Festival of Lights

by Fran Caffey Sandin

Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.                                                            Matthew 5: 16 NASB

Decorating our Christmas tree is like taking a walk down memory lane, as ornaments are one of my favorite souvenirs to purchase when traveling. Lightweight and easy to pack, they usually include an object that reminds me of our visit. This year I was noticing in particular a small replica of a menorah that I bought in Old Jerusalem.

Jewish families also enjoy a winter holiday: the Festival of Lights, or Hanukkah (which means dedication). It may surprise you to learn that Jesus celebrated Hanukkah (John 10:22-23). Here’s the reason why.

During the time period between the Old and New Testaments (167-164 BC), a conquering king named Antiochus (who was Syrian-Greek) invaded the Jewish nation. He forbid the worship of the God of Israel, directing the Jews to worship him instead. To insure his law was obeyed, he defiled the only place where sacrifices could be made: the temple in Jerusalem. He did this by sacrificing a pig upon the holy altar.

The nation was outraged. God raised up a small band of heroes who became known as the Maccabees. They fiercely drove Antiochus and his troops out of the land. Hanukkah (or Festival of Lights) commemorates that victory, specifically when the Jews recaptured the temple and rededicated it to God’s service. During that event, a giant menorah, a candelabra with four candles on each side and one in the middle, was lit.

It was the first time in many years, as the Greeks had extinguished the menorah. Now there was no more than one day’s supply of oil to keep the candelabra burning. It would take eight days for the priests to consecrate more oil. Nevertheless, the Jews lit the lamp stand, and it continued to burn for eight full days! Obviously, this was a miracle that deserved to be remembered.

Thus the Festival of Lights was established. In modern Jewish homes, the miniature menorah candles are lit, one more each day, to represent the eight days that the miracle took place. The center candle is the shamash, a Hebrew word meaning servant, and this is used to light the other candles.

From Scripture, Christians know that Jesus is the Light of the World, God’s shamash.

The Jerusalem temple has been destroyed, but when we confess our sins and believe that Jesus Christ paid for our sins on the cross, and that He was resurrected from the dead, we become the temple of God, and the shamash (Jesus) shines in our hearts. Through God’s Holy Spirit, we have a never-ending supply of oil to keep our lamps brightly burning.

All of us have sinned, and we have no way to change our lives apart from the power of God. When Jesus came, He gave us eternal life and light. All we have to do is acknowledge our sins and inadequacy to make it right and believe in Him, accepting His gift of forgiveness, grace, and mercy. Then we become a reflection of His light to others of His great love and peace. Hallelujah! What a shamash! What a Savior!

Dear Heavenly Father, I pray that anyone who is living in darkness today would experience the true meaning of Christmas by allowing the light of Jesus into their hearts. Without Jesus there is no peace, no joy, no hope. When His light shines within, we are forever changed. May His grace abound in this Christmas season. May our lights shine for His glory. In His name, Amen.

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Festival of Lights – insight from Fran Caffey Sandin on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

fran sandlin
About the author
Fran Caffey Sandin is a retired nurse, wife, mother, and grandmother in Greenville, Texas. She enjoys baking, flower arranging, hiking, and traveling with her husband, Jim. Fran is a church organist, a core group leader for Community Bible Study, and author of See You Later, Jeffreyand Touching the Clouds: True Stories to Strengthen Your Faithand has co-authored othersJim and Fran are parents of two sons awaiting them in Heaven; a married daughter and son-in-law, and three fabulous grandchildren. Visit Fran at her website:  www.fransandin.com.

Join the conversation: What is the most effective way of demonstrating servanthood that you have witnessed?

Tested by Praise

by Elaine Helms

“Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger and not your own lips . . . each is tested by the praise accorded him,” Proverbs 27:2, 21 NASB.

When I was in real estate, I learned fast that I needed to let people – potential clients – know about my accomplishments and why I would be their best choice to help them buy or sell their home. The better I did, the more the company praised me and promoted my expertise. The problem arose when I began to read and believe my own press. I thought, “Yes, I am pretty wonderful!”

God gave me the test of success and I failed miserably. “The Lord tests hearts . . . The crucible is for silver and the furnace for gold, and each is tested by the praise accorded him” (Proverbs 17:3b, 27:21 NASB).

After I failed, being full of pride, God did not abandon me. He used strong followers of Christ in the same business to be an example for Him and to open my eyes to how to handle both promotional and genuine praise. God began to bring only Christian sellers and buyers, so my focus and conversations returned to and about Him.

Several years later, the wife of a couple I had served in buying and selling several properties, told me how thankful she was – that God put me in their lives when He did to draw them to a closer walk with Him. What? I thought God used them to draw me back to focusing on Him!

How like God to put two truants together to help each other get back on track with Him! We both laughed when we discovered what He had done, and agreed that God has a sense of humor.

God had called me out of real estate into church prayer ministry by that time; but being in full time Christian ministry does not exempt us from pride. Spiritual pride can also quickly slip in when God gives us an added measure of His Spirit to speak His word boldly or to impact a group. Name recognition grows the more God blesses…and His testing begins again!

How can we navigate the temptation to pride? Jesus gives one answer in the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 5:16, NASB, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

Go Back to the Basics

We can ask God to help us focus on His glory rather than our own. Reading the Bible and spending time with the Lord in prayer helps us be alert to the allure of pride. Memorizing Scripture can fill our thoughts and illuminate when we puff up our own image.

Practice the Presence of God

By practicing the presence of God we can consciously keep God on the throne of our hearts. It’s important to remember who is in control and who is giving us the power to do anything meaningful. When we seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, self will become less important (see Matthew 6:33).

Help Others

We can take our attention off of ourselves by trying to help someone else succeed. It all belongs to God and when we humble ourselves before Him, He will exalt us in the proper time (see 1 Peter 5:6).

When our focus is on God and not on ourselves, pride loses its grip on us and it becomes easier to give the glory where it belongs – to God.

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Insight when we’re Tested by Praise – from Elaine Helms on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Elaine HelmAbout the author: With her passion for God, humor, vulnerability and spiritual strength, Elaine Helms encourages audiences and readers to draw closer to God and live the abundant life Jesus came to give His followers. Prayer Coordinator for My Hope America with Billy Graham 2012-2013, Elaine has 30 years of experience in church, national, and interdenominational prayer leadership.

The 10th Anniversary edition of her book, Prayer 101, What Every Intercessor Needs to Prayer 101: What Every Intercessor Needs to Know by [Helms, Elaine]Know was released in 2019. This comprehensive guidebook helps with discovering how to pray as God intends – with eternal impact. Journey through Scripture, find inspiration in stories of others, and learn simple yet effective strategies for prayer. www.ChurchPrayerMinistries.org

Join the conversation: What is your best tactic for avoiding pride?

This Little Light of Mine

by Nan Corbitt Allen

Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16, NIV).

We couldn’t have found a better light show if we had been in New York City, on the mall in Washington D.C. or, on Main Street at Disney World.

On July 4th last year, we were with our sons and their families in a suburban Nashville subdivision. Just after dark we began feeling the percussive presence of fireworks, so we went out into the street to watch. The subdivisions in this area are back-to-back, side-to-side and end-to-end. In fact, it’s hard to tell where one neighborhood starts and the others begin.

That night, at the end of Independence Day, every neighborhood had its own fireworks show…and it seemed that each neighborhood was trying to outdo the next. For us, it meant standing in the middle of the street and witnessing a 360-degree display that lasted more than an hour. We got dizzy spinning to see them all.

But it also seemed that night that God was not to be outdone. In fact, He launched His own show in the midst of it with lightning streaking and thunder roaring. It was almost as though the Almighty was answering Man’s display–reminding us that He is Master of all light. It was amazing—truly the best fireworks display I’ve ever witnessed!

Finally, we got tired of looking up and decided to call it a night. Then I noticed hovering just above knee level the most awe-inspiring light show of the evening. A single tiny firefly was blinking and weaving around the mailbox. At first, I thought that he was confused and disoriented by his competition. Then I wondered if maybe he was trying to outshine the other displays. Or was he just “doing his thing” not caring if anyone noticed him or not?

I know how it feels to try and compete in a world of brilliant and talented “lights.” I too-often compare myself to others. Most of the time I pout about my inability to outshine them. Occasionally, I’ll gain the courage to put my light out there and see if I’ll measure up. But I know that what God has called me to do is to be like the firefly and shine as I have been equipped, regardless of the competition.

Jesus was teaching what is called the “Sermon on the Mount” to a group of people who may have felt the same about themselves— ordinary and forgettable. To these He said, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they set it on a lampstand, and it gives light to everyone in the house” (Matthew 5:14-15 NIV).

We were created to reflect the glory of God. The light we shine is not a light of our making, but a reflection of His presence in us. One small light surrounded by darkness easily stands out. Many small lights together will light up the darkness around them.

Remember the song “This Little Light of Mine”? Its simple message still lights up my heart every time those feelings of insecurity creep in. Hide it under a bushel? No! I’m going to let it shine.

Everyone who is called by My name, and whom I have created for My glory, whom I have formed, even whom I have made.   Isaiah 43:7-8 NASB

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This Little Light of Mine – insight from Nan Corbitt Allen on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Nan Corbitt AllenAbout the author: Nan Corbitt Allen has written over 100 published dramatic musicals, sketchbooks, and collections in collaboration with Dennis Allen, her husband of 40 years. A three-time Dove Award winner, Nan’s lyrics and dramas have been performed around the world. Dennis and Nan have sold almost 3 million choral books.

Nan and Dennis live in Cleveland, GA where she teaches English and Creative Writing at Truett McConnell University. They have two grown sons and two beautiful grandchildren.

Nan’s book, Small Potatoes @ the Piggly Wiggly, is a collection of devotionals that reveal the seemingly insignificant routine experiences can have great impact on a life. She describes what she learned of God’s providence and wisdom while growing up in the Deep South in the 1950’s and 60’s.

Join the conversation: Have you ever felt insignificant compared to others?

 

The Testimony of Faithfulness

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

When my husband and I were dating, we often took advantage of the many free things to do in nearby Washington, D.C. One night he brought me to the Lincoln Memorial, which is impressive during the daylight hours, but truly awesome by night. After viewing the statue and writings of Lincoln, we stood at the top of the steps and admired the images of the Washington Monument and Capitol Building reflected in the long rectangular pool below.

Steve then took me around the back of the monument and pointed out the dark hillside which was Arlington National Cemetery, located just past the Memorial Bridge. We could see a light flickering on the hill in the distance very clearly. I asked Steve what it was, and he told me it was the eternal flame at President Kennedy’s grave. The next day we walked through that cemetery and came to the site of the eternal flame. To my surprise, the light we had seen from a mile or so away was just a small gas flame about eight inches high.

That small light could be seen from a great distance when surrounded by darkness.

We live around people who are living in darkness. God has called us to be light. “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven,” Jesus told His disciples (Matthew 5:16 NASB). We are tempted to believe that the opportunity to shine comes only in infrequent great moments, like when getting a chance to share the gospel with someone or speaking before a large crowd.

Yet a light that flares only briefly in the darkness before flickering out is much less useful than the kind of light that burns with a steady glow.

We are to be light in every moment of our lives. Paul wrote the Colossians: “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men…it is the Lord Christ whom you serve” (Colossians 3:23-24 NASB). Our testimony’s effectiveness to the world around us is determined by ordinary moments: the small decisions we make, the words we choose, or the attitudes we hold.

We can have a huge impact on neighbors and friends by simply being faithful in what God has given us to do, choosing contentment in where God has us. People will quickly spot peace in our attitudes and joy in our hearts. For those living with nagging thirst, our lives will look like a cool refreshing glass of water. They will begin to think: I want what they have. Our very lifestyle will make them thirsty for the Living Water we can offer.

J. Gregory Mantle, a British preacher who lived in the late 1800’s, wrote: “It is far harder to live for Christ moment by moment than it is to die once for Him; and if we wait for great occasions in which to display our fidelity, we shall find that our life has slipped away, and with it the opportunities that each hour has brought of proving our love to the Lord, by being faithful in that which is least.”

When my kids each began their first job, I shared what I had learned in my own career: Just do your job and do it well. You will stand out from the crowd if you do.

We don’t have to be Billy Graham to inspire others to seek God. Just by being faithful to what God has called us to do, whether it is customer service, teaching school, or mothering small children, God can use our simple desire to serve to glorify him as a beacon of light.

And you can be sure our faithful obedience will be seen and noticed by those still living in darkness.

Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give and account for the hope that is in you…with gentleness and reverence. 1 Peter 3:16 NASB

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The Testimony of Faithfulness – wisdom from @JulieZColeman on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300About the authorJulie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.

Does the Bible depict women as second-class citizens of the Kingdom? Jesus didn’t think so. Unexpected Love takes a look at the conversations Jesus had with women in the gospels. You will fall in love with the dynamic, beautiful, and unexpectedly personal Jesus.

Join the conversation: Have you ever been approached by someone who wants to know why you are so different than the world around you?

Light the Way

by Julie Zine Coleman

He hadn’t even noticed his wallet was missing. Not until he answered a knock on his door. There stood a group of teenagers, holding it out in front of them. They’d found it at a nearby mall and used his driver’s license to locate him. Knowing it contained a newly cashed paycheck’s worth of bills, he could hardly believe such integrity. Not one dollar was missing. Grateful, he offered them a reward. They politely refused. They were just happy they had successfully reunited the wallet with its owner.

He had to know more. Why were they so honest? Who were they? The kids smiled shyly and told him they were Christians from a local church. Their integrity was a mere reflection of the One they followed.

The following Sunday, he came to church. He didn’t know much about God, but he knew whatever those teens had was something he wanted. It wasn’t long before he had given his life to the Savior as well.

Jesus said, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16 NASB). God uses our acts of love to make himself known.

God is all about revealing himself to the world. It’s always been his purpose. “The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea,” God promised (Habakkuk 2:14 NASB). Paul tells us in Romans 1 that God first revealed his eternal power and divine nature with His creation. Next, He chose the family of Israel to reveal Him to the nations. Then the ultimate revelation came: Jesus Christ, “the radiance of [God’s] glory and the exact representation of His nature” (Hebrews 1:3, NASB).

And now, Paul tells us that “the manifold wisdom of God… [is now made] known through the church…” (Ephesians 3:10, NASB).

He has chosen US, the Church, to be the vessels through which He is revealing himself today! This serious responsibility has big implications for how we live.

I was recently confronted by an angry neighbor. He accused my sweet dog of something that was absolutely untrue. As I cringed under his bitter words, my instinct was to shoot right back with a hefty dose of reality. But before I could open my mouth, the Lord reminded me that I was there at that moment to represent Him.  A careful, loving response had the potential to show my neighbor Jesus in me.

What better way is there to reveal Christ in us than love? After all, it is just a reflection of the love God has already lavished on us. And there’s plenty of that to spread around.

Paul wrote: “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10 NASB). The world’s brand of love is often self-seeking and self-righteous. The kind of love we can offer (agape love) chooses the good of another over ourselves. It is as different from the world as light is from darkness.

My angry neighbor? After a quick prayer for the Lord’s strength, I bit my indignant tongue and responded to his anger with humility and grace. I hope that someday this unhappy man will put His trust in Christ. Maybe God will even use my decision to treat him with love to draw him in.

The world is stumbling around in darkness. God has called us to light the way for them.

“For you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of light.” Ephesians 5:8

Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300About the author: Julie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Her award-winning book, Unexpected Love: God’s Heart Revealed through Jesus’ Conversations with Womenwas published in 2013 by Thomas Nelson. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.

Join the conversation: In what ways have you seen people respond to love?

Photo by Dollar Gill on Unsplash