He keeps my lamp burning


“Because of God’s tender mercy,
the morning light from heaven
about to break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
and to guide us to the path of peace.” (Luke 1:78-79)


When John the Baptist was born, his father Zechariah saw a new day coming for the people of Israel. A new day, springing from the tender mercy of God. 

Zechariah’s prophecy spoke of light from heaven bursting into human history—Jesus. Light from the merciful Creator, Light to break the darkness enveloping the world He had created and loved.

Even after we know Christ, we may sometimes sit in darkness. It may be the darkness of hard times, darkness because we do not understand and still have things to learn, darkness because of our own bad choices, or the darkness of the shadow of death. 

Jesus brings light to our darknesses. His life brought light to everyone,  John writes about Jesus. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.  

He comes into our lives to give light. No matter how our darkness feels today, God’s tender mercy, His compassionate love for us, breaks whatever darkness fills our lives. What is it you need? Healing? Cleansing of a bitter heart? Understanding? Forgiveness? Hope? Eyes to see Him? Faith? Unconditional love?

Jesus said, “If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”

King David certainly had dark times in his life. But his song was this,

You light a lamp for me.
The LORD my God lights up my darkness. 

God’s tender mercy promises that He will also light a lamp for us.   

Scripture: John 1:4-5; John 8:12; Psalm 18:26 (all NLT)

 More on the promise of Light that gives life: Psalm 27:1; Psalm 56:13; Isaiah 9:2; Isaiah 49:9; Isaiah 60:20; Micah 7:8; Matthew 4:16; John 12:46; 2 Corinthians 4:6-7; 1 Peter 2:9-10; 1 John 5:12,10;

Hope: A great light will shine in the deep darkness

Sometimes we children purposely sought the darkness. In a small storage room under the basement stairs, we shut the door against any crack of light and played with flashlights or some glow-in-the-dark toy. Intentional darkness could be banished at any time by simply opening the door.

Years later, deep in a Kentucky cavern, the tour guide flipped a switch and I felt darkness. It was heavy, pressing on my skin and creeping into my lungs. If I moved even a finger, I thought, I might lose my balance and fall. I was caught, afraid to move and almost unable to breathe.

Still, the guide would soon turn those lights on again … I hoped …

The most terrible darkness is that which we cannot banish ourselves. It comes uninvited, unwanted, and powerful. However darkness comes to your life — through depression, health issues, loss of dreams, divorce, death and grief — it can overwhelm and paralyze.

But for the children of God, there is hope even under the heaviness of such darkness!

Nevertheless, that time of darkness and despair will not go on forever. The land of Zebulon and Naphtali will be humbled, but there will be a time in the future when Galilee of the Gentiles … will be filled with glory.

The people who walk in darkness
will see a great light.
For those who live in a land of deep darkness,
a light will shine.

This passage is written about the land of Judah, about to be crushed and destroyed. The people would be taken as slaves, and lush vineyards and fertile hillside gardens would become a wasteland of briars and thorns. Everywhere, trouble and anguish and dark despair.

Yet, in the midst of all of this misery, there is a hope. The deep darkness will not last forever; a great light will come. 

For the people of Judah, the prophecy looked forward to the Messiah, their Deliverer. For the people of the world today, for you and I, this passage also points to the One who delivers us, who shines in our darkness.

Zebulon and Naphtali were two of the twelve tribes of Israel, and the land they were given in Canaan was the land called Galilee. Much of Jesus’ ministry is associated with Galilee … and yet, it was also called the land of the Gentiles. Many people lived there who were not of the twelve tribes. Awesome prophecy. To those who do not know God, Jesus carries the only light that banishes darkness.

He comes, first of all, to bring us to God, bring us out of the kingdom of darkness. And then, for those who become children of the heavenly Father, His light can defeat whatever darkness we must walk through here on earth.

God said that He would give a sign that He was with His people. A virgin would give birth to a son who would be called Immanuel, meaning ‘God is with us.’

Christ is still the sign that God is with His people. We’re nearing that time of year when we sing, “To us a child of hope is born …”

What hope does He bring to your life, child of God? How does He shine light in whatever darkness you must walk through?

I almost never write sermon notes in my Bible, but there are notes in the margins of Isaiah 9:6.

And he will be called:
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

His names tell us what hope He brings.**

Wonderful – takes care of the dullness of life
Counselor – takes care of the decisions of life
Mighty God – takes care of the demands of life
Everlasting Father – takes care of the dimensions of life
Prince of Peace – takes care of the disturbances of life

And I would like to add: The Great Light takes care of the darkness in life.



Scripture: Isaiah 9:1,2; 8:22; 7:14; 9:6 (All NLT)

**I’d like to give credit, and I think this list comes from a sermon by Dr. John Williams, Jr., but I’m not 100% certain.






From God Alone

Sometimes, I wander along the paths laid out by the center column references in my Bible. Often when I do that, I am given another word that is even more comforting or convicting than the verse that started me on my search.

The verse from Isaiah about the eternal Rock (the comforting verse) led me to this, the convicting passage.

If you are walking in darkness,
     without a ray of light,
trust in the LORD
     and rely on your God.

But watch out, you who live in your own light
     and warm yourselves by your own fires.
This is the reward you will receive from me:
     You will soon fall down in great torment.

First, instruction for me when I do feel in darkness, when rays of gladness and hope are few and hard to find. There is one hope, one sure thing: the LORD my God. Trust Him. Rely on Him. That’s the answer to darkness.

This reminder from the prophet does not seem to be written to someone who is far from God, who does not know the Lord. It is more of an encouragement for those dark days, when this child of God forgets. I forget the only one who can be Rock; I forget the source of all strength; I forget His faithfulness and love.

No, forget is not the right word. None of us would say we forget God … rather, we fail to focus?

When we imagine that we are walking in darkness (I am beginning to doubt that a child of God ever actually does this, even if we think we can’t see! “Darkness” is a human term, a description only of our poor sight) … When we imagine that we are walking in darkness, how often do we fail to focus on the One who is trustworthy and reliable?

He is the One who gives us light to live by.

The first verse is a reminder. The second verse sounds a harsher warning. In case we did not hear the first statement, now we are told, If you’re trying to live by your own light, failure and torment await.

And, unfortunately, this verse is the one that smacks hard when I read it. To the first reminder I give head assent. Yes, yes, I want to live in the light of God; I want to trust and rely on Him alone; I know that all my strength flows only from Him. Yes. Amen.

But I don’t always live that out. Instead, I try to shine my own light. I build my own fires that I hope will keep me warm. My light is feeble and unreliable, and my fires soon die and I’m shivering yet again.

And yet, I am so “prone to wander,” as the songwriter put it. The Father, the Son, and the Spirit, who know me so well, know that I need many reminders, and need to be called back, again and again.

Let all that I am wait quietly before God,
     for my hope is in him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
     my fortress where I will not be shaken.
My victory and honor come from God alone.
     He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy 
          can reach me.

(I love that phrase — a rock where no enemy can reach me!)

Father, I want to live in your light alone. Trust in you alone. Find my life in you alone. Lead me there, Jesus. Keep me there, Spirit.


Scripture: Isaiah 50:10-11, Psalm 62:5-7 (emphasis added) (both NLT)

Light for the world, in a clay pot

It’s rainy and gray here today. AGAIN. And, I admit, that is sometimes how I feel spiritually, too. Not at all like a city on a hill that gives light to everyone around me. More like a fragile clay jar, with plenty of cracks.

Look back at that verse in 2 Corinthians 4 once again:

We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.

It is God’s power that makes us a light, even the light of the world! Any light that shines from me is his light, his alone.

Here’s a most amazing statement: We are being changed into the image of our Lord.

And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.

Read more about this in 2 Corinthians Chapter 3. We who have turned to the Lord have had the veil of unbelief ripped away. Satan no longer has the power to blind us. We are free to see and reflect God’s glory. And the Spirit is making us like him, transforming us into his image.

The Greek word that is translated here as “changed”  means “to change fundamentally and completely from one state to another.”  Wow.  He is changing Me to Him.

Does that change your picture of yourself?

We are not merely disciples of a great teacher, struggling along, trying to do the “right” things, trying (under our own steam) to be “good enough” and be like Jesus.

Change that picture to this: We have been claimed by God and are being transformed by his Spirit within us into the likeness of the Lord we follow.

Yes, these are bold claims, but we’re talking about the power and plan of the Lord of the Universe. He can do whatever he chooses, and He is not restricted by our humanness. He chooses to plant his Spirit within us, to show his power through us, and to shine his light into this world through his children.

Doesn’t that give you goose bumps?


Scripture: 2 Corinthians 4:7, 2 Corinthians 3:18 (both NLT) 

Rattling the Latch

I know why the Psalms are so popular: The writers were just like us. They knew all the ups and downs of faith and trust. They often felt weak and tired and overwhelmed. They lived times of great joy and praise, and they were occasionally swamped with anger and desire for revenge. Sometimes they were certain of God’s love and care, and sometimes they wondered if God had forgotten them. They stumbled and sinned horribly. They were broken and contrite and longed to come back to God.

Psalm 18 is quite a read. It starts out,

I love you, LORD; you are my strength.
The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my Savior;
   my God is my rock, in whom I find protection.
He is my shield, the power that saves me,
   and my place of safety.
I called on the LORD …
   and he saved me from my enemies.

The next sixteen verses give a description of the Lord thundering from heaven to rescue one who was entangled by the cords of death, caught in a deadly trap, overwhelmed by floods of destruction. It’s no wonder the writer starts his psalm by saying the Lord is his strength, his rock, his protection, his shield.

But what about the days YOU feel entangled in the cords of death and overwhelmed by floods? What about the times you long for his strength but you can’t seem to find your way to his fortress and you are completely out of touch with his power? What do you do when it feels as though God is too busy to come charging out of the heavens to aid you?

I am certain of one thing:

You, O LORD, keep my lamp burning;
my God turns my darkness into light.

The only thing to do in such times is rattle the latch.

A friend gave me a Christmas gift, a squat, ceramic lighthouse, blue and white, holding a small candle inside. Hand-painted letters wobbled along the bottom edge proclaiming, “God’s Love Lights Our Way.”

I set it on the sill above the kitchen sink and felt warmed by the brave little flame that danced against dark winter evenings outside the window.

Then one night as I washed dishes, I read those wobbly words and wondered, “What in the world does that mean? It sounds great, but what does it mean?

Instantly, unexpectedly, I was a five-year-old on a dark night.

We lived in a tiny four-room cottage just below my grandparents’ big farmhouse on the hill. Our sidewalk led to the base of their house, where a door opened into storage space under a long porch; then a second door led to a windowless cellar. From the cellar, we climbed a flight of stairs to Grandma’s kitchen. The front door was on the other side of the house, so going through the cellar was the most direct route to Grandma’s.

The big house was only steps away from ours; but when I traveled the path alone at night, it was a nervous journey through the darkness. I’d take a quick dash down the sidewalk, eluding unknowns waiting to pounce from the shadows, running for the safety of under-the-porch.

Then I’d stop at the threshold of the black cellar. The old planked door had an iron latch, and I stood there and clattered that latch— up-and-down, up-and-down, up-and-down— until an unseen hand above turned on the light that showed me the way to the stairs and Grandma’s safe kitchen.

Yes, God’s love does light my way. Running through this world’s darkness with its truly scary shadows and lurking unknowns, I often stand and clatter the latch, longing to know God’s presence in my life, hungry for His words to me, needing to hear the voice that loves me.

So many times, the only thing I can do is rattle the latch.

And the wonderful thing is … His light comes on.


Scripture: Psalm 18:1-3 (NLT), Psalm 18:28 (NIV)