Light in the Darkness
Increasing darkness characterizes the season we are currently in as we see the light of the sun slipping away early in the evening. The ninth month on the Hebrew calendar, Kislev, began on Thanksgiving night. Though this is the month of increasing darkness, the meaning of the word Kislev confronts the darkness. It means to trust, rest, or have security. How can we do these things when the darkness expands? This increase not only has a physical manifestation, but also a spiritual one. The deeds of darkness are growing. We read and hear about them in the news. Were it not for the light of Christ, we would be hopeless. Two events crash into the darkness during this season. The center of the Hanukkah celebration is the lighting of the Menorah candles in remembrance of how the Maccabees, against all odds, restored the Temple. This year, Christmas eve occurs on the last day of Kislev. Yeshua, "The Light of the World," (John 8:12) came from heaven, full of glory.
You may be asking, "How can we have rest and security during a time when darkness seems to be overtaking us?" It appears that evil agendas plotted in the darkness are prevailing. We might join the prophet Habakkuk in asking the Lord questions that seem to have no answers and in declaring the circumstances we live in that look hopeless on the surface. He asked God, "Why do you make me look at injustice...The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted." (Habakkuk 1:3,4) "...Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?" (Habakkuk 1:13)
God is not unaware of evil deeds. He tells Habakkuk: "Woe to him who piles up stolen goods and makes himself wealthy by extortion!" (2:6) "Woe to him who builds his house by unjust gain..." (2:9) "Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and establishes a town by injustice!" (2:12) "Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbor..." (2:15) "Woe to him who says to wood, 'Come to life!' or to a lifeless stone, 'Wake up!'" (2:19)
Dark deeds will not prevail! How can I write this? Jesus, Yeshua, came as The Light of the World. In the book of John we read, "In Him (Jesus) was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." (John 1:4-5) Jesus testified about who He is when speaking to the those who followed Him: "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12) "I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believers in me should stay in darkness." (John 12:46)
Here is the word of truth coming to us from the Son of God, sent to earth to bring light and truth. John 1:5 is a verse that we should stand on: "The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it." Jesus told His disciples, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33) Rest and security come in this season as we trust in the truth of God's word. We must receive and believe in this truth!
After complaining to God about the deeds of darkness that were occurring during his lifetime, Habakkuk comes to a conclusion that brings him peace. "Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails, and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will be joyful in God my Savior." (Habakkuk 3:17-18) Adopting this philosophy for us can also bring us peace and rest.
Thankfulness through Generosity
"Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give, and don't give reluctantly or in response to pressure. 'For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.' And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need, and plenty left over to share with others. As the Scriptures say, 'They share freely and give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will be remembered forever.' (Psalm 112:9) For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer, and then bread to eat. In the same way, He will provide and increase your resources and produce a great harvest of generosity in you. Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous, and when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God." (2 Corinthians 9:6-11 - NLT)
The Lord rejoices in those who are generous! And generosity flows from the heart of one who loves the Lord and is thankful for all He has done. Psalm 112, in the Passion Translation is titled "The Triumph of Faith." Let us look at some of the verses in this Psalm that describe a person of faith who loves the Lord with his entire heart: "Shout in celebration of praise to the Lord! Everyone who loves the Lord and delights in Him will cherish His words and be blessed beyond expectation. Their descendants will be prosperous and influential. Every generation of His godly lovers will experience His favor." (Verses 1-2)
"Life is good for one who is generous and charitable, conducting affairs with honesty and truth. Their circumstances will never shake them, and others will never forget their example. They will not live in fear or dread of what may come, for their hearts are firm, every secure in their faith. Steady and strong, they will not be afraid, but will calmly face their every foe until they go down in defeat. Never stingy and always generous to those in need, their lives of influence and honor will never be forgotten, for they are full of good deeds." (Verses 5-9)
Our country has set aside an entire day to be thankful. Our forefathers did not want a year to go by without a time for thankfulness to God for His generosity to us. When God began to pour out His riches upon the people of the United States it was because He trusted them to use these resources wisely to invest them for Him. The "seeds" He poured out were to be planted in fertile soil and cultivated to produce more seeds. The world was to be the seedbed for the Lord.
In 1 Chronicles 29 we read about the preparation for the building of the Temple. King David was going to task his son Solomon with overseeing the building of a “palatial structure" for the Lord. All of David's resources (seeds) were given to construct this "holy temple." 1 Chronicles 29:9 says, "The people rejoiced at the willing response of their leaders, for they had given freely and wholeheartedly to the Lord." David asks a question and implores the Lord to help them: "But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this?" (Verse 14) "Lord our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building You a temple for Your Holy Name comes from Your hand and all of it belongs to You...And now I have seen with joy how willing Your people who are here have given to You...Keep these desires and thoughts in the hearts of Your people forever and keep their hearts loyal to You." (Verses 16-18)
King David wrote a prayer to honor the Lord and give Him thanks: "Praise be to You, Lord, the God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is Yours. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom; You are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from You; You are ruler of all things. In Your hand are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. Now, our God, we give You thanks, and praise Your glorious name." (2 Chronicles 29:10-13) May we all use our resources to the glory of God and adopt David's prayer as our prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord.
Preparing for Winter
Have you noticed how nature is preparing for winter? The change in light and temperature during the fall season gives signals to plants and animals. Deciduous trees and shrubs drop their leaves and go dormant. Some of the animals are shedding their summer coats and growing heavier or toned-down coats that will keep them warm in the cold and blend them into the winter landscape. Many are maximizing their food consumption to increase their body masses. Hibernating animals are preparing their dens. And squirrels, mice, and beavers are stocking up on supplies such as nuts, berries, and tree bark so that they will have snacks when food becomes scarce.
What about Christians? Are we preparing for the day when we will no longer have the freedom to "eat" the Word of God. The people in China, the Middle East, North Korea, and multiple African countries could tell us about the persecution that takes place when one makes a commitment to the Lord. They know when they are introduced to Christ that they and their families could be persecuted and imprisoned for their faith. Thus, they must feed themselves while they are able to get prepared for the "winter season."
Here in the United States, we have been permitted to practice our faith without interference. However, change is in the wind. A liberal society is offended by the truths expressed in the Bible. Increasingly, individuals are more concerned about their selfish desires than truth and righteousness. Because of this, they plot the destruction of the Christian community. Parents are being arrested for raising their children in the knowledge of the truth. Some educators are exploiting young people by teaching them lies that deny their gender. Pastors are being put into jail for daring to assemble with their congregations during government shutdowns.
The importance of preparation for a coming season of hardship cannot be overemphasized! The children of Israel were instructed to prepare for one day of the week when manna would not fall from heaven. They needed to collect twice as much of the "bread of heaven" on the day before the Sabbath. (Exodus 16:5) It is said of the prophet Ezra that the gracious hand of God was upon him when he traveled from Babylon to Jerusalem. "For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel. (Ezra 7:10 - NKJ) The disciples prepared for the Passover on the day before it was celebrated. (Matthew 26:10, Mark 14:16) Believers in Jesus, during the time of the disciples, prepared themselves for the Sabbath. That day was even called "Preparation Day." (Mark 15:42, Luke 23:54, John 19:31)
A modern-day pastor from Romania named Richard Wurmbrand knew the importance of preparation for the young Believers in his charge. Right before the Communist takeover, he took his students to the lions' den at the zoo. He reminded them that persecution was coming and that now was the time to decide as to how they would respond when faced with torture and death. Christians in Biblical days were thrown into the lions' den when they would not recount their faith. They were prepared for whatever would happen to them and determine to be faithful to the Lord.
How is our preparation for the winter day of persecution? Are we consuming the Word of God so that we know the truth? Have we decided what faithfulness looks like and how we can walk it out when "winter" arrives? Preparation is the key!
Election Day Lunar Eclipse
Between 5:16 a.m. and 6:41 a.m. EST on November 8, Election Day, a total lunar eclipse is scheduled to occur. When the earth is positioned exactly between the moon and the sun, its shadow falls on the surface of the moon, dimming it and sometimes turning the lunar surface red according to NASA. What makes this significant is that it is the first time in the history of the United States (246 years) that Election Day will fall on the same day as a blood moon. We are told by scientists that it will not happen again in the United States on Election Day for another 372 years, November 8, 2394. So, this is a lifetime event!
Joan E. Mathias