This is my Christmas update letter to you.
I have stayed home.
I have stayed well.
I wrote two books.
Below are the links for my new books, and a present for you, if you’re interested to know what kinds of things I think about as I stay home all year. It’s the first chapter from my latest book, Walking in His Way – aligning with the God of the Universe.
May the Lord bless you with peace of heart and mind, good restorative sleep, and a fruitful and fulfilling life that blesses all those around you, as light shines in the darkness that no darkness can overwhelm.
Walking with the Most High God
It was pitch black. You’d expect that from being deep inside a geological formation named “Dark Cave.” The ground was slippery and full of humps and dips and there were no guardrails or safety lights. It felt damp, hence the slick rocky floor underfoot. I could smell bat guano. I could hear the echoes of the voices of my fellow sightseers bouncing off the walls of the cavern. Their voices were small—swallowed up in the huge empty space that I could not see. Our guide was leading the way. I decoded his broken English to mean, “Watch out for that big hole. Some English tourists fell in and we could not get them out.” I don’t know if he was making it up for local color or to get us to behave, but you can be sure we were sticking as close to him as possible. Here in Malaysia, there were no safety laws. If you fell in, oh well. You were warned. It’s up to you to follow your guide.
We were in one of the Batu Caves—a vast hollow space in the earth where bats clustered and brave Malaysians guided interested site tourists through a place that had to be felt rather than seen. Though it was more than fifty years ago, I remember two things—how scary it was to try to walk on that treacherous floor, and how completely black it was. It wasn’t my idea of fun, but Dave, my classmate on the university ship, had talked me into joining a group of adventurous beings and now I was slipping and sliding as I hurried to keep up with the intrepids who were obviously enjoying it more than I. Dave, who always seemed prepared for anything, had brought a flashlight—not a wimpy personal three-incher, but a big, industrial-strength one with D cell batteries. To our surprise, in that vast darkness its beam was as feeble as a pen light. It was almost no good at all. But the torch our guide carried was powerful in the darkness, its yellow-orange flames surprisingly bright and its coverage wide as it revealed the looming walls and their curving, glistening sides.
Thinking back on that walk through the Dark Cave, the image that is still emblazoned in my mind is that torch, clearly visible wherever it went, brighter and more eagerly sought because of, not in spite of, the blackness everywhere else. I was twenty years old, and by then I had already been losing my night and peripheral vision for years, but I could easily see the torch. It was surprisingly effective in making visible things I didn’t know were there, revealing beauties I couldn’t have otherwise seen.
I’m certain you can see the application. The manmade light was no help at all in a place so deep in the earth, but Jesus is the Light and He will lead the way, a pillar of cloud by day, a pillar of fire by night. He was the torch that passed with the smoking oven through the halves of the slain animals, confirming the covenant with His people God alone was committed to keep. Surely we need this guidance more than ever for the days are getting darker faster and the paths that once seemed so clear and predictable are no longer there. More and more we need to trust our God and follow Him in faith. In the Batu Cave, vigilantly keeping our eyes on the torchlight, we followed closely and did not stray.
That brings an interesting Scripture to mind. God says, “But now, all you who light fires and provide yourselves with flaming torches, go, walk in the light of your fires and of the torches you have set ablaze. This is what you shall receive from my hand: You will lie down in torment.” ( Isaiah 50:11 NIV)
To me, it means we can’t possibly know what’s really there, and trying to see it on our own, figure it out, decide what to do with what we’ve reasoned is reality, ignoring God and going our own way—well, He says if we insist on doing what’s right in our own sight, He’ll let us. We’re hearing so many experts who are emphatic and even bombastic in their pronouncements on the current crisis, whichever one they’re talking about. When I asked God about it, He said, “Nobody knows.”
Everyone is projecting based on their own reasoning. And human beings tend to focus on one aspect of the problem, direct all their efforts into solving that problem, implementing their solution without knowing what it will engender. A well-documented example is from the 1940s and ‘50s. Back then, when a baby was a certain number of weeks premature, it was put in a sealed incubator into which pure oxygen was pumped. This was to insure the lungs would function. They didn’t know pure oxygen would cause other aberrations including problems with the retina of the baby’s eyes. In the years before a doctor figured out the problem, 10,000 babies suffered severe damage to their eyes. Many went totally blind, among them, Michael Hingson and Stevie Wonder. The oxygen therapy worked for the lungs, but parents wouldn’t necessarily notice that their child couldn’t see until years later. By then, doctors wouldn’t necessarily associate it with the treatment for the premature baby. Nobody chose to test the procedure before administering it. Many years later, one lone doctor figured out how pure oxygen caused retinal aberrations and the carnage stopped, but 10,000 children and their families were seriously affected in the meantime. The body is complex and intricate. You can’t look at just one thing, and you can’t anticipate what will result from a treatment in the future. Nobody knows. Nobody.
Walking By Faith, Not By Sight
I love this elaboration on the word “faith” from the Amplified Bible. It says faith is the leaning of your entire personality on God in absolute confidence and trust in His power, wisdom, and goodness. It isn’t a nebulous abstraction, it’s solid security based on a relationship. It’s so secure and real and true that you can rest your whole weight upon His character and intentions toward you. That includes times when there is no light at all, times you have to walk in total darkness, by faith and not by sight.
I’d been dealing with that myself for decades of increasing insecurity. Finally I decided to get help from a sentient being with good eyes who would be dedicated to watching out for me and keeping me safe. But learning to be a guide dog team is harder than you’d think. I had to learn to follow my guide dog Hedy. It wasn’t intuitive. Because I still had residual sight, I could discern obstacles in certain lights, so I didn’t pay much attention to her as she threaded me through crowded streets during daylight hours. In fact, sometimes I overrode her, a dangerous thing to do because I really couldn’t see as well as I thought. However, at night I was totally blind. It was then I had to rely on Hedy and trust her completely. The Lord reminded me that was when I most loved and appreciated her. I had to let go of my opinions and guesses and my ideas of what had to happen. It was a necessary surrender, a crucial releasing to Hedy the responsibility for a safe and successful arrival.
There’s no way I can express the elation and overwhelming love for Hedy that flooded my heart whenever we did a night route. The Lord said, “It’s that way with Me. The darker it is, the more you have to trust Me to lead you safely where you need to go. That’s when you are most willing to let Me lead and that’s when your love for Me blossoms.”
Love grows when trust increases. I found that with Hedy. The darker it was, the more I had to depend on her. The more I depended on her, the more I trusted and appreciated her. In this context, you can see how dark times can actually grow your relationship with the Lord faster and deeper than at any other time, and in that regard, those hard times become a very special blessing.
This book is about walking in God’s way. I assume you’re reading it because you already want to, but perhaps you want more clarity in what that means. In my forty-five years of following Jesus, I’ve had plenty of time to be contaminated with apostasy, watered-down truth, and the incorporation of the values of the world, the flesh, and the devil. I’ve needed a lot of course correction. And God, being totally good, loving, and righteous, has made sure I received the guidance I need to keep traveling through my life in the best alignment possible.
Scripture says, “How can two walk together unless they agree?” (Amos 3:3) We need to be sure we’re in agreement with God on what matters most to Him. How can we know? The Bible has a lot to say about it, and I’ll be bringing up certain significant areas later in this book, but you can do a quick checkup by reading what Jesus says to the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3. He tells the Ephesian church they’re doing good work, but they’ve left their first love. I want to start from there, because you can’t love unreservedly unless you trust. Trust is a big deal to God. In fact, when Scripture says “believe in God,” the word “believe” is not an acknowledgement that He’s real, it’s “trust.” You can substitute “trust” almost every place you see “believe.”
To love unreservedly, you need to be able to trust. How do we grow in our trust, in our faith in God? Romans says faith continues to come by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. But just what are we reading here? The Bible is thousands of years old—66 books written by more than 40 authors. It’s been reproduced, scrutinized, questioned, and disputed to the point that even we who are serious in our commitment to Jesus have our reservations about the historicity of some biblical accounts, the reliability of certain passages, and wonder if it’s truly, fully, completely trustworthy to guide us in our present lives and in the days to come.
You can trust God, and He doesn’t expect you to do so in blind faith. He’s left ample evidence that what He is telling you is true. One of the ways is the Bible. I’ll be showing you some mind-boggling proofs it’s absolutely true and supernaturally given, but first I want to share some of my favorite evidence: biblical archaeology. It grounds our faith in the historicity of everything the Bible says about places, individuals, civilizations, events, landmarks, lifestyles, and cities. They are all there, even the things skeptics emphatically declared were not, and have never been. As archaeologists continue to dig into the past, there is increasing evidence that what the Bible says is reliable, trustworthy, accurate, and true. And it’s full of living words whose light will supernaturally guide you through whatever darkness lies ahead.