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As I walked in the darkness

With a lone candle in my hand

I happened upon a haggard man

Stumbling as he wandered the land

When I neared he covered his face

My small light too bright to bear

I offered to help, show him the way

But he screamed he did not care

“There’s no need to stumble along,” I said

“No need to be lost in the night.

Let this lone light be your guide

This light will forever burn bright.”

But he rejected the eternal flame

Told me the darkness was alright

Then he turned and walked away

Stumbling along, lost in the night

But my care for him did not cease

I bowed and prayed he would see

Christ’s light releases the grip of darkness

And puts us on the path to be free

“God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” – 1 John 1:5

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I sat with her in her living room as she talked about her life. Somehow she managed to keep her frail body upright in the chair. A small plastic tube by her nose fed her oxygen as she spoke with a raspy voice. I could sense the bitterness as she told me about past injustices done to her from decades ago. Over the years I had known this aged woman it seemed the grip of bitterness had only grown tighter on her life. It seemed to cripple her to the point where she was hunched over, eyes pointed toward the floor. I longed to free her from the bondage of unforgiveness with the loving touch of Jesus Christ, but she would have nothing to do with it.

Days later I came across Luke 13:10-17 where Jesus healed a woman crippled “by a spirit for eighteen years.” Toward the end of the passage Jesus remarked that she had been kept bound all those years by Satan. What is interesting about this passage is that the woman does not seek healing from Jesus. She was there in the synagogue listening to Jesus teach and he called her forward. Jesus told the woman, “you are set free from your infirmity.” He placed his hands on her and then she, immediately “straightened up and praised God.”

It reminded me of my aged friend I visited a few days earlier and how she chose to let Satan hold her in the grip of bitterness — choosing to let past injustices keep her bent over and unable to straighten up. She was emotionally and now physically crippled, refusing to even enter a church to hear the teaching of Christ. She refused to hear Jesus call her forward so he could touch her with his grace and release her from the grip of Satan. She chose to remain hunched over in bitterness instead of letting Jesus set her free from the grip of Satan.

In this life we are often struck by emotional and physical events that can cripple us for years. Satan wants to bind us with these infirmities so that we remain crippled, hunched over with our eyes to the ground so we are unable to stand and raise our hands to praise and worship God. Jesus calls us forward to touch our lives, but the grip of the injustices of this life hold us back from receiving his freedom. Instead we listen to those, like the synagogue leader in this passage, who don’t want us to receive Jesus Christ and his healing touch. We remain hunched over in bitterness with eyes pointed to the ground instead of Jesus.

Occasionally, someone asks me, “What is your life verse?” Some people I know will instantly answer that question, but not me. For years I wrestled with trying to identify one verse that would encompass my life — a verse that would inspire and motivate me to continue my walk with Jesus Christ.

I found it difficult to identify one verse in the Bible that could contain such an infinitely powerful God whose mercy and love for me never fails. Then it hit me that this is at the heart of my faith. A God who never gives up on me, even though I have given up on Him many times. From the fall in Genesis through Revelation, we find a just and loving God who constantly seeks to restore mankind to Him. As we dig deeper into scripture each page reveals more and more about the Character of God.

This is the God that Moses remarked, “For what God is there in heaven or on earth who can do the deeds and mighty works you do (Deut. 3:24, NIV)?” The same God that caused Naaman to say, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel (2 Kings 5:15).” The God who Mary described as “…the Mighty One who has done great things for me (Luke 1:49).” The God who Paul said is filled with great love and mercy, the God who made us alive in Christ when we were dead in our sin (Eph. 2:45). The same God who the Psalmist wrote, “…what God is as great as our God (Psalm 77:11)?”

Now when people ask me what my life verse is I tell them, “Gen. 1:1 – Rev. 22:21.” The typical response is, “But that’s the entire Bible. You can’t do that! A life verse has to be one verse.” That’s when I explain that the Bible is my life verse. It is the story about how the God of Israel, the creator of all, cares enough about me to reach across the millennia to save me from my own destruction. A God who continually strives to restore me to a right relationship with Him. Through his grace he gives me the way to join him in eternal life.

This is the God I want others to know. A God who never gives up on trying to save us from destruction. A God who constantly pursues us even though we may push him away. The infinite God who created the universe is infinitely interested in us to the point of sending his son Jesus to sacrifice his life for us in order to save us. The Bible as a life verse causes me to ponder how far I will go to bring salvation to those around me so they can understand the height and depth of God’s love for the people of this earth.

There I was in another funeral home with another friend grieving over the death of a family member. There was no warning. She died suddenly, leaving behind a husband, young children, family and friends. I gave him a hug and told him how sorry I was, but it felt so inadequate. I felt helpless. Nothing I could do would take away the deep sorrow he felt at such a devastating loss.

It’s a painful experience being separated from those we love. There’s a feeling that it just isn’t right, that this is not the way it should be. I cannot help but think if this is how God felt when Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden after they sinned. In Genesis 3:22-23, God sends them out of the garden and separates them from the tree of life. From that moment on, death becomes a part of life.

It is that thought of separation that has often had me wondering what made Jesus weep in John 11:35. Was it his full divinity weeping over the separation of humans from God or was it his full humanity weeping over the loss of his dear friend Lazarus? Either way, moments later Jesus points us to our true hope when he commands, “Lazarus, come out!” (John 11:43-44) John then tells us that Lazarus emerged from the tomb.

In the midst of our grief, we can find hope that resurrection awaits those who believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. As Jesus told Martha, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?” (John 11:40, NLT) In that hope we can give praise for Jesus’ death and resurrection that has given us the hope of eternal life. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55, NLT)

“Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it." 1 Peter 2:11 (MSG)

On a recent trip I watched people coming and going from the hotel where we spent the night. It was morning and it was apparent we were there for different reasons. Some dressed for a wedding; some carried baseball equipment for a tournament game; and some were on their way to a family reunion. Some were there for a brief stay and checked out that morning while others were there for an extended period of time. While many of us headed in different directions, the one thing we had in common was that for one night we all shared this temporary home.

Life in this world is a lot like that hotel. We all share this temporary residence called earth. Like the hotel, we come and go each day for different activities and events like work, weddings, school, ball games and family reunions. Some of us are here for a brief stay while others will stay for an extended period of time. No matter how hard we try to make this hotel feel like home, we cannot deny the fact that it is a temporary residence. One day we will all check out and stand before God.

As Christians, it’s easy to get caught up in this world and act as if this hotel we call earth is our permanent home. When we do that, we attempt to build a palace for ourselves on earth instead of focusing on building God’s eternal kingdom. I Peter 2:11-12 tells us “Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives.” (MSG)

If we start thinking this hotel called earth is our permanent home, we risk investing our lives in things that will not last. We become vested in the world. 1 John 2:15 warns us to not “love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity.”

We must get to the mindset that our real home is with Christ, a mindset that focuses on living for Christ and not ourselves. This is the mindset that helps point the way for others to walk with Christ to our eternal home. As Paul reminds us in 2 Cor. 5:6-7, “So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight.”

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