choices

Drawn to the Light

Light attracts insects at night. Living in the tropical climate of the Philippines for many years, it seemed like zillions of insects came out at night. They would gather at porch lights and our security lights around the property. So would the geckos and other creatures who fed on them.

Light is powerful. Daily activity dramatically increases with the dawn of a new day. Many people are drawn to seashores as the sun breaks through the night and floods the sky and sea with its powerful beams of light.

When encouraging people in the midst of their personal darkness, we speak of light at the end of the tunnel as an expression of hope to come. But when a person's soul is crushed with anguish and hopelessness, they tend to draw back into the darkness and shadows around them. And too often, many dark deeds seem more likely to occur at night than during the day.

The first act of creation is God speaking light into existence (Gen 1:3) and God is—by nature—Light (1 John 1:5). John declares at the beginning of his gospel that, Jesus is the light of life for all humanity and His light is never conquered or extinguished.

Scripture

No one has gone to heaven except the Son of Man, who came from heaven. “As Moses lifted up the snake ⌊on a pole⌋ in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up. Then everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.” [vss 13-15]

God loved the world this way: He gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not die but will have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but to save the world. Those who believe in him won’t be condemned. But those who don’t believe are already condemned because they don’t believe in God’s only Son. [vss 16-19]

This is why people are condemned: The light came into the world. Yet, people loved the dark rather than the light because their actions were evil. People who do what is wrong hate the light and don’t come to the light. They don’t want their actions to be exposed. But people who do what is true come to the light so that the things they do for God may be clearly seen. [vss 19-21]

(John 13-21 GW)

Key phrase—

God loved the world this way: He gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not die but will have eternal life.

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • Who alone has gone to heaven and come from there? What illustration is given that is connected to this?

  • How does this statement about the Son of Man and this illustration relate to the famous Bible verse—John 3:16?

  • What great assurances and promises are given in this familiar Scripture?

  • What are the contrasting statements given in this text and how are they not in opposition or contradiction to each other?

Reflection...

Probably the most quoted Bible verse is found in this chapter—John 3:16. But to understand the greatness of God's love and His promise of eternal life, we need to understand its context.

John speaks of the Lord's death on the cross as a point of restoration and likens it to when Moses erected a bronze snake in the sand as a visual connection to God's healing power for those bitten by poisonous snakes in the wilderness (Numbers 21:5-9).

John then points out the purpose of Jesus coming to earth—when God became human—to bring redemption for all humanity—to heal and restore humanity. God personally intervened in human history to provide a cure for the poisonous effect of sin.

But, receiving this promise of restoration and eternal life is a choice. Sadly, many people can't or won't let go of the darkness in their lives to embrace the light and receive this promise of abundant and eternal life Jesus offers. But those who are drawn to His Light and receive this promise are healed and restored by the great love of God.

Taking it to heart...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • What condemns a person—their sin or their unbelief? How is this known from this text?

  • What is the important choice a person needs to make between light and darkness and why do you think it's difficult to make?  

  • Why do you think many non-believers see Christians as judgmental when Jesus did not come into the world to judge it?

  • How would you tell others these truths in your own words (IYOW) so they understood them?

Personalize it...

Meditate On This— God so loved the world but the world did not love Him back. God proved His love by giving His Son as a Mediator and Savior for all those who choose to trust in Him—turning their backs on the darkness of sin to embrace the powerful light of His love.

Prayer Focus— If you haven't experienced God's healing restoration by believing and trusting in Him, don't wait any longer—simply ask Him to be Lord of your life in your own words. If you've trusted in God's Son, ask the Lord for opportunities and simple, clear words to share this great promise.

©2018—Word-Strong

Don't Give Up!

One of my all-time favorite movies is "Chariots of Fire." A favorite scene is when Eric Liddell, a Scottish runner, is knocked down by a competitor but gets up to finish and win the race.

Eric Liddell went on to be a gold medal winner in the 1924 Olympics in Paris. But his greater victory was finishing his life well as a missionary in China.

Liddell is a modern-day example of one who ran the race of the Christian faith well and never gave up. His heart was fixed on Jesus, the focus of his faith.

He learned the importance of removing whatever would hinder his faith and trust in Jesus. Jesus saw beyond His gruesome death on the cross and was filled with joy for what His resurrection would bring to the lives of those who trust in Him.

Scripture

Since we are surrounded by so many examples ⌊of faith⌋, we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially sin that distracts us. We must run the race that lies ahead of us and never give up.
We must focus on Jesus, the source and goal of our faith. He saw the joy ahead of him, so he endured death on the cross and ignored the disgrace it brought him. Then he received the highest position in heaven, the one next to the throne of God.
Think about Jesus, who endured opposition from sinners, so that you don’t become tired and give up.  [vss 1-3]
(Hebrews 12:1-3 GW) [Context– Hebrews 12]

Key phrase—

We must focus on Jesus, the source and goal of our faith

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What are Christian believers surrounded by? Who is included in this "great cloud of people?"

  • What do we need to do "run the race" and what are two things believers need to "get rid of" from our lives?

  • Who are we exhorted to focus our attention on and how is He described in relation to faith?

  • Where is Jesus now? How is this relevant to this exhortation and the whole book of Hebrews?

Reflection...

Why do we get discouraged and want to give up? Because we rely too much on our own self-effort, and because we lose sight of why we have a true hope. 

Jesus is our example but He's also the source and focus of our faith. When He is any less in our life, we will stumble along the path of life, easily distracted and drawn away from following Him.

We are responsible for what we choose and pursue. So, we need to remove what gets in our way and holds us back. But how?

We need to stop giving attention to what hinders and entangles us. We need to fix our attention on Jesus—our personal trust in Him and His life example. We need to replace the former with the latter, the better focus of our attention.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • How does what Jesus suffered and endured relate to the original readers and hearers of this exhortation?

  • Have you struggled with your faith? What things in life get in your way and distract you from focusing on Jesus?

  • What are specific ways you see that would help you refocus your attention on Jesus each day?

  • Are there specific times you've overcome hindrances and distractions to your faith?

©2017—Word-Strong


Here's a free introduction for the book of Hebrews— Intro to studying Hebrews

Choosing Freedom Over Pleasure

The life of Moses is generally venerated throughout history, especially within Judaism and Christianity. Some may malign him but when Moses is portrayed in movies, he's seen as a great leader.

His life is extraordinary and there are many lessons to be drawn from it. But a mystical view of Moses' life might be out of sync with reality. In the book of Exodus, we see a fuller view.

Moses didn't start out as a man of faith, he grew into it. He led a life of ease and privilege until he started to identify with his Hebrew heritage.

His Hebrew faith was passed onto Moses by his family, especially his mother as his nursemaid. His faith became his own when Moses fled for his life into the desert (Exo 2:11-15).

Faith is most often forged in the fire of life's challenges and difficulties.

Scripture

Faith led Moses’ parents to hide him for three months after he was born. They did this because they saw that Moses was a beautiful baby and they were not afraid to disobey the king’s order.

When Moses grew up, faith led him to refuse to be known as a son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to suffer with God’s people rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a little while. He thought that being insulted for Christ would be better than having the treasures of Egypt. He was looking ahead to his reward. [vss 23-26]

Faith led Moses to leave Egypt without being afraid of the king’s anger. Moses didn’t give up but continued as if he could actually see the invisible God.

Faith led Moses to establish the Passover and spread the blood ⌊on the doorposts⌋ so that the destroying angel would not kill the firstborn sons.

Faith caused the people to go through the Red Sea as if it were dry land. The Egyptians also tried this, but they drowned. [vss 27-29]

(Hebrews 11:23-29 GW) [Context– Hebrews 11]

Key phrase—

He thought that being insulted for Christ would be better than having the treasures of Egypt

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What did faith lead Moses to do and when did this happen?

  • What did Moses consider was better than the treasures of Egypt? How is this seen?

  • What was the attitude Moses had when he left Egypt? Why was he not afraid? 

  • How does all of this relate to the judgment and celebration of Passover?

Reflection...

Moses made life choices based on his encounter and relationship with the true and living God. He saw beyond what the natural eye sees. The choices Moses made were not based on what his human nature desired.

Moses' life became extraordinary as God worked faith into him through the challenges and tests in his life. Those times were decision points for him and required him to make certain choices.

Each step Moses took in trusting God led him to a deeper level of faith. This is what brought Moses from the ordinary life of pleasure he had in Pharoah's court to an extraordinary life as God's deliverer for Israel.

Moses forsook the pleasures he had in Egypt and endured the insults and scorn as a man who trusted in the God of Israel. Because Moses chose insult and suffering over pleasure, God set him free and he led Israel into freedom and out of Egypt.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  •  How is it possible that Christ is referred to in relation to Moses' time in Egypt? [see the story of Passover in Exodus chapters 12 and 13]

  • Do you see how the writer of Hebrews connects Christ and the freedom Passover brought to believers then and for us now?

  • What are your life choices based on? Do you choose the ordinary or the extraordinary?

  • In what way do you make extraordinary faith-based decisions?

©2017—Word-Strong


Here's a free introduction for the book of Hebrews— Intro to studying Hebrews