Tag Archives: Jesus

Do You See What I See?

A View of the Guiding Light in a World of Darkness is a devotional that seeks to apply Biblical principles to our everyday lives, written by inspirational speaker and writer, Jeremy Curry.

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.

Matthew 2:1-10 (NIV)

Last week, much of the world celebrated Christmas. Many of us have heard the story from the passage above over and over throughout our lives. As we prepare for the new year, you may want to take a closer look at the story to learn about what God is putting on your heart.

We all have an image of what we think the manger scene looked like. You might think it looks something like this:

Star of Bethlehem shines extremely bright in the night sky with a bright light shining down directly on the city of Bethlehem.

The star is shining brightly for everyone to see where the Messiah has been born. But, read the passage above again. After Herod is asked where the King of the Jews has been born, we read the following in verse 3: “When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.” He was “disturbed”. Why? Well, Herod certainly had his reasons. He was a ruthless king. Around 40 BC, Herod had already been named “King of the Jews” by the Roman Senate. In his mind, he already had the title.

However, in his heart, he must have known he wasn’t truly the King of the Jews. After all, he wasn’t even of Jewish descent. He attempted to make the people think he was Jewish. He had lavish building projects, including the Second Temple of Jerusalem, a port, walls around Jerusalem, palaces, temples, and more. Herod must have known this was never enough because he was always worried about public opinion. He employed secret police among the population to determine how the people felt about him, he had 2,000 bodyguards, and he went to great lengths to murder anyone and everyone who got in his way. We know that he murdered several of his wives, his father-in-law, two of his sons, and all boys in Bethlehem two years of age and under (known as the Massacre of the Innocents). So, to say Herod was “disturbed” was probably an understatement. And if such a ruthless king was disturbed, it is easy to see why the rest of Jerusalem would also be uneasy. The people were likely uncertain what such a madman would do in spite of such news.

If we look at the story even closer, we notice that when the Magi approach Herod to inquire about the birth because they had seen the star, Herod was surprised. Herod didn’t respond with “I saw the star, too.” Instead, he then had to call together all of the priests to find out where the Messiah was to be born. He also had to learn the exact date regarding when the star appeared. What this tells us is that the star was clearly not apparent to everyone. The images we keep in our minds of the star shining brightly over where Jesus was born is, in fact, not what happened at all. If you wanted to see the star, you had to look carefully for it and be aware of the knowledge of its existence. What is even more fascinating is that even though the chief priests knew the location and they were informed of the signs, they still didn’t go to see the Messiah. . .and Bethlehem was a mere five miles away!

I would contend that pride got in the way of Herod’s ability to see the miracle of what was happening around him. Perhaps fear or the desire to stay in power was at the heart of the chief priests, which kept them from seeking God. What we know is that even when signs seem like they should be completely self-evident, such as the Star of Bethlehem, sin can ultimately get in our way of seeking God or doing His will. In Herod’s case, his heart didn’t change. He actually tried to kill Jesus, instead of accepting him as his Savior. As one commentator, put it, “Uncontrolled ambition can turn a person into a monster.” .

What is getting in the way between you and God today? Is it pride? Is it ambition? Is it pornography or another sexual sin? Is it a sinful relationship? Or, something else? Whatever it is, it is time to break the chains of sin and turn back toward God. He has given us much, but we will be blind to it unless we are seeking Him before all else.

Father, help us to seek You before anything in our lives. May we ALWAYS put You first. May we keep you in our sight, listen to Your words, and accept the merciful gifts You have given us, including the greatest gift; the gift of grace, mercy, and forgiveness through Your Son, Jesus Christ. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

The Case Against Celebrating Christmas

A View of the Guiding Light in a World of Darkness is a devotional that seeks to apply Biblical principles to our everyday lives, written by inspirational speaker and writer, Jeremy Curry.

8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

Luke 2:8-15 (NIV)

This week, billions of people around the world will celebrate Christmas. It is a time when humanity celebrates the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We read about the birth in the verses above noted in Luke. How amazing it must have been to see angels appear and sing glory to our God! Finally, the time had come for the prophecies to come true and the Messiah had come to save all of us from sin.

All of us know that the above passage clearly happened on December 25, right? Wrong. The passage above notes that the shepherds were living out in the fields and watching over their flock at night. However, flocks would not be out in the cold season due to the bad weather in Israel during this time. They were brought in around October and would not return out until after winter. Other factors that indicate that Christ was not born in December are that we read that the inn was full when Mary and Joseph arrived. This is likely due to the many people traveling just after harvest and prior to winter. Some have attempted to calculate an exact date that Jesus was born based on the birth of John the Baptist in relation to when Mary conceived. This data is used in conjunction as to when John’s father, Zechariah, was selected to go into the temple of the Lord, as we find in Luke chapter 1 in an attempt to calculate the exact time of Jesus’ birth. In fact, some churches are so legalistic and want to be so exact about the fact that Jesus wasn’t born on December 25 that they tell Christians and others not to celebrate Christmas.

Picture of Christmas candle, bow, and ribbon

To take a closer look at the case against celebrating Christmas, let’s dig deeper as to why it is celebrated on December 25. The birth of Christ is first recorded as being celebrated on December 25 in 336 AD under Roman Emperor Constantine. Constantine was the first Christian emperor and thus, he began pushing Rome toward Christianity. As a result, in 350 AD, Pope Julius I officially declared that Christmas was to be celebrated on December 25. Why did he pick this day? Some say it is because he believed that Mary conceived on March 25 (with no real foundation for that fact) and then nine months later would have been when Jesus was born. This obviously would have been calculated as December 25. However, the more likely story is that the Christian church was trying to “piggyback” off of the pagan traditions that were already being celebrated in the Roman Empire, rather than to compete with them. Saturnalia was celebrated from December 17 to around December 23 or 24, honoring the god, Saturn. The winter solstice happened during this time of year with many celebrations, including that of Saturnalia. The Romans believed that the sun was leaving them during the winter solstice and lit candles to scare away darkness, as well as to celebrate the sun and light. This tradition eventually led to the display of Christmas lights in modern America. People also gave gifts in honor of the goddess of vegetation, Strenia. Gifts that were edible were common among people to celebrate a goddess who brought harvest. Later, gifts that were non-edible became commonplace. Mithra, the god of light and wisdom, was said to be born from a rock on December 25. The Mithraic religion was one of the predominant religions in the Roman empire, and the birth of Mithra was celebrated symbolizing the sun.

Since pagans already had traditions they were celebrating this time of year, the church essentially hijacked these traditions and started to celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25. As a result, the church began to change the holiday traditions to be less pagan. However, not all Christians believed that carrying on pagan tradition was a good idea. The Puritans were very much against the idea of Christmas, and in fact, spent December 25, 1620 building one of their first structures. Boston even made it illegal to celebrate Christmas from 1659 until 1681. If you were found celebrating Christmas, you would be fined 5 shillings. That is correct; it used to be illegal to celebrate Christmas! While Christmas became legal to celebrate again, much of the tradition had been lost, as the hearts and minds of much of the American colonies had done without it for over two decades. Finally, in 1843, A Christmas Carol was written and people started to remember how and why they could celebrate Christmas again. It wasn’t until 1870 that Christmas became a federal holiday and it continued to evolve throughout the rest of the 19th century and has become what it is today in the 21st century.

If Christmas is rooted in pagan religion traditions and has absolutely zero historically factual accuracy in regards to the birth of Christ, why should we celebrate it at all? Shouldn’t we be like the Puritans (or even a few of the modern day churches) and refuse to celebrate it? Even today, many would say Christmas has become all about consumerism, carrying on in its pagan founding. So, why celebrate it? My answer to that question would be, “why not celebrate it?” For me, it isn’t about celebrating pagan gods. It isn’t simply about buying stuff for people. It is about celebrating the birth of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Was He actually born on December 25? No, but does it really matter? After all, what other time of the year do I get the best opportunity to talk about my faith? Would it really be better if we just never celebrated the birth of our Savior? I cherish the time that I get to be with my friends and family during this time of year, and I get to talk to them about Jesus. I absolutely love giving people gifts in celebration of God’s greatest gift to all of us. Why celebrate Christmas? We certainly never see this as a requirement in any scripture. But, for me, it provides me an opportunity to remember to love the Lord my God with all of my heart, mind, and soul, as well as to love others and to love my neighbor as myself (Matthew 22:36-40). This is why I celebrate Christmas. How about you?

Lord, guide us and keep us this Christmas season. Help us to reach others in Your name. Thank You for Your Son. You know all of us need Your mercy and grace. Thank You for such a precious gift. May others see You in me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

If you have been touched by this devotional, Your Blind Faith would like to hear from you. If you don’t feel comfortable leaving a public comment, send a note to jeremy@yourblindfaith.com to let us know how God has touched your life with this devotional. We will not publish or share your information.

So You Want to Go to Hell?

A View of the Guiding Light in a World of Darkness is a weekly devotional that seeks to apply Biblical principles to our everyday lives, written by inspirational speaker and writer, Jeremy Curry.

Luke 16:19-31

“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’

“But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’

“He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

“Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’

“‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’” (NASB)

As a child, I remember walking through the library looking at all of the books on the shelves. For some reason, I always think of walking past the “Self-Help” section and seeing books like, So, You Want to Be Rich? or So, You Want to Be Skinny? Isn’t it interesting that there was never a self-help book called, So You Want to Go to Hell? Or, at least, not one that I know of. And certainly, I never saw one in the library with this title. Isn’t it fascinating that there are many times we hear people on television tell others to go there, but yet, no one has a desire to do so? If people did want to go to hell, surely there would be a book on it, right? It’s as if we all have this built-in, innate desire to avoid a place that even sounds remotely like hell. Yet, it’s the time of year when we begin dressing up our young and impressionable children as things like ghosts, goblins, devils, and other creatures that we so deeply desire to never live with, let alone, to even see them. With hell at the forefront of our minds as we approach Halloween, it seems to be the right time to take a look at the very frightening subject: hell. As you continue reading, please note that this devotional is not meant to be a “fire and brimstone” sermon in order to scare you into salvation. Rather, it is to recognize what hell really is, what that means, and how you can live eternally with God instead of being thrown into a place of eternal torment.

Is hell a real place? First, let’s define a few terms. Sheol is a Hebrew word found in the Old Testament. It can be translated as “hell,” “the grave,” “destruction,” and others. But, at the root, is the word Sheol. As we move into the New Testament, we find that the Greek language uses the word, Hades. This is also sometimes translated as the word, “hell.” However, Hades and Sheol do not typically refer to the place where sinners are held for eternity. Instead, they appear to be a holding place for dead people (those who have not accepted Jesus as their Savior) prior to being thrown into hell at the end of time. This place can be referred to by either word as they refer to the same location. Another Greek word in the New Testament is Gehenna. Gehenna can be translated as “hell” or “lake of fire.” Gehenna was actually referring to a garbage dump in Jesus’ time where people would throw their trash and it would be like a continual, unending fire as the trash burned. Jesus used this reference to help the masses understand what hell is like as He preached. And yet, another Greek word we see translated as “hell” is Tartarus, referring to the “lower regions.” All of these words are typically translated as “hell,” but it is important to know the difference. For example, as previously noted, hell and Hades are likely not the same place. Or, if they are, they are referred to by different names in regards to before and after the revelation of God. Either way, we do know that both are a place of torment and contain fire while the souls within cannot escape.

Now that we know what the Bible is referring to as hell, what does it tell us about this place? There is a lot of information regarding hell in God’s Word. In the passage for this week’s devotional, we read about Hades. Note that the rich man is in “agony in this fire.” He is in a place with real fire while sensing and feeling real physical pain. Not only is he feeling the physical suffering of Hades, but he is conscious that he still has relatives living. He is not unconscious, unaware, nor destroyed. He senses all pain (physical and emotional) and is extremely aware of what is happening. This account comes to us straight from Jesus. Some would contend that hell does not exist because God destroys the soul. They point to Matthew 10:28, which says, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (ESV) Note that this verse says God “can.” It does not say He “will.” Additionally, this verse does not coincide with other verses about hell. Matthew 10:28 is contextually talking about God being all-powerful, not a destroyer. Furthermore, if the enemy comes to “steal, kill, and destroy,” (John 10:10) then those things must not be attributes of an all-loving God. Therefore, God would not destroy a soul. And, while it does not say that God will destroy souls in hell, it does, in fact, state that there is a place called hell. Other passages back this up as we read in Daniel 12:2, “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” (ESV) Furthermore, Jesus tells us that hell is eternal in Matthew 25:46, “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (ESV) If you are a Christian and believe in eternity with God as noted here, then you must also believe in an eternal hell as Jesus refers to. Yes, hell is a real place. It is eternal. And it is worse than the most awful place any of us have ever seen.


Before he died in 2010, Dr. Maurice Rawlings was a cardiologist and an associate clinical professor of medicine for the University of Tennessee College of Medicine in Chattanooga, TN. He also was a physician for President Dwight Eisenhower and to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. As a cardiologist, Dr. Rawlings and his staff were constantly working with people who would be clinically dead and then come back to life. As many of us have heard, most people report seeing a bright light when they are clinically dead and then come to life again. Due to the many experiences that Dr. Rawling had seen, he decided to do a study on the subject. Dr. Rawlings wrote Beyond Death’s Door, which was a study of 300 patients who had near-death experiences (NDE). Dr. Rawlings and his team began interviewing people as soon as they came back from NDE. Instead of seeing a bright, white light, almost 50% of the 300 people reported seeing “lakes of fire, devil-like figures and other sights reflecting the darkness of hell.” Consider the following story from one of Dr. Rawlings patients:

Rawlings told the story of his patient who collapsed during a stress test, and “before we could stop the machine, he dropped dead.”

Well, apparently not completely dead, because in the patient’s own words,

“When I came to, Dr. Rawlings was giving me CPR, and he asked me what was the matter, because I was looking so scared. I told him that I had been to hell and I need help! He said to me, ‘keep your hell to yourself, I’m a doctor and I’m trying to save your life, you need a minister for that.’ … And I would fade out every so often, so then he would focus CPR again and bring me back…Whenever I would come back to my body, I kept asking, “Please help me, please help me, I don’t want to go back to hell.” Soon a nurse named Pam said, “He needs help, do something!” At that time, Dr. Rawlings told me to repeat this short prayer. “I believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Jesus, save my soul. Keep me alive. If I die, please keep me out of hell!”

The experience of the patient, Charles McKaig, then became pleasant, and he reported seeing his deceased mother and stepmother and being surrounded and comforted by the Holy Spirit. Upon awakening, he was an immediate evangelical Christian.

In Rawlings words, “After this was all over, I realized what really happened. It was a double conversion. Not only had this make-believe prayer converted this atheist … it had also converted this atheist doctor that was working on him”

Still don’t believe? Check out the video of the patients of Dr. Rawlings who went to hell and came back from their NDE. Hearing their testimony in their own words is extremely powerful. After watching this video, it was enough to make this sinner get on his knees and recommit his life to Christ. These stories are real and they are a scary depiction of what happens to those of us who do not accept Jesus Christ as our Savior.

Friends, you don’t have to be scared of hell. Jesus has overcome (John 16:33, Revelation 20:6). If you want to live with God for eternity, pray this prayer: “I believe Jesus is the Son of God. I believe He died for my sins. I want to live with You forever. Please come into my life, fill me with the Holy Spirit, and make me clean. Redeem me from my sins. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

It’s that simple. Yes, hell exists, but Christ has saved us from the eternal death. I pray that you find Him as your Savior, so that you may have peace and rest.

Father, please reach those who are lost or undecided. Help them to accept Your free gift of salvation. Lord, lead us away from evil and toward You. May You light our paths and spread Your Word. Give us the ability and opportunity to reach those who need to hear about Jesus as their Savior. Open the hearts and minds of those who have not yet accepted Him as their Lord and Savior. We love you, Father. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

If you have been touched by this devotional, Your Blind Faith would like to hear from you. If you don’t feel comfortable leaving a public comment, send a note to jeremy@yourblindfaith.com to let us know how God has touched your life with this devotional. We will not publish or share your information.

Is There a Limit to Forgiveness?

A View of the Guiding Light in a World of Darkness is a weekly devotional that seeks to apply Biblical principles to our everyday lives, written by inspirational speaker, Jeremy Curry.

Ephesians 4:31-32

31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Matthew 18:21-35

21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’

30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.

32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

1 John 3:19-24

19 This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: 20 If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 24 The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.

Twelve years ago today, I woke up late, threw on my clothes as quickly as possible, and rushed to my car to try to make it on time to one of my college classes.  I tuned the radio to my favorite country music radio station only to hear a highly unusual voice.  Instead of my favorite tunes blaring from the radio, national anchorman Dan Rather was reporting and I remember instantly hearing that the Pentagon and the World Trade Center had been attacked and possibly destroyed.  I thought it was a joke played by the morning DJs until I turned to every other preset station on my radio only to hear the exact same news report.  I looked around and saw no one in my neighborhood.  My small piece of the world stood still.  My immediate thought became, “I have missed the rapture.”  My new wife of just over a month had already left for work, but I was certain she had been taken up.  I began driving frantically through various streets to see if anyone else was left.  God gave me a well-deserved dose of, “Don’t forget my commandments” as I thought about all the reasons I must not have been called up with the others.  Who did I not forgive?  Did God forgive me for all of the sins I had committed? Eventually, I realized the rapture had not occurred, but in some of the darkest hours that America has ever experienced, I thought long and hard about my walk with Christ.

It was just the beginning of a dreadful day that America would never forget.  We watched helplessly as the two tallest buildings in the world fell to the ground in smoke and flames.  We saw the look of horror as thousands of people ran for their lives from the falling buildings.  We heard the cries for help and the screams of those who could not be saved as they fell from the towers.  We saw the Pentagon, our biggest symbol of American defense, go up in flames.  We saw the giant crater in the ground created by heroes who brought down United Flight 93. These are memories, images, and sounds that are etched in our minds.  The feelings of sorrow were overwhelming.  In the next few days, America would come together like she never had before to bring the “faceless cowards” to justice.  In the coming months, the sorrow would pass and Americans would show their anger over what had taken place.  It was a natural course of events and emotion over such a devastating loss. We will never forget.  It was a defining moment for our country.


Each September 11, we relive those moments through the images on our televisions and listen to the frantic calls for help.  Those emotions of sorrow and anger tend to re-emerge.  When you think about those days, how do you feel today?  Do you forgive those who took so many lives?  Do you forgive the enemy who would continue to do their best to destroy our troops?  This is where we see the power of God.  It is where we can see His grace superseding our imagination.  If Osama Bin Laden had asked for forgiveness and for Christ to come into his heart as his personal Savior before he died, God would have forgiven him.  It’s at times like these when I am reminded why I am not God.  As Beth Moore says, “God doesn’t work on sense. He works on grace.”

Fortunately, the things we typically must forgive each other do not cost thousands of lives.  Sometimes they are big things, sometimes they are small things, but God never calls us not to forgive one another.  His grace is a model for everyone we should and must forgive.  When I think about God’s grace for us, I am humbled beyond belief.  When I really and truly stop to think deeply about it, I am brought to my knees.  Chuck Swindoll says it best:

“Grace has to be the loveliest word in the English language. It embodies almost every attractive quality we hope to find in others. Grace is a gift of the humble to the humiliated. Grace acknowledges the ugliness of sin by choosing to see beyond it. Grace accepts a person as someone worthy of kindness despite whatever grime or hard-shell casing keeps him or her separated from the rest of the world. Grace is a gift of tender mercy when it makes the least sense.”

We have all made mistakes that we wish we hadn’t made.  The blood of Jesus washes those away.  Those closest to us can choose to accept or reject us because of our sinful actions.  Our passages this week call for bitterness to be gone, for kindness to shine, and love with forgiveness to prevail “just as in Christ God forgave you.”  If you find those closest to you distance themselves from you after you ask for forgiveness, ask yourself if they are following what Christ asked them to do.  If not, it may be time to cut those relationships.  Attempting to stay close to those who can’t even forgive their closest friends will ultimately lead you to be like them: unforgiving.  Jesus doesn’t call us to forgive others when we feel like it or at a distance.  He asks us to forgive people like God forgave us through Christ.  That is, we are completely reconciled with Him and we will live with Him for eternity. 

If those closest to you exhibit the grace of God, forgiving with “tender mercy when it makes the least sense,” don’t lose those people in your life.  They will remain close to you forever as they emulate God, His commandments, and His love.

How are you forgiving others?  Are you the one forgiving from your heart?  Do you only speak the words “I forgive,” but don’t truly forgive?  Or, perhaps your heart has become cold and bitterness has set in, so that forgiveness seems impossible?  God has no limit on forgiveness.  He forgives when we think it is impossible.  As we read in the parable, when we owe Him far more than we have (including the value of our family), God still forgives.  Are you forgiving like Him?  If not, take this moment, get on your knees and ask God to heal your heart so that you can forgive others as He forgives us.

Maybe it is not others who you need to forgive.  Instead, maybe you need to forgive yourself?  You have something awful in your past you wish you hadn’t done, you find yourself losing relationships with others because of your own sinful actions, or maybe you have deeply hurt those closest to you?  When these things happen, we are often filled with overwhelming guilt.  While others may not exhibit Christ’s grace toward us in these situations as we discussed previously, it is not typically the people in our lives that lack grace that affect us the most. It is our conscious and the Accuser (Revelation 12:10), who accuses us “day and night” before God.  Thankfully, just as God is greater than Satan, He is also “greater than our hearts.”  It will take time and it is a process, but He can take away the pain.

It is time to forgive those who have hurt us.  It is time to forgive ourselves.  God is greater than all we are.  And, if He forgives us, then how can we (as lowly sinners), be conceited enough to think we should not forgive others or ourselves? 

Father, restore us.  Forgive us.  Help us to forgive others as well as ourselves.  Restore broken relationships.  Restore in us a clean heart.  Renew our spirit.  Remind us of Your ways.  Make forgiveness a part of our lives as we remember that You, Father, are greater than us and greater than our hearts.  Bring reconciliation to our lives. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Do You Have the Time?

A View of the Guiding Light in a World of Darkness is a weekly devotional that seeks to apply Biblical principles to our everyday lives, written by inspirational speaker, Jeremy Curry.

Feeling lonely? Need hope and encouragement? Then, don’t miss this week’s devotional. The message could change your life.

Matthew 6:33

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Romans 15:4

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.

Luke 5:16

But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

Gone are the days of the wrist watch.  Often beautifully banded in silver or gold watches have been replaced by the durable, everyday worn plastic and metal used in our smartphones.  Before all of us had a digital clock at the ready in our pocket, there would be times that we would have to stop and ask a stranger, “Do you have the time?”  In today’s busy world, we don’t even have the time to stop to ask what the time is.  The smartphones that have replaced our wristwatches have made it so convenient to stay connected to everyone that we often don’t even talk to each other anymore.  Instead of picking up the phone to call a friend, we send them a text.  If we want to congratulate someone or wish them happy birthday, we put it on Facebook.  It seems so odd that we have started to communicate this way when studies suggest that over 90% of our communication is nonverbal.  This new way of communicating to one another has made us so connected to the world that we have, in fact, become detached from one another.

With the limited amount of time we have available, what are we doing with it? On average, Facebook users spent an average of 6 hours 44 minutes on the site last March. What about other social media sites like Twitter, Pinterest, or LinkedIn?  A news report from CNBC late last year shows that Americans spent a combined total of 121 billion minutes on social media sites in July 2012.  In case you don’t want to do the math in your head; that is about 230,060 years of time consumed in just one month!  And, we can only assume that the number has increased as social media continues to become a greater part of our lives.  What if you are less of a social media buff and still interested in good, old-fashioned TV?  Statistics tell us that the average American watches about 4 hours of TV per day.  Taking those numbers into account, you will have watched TV for a total of 9 years by the time you reach 65.  Surprised? I know I was. 

Why all of the statistics about what we are doing with our time?  They’re just numbers anyway, right?  Wrong. The first verse we study this week tells us that we should seek first His kingdom.  For some reason, God didn’t tell me that I should check Him out on Facebook first by doing some type of awesome sleuth work via Facebook-stalking.  Or, that I should lurk in the background and watch his tweets, and even more odd, He didn’t ask me to check out his cool ideas on Pinterest.  Maybe He will join Instagram soon and I’ll only need to look at pictures and videos He posts? <smile> God doesn’t ask us to do any of those things.  Instead, we often read about seeking God first via reading His Word, including David teaching Solomon (the wisest man ever) to seek Him (see 1 Chronicles 28:9).  While you and I may not be exactly the same as “average” as the statistics suggest, we should be asking what we are doing with our time.  Are we spending it working, are we spending it on Facebook, or are we spending time truly seeking God?

Obviously, most of us are spending time doing other things.  Maybe we need to take a better look at why we should be seeking God?  I think if we are honest with ourselves, spending time with God is one of the most difficult challenges we face.  Why?  Perhaps because we can’t see Him? Or, perhaps because we can’t audibly hear Him?  But, let me ask you:  How good is your relationship with your friends that you never spend time with?  How close are you to the people you never invite over to your house?  Relationships are about time.  We must invest time with each other if we want to become close to someone.  The same is true for God.  I don’t know about you, but I would love to feel closer to God every single day of my life.  Do you need encouragement in your life? Do you need hope?  Our passage from Romans this week specifically tells us spending time in God’s Word gives us those things.  Hope and encouragement are something I can sure use more of.  How about you?  This is exactly why we should be spending more time with our Father.  God loves us so much that His command as simple as to seek Him brings us to an emotional state that we all want.

Not only does seeking Him via reading His Word and praying bring us hope and encouragement, but it helps subdue our fears.  After all, hope and fear have an extremely difficult time co-existing as hope wipes out the fear from our minds.  It keeps us on a righteous path God wants us to follow. 

Have you ever had a specific point in your life when you veered from the path?  I know I have.  I explicitly remember one time I went off the path and when I came back, I found that the time I took a wrong turn was when I had ceased doing my daily devotional.  The lack of spending time with God sent me spiraling in the way of the wicked.  Have you been there?  Christian speaker, David Edwards, said it best this way, “All rebellion begins in isolation.”  When we don’t spend time with God, we are isolating ourselves from Him, opening ourselves up to enemy attack.  As we read in Luke chapter 5, even Jesus, who is closest to the Father, often “withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”  Wow.  If the Savior of the world needed to be with our Father and pray, how much time should we, as sinners, be spending in prayer with God? 

Let’s take a challenge together this week.  The next time we want to turn on the TV or grab our smartphone or tablet; let’s instead open God’s Word.  Or, take that time and pray.  I’m certain our Facebook and TV can wait while we do what our Father in Heaven asks us to do and seek Him.  When we do the will of our Almighty God, who immeasurably loves us more than anything else, we will be blessed.  Our fears will subside.  We will be given hope.  We will have encouragement.  Are these things you want?  Then, let me ask you, “Do you have the time?”

Father, we ask that you bless us this week as we work to seek You as You have asked us to do.  Please bless us by making our fears subside, by giving us hope and encouragement.  Grow our friendships closer with others, strengthen our families, and renew our relationship with you and others who need our time as we make You a priority in our lives. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

To Judge or Not to Judge?

A View of the Guiding Light in a World of Darkness is a weekly devotional that seeks to apply Biblical principles to our everyday lives, written by inspirational speaker, Jeremy Curry.

1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Judging. It’s something we have all done whether we meant to do it or not.  We look at people and automatically make assumptions about them.  We see a man place a disabled parking placard in his window walk (seemingly unaffected with any disease) into a store. We wonder why he thinks he is disabled, all-the-while not knowing he suffers from severe kidney issues with horrific and chronic pain.  Perhaps we take it further and our judging is more direct as we critically scold someone about their behavior face-to-face.  And, in the 21st century, we attempt to take our judging to a whole new level by doing it in cyberspace via texting, emailing, Facebooking, tweeting, or using some other less confrontational means of judging. Sometimes it is through gossip and other times we angrily confront people directly in cyberspace.  No matter the medium, all of us have judged another at one point or another in our lives.

I know I’ve certainly judged others in ways that I shouldn’t and I have also been judged by others in ways that shouldn’t have been done to me.  It’s easy to prosecute, but heartbreaking when you are the accused.  In fact, I recently read on Facebook something one of my friends had posted, “Don’t judge others because they sin differently than you.”  Really?  Should we never ever try to get our brothers and sisters on the right track?  Is that what I would want from someone else if I were consistently and constantly sinning?  That’s not love, that’s tolerance. And they are two completely different concepts.  Tolerance, when used incorrectly, can completely push us off of the path that God wants for our lives. Love, on the other hand, makes us rely on Him and gives us guidance, putting us back on the straight and narrow path toward God.  But, how should we act when others, including our close friends and family, are sinning?

In the verses above, we read the words of Jesus saying, “Judge not, or you too will be judged.”  What exactly does that mean?  Does it mean that we should never tell someone if they are right or wrong according to God’s Word?  Does it mean that we should let everyone live how they want to as long as it makes them feel good?  Let’s take a closer look at the passage.  Verse 5 says, “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”  If we were never to judge one another, then why are we told we can remove the speck from our brother’s eye?  The concept of judging and removing specs must be contrary to each other, but perhaps not well understood in the English language.  The Greek word for “judge” is Krino.  When studying the original Greek, it seems more likely that the word “judge” in this instance is better translated as condemning someone.  We see the same Greek word used in John 3:17, which reads, “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”  Some translations of this verse even replace the word “judge” with “condemn.”  Again, we see the context of the word “judge” as someone who is condemning rather than someone who is pointing out sinful behavior that should be corrected.

In the above verses in Matthew, Jesus is giving the Sermon on the Mount. And, He is, in fact, telling people how to live when he tells them to first take out the plank from their own eye.  So, He is not only telling us what to do, but also showing us how to do it at the same time as we see Him point out sinful behavior of the hypocrites He is speaking to.

As Christians, we are constantly bombarded with others telling us that the Bible says, “You can’t tell me how to live.”  That’s clearly not the case.  It is more evident that we shouldn’t be approaching others in an angry manner or condemning someone to Hell (judging) when we, ourselves, are all sinners.  However, we see the great leaders like Paul telling people how to live many times by giving them guidance throughout the New Testament.  Of course, he did his absolute best to do it in a loving manner. 

Additionally, if we were called not to help keep others from sin, then how would the world know what God asks us to do?  Does this mean you should confront someone in anger in regards to their sinful behavior? No. Does this mean that you should continually pound someone on their sin again and again and again? Probably not, because you wouldn’t be showing love to that person.  Should you text your friend or put on Twitter and Facebook about how awful a person is?  No, not even close.

Remember, our second greatest command is to love our neighbors (Matthew 22:39).  We must do everything in love, including approaching others about their sinful behavior.  If you need guidance on how to do this, we are told exactly what we should do to correct the sinful acts of others in Matthew 18:15-17.

The next time you hear someone tell you that you shouldn’t tell them how to live, ask yourself these questions:

1. Did I pray about the situation?
2. Did I make sure that I had no planks in my eye? 
3. Did I approach the person one-on-one with love and in a loving manner?
4. Did I do my best to give guidance instead of judgment?

Remember that we are all hypocrites.  None of us are without sin.  But, it is also our responsibility to keep each other on track. As Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15, “14 And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.”  In other words, don’t judge, but rather, give guidance.

Just as Jesus provided us with rules on how God wants us to live, then shouldn’t we teach the world about those same rules so that all may learn about His great love for us?  While we are not called to judge one another, we are certainly called to guide each other.  Pull others back on to the path who have left it, and they will do the same for you when you stray.

Judge not. Rebuke when necessary. Give guidance. Love always.

Father, we know that we have all condemned others in a way that we shouldn’t.  We know we are all sinners.  We ask that you work in our lives to remind us of Your grace and enable us to exhibit that same grace to others as we strive to become like Christ.  Give us love, grace, and peace in situations that seem out of our control as we seek to bring our brothers and sisters back to a right relationship with you. Keep us from judging and help us to give wise guidance to others.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.