Do you realize the impact of your light on your neighborhood? your community? your workplace? your country? your world? Ever seen the impact of lifting up a candle vs keeping it low in a dark room? Ever seen the impact of opening the blinds on a dark room? Ever seen the impact of creating a window to the outside in a dark room?
Ever seen the impact when a group of people lift their candles high in unity in a dark room?
It makes a difference and the darkness flees.
Today’s reading begins with a calling to be light from Isaiah 60…
Future Glory for Jerusalem
1“Arise, Jerusalem! Let your light shine for all to see. For the glory of the lord rises to shine on you. 2Darkness as black as night covers all the nations of the earth, but the glory of the lord rises and appears over you. 3All nations will come to your light; mighty kings will come to see your radiance. 4“Look and see, for everyone is coming home! Your sons are coming from distant lands; your little daughters will be carried home. 5Your eyes will shine, and your heart will thrill with joy, for merchants from around the world will come to you. They will bring you the wealth of many lands. 6Vast caravans of camels will converge on you, the camels of Midian and Ephah. The people of Sheba will bring gold and frankincense and will come worshiping the lord. 7The flocks of Kedar will be given to you, and the rams of Nebaioth will be brought for my altars. I will accept their offerings, and I will make my Temple glorious. 8“And what do I see flying like clouds to Israel, like doves to their nests? 9They are ships from the ends of the earth, from lands that trust in me, led by the great ships of Tarshish. They are bringing the people of Israel home from far away, carrying their silver and gold. They will honor the lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has filled you with splendor. 10“Foreigners will come to rebuild your towns, and their kings will serve you. For though I have destroyed you in my anger, I will now have mercy on you through my grace. 11Your gates will stay open day and night to receive the wealth of many lands. The kings of the world will be led as captives in a victory procession. 12For the nations that refuse to serve you will be destroyed. 13“The glory of Lebanon will be yours— the forests of cypress, fir, and pine— to beautify my sanctuary. My Temple will be glorious! 14The descendants of your tormentors will come and bow before you. Those who despised you will kiss your feet. They will call you the City of the lord, and Zion of the Holy One of Israel. 15“Though you were once despised and hated, with no one traveling through you, I will make you beautiful forever, a joy to all generations. 16Powerful kings and mighty nations will satisfy your every need, as though you were a child nursing at the breast of a queen. You will know at last that I, the lord, am your Savior and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Israel. 17I will exchange your bronze for gold, your iron for silver, your wood for bronze, and your stones for iron. I will make peace your leader and righteousness your ruler. 18Violence will disappear from your land; the desolation and destruction of war will end. Salvation will surround you like city walls, and praise will be on the lips of all who enter there. 19“No longer will you need the sun to shine by day, nor the moon to give its light by night, for the lord your God will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. 20Your sun will never set; your moon will not go down. For the lord will be your everlasting light. Your days of mourning will come to an end. 21All your people will be righteous. They will possess their land forever, for I will plant them there with my own hands in order to bring myself glory. 22The smallest family will become a thousand people, and the tiniest group will become a mighty nation. At the right time, I, the lord, will make it happen.”
–from Isaiah 60
There is good news! Have you heard it? Have you received it? It’s Jesus! He gave His all that we would have the opportunity to receive the gift and have eternal life with Him!
Good News for the Oppressed
1The Spirit of the Sovereign lord is upon me, for the lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. 2He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the lord’s favor has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies. 3To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the lord has planted for his own glory. 4They will rebuild the ancient ruins, repairing cities destroyed long ago. They will revive them, though they have been deserted for many generations. 5Foreigners will be your servants. They will feed your flocks and plow your fields and tend your vineyards. 6You will be called priests of the lord, ministers of our God.You will feed on the treasures of the nations and boast in their riches. 7Instead of shame and dishonor, you will enjoy a double share of honor. You will possess a double portion of prosperity in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours. 8“For I, the lord, love justice. I hate robbery and wrongdoing. I will faithfully reward my people for their suffering and make an everlasting covenant with them. 9Their descendants will be recognized and honored among the nations. Everyone will realize that they are a people the lord has blessed.” 10I am overwhelmed with joy in the lord my God! For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness. I am like a bridegroom dressed for his wedding or a bride with her jewels. 11The Sovereign lord will show his justice to the nations of the world. Everyone will praise him! His righteousness will be like a garden in early spring, with plants springing up everywhere.
–from Isaiah 61
Let’s overwhelm out situations and circumstances with praise of God! Let’s praise God no matter the circumstances for He is in it and will get us thru it! Let’s praise Him in the morning and in the evening and throughout the day!
1Praise the lord! I will thank the lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. 2How amazing are the deeds of the lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. 3Everything he does reveals his glory and majesty. His righteousness never fails. 4He causes us to remember his wonderful works. How gracious and merciful is our lord! 5He gives food to those who fear him; he always remembers his covenant. 6He has shown his great power to his people by giving them the lands of other nations. 7All he does is just and good, and all his commandments are trustworthy. 8They are forever true, to be obeyed faithfully and with integrity. 9He has paid a full ransom for his people. He has guaranteed his covenant with them forever. What a holy, awe-inspiring name he has! 10Fear of the lord is the foundation of true wisdom. All who obey his commandments will grow in wisdom. Praise him forever!
–from Psalms 111
Have you received the gift of Jesus? Have you learned the truth? What did it take for you to receive it? If you haven’t received it yet, what do you think it’s going to take? Let’s see what it took for Saul to receive it…
Saul’s Conversion1Meanwhile, Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers. So he went to the high priest.2He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, asking for their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there. He wanted to bring them—both men and women—back to Jerusalem in chains.3As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. 4He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?”5“Who are you, lord?” Saul asked.And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting!6Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”7The men with Saul stood speechless, for they heard the sound of someone’s voice but saw no one! 8Saul picked himself up off the ground, but when he opened his eyes he was blind. So his companions led him by the hand to Damascus. 9He remained there blind for three days and did not eat or drink.10Now there was a believer in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord spoke to him in a vision, calling, “Ananias!”“Yes, Lord!” he replied.11The Lord said, “Go over to Straight Street, to the house of Judas. When you get there, ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is praying to me right now. 12I have shown him a vision of a man named Ananias coming in and laying hands on him so he can see again.”13“But Lord,” exclaimed Ananias, “I’ve heard many people talk about the terrible things this man has done to the believers in Jerusalem! 14And he is authorized by the leading priests to arrest everyone who calls upon your name.”15But the Lord said, “Go, for Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel. 16And I will show him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake.”17So Ananias went and found Saul. He laid his hands on him and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road, has sent me so that you might regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18Instantly something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized. 19Afterward he ate some food and regained his strength.Saul in Damascus and JerusalemSaul stayed with the believers in Damascus for a few days.20And immediately he began preaching about Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is indeed the Son of God!”21All who heard him were amazed. “Isn’t this the same man who caused such devastation among Jesus’ followers in Jerusalem?” they asked. “And didn’t he come here to arrest them and take them in chains to the leading priests?”22Saul’s preaching became more and more powerful, and the Jews in Damascus couldn’t refute his proofs that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. 23After a while some of the Jews plotted together to kill him. 24They were watching for him day and night at the city gate so they could murder him, but Saul was told about their plot.25So during the night, some of the other believers lowered him in a large basket through an opening in the city wall.26When Saul arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to meet with the believers, but they were all afraid of him. They did not believe he had truly become a believer! 27Then Barnabas brought him to the apostles and told them how Saul had seen the Lord on the way to Damascus and how the Lord had spoken to Saul. He also told them that Saul had preached boldly in the name of Jesus in Damascus.28So Saul stayed with the apostles and went all around Jerusalem with them, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord.29He debated with some Greek-speaking Jews, but they tried to murder him. 30When the believers heard about this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him away to Tarsus, his hometown.31The church then had peace throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, and it became stronger as the believers lived in the fear of the Lord. And with the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, it also grew in numbers.Peter Heals Aeneas and Raises Dorcas32Meanwhile, Peter traveled from place to place, and he came down to visit the believers in the town of Lydda. 33There he met a man named Aeneas, who had been paralyzed and bedridden for eight years. 34Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you! Get up, and roll up your sleeping mat!” And he was healed instantly. 35Then the whole population of Lydda and Sharon saw Aeneas walking around, and they turned to the Lord.36There was a believer in Joppa named Tabitha (which in Greek is Dorcas). She was always doing kind things for others and helping the poor. 37About this time she became ill and died. Her body was washed for burial and laid in an upstairs room. 38But the believers had heard that Peter was nearby at Lydda, so they sent two men to beg him, “Please come as soon as possible!”39So Peter returned with them; and as soon as he arrived, they took him to the upstairs room. The room was filled with widows who were weeping and showing him the coats and other clothes Dorcas had made for them. 40But Peter asked them all to leave the room; then he knelt and prayed. Turning to the body he said, “Get up, Tabitha.” And she opened her eyes! When she saw Peter, she sat up! 41He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then he called in the widows and all the believers, and he presented her to them alive.42The news spread through the whole town, and many believed in the Lord. 43And Peter stayed a long time in Joppa, living with Simon, a tanner of hides.–from Acts 9
It’s all about forgiveness! We have all missed the mark! It’s not about by how much or comparing my miss to your miss, it’s just the fact that we missed it! And the penalty is death! But God so loved the world that He sent His one and only Son, that whosoever would believe on Him would not perish but have everlasting life! Jesus came to pay the price so that we could be forgiven! As such not only do we need to ask God for forgiveness, we need to be forgiving others rather than allowing anger and bitterness to build up within us!
1So I decided that I would not bring you grief with another painful visit. 2For if I cause you grief, who will make me glad? Certainly not someone I have grieved. 3That is why I wrote to you as I did, so that when I do come, I won’t be grieved by the very ones who ought to give me the greatest joy. Surely you all know that my joy comes from your being joyful. 4I wrote that letter in great anguish, with a troubled heart and many tears. I didn’t want to grieve you, but I wanted to let you know how much love I have for you.
Forgiveness for the Sinner
5I am not overstating it when I say that the man who caused all the trouble hurt all of you more than he hurt me. 6Most of you opposed him, and that was punishment enough. 7Now, however, it is time to forgive and comfort him. Otherwise he may be overcome by discouragement. 8So I urge you now to reaffirm your love for him.
9I wrote to you as I did to test you and see if you would fully comply with my instructions. 10When you forgive this man, I forgive him, too. And when I forgive whatever needs to be forgiven, I do so with Christ’s authority for your benefit, 11so that Satan will not outsmart us. For we are familiar with his evil schemes.
12When I came to the city of Troas to preach the Good News of Christ, the Lord opened a door of opportunity for me. 13But I had no peace of mind because my dear brother Titus hadn’t yet arrived with a report from you. So I said good-bye and went on to Macedonia to find him.
Ministers of the New Covenant
14But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. 15Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. 16To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this?
17You see, we are not like the many hucksters who preach for personal profit. We preach the word of God with sincerity and with Christ’s authority, knowing that God is watching us.
–from 2 Corinthians 2