My Lighthouse

The ocean is incredible.

Out of all of God’s amazing creation (human beings aside), I would argue that the ocean is my favorite. Mountains are spectacular, forests are beautiful, prairies are elegant, deserts and canyons are really neat, but none of those environments fill me a sense of overwhelmed joy that the ocean does. I am captivated by the sound and spray of waves, and I could contently sit and stare for hours.

I am a Midwesterner born and bred. So, admittedly, my experience with the ocean is far less than my experience with flat land, corn fields, and rivers. Nevertheless, I think it is safe to say that I have fallen in love with the sea.

But as beautiful as the ocean is, it is just as dangerous. In fact, its beauty oftentimes hides its true peril.

For centuries sailors have fearlessly sailed the oceans, navigated through storms, and charted coastlines. Through it all their greatest ally was always the lighthouse.

Shining in the dark, a lighthouse was a fierce and yet, welcomed reminder of the imminent danger that the sailors knew was there, but could not see for themselves.

Lighthouses keep people alive.

I have a lighthouse, so to speak. My lighthouse actually calls Himself the light of the world and promises that whoever follows Him will not walk in darkness, but instead, will have the light of life. (John 8:12)

Jesus shines brightly in the darkness that surrounds me. He keeps me away from the danger that I can see, as well as the danger that I cannot see. And He guides me safely so that I can have rest.

Lighthouses keep people alive. Jesus makes people alive.

Friends, I don’t mean to sound preachy here by any means. But life, just like the ocean can be incredibly and wonderfully beautiful. But it is also just as dangerous. In fact, life is more dangerous than we may even comprehend, and I am not just talking about physical danger. There are emotional and spiritual dangers that are always lurking before us and we will crash into them if we do not look to the lighthouse to guide our way.

We need Jesus to guard and guide our hearts, minds, words, and steps if we are ever going to thrive in this life.

We need to look to Jesus because He will not and cannot lead us astray. And His light cannot be dimmed.

After all, as one of my favorite verses tells us, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)

Jesus is trustworthy and true. He is the light.

What or who are you looking to?

MLK Jr. & Light in the Midst of Darkness

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. “

This weekend, for many students and teachers, was a three-day weekend. I remember, when I was in school, always looking forward to three-day weekends. Monday holidays were always my favorite. Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, President’s Day, Casimir Pulaski Day, (you only would know that if you’re from the great state of Chicago… I uh, mean Illinois) Labor Day, and of course Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

But I want to take a few moments to remind all of us that yesterday wasn’t just about getting a day off. Yesterday was a day to celebrate and commemorate the life of a wonderful, godly, loving, caring, and courageous man.

Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was born as Michael King Jr. on January 15th, 1929. His father, Michael Sr. actually legally changed his own name, as well as his son’s, after a trip to Germany. During that trip, Michael Sr., a Baptist preacher, was so impressed by the life of the famous reformer that he made the legal switch in names in order to honor the hero of the Reformation.

King Jr.’s new name would perfectly fit his life’s work. He was in every way a true reformer of social, civil, and political norms.

The amazing man lived his life in such a way that inspired others to live in the same way. He truly walked the walk to back up his talk. He was a Christian who followed Jesus not only in word but in action.

King has so many incredible quotes. Yesterday, I was scrolling through my social media feeds and I saw quote upon quote from Dr. King. The extra cool thing was that I rarely saw a quote repeated. This is even more proof that this world changer had so much to say that we all should continue to listen.

It is one particular quote of his that I want to focus on today. It just happens to be one of my absolute favorites. The following is from a sermon that the good reverend gave back in 1957.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. “

Perhaps one reason why I love this quote so much is that it reminds me a lot of another line from a very quotable source.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)

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The verse in John is talking all about Jesus-the light who came into the world to bring light and life to those who were dead in darkness. The darkness has not, will not, and cannot overcome the light that Jesus brings.

King’s quote is so impactful because it reminds us that more atrocity cannot put an end to atrocities, more hate cannot put an end to hatefulness, and more sin cannot put an end to our sinfulness. An argument isn’t ended by raised voices, all that results in is a louder room.

Unfortunately, in today’s culture, many things that Dr. King fought for and stood against are still hot-topic issues. However, we must remember that the fight against injustices is an ongoing one. And please, hear me clearly, this is our fight. As followers of Jesus Christ, no matter what the color our skin, we must stand against injustice. We must be light-bearers who, as we reflect the one true light, send darkness packing. We must remember that the root of our issues and frustrations are not caused by politics, nor economic status, not even race…but sin.

Sin is a thing that every single human being (no matter what background, race, intelligence, religion, nationality, or anything else) has in common. Thankfully, the Savior of the world is an equal opportunity rescuer.

In Luke chapter 4 Jesus read a Scripture from the Old Testament.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Jesus then sat back and humbly said, (I’m heavily paraphrasing) “This is all about me. I am now doing all these things.”

Jesus was all about Saving the world, something only He could do through His death on the cross. Jesus was also all about justice, and therefore, we should be too. I’m reminded of a lyric from one of my favorite music groups, Beautiful Eulogy, and their song, “Slain.”

“I’m not afraid to talk about social injustices

Let’s also talk about the throne where perfect justice is

It sounds insensitive and some will hate the stench of it

But the church is not faithful if we fail to mention it

We worship a God who can speak to the world’s pain

Because salvation for us came through the Lamb who was slain”

 

Did you catch that second line? I hope so because I underlined it. Perfect justice can and will only come from God Himself. That truth is something that we believers need to talk about…and not stop talking about.

I think that Martin Luther King Jr. would agree, after all, he did say,

“The God whom we worship is not a weak and incompetent God. He is able to beat back gigantic waves of opposition and to bring low prodigious mountains of evil. The ringing testimony of the Christian faith is that God is able.”

Celebrate Light

“It is fitting that the Light of the World celebrated the Festival of Lights.”

Not too long ago a student said to me, “yea, I know what Hanukkah is, it’s the Jewish replacement for Christmas.” Well, no it is not.

So what, is Hanukkah? Is it found in Leviticus or one of those other Old Testament books? Actually, no. Hanukkah first began in what we call the Inter-Testimonial Period, the “400 years of silence.” This is the time between when God last spoke through the Prophet Malachi and when Jesus’ birth was announced by an angel.

A lot happened in this period of 400 years between the Testaments. The Persian Empire, along with many other nations was conquered and replaced by the Greeks.

After Alexander the Great died, one of his successors, Antiochus IV, unleashed a terrible persecution of the Jewish people. Antiochus, “the Mad Man,” called the people to bow down and worship him. There were several groups, including the Maccabees a Levitical family, who rebelled against Antiochus because they refused to worship anyone or thing other than the one true God.

The rebellion was successful and eventually, the Jews were able to re-enter the Temple. Unfortunately, the Temple had been desecrated. A pig, an unclean animal, had been sacrificed on the altar. Additionally, the eternal flame, that was always to be lit, had been put out. The Temple needed to be rededicated and the flame relit.

Tradition tells a legend that the Jews had only enough oil to keep the lamp lit for one day before more oil could be made. However, miraculously, the oil actually lasted a full 8 days so that the temple could be fully rededicated and oil restocked.

Hanukkah is an excellent time to reflect on how God has preserved the Jewish people throughout the ages. God cares for those that are His.

In the midst of a dark and terrible time, God provided hope and light for His people.

In the Gospel of John chapter 1 verse 5, we find these words, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Interestingly enough, those words were not talking about the Menorah, but instead, of Jesus Messiah.

Jesus, “the true light, which enlightens everyone was coming into the world.” (vs. 9) Once again, God had provided help, hope, and light to His people in the midst of dark and terrible times.

Jesus Himself celebrated Hanukkah, also known as the Feast of Dedication. In John 10:24 we read “At the time the Feast of Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple…”

We 21st-century believers cannot forget that Jesus was entirely Jewish. He was actually, the most Jewish Jew ever! He kept the Law perfectly, something no one else was or will ever be able to do. He continually quoted the Torah (the Old Testament) and He celebrated Jewish festivals and feasts.

It is fitting that the Light of the World celebrated the Festival of Lights.

One of the most incredible lessons that we can take from Hanukkah is that God provided for His people when they needed it most. One of the most incredible things that we can learn from Jesus’ life is that God provided a Savior when His people, and the world, needed Him most.

Jesus is still that Savior, Jesus is still that Messiah.

Today at sundown marks the start of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. Jesus’ message is so appropriate for the occasion. He says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

God provided light and life to all who believe. Follow the Light.

Shalom, Happy Hanukkah everyone.