Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Story of the Light - Part I: GOD

I mentioned before that I have been working on a lesson to give to the ladies here. I picked the topic of light to go along with our Bottle Lights side-project. The lesson is turning out to be so long that I need to divide it into 3 parts. This one, Part I, I just gave in the ladies class at church here on Saturday (in Spanish, while reading off of the paper):

I want to discuss a concept that is very important in the Bible. The word for it appears in the Bible more than 200 times, spread throughout both the Old and New Testaments. It is applied to both God and to man. We will have it forever in heaven, but it has been around since the beginning.

I am talking about LIGHT.

In many cases, the idea of light serves as a metaphor for a bigger, spiritual idea. I believe that understanding this idea can help us to have a better understanding of our spiritual lives, how God operates and how we are to respond to Him and to others. The concept of light is a very old one, emerging at the very start of the Bible and continuing to the end. What follows here is its story.

God Created the Light

According to Genesis chapter 1, God created light on the very first day. This has always been very interesting to me because the sun, moon, and stars weren’t created until the fourth day, which makes me wonder about the source of that light. Based on what I see in the Bible later, my opinion is that God Himself was the source of the light, and I believe that He is the source of all light even today. I will explain later why this point is so important, but for right now it is enough to know that the light originated with God.

Something we should notice here is that the light wasn’t alone. Even from the beginning, light has gone together with darkness. Genesis 1:4 tells of the light’s separation from the darkness, and the two have been associated with each other—yet completely distinct—ever since. Verse 5 goes even further to identify light with day and darkness with night, and we know that the day will follow the night until the end of time.

When God did create the sun, moon, and stars to govern the day and the night (see verses 14-19), he put into effect laws of nature that we observe today. Everything in the physical universe has to follow these laws. However, God is in total control of these laws and can do with them whatever He pleases. This is also true of the laws about light.

God Controls the Light

God controls the light and the darkness. Various times in the Bible He shows His power through His control of these things. One of the ten plagues in Egypt was the plague of darkness, which is described in Exodus chapter 10, beginning in verse 21. Not only did God bring darkness on the Egyptians, but, according to verse 23, he did it while continuing to give light to the Israelites. Once the Israelites had escaped from Egypt, God used a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire to guide them and to hide them from the Egyptians (see Exodus 13:21 and 14:19-20). In these cases and more, God displayed not only His power but also His care for His people.

One of the most impressive displays of God’s control of light and darkness is told of in Isaiah 38:7-8. As a sign that He would keep His promise to King Hezekiah, God actually made the sun go backwards in the sky, causing the shadow on a set of steps to recede instead of continuing to follow its natural pattern. When you consider how the earth rotates around the sun and around itself to give the appearance of the sun rising and falling, doing something to change this system is an incredibly mighty act. The one who has the power to do this also has the power to save us in our distress. He has dominion over the whole world because He is the one who created it. It makes sense that He is able to control the light because it came from Him anyway.

God IS the Light

In fact, God IS light. Skipping ahead to 1 John 1:5, we read that “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” So far we have been speaking of light only in physical terms. However, much of the light spoken of in the Bible is either poetic description or refers to something spiritual. Many, many times God is poetically described as being or looking like a light. Of course, since we don’t see God physically on the earth, we understand that the word light here represents something else:


One of the most evident meanings for light as it applies to God is that of majesty. Psalm 76:4 says, “You are radiant with light, more majestic than mountains rich with game.” We see the same idea in Psalm 104:1-2: “Praise the LORD, my soul. LORD my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendor and majesty…” The prophet Ezekiel gives us an even clearer picture in verses 26-28 of Ezekiel chapter 1:

“Above the vault over their heads was what looked like a throne of lapis lazuli, and high above on the throne was a figure like that of a man. I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire; and brilliant light surrounded him. Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him.

“This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking.”

Wow. Paul says in 1 Timothy 6:15-16 that God is “the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see.”

Truly God is worthy of all of our praise and is to be feared with all respect.


At the same time that God is worthy of our fear, however, He is the one who gives us comfort.

Psalm 27:1 says, “The LORD is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?” One of the most common fears is the fear of the dark. When it is dark, we can’t see what dangers may be around us, so we tend to feel much better about things when there is light. Really what we fear is the unknown. However, if God knows everything (see Psalm 147:5, Job 28:24, and 1 John 3:20) and if He is the one in whom we put our trust, we don’t have to be afraid of anything else.


Even when we are in unknown situations, God’s light serves to guide us where we need to go. In Isaiah 42:16 we see that God does not leave His people in darkness: “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.”

When we are spiritually blind we are unable to see the truth. We may be confused and not know what to do, or we may be so blind that we don’t even realize that the things we are doing are harmful to us or to others. Although God’s light is always shining, the choice is ours whether to keep our eyes closed and remain in the darkness or to seek God’s light as David does in Psalm 43:3: “Send me your light and your faithful care, let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell.” When we do let God’s light lead us, we are blessed. As Psalm 89:15 says, “Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, LORD.”


God’s light can make us realize His majesty and it can make us feel safe and secure even in bad situations. But, most importantly, it actually shows us the truth. By it we know how we should live in this world. According to Psalm 19:8, “The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.” Psalm 119 is all about the benefits of God’s law. We read in verse 105, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path,” and later in verse 130, “The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.”

God is the one who created the world, and He is the only one who truly understands how it is supposed to work. He created the light—in fact, He IS the light—and when we allow ourselves to see it, the light helps us to understand everything else. God put laws of nature into effect, and that includes laws not only for the physical world but for our mental, emotional, and spiritual existence as well. The things that we do and think and especially the ways that we treat other people do matter. God set up our world to function in certain ways. We know that plants need sunlight and water and to be pruned, just like people need love as well as discipline. As humans study Science, they learn more about the physical world. But, God already told us what we need to know about the spiritual world.


God loved His people enough to give us these laws so that they could have life (see Psalm 36:9: “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light”). He gave specific commands to the Israelites through His servant Moses. However, God didn’t stop there. The sad truth was, even though the Israelites had the law, they were still blind. Due to their broken nature—thanks to Adam and Eve—they were incapable of following all of the rules and were still living in darkness. Fortunately, God had a plan for bringing His light to all people so that everyone would be able to have life.

Tune in next time to read about how Jesus was the light that came in the darkness...


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Pantasma - Becky

As many of you know, I have been helping with MPC's service of the Casa Materna (Maternity House) program here. Usually the way it goes it that I accompany Janese Davis (the mission's representative over our efforts at the CM), a Nicaraguan translator, and Nicaraguan ladies from our congregation here in Jinotega (along with various other North Americans when they are here) to visit the pregnant women. The church ladies lead some prayers and give a Bible lesson, and they have been getting me to lead some songs. We hand out baby bags filled with various things that the women need for themselves and for their babies (hygiene items, diapers, baby clothes, blankets, a New Testament Bible, etc.), and we spend some time with them working on various craft projects, such as making beaded bracelets, baby hats, or baby blankets. Many times the church ladies cook food for the women. Sometimes our friend and Spanish teacher Tania comes to give a makeover to one of the ladies. I have heard that when groups from the States are here, they sometimes give manicures and pedicures as well.

In many cases where people need help, I am not sure that simply giving out things is the best solution. However, in this situation, these ladies are truly helpless. The items they get in their baby bags are things that they really need, and the extra attention we give them through the other things shows them the love of Christ.

At least that is how it's supposed to work.

I won't lie; sometimes I get discouraged, feeling like we do all of this stuff, only to get a mediocre or awkward response. Of course, it's extremely hard to tell what the ladies really think about everything. It is quite possible that they are just shy or are feeling physically, mentally, and emotionally drained to the point that they don't have the energy to express their appreciation to people who don't even speak their language. (I mean, they are experiencing complicated pregnancies are are most likely in psychical pain or at least discomfort. I think I wouldn't be all bubbly either.) Obviously we are not doing all of this for the purpose of receiving gratitude or praise. But, I would at least like to feel like I am making a genuine connection with these people, that they really know that I care. Sometimes this is hard to convey (and to perceive reciprocation of) when we come in every week and follow the same rote procedures.

There are two Casa Materna locations that we service regularly: Jinotega (where we live) and Yalí (a drive of a couple of hours, give or take, depending on the state of the raod). There is a third location, Pantasma, that we have been trying to get to for months, but our trip plans have continually been foiled for various reasons. Well, yesterday, we were actually set to go. Truth be told, though, as much as I was excited about the idea of going there, I was feeling tired and still wasn't quite over being under the weather. I had other things I really needed to get done here in town, and my thought was that it really didn't matter if I, in particular, went. Someone else could lead the songs. Someone else could help with the crafts and pass out bags. Yes, I do build my relationship with the Jinotega church ladies when I go on these trips (which is definitely important), but I didn't think that missing this one trip would make much difference.

I ended up going anyway. And I was so glad that I did.

We had been told that in Pantasma there was no actual house for the ladies and that they just had to stay at the Health Center. We honestly weren't sure if this was true or where the ladies were exactly, but we went ahead to the Health Center to check. It turned out that this had been the case a few months ago, but the government had just recently built a house to serve as the Casa Materna. However, because there are only 3 beds at the house and there are over 10 women currently being served, most of the women are still living at the Health Center (where there are 6 beds). The building itself, though, is really nice, big, and clean. Apparently, an organization from Spain sent things to fill the big, empty house—including beds—but for reasons known only to the government not everything made it there. Still, the Health Center staff members who work with the ladies were very excited to show us the house. I was impressed that they seemed to be very organized and knew exactly what was going on. They were able to give us a list of specific things that the women desperately need right now.

Something else that especially impressed me was the rapport between the preacher from the local congregation and the HC staff. It was obvious that he had been there many times and that the congregation had a reputation for giving a lot of help. The staff actually thanked the preacher very sincerely in front of us for everything the congregation has been doing. In fact, while we were gathering information at the Health Center, some of the members from the Pantasma congregation were at the church building assisting our Jinotega ladies with the food preparation.

Taking a step back and considering all of the people who are involved in this service of these women, it is so encouraging to realize that this is the Body of Christ at work. I really got the sense yesterday that this is how it's supposed to work. The baby bags and supplies for the craft projects come from congregations in the United States and are distributed through Misión Para Cristo, which is made up of both North and Central Americans. The members of several Nicaraguan congregations work together to provide physical and spiritual food for the women. In this case, the local congregation even works with the secular medical organization (and that secular organization works with the government) and does so in a manner that glorifies the name of Christ. Yesterday was really a proud day to be a Christian.

The thing that really topped off my experience, though, was our interaction with the pregnant women themselves. They were so gracious and appreciative of everything we did. This is not to say that the women in the other locations are not (I realize now that of course they are), but these women specifically expressed it. While sitting with them and helping to sew some quilt squares together, I really felt like I was spending meaningful time with them. There was a sense of camaraderie as we passed the spool of thread between us. During the devotional time I felt that we were all having the experience together instead of us just preaching and singing at them. When we parted ways, I said in Spanish something to the effect of "Goodbye. It was nice meeting you. God bless you," and they warmly reciprocated the farewell. There was a real personal connection.

It's probably not reasonable or realistic to expect this same perfect experience at every location every time we go. I realize that personal connections can't be manufactured or imposed. But, now that I have had this experience, I am encouraged to continue in this ministry and to make even more of an effort to channel Christ's love. These women are definitely worth helping as much as we can, and, at least at this moment, I see the big picture of how we can effectively do that. I am excited to serve my function within the greater context of the Body of Christ.

Part of that function, I see now, is to be the one who reports back what the needs are. I already sent that information up the chain here at the mission, but in case any of you has an interest and is able to contribute somehow, this I what we were told the women especially need:

  • Beds (Right now there are 6 beds at the Health Center and 3 at the house for a total of 9. Between the two locations, more than 10 ladies are being housed.)
  • Bedding, especially Sheet Sets/Pillow Cases (Some beds have no sheets at all.)
  • Maternity Dresses for women at the end of the third trimester. (Many of the women show up with only the outfit they are wearing at the time.)
  • Sanitary Napkins (Before we gave them a few in their baby bags yesterday, we were told that they didn't have ANY.)
  • Bath Soap
  • Crib Mattresses (Right now they are using cardboard and whatever random blankets they can spare.)
  • [for the medical professionals at the Health Center] Scrub Tops

God bless you all,

Friday, February 3, 2012

Spotlight on Prophecy - Becky

I am in the process of writing some Bible lessons to go along with some of our sustainable living projects. One of the things our team has already begun to do is to install bottle lights in homes that either have no electricity or that have electricity that is too expensive for the occupants. Bottle lights are clear plastic Coke bottles filled with water and bit of chlorine that are dropped into a tin roof, magnifying the light of the sun. Apparently, the light that comes through one of these bottles can be as bright as a 50 Watt bulb. Anyway, I am working on some lessons about light that could possibly be presented to the women in areas where we install these lights. (I don't know yet when and where this would happen--the bottle light thing is a side project while our main focus right now is trying to get a goat house built--but I do know I can at least give these lessons in the ladies class here in Jinotega.)

While looking through a list of Bible verses with the word "light," I came across this passage from Isaiah chapter 9 that I just thought was cool:

1 Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan—

2 The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.
3 You have enlarged the nation
and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
as people rejoice at the harvest,
as warriors rejoice
when dividing the plunder.
4 For as in the day of Midian’s defeat,
you have shattered
the yoke that burdens them,
the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor.
5 Every warrior’s boot used in battle
and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
will be fuel for the fire.
6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty
will accomplish this.

I absolutely love passages like this, prophecy that is actually fulfilled. It is chilling to read the blatantly obvious references to Jesus that were written WAY before he came on the scene. The cool thing is that everything the passage says that Jesus was supposed to do is still applicable today. So many people are living in spiritual darkness. Most of them don't even realize it. They are burdened with a yoke, but they don't know that they don't have to bear it. As much as I want to do what I can to help these people myself, God is the real hero.

The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.