, this painting is striking for another unique reason. As you study the detail, you notice something unusual: There are fourteen men on the boat. Now, wait a minute--- weren’t there twelve disciples? You count again, and yes--- there are thirteen men, plus Jesus, on the boat---total of fourteen.
Gradually, your eyes focus on one particular figure. He is holding on for dear life. Suddenly, you recognize the face. It’s the face of Rembrandt! The artist has painted himself into the scene. He is experiencing the storm, and it’s frightful --- but the good news is: Jesus is there! Jesus is in the boat with him. Jesus will save him from the fury of the storm!
Beloveds of God we are going through a storm right now and some are worried whether we will get through it, but I declare to you today that in every storm Jesus is there. And if Jesus is in the storm I know that He will save us from the fury of the storm! The Apostle Paul expressed it like this: “I am ready for anything, for Christ is with me and He is my strength.” Do you have that kind of faith? Do you know that kind of trust?
A Pastor once described an interesting happening during the communion service in his church one Sunday morning. It was a small church, and the congregation had been instructed to pass the elements down the pew, with each person saying the words of administration to the next: “John, this is the body of our Lord given for you, John; this is the blood of our Lord shed for you.”
But on this day, one man in the congregation who was not especially liturgically minded turned to his neighbor, handed him the bread, and promptly forgot what he was supposed to say. He just went blank. After a brief but agonizing pause, he finally blurted out these words: “Harvey --- Hang in there!”
I’ve seen a number of different liturgies for the Lord’s Supper over the years, and I don’t really think the words “Harvey, hang in there” are in any of them. But the truth is that I can’t think of any better words to say when we are remembering Christ’s gift to us, His presence with us, His care over us. What better words could you say than those --- “Hang in there!” You can “hang in there” with rock-solid trust, and He will see you through. You can count on that! It’s a divine promise. I don’t know about you but I am going always choose “Trust over Worry.”
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life.”
Someone was surprised when I said; I was still in awe of God. The very wonder of how He works in the world today. It still amazes me after 60 yrs. of saved and sanctified life that my God goes beyond my expectation, even when I think that I have Him figured out.
Look at the very first phrase in our scripture reference: “For God so loved the world” --- not just one nation, not just one culture, not just one denomination, not just the attractive people, not just one little corner of creation, but the whole world! As the famous spiritual puts it: “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.” In a word, the reach of God’s love is as wide as the universe.
One sad thing that happens to us human beings is that we often forget the bigness of God’s love, and consequently, we become small and selective in our loving, limiting our love to only a favored few. Not so with God. God’s love leaps over every barrier to embrace every person. And as human beings, we become impatient with people who don’t act as we want them to act or do what we want them to do.
The great Protestant Reformer Martin Luther once became so aggravated with those around him that he cried out, “If I were God and these vile people were as disobedient as they now be, I would knock the world to pieces!” And Luther might have done that, but not so with God. The Bible underscores again and again the amazing grace of our God, and this verse (as no other) shows the enormous sweep of God’s gracious forgiving, seeking, and reconciling love for the whole world. We may reject God’s love. We may run away from God’s love. We may ignore God’s love. And our own hardness of heart may keep us out of God’s kingdom, may keep us from accepting God’s love in faith. But one thing we can know, one thing we can count on: God loves us, and God wants to bring us into the circle of His love.
It’s important to remember now that although God’s love is worldwide, it is yet very personal. Even though God’s love is vast enough to reach around the globe, still it is closer to each and every one of us than our breathing.
Remember the “Peanuts” comic strip in which Lucy announces that she wants to be a doctor when she grows up. Younger brother, Linus, is very upset by the prospect, and he says, “Lucy it won’t work. You can never be a doctor!” “And just why not?” Lucy retorts. “Because,” replies Linus, “you don’t love humankind. You can’t be a doctor because you don’t love humankind!” “But I do,” says Lucy, “I do! I love humankind, its people I can’t stand!”
Not so with God. The wonder of God’s love is that He loves the whole world, and he loves all the people in it. Do you see what this means? It means that you are the beloved child of God, that I am the beloved child of God, and every single person we meet in this world is the beloved child of God. The message is obvious: Accept God’s love for you and love God back, and pass God’s love on to others in this world, for in this we all become the beholders of “THE WONDERS OF GOD’S LOVE.” And that to me is awesome!!!
Here is the question for this week: How far do you want God to go in getting your attention? If God has to choose between your eternal safety and earthly comfort, which do you hope He chooses? Don’t answer too quickly. Give it some thought.
If God sees you standing when you should be sitting, if God sees you at risk rather than safe, how far do you want Him to go in getting your attention?
What if He moved you to another land, as He did Abraham? What if He called you out of retirement, as He did Moses? Would you want to hear the voice of an angel or be relocated to the bowel of a fish, a la Gideon and Jonah? What if you got a promotion like Daniel’s or a demotion like Samson? How far do you want God to go to get your attention?
God does whatever it takes to get our attention, even in the midst of a pandemic. Isn’t that the message of the Bible: the relentless pursuit of God, God on the hunt, God in the search, God wrestling with us Jacobs in the muddy Jabboks of life?
The Gospel message of God’s offer for salvation through His only begotten son Jesus, is God’s attempt to not only get our attention but to redeem us from our sinful selves.
That’s how John saw Jesus. John writes in his Gospel that, “God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3:17) John’s Gospel has two themes: the voice of God and the choice of man. Jesus said, “I am the bread that gives life. I am the light of the world. I am the resurrection and the life. I am the door. I am the way, the truth and the life.”
This is the Jesus that John remembers: the honest questions, the thundering claims, the gentle touch. Jesus, he never going where not invited, but once invited never stopping until He’s finished, until a choice has been made.
God will whisper, He will shout. He will touch and tug. He will take away our burdens; He’ll even take away our blessings. If there are a thousand steps between us and Him, He will take all but one. But He will leave the final one for us. The choice is ours.
Wile E. Coyote furiously chases Roadrunner. Roadrunner suddenly stops. The coyote tries to stop but he can’t. He skids past the roadrunner out to the edge of a cliff. The ground gives way and for just a moment we see his eyes bulge into saucers. Wile E. plummets to the ground. Poof!
I used to love to watch old Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner cartoons when I was a young man. Wile E. Coyote and I share a common plight. I, too, have ventured too close to the edge. I’ve found myself on shaky ground and taken a fall. I’ve stared that “oh-boy-this-is-gonna-hurt” stare. I’ve looked up from the bottom of the pit, dazed and stunned.
But Wile E. Coyote has some characteristics that I do not have. He is invincible. He never gets hurt. The falls don’t faze him. Within moments, he is out of the pit, back on the trail. In the next scene of the cartoon he’s back to stacking Acme dynamite or painting a wall to make it appear like a tunnel to trap Roadrunner. You and I don’t recover so easily. Like Wile E. Coyote, we fall. But unlike Wile E., we wander in the canyon for a while. Stunned, hurt, and wondering if this ravine has a way out.
Being stuck in a pit reminds me of the experience of Peter found in the eighteenth chapter of John’s Gospel. His Rabbi and Savior Jesus is being questioned. Peter finds himself in a different crowd and the Bible records that as Peter was standing and warming himself by a fire, some said to him, “Aren’t you one of that man’s followers?” Peter denied it, and responded, “No, I am not.”
Few of us have been in a pit deeper than Peter’s. Which is ironic, for just an hour or two before his denial of Jesus, he was high on the pinnacle and far from the pit. When the temple guards came to arrest Jesus in the garden, Peter smugly flashes his sword as if to say, “Step aside, Jesus, I’ll take care of this one for you.”
Fast forward from the garden to the fire. Peter would have been better off in the shadows with the other disciples. He would have been better off in the courtyard with his Master. But instead Peter is warming his hands on the devil’s hearth. A young girl recognizes him and asks, “Aren’t you one of that man’s followers?” “No, I am not,” he asserts. Peter denies Jesus three times and with each denial Peter inches closer to the edge of the canyon … until the ground gives way and he falls. Have you been there? Have you felt the ground of conviction give way beneath your feet? Have you ever felt the ledge crumble, your eyes widen, and before you know it…poof!
What do you do when you fall? You could stay in the canyon. Many do. Many live their lives in the shadows. Many never return from their guilt. Some dismiss their deeds by saying, “Everybody has a little slip now and then.” When we fall, we can dismiss it, we can deny it, we can distort it, or we can deal with it. What choice will you make?
If you choose to deal with it, you can rest assured that you will experience grace. In the Gospel of Luke, Peter’s denial is punctuated with this chilling phrase, “When the cock crowed, “the Lord turned and looked straight at Peter” (Luke 22:61). This season reminds us that Jesus is looking at us not with hate, but with love and grace. Jesus loves us so much that He died on a cross that our guilt might be exchanged for God’s grace.
When Nathanael doubted that anything good could come out of Nazareth, Philip’s response was simply, “Come and see” (John 1:46). The first answer given the first doubter is the only one necessary.
Nathanael’s question remains, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Have two thousand years of Christianity changed the world? Is the life of the young Nazarene carpenter really worth considering? The question still lingers. And the answer of Phillip still suffices. Come and see.
Come and see the rock that has withstood the winds of time. The truth undaunted, grace unspotted, loyalty undeterred. Come and see the flame that tyrants and dictators have not extinguished. Come and see the passion that oppression has not squelched. Come and see the hospitals, the care centers, and houses of worship rising beside the crumbling ruins of humanism and atheism. Come and see what Christ has done.
Come and see the great drama threading through twenty centuries of history and art. Handel weeping as he composes The Messiah. Da Vinci sighing as he portrays the Last Supper. Michelangelo stepping back from the rock-carved David and bidding the stone to speak. Can anything good come out of Nazareth? Come and see. Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman who were not satisfied with their own freedom from slavery, but reached back putting their lives on the line to introduce freedom to so many others. A local pastor with a silver tongue and a mandate from Heaven started a non-violent movement in Montgomery, Alabama, all because of a woman by the name of Rosa Parks who was denied her seat on a public bus, his name, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement reverberated all around the world. And yes, the first African American to become President of the United States of America as fruits of the movement by the name of Barack Obama. Come and see!
Can anything good come out of Nazareth? Come and see. Come and see the changed lives: the alcoholic now dry, the embittered now joyful, and the shamed now forgiven. Come and see the marriages rebuilt, the orphans embraced, the imprisoned inspired. Walk on death row and witness the prisoner condemned by man yet liberated by God.
Can anything good come out of Nazareth? Come and see the pierced hand of God touch the most common heart, wipe the tear from the wrinkled face, and forgive the ugliest sin. Come and see. He avoids no seeker. He ignores no probe. He fears no search. Come and see. Nathanael came. And Nathanael saw. And Nathanael discovered, “Teacher, you are the Son of God, you are the King of Israel.” COME AND SEE….
I found a scripture many years ago that gained my attention in the Gospel of John. It simply says, “I give them eternal life, and they will never die, and no one can steal them out of my hand.” (John 10:28)
The Master’s words, found in my favorite Gospel, were assuring to me as someone whose fear of falling literally consumed my thoughts. Have you ever had that kind of fear?
Well, I must confess to you a fall. I’ve kept it secret long enough. I can’t deny the stumble; nor can I dismiss the truth. I fell. There were witnesses to my slip. They could tell you all the details, but graciously, they have told no one. Out of concern for my reputation, they kept the event a secret. But it has been a secret long enough. The time has come for my fall to be shared.
I lost my footing on a mission trip to Jamaica. Rather than drive, my pastor colleagues and I decided to walk up a steep hill. We got out of the jeep we were being driven in and began to climb up this incline that overlooked the ocean. It was beautiful. With about twenty feet to go, I wondered if I would make it. I had serious thoughts of telling the driver to come and pick me up. My feet were sore, my back was aching, and my legs felt like jelly. I gave it all that I had, but all that I had was not enough. My feet slipped and down I went. I fell hard but didn’t fall far. My companions caught me and I resumed the climb.
Guess what I did when I made it to the top? Do you think I boasted? Do you think I bragged about conquering the hill? No way. I looked at the ones who caught me and said thank you for being there in my most embarrassing moment. I didn’t ask what they thought when they saw me tumble feet over my head. I expressed gratitude to my closest friends in ministry who held me in my fall.
If only all my tumbles were so simple, brief, and harmless. They haven’t been. I’ve been known to fall off of much more than a hill in Jamaica. I’ve let go of promises and convictions. There have been times when my feet slipped off the very mountains of truth I treasure. And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve expected to hit the bottom only to find myself suspended in midair, secured by Jesus’ nail-pierced hands.
You and I are on a great climb. The mountain is high, and the stakes are higher. Your climb began the day you confessed Christ as the Son of God. He gave you His help---the Holy Spirit. In your hands, He placed a rope---His Word.
My beloved, with every journey there is weariness and with the height comes fear. You have lost footing. You have lost focus. You have tumbled. Though you can’t see your Help you know Him. God is strong and you know He is able to keep you from falling.
Let’s imagine that you want to learn to dance. Being the rational, cerebral person you are, you go to a bookstore and buy a book on dancing. After all, a book helped you learn to program a computer and a book taught you accounting ---- surely a book can teach you how to shuffle your feet.
You take the book home and get to work. You do everything it says. The book says sway; you sway. The book says shuffle; you shuffle. The book says spin; you spin. You even cut out paper shoe patterns and place them around the living –room floor so you’ll know where to step.
Finally, you think you’ve got it, and you invite your wife to come in and watch. You hold the book open and follow the instructions step by step. You even read the words aloud so she’ll know that you’ve done your homework. “Lean with your right shoulder,”and so you lean. “Now step with your right foot,”and so you step. “Turn slowly to the left,”and so you do.
You continue to read, then dance, read, then dance, until the dance is completed. You plop exhausted on the couch, look at your wife, and proclaim,“I executed perfectly.” “You executed it, all right,” she sighs. “You killed it.” “What?” “You forgot the most important part. Where is the music?” Music?
Dancing with no music is tough stuff. Jesus knew that. For that reason, on the night before His death He introduced the disciples to the song maker of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit.
“When I go away I will send the Helper to you. If I do not go away, the Helper will not come. When the Helper comes, He will prove the people of the world the truth about sin, about being right with God, and about judgement.” (John 16:7-9).
The Holy Spirit is not an impersonal force. He is not Popeye’s spinach or the surfer’s wave. He is God within you to help you. He is God’s music for the dance. In fact John calls Him the Helper.
What does the Spirit do? He comforts the saved. “When I go away, I will send the Helper to you” (John 16:7). He convicts the lost. “When the Helper comes, He will prove to the people of the world the truth about sin, about being right with God, and about judgment” (John 16:8). He conveys the truth. “I have many more things to say to you, but they are too much for you now. When the Spirit of truth comes, He will lead you into all truth” (John 16:12).
Is John saying we don’t need the book (Bible) in order to dance? Of course not; He helped write it. Emotions without knowledge are as dangerous as knowledge without emotion. God seeks a balance. “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). It’s much easier to raise a sail than to row the boat. And it’s a lot easier getting people to join the dance when God is playing the music.
“In Him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the light that all men through him might believe.” (John 1:4-7)
Long ago, or maybe not so long ago, there was a tribe in a dark, cold cavern. The cave dwellers would huddle together and cry against the chill. Loud and long they wailed. It was all they did. It was all they knew to do. The sounds in the cave were mournful, but the people didn’t know it, for they had never known joy. The spirit in the cave was death, but the people didn’t know it, for they had never known life.
But then, one day, they heard a different voice. “I have heard your cries,” it announced. “I have felt your chill and seen your darkness. I have come to help.” The cave people grew quiet. The had never heard this voice. Hope sounded strange in their ears. “How can we know you have come to help?” “Trust me,” he answered. “I have what you need.” The cave people peered through the darkness at the figure of the stranger. He was stacking something, then stooping and stacking more. “What are you doing?” one cried, nervous. The stranger didn’t answer. “What are you making?” one more shouted even louder.
The visitor stood and spoke in the direction of the voices. “I have what you need.” With that he turned to the pile at his feet and lit it. Wood ignited, flames erupted, and light filled the cavern. The cave people turned away in fear. “Put it out!” they cried. “It hurts to see it.” “Light always hurts before it helps,” he answered. “Not I,” declared a voice from the cave. “Only a fool would risk exposing his eyes to such a light.”
The stranger stood near to the fire. “Would you prefer the darkness? Would you prefer the cold? Don’t consult your fears. Take a step of faith.” “He’s right,” one from behind announced. “It’s warmer.” The stranger turned and saw a figure slowly stepping toward the fire. “I can open my eyes now,” she proclaimed. “I can see.” “Come closer,” invited the fire builder. She did. She stepped into the ring of light. “It’s so warm!” She extended her hands and sighed as her chill began to pass. “Come everyone! Feel the warmth,” she invited.
“Silence Woman!” cried one of the cave dwellers. “Dare you lead us into your folly? Leave us and take your light with you.” She turned to the stranger. “Why won’t they come?” “They chose the chill, for though it’s cold, it’s what they know. They’d rather be cold than change.”
The now warm women stood silent, looking first at the dark, then at the man. “Will you leave the fire” he asked. She paused, and then answered, “I cannot. I cannot bear the cold.” Then she spoke again. “But nor can I bear the thought of my people in darkness.”
“You don’t have to,” he responded, reaching into the fire and removing a stick on fire, “Carry this to your people. Tell them the light is here, and the light is warm.” Will you share the light?