First Light is a short devotional that is posted daily throughout the week via email and this blog.  If you are interested in receiving a copy in your email, just contact us at office@thelambschapel.org and tell us you would like to receive First Light.

A LIGHT IN MY DARKNESS

Posted by Brandon Patton on Tuesday, April 9, 2019 @ 9:10 AM

"A light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the Morning star arises in your hearts."

2 Peter 1:19

Many heroes of the faith in God's Word found themselves at times in a period of darkness. Most notably was King David who reveals his struggle in the Psalms "why have you forgotten me, why do I go mourning, oppressed by my enemy? While they mock me all day asking me where is your God now?". As I read the biographies of so many great saints I began to see a pattern of periods of darkness that they all endured during their walk with God. Sometimes these difficult times are the result of an event that causes great grief or pain but more often than not their is no explanation for the troubled soul. As was with David. What do we do when we find ourselves in a place of blindness, confusion, doubt, oppression or pain amidst the seeming absence of God's presence? Endless attempts to figure life out are futile. The answers to life are not between our ears. Wandering aimlessly through your emotions is self defeating. God has a clear and reliable word for times such as this. In Second Peter He gives a simple powerful answer for the dark periods of life. He calls us to "pay attention to the Word that is a light that shines in the darkness until the day dawns again". His Word is always perfect truth and revelation no matter what the situation. Our need is to turn from intellect and feelings and focus on His Word only. The Bible states that the "day will dawn" sometime. We will come out of our darkness. But until we do it is imperative to stare at His Word only. Rejecting all "voices" that are contrary to His voice in His Word. Often when fishing on the Chowan river I would hang a lantern in a tree where we were camping before going out to fish at night. In the daylight I could easily navigate the river and see where I was going and where I wanted to get to.  However, in the dark was a whole different story! I couldn't see anything after night fall. When I was done fishing I simply followed the lantern back to the camp and sound myself back at home base. Just as the lantern was a "light that shined in the darkness", God's word is the light that gives clear direction and protection when I am in the dark spiritually, emotionally, or intellectually. You don't have to be smart to get where you want to go, you just have to keep your eye on the light. It will get you where you need to be.

Father, I praise you for giving me "a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path" in you Word.

IN THE DARK

Posted by Brandon Patton on Tuesday, April 9, 2019 @ 9:09 AM

"But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God."

Acts 16:25

Paul and his traveling companion after arriving in Philippi found themselves in complete darkness. Not only were they immersed in physical darkness, they found themselves in a darkness of understanding. They had no idea why after obeying God to go preach His Good News to this region they had been falsely accused, arrested, beaten and jailed. It made no sense at all. Where was God in all this? Why was He silent when they needed insight? Why did things not work out as they had supposed they would? Have you ever been there? You did everything you were supposed to and still suffered? Nothing in your world making sense? God is silent and no one has answers for your dilemma? What do we do when we are "in the dark"? I mean total darkness. Physically, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually. Do we try to figure life out intellectually? Do we let friends offer their insight? (remember Job's friends?) I've learned in my old age that when I can't hear God's voice to look for His verse. What does the Bible tell me to do? What did Paul do in His darkness? He began to sing. When he was confused as to the circumstances he sang to the Lord. When he was suffering he sang. When he didn't know what to do (what can you do in jail?) he sang. When the temptation to blame God came, instead of complaining he sang. I have learned one of the great Kingdom secrets to life from this passage; when you are in the dark, worship your way out. Why did the Holy Spirit place this in His Word to us? Is He teaching us something here? You bet. When my mind can't find answers, heart worship turns on the light. In the dark is the last place we feel like offering heart praise to our Savior. It is the place we most need to. It offends our logic to sing when darkness is like a fog. So be it. "Blessed is he who is not offended by Me". Scripture records that after (not before) Paul began to worship the light came on. Not only did the light come on but healing, reconciliation, freedom and salvation followed his song. When in deep doubt, shout your way out!

Father of Lights, thank you that the road to you is always built by worship.

Ministering to the Lord

Posted by Brandon Patton on Tuesday, April 9, 2019 @ 9:09 AM

"While they were Ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit spoke."

Acts 13:2

One of the most interesting and unnoticed verses in the Bible speaks of something called "ministering to the Lord". Most believers know that we are called to minister (serve) to the needs of people. It can be caring for the human needs of strangers or it can be meeting the needs of those we are close to. But, how does a follower of Jesus "minister to the Lord"? I didn't think He had any needs. None that I could help Him with if He did. What were this group of five men doing that the scripture speaks of here? They were ministering to the Lord in worship and adoring prayer. They met for the sole purpose of blessing the Lord. They may have sang to Him. They may have simply spoken their gratitude and adoration to Him. They may have done it in unison or they could have been doing it individually while meeting together. Obviously this was a practice of believers then. Its  a practice we need to bring back today. You may ask, "with all the need in the world why would God want me to sing to Him, wouldn't He rather me go help somebody"? You would have to have a father's heart to understand. When I came home to eat lunch one day years ago when our kids were young my daughter grabbed me and told me that she had a song she wanted to sing for me. "Sit down and listen" she commanded. I was busy and needing to get back to the job site to meet someone. However, I gladly obliged her and parked it on the sofa to be entertained. Her song was not the greatest performance. She was only five. It was a bit off key, lacked proper meter, and somewhat out of rhythm. But it blessed my heart big time! The issue was not the quality of the performance it was the relationship of the father to his child. No doubt God has better singers in His family than me. Some are much more artistic than I. No doubt there are some that are better behaved than I am. But His Father's heart still delights at my worship. If you ever have a revelation of how much your worship touches His heart, how he enjoys it, you will become a constant worshipper. You like Paul will be "ministering to the Lord". What can I give Him for all that He has given me? Why not give Him what He desires according to the Bible? I'll give Him a heart of focused intentional worship and adoration every day. And, if I can find a few others that want to join me (as Paul did) we will get together and spend an evening just blessing the Lord. What a thought; waste the whole evening on Jesus! Wonder what they do in Heaven?

Dear Jesus, I could never thank you enough for what you have done for me that I don't deserve! Not to mention what you didn't do to me that I did deserve! I'll spend the rest of eternity "ministering to the Lord" for His kindness!      

Overcomers overcome

Posted by Brandon Patton on Tuesday, April 9, 2019 @ 9:09 AM

"Whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world; our faith."

1 John 5:4

There can be little doubt that we live in very unusual times. Many people are wondering out loud where we as a people are headed if we continue on the same trajectory as we are on now. Let me suggest three prevailing attitudes that seem to  have gripped the nation and much of the world today. First is fear. The Bible is crystal clear as to the unfolding of world events that will take place as the second coming of Christ approaches. It is not a pretty global picture. Let me add that as far as accuracy, so far so good. One of the prophesies that Jesus made is that "men's hearts would be failing them because of that fearful things that they see coming on the earth". The response of people to the myriad of problems we see growing in culture is to live in fear and anxiety over the future. This is a natural response to growing uncertainty and insanity in the land. However, this should never be the posture of believers in Jesus. Our faith in the person and promises of Christ allow us to "see what others can't see", thereby living above our culture. The Word of God is our compass and mainsail not the evening news. Our lives are not controlled by societal currents but by the hand of God. Believers are to be a beacon of hope in a world of cluelessness. Secondly, I see a bunker mentality growing in Christian circles. The world is going to hell in a handbasket, but just hang on and hide out inside the church and soon and very soon we will be rescued from this insane mess. Both fear and bunker mentalities are unscriptural.  The Bible states the we who live by faith are to have the mindset of an "overcomer". This is the third option.  We refuse fear due to the fact that "even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I fear no evil because You are with me". The presence of God is our peace and confidence regardless of what transpires around us. Warriors don't wilt during difficult battles. They rise up to the challenge and live up to their calling. Nothing in world history has caught our God by surprise. I remind you that He described these days with great accuracy in the Bible many years ago. We are placed exactly where we are for this exact time in world history by His design. You were born for "such a time as this". He did not create me and place me here and now to cower in fear or to hide and wait for Him to rescue me. He declares that I am here to rule in His authority and live publicly as light in a dark world. His return or my going to Him is a determined date. It will happen exactly when He has predetermined. My business is not the when, that's His business. My business is the what. What has he placed me here to do and be? Our troubled world living in fear and uncertainty desperately needs to see a people that know who their God is and represents Him well as the only hope of mankind in this insane age. As the angels told the disciples at the sight of Christ ascension. "Get your eyes off the skies. He will return when it is time. You be about your Father's business until He returns".

I praise you for a living faith that is superior to the spirit of this world. My future is not dictated by the nightly news but by the Good News of the Gospel! Grant me grace to shine where you have planted me so this culture can see a light of hope in the growing darkness!

Disengage the rage

Posted by Brandon Patton on Tuesday, April 9, 2019 @ 9:08 AM

"And in that day many will be offended."

Matthew 24:10

One of the major prophesies that Jesus pronounced concerning the latter days was that a spirit of rage would be poured out on the earth. Welcome to America. Those oblivious to the spirit realm speak today of the loss of civility. It is no longer allowed to disagree with anyone in an agreeable spirit. We have moved into the age of "burn the place to the ground" if you offend me. Gone are the days of political opponents disagreeing over policy and then enjoying friendship much as did Ronald Reagan and house speaker Tip O'neill who sparred during the day and then enjoyed dinner together in the evening. Can you see Donald and Nancy laughing together over beer at a D. C. pub after hours? There is a demonic anger that has gripped both/all sides in today's debates. This danger has now reached the point that violence toward those we oppose is justified by the argument at hand. We now have a generation that lives looking for the slightest reason to rage and divide, rather than to unite around common ground. These perpetually aggrieved individuals are constant victims always searching for an issue to inflame over. The follower of Christ must refrain from seeing only the visible manifestation and recognize that this is a dark demonic cloud that has covered our nation as the Bible predicted. Therefore, we must understand that this battle is fought in the spiritual realm not in the flesh realm. It plays right into the enemies hands to "fight fire with fire". To rage against the ragers is exactly what darkness is hoping for knowing that "a house divided can not stand". For the believers our call is to determine not to be offended and thereby be "captured by the enemy to do his will". Its called forgiveness. Completely and fully. This is "Christianity 101". Jesus requires His own to "forgive as I have forgiven you".  If you allow the spirit of darkness to engage you into rage and anger as he is doing so many, you will be come his slave to do his will and become part of the destruction of this nation. If you fall for the trap and live offended you will live in bondage to demonic bitterness, useless to the Kingdom of God and vulnerable to demonic torture. Recognize what is happening today. Live to forgive and "bless those who curse you". Pray for Holy Spirit wisdom to spot the traps set for you before you are snared by them.

Father, I praise you for the weapon of personal freedom called forgiveness. Thank you so much that "no weapon formed against me can prosper" as long a I walk in forgiveness and refuse offense as Jesus did.

When hope speaks

Posted by Brandon Patton on Thursday, March 14, 2019 @ 9:40 AM

"Look now toward the stars and count them if you are able; so shall your descendants be."

Genesis 15:5

He was an old man who had long ago given up on his dream. In his culture family was paramount. A man lived to have a son that he could raise, partner with in family business and then leave as a legacy to himself. It had been years since Abraham had finally accepted the reality that he would die childless. The bitterness of not being blessed by God with a child in a religion that taught that barrenness was the judgement of God had been a painful thought for many years. At eighty plus years all hope was long abandoned. Until one surprising night when the Creator Himself visited the old man and took him outside. God admonished him to "look up and count the stars". As he began to scan the skies viewing the vast universe he heard the voice of God as He declared, "so shall be your children". His intellect rejected the idea as utter foolishness. To think that a couple in their eighties could conceive was nonsense. However, his heart leaped within him knowing that Jehovah was incapable of lying. That is the nature of true faith. Your reason will be repelled while your heart will rejoice. God doesn't plant faith in our rational heads, He plants true faith in our hearts. That's why the Bible says in Romans that "with the heart man believes". With great joy and anticipation Abraham did believe what he was told even though he no doubt struggled with intellectual doubt as we all do while believing God's promises. You know the outcome. Today millions trace their ancestry back to the old man that chose to believe. This is the premier picture of faith in the Bible. Held up as an example for all of the ages. This moving story also reveals greatly the true nature of the God we call Father and His heart to speak to His children and plant dreams in their hearts that only He can fulfill. What would He say to you if you were to listen to Him? I have no idea. No one can box Him in. "His ways are higher". But I do know this from scripture, it would have the same effect on you that it did on Abraham. It would be the "desires of your heart". And He alone can and will bring it to pass as we believe Him. Do you think that He loves Abraham more than you? Do you think that Abraham is "top tier" and you are "second string"? Do I really need to remind you of what He says in His Word about Him being "no respecter of persons"? If He had a dream for Abraham He has one for you. It will offend your intellect. But, it will ignite your heart. Listen to Him. Believe what He puts in your heart. Let Him be the God of Abraham to you also.

God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Brian, You who designed our hearts and lives before time began are the only one capable of fulfilling your plans for us. I trust you to reveal your wishes to our hearts and then bring them to pass in due season.

Grace or law?

Posted by Brandon Patton on Thursday, March 14, 2019 @ 9:39 AM

"The law came through Moses but, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ."

John 1:17

There has always been much debate among followers of Jesus about grace verses law. The Bible tells us that Moses gave the law. Simple really, obey these ten commands and have a good life. Break them and suffer. Jesus came and fulfilled the law for us so that now we live not under the law but under what the Bible calls grace. Many teach that since we are under grace that we can live without regard for the law. Do anything we feel like and still be blessed because we are no longer under law. Wrong. Others speak of grace but their message is still law. Its called legalism. How can I know where I fall? Its very simple. If you view the commands of God given in the Bible as commands that you have to try to obey, you are under the law. You are a card carrying legalist. (same ones that nailed God to a tree) If you view the commands of God in the Bible as promises you are living under grace. Follow me. One day Jesus told a man that had a deformed hand to "stretch out your hand". Was this a cruel joke in front of a big crowd designed to mock him? I ask you, could the man stretch out his hand? No. He was in no way capable. However, in faith he attempted to obey Jesus and to his surprise, God honored his faith and worked a miracle that did allow him to stretch out his hand. Tell me, was "stretch out your hand" a command or a promise? It was both. Welcome to grace! Jesus told Simon to "step out on the water". Impossible? Absolutely. A command or a promise? Both. He obeyed and what happened? That's grace. How about this one; "love your enemies". Command or promise? Try it alone as a command. See it as a promise under grace.   The law demands but does not help. Which leaves a trail of frustrated, discouraged disciples in its wake. Grace demands, and then when we in faith attempt to obey find that the same God who commands also provides Holy Spirit power to do the impossible. To His glory and our delight!  The legalist sees the Bible as a rulebook. Grace people see the Bible as a promise book! Law people see God as a stern demanding Wizard of Oz that can never be pleased. Grace people see God as a loving Father who delights in helping His children do the impossible! The law will wear you (and your pastor) out, leaving you "labored and heavy laden". Grace says "come unto me and find rest. My yoke (commands and requirements) are easy. My burden is light. You will live rested and refreshed". Why would anyone choose law over grace once they know the difference?

God of all grace, thank you for the new way of grace that Jesus came to bring me into. I "cast out the law" to live in a new way by your Spirit. I praise you that "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me"!   

Stuck

Posted by Brandon Patton on Thursday, March 14, 2019 @ 9:39 AM

"The Lord spoke to me, saying: you have circled this mountain long enough."

Deuteronomy 2:2-3

God delivered His people from captivity to take them to a land of great promise. It was His great love and kindness toward them. However, something happened along the way. They got stuck. They began to go around and around the same mountain instead of moving forward to what God had planned for them. There came a day when He told them "enough". Stop circling this mountain. Get unstuck and go forward. What a picture of many people today. Saved from bondage to begin a walk with Jesus that will lead to a place of His blessing only to get stuck on the journey. Stuck in a rut of failure. Did you screw up big time? Are you paralyzed by the past thinking that you blew it so bad that you can't possibly see the best land now. Stuck in a pit of self pity because of what someone did to you. Because of missed opportunities? Because of "I ain't got what it takes"? Are you stuck in a place of faithlessness? You used to expect great big things were coming your way. You used to dream of down the road. Now you are "content to dwell there". Surrendering your God given heart desires to the rut of a "get by" life. Are you trudging around the same old mountain of "that's all you will ever amount to"? Its easy to get stuck in a rut that causes us to exist without living. Hear the voice of God today. Remember, the Bible is God speaking to you. Just as He called Israel to break this pattern and forge ahead, He calls you to do the same. Ruts are easy. Breaking free into the unknown is difficult. Ruts are graves. A renewed desire to "lay hold of what Christ laid hold of me for" is energizing  and brings life back to dead bones. Tell the voices in your head to shut the hell up. Thoughts that mock your heart desire to see God do great things in you and through you. Thoughts that scorn you and point out past failures, defeats and shortcomings. They lie. Jesus is the truth. His Word is truth. The call of God to "move out" is a call to start believing for more of His goodness and blessing as you determine (like that word) to break out of the rut and go for the best He has to offer. Let's do it.  

Dear Jesus, I believe that you saved me for more that just getting by. I want to break out of this rut and find the path that leads to everything you have planned for me and mine. Thank you for calling me to move on.

I don't understand

Posted by Brandon Patton on Thursday, March 14, 2019 @ 9:38 AM

"Are you the coming one?"

Matthew 11:3

This question was asked by John baptist. What's wrong with it? Is it not a legitimate question? The problem was not the question, it was who asked it. John was the man "sent by God" to announce the coming of Jesus. He was the one that baptized Him. He was the one that pointed Him out to the people and declared "behold the Lamb of God". Why would he be asking if Jesus was the Messiah after all of this? Simple answer that speaks to a struggle we all share. After John pointed to Him and Jesus began His ministry, Jesus didn't act like John had expected Him to. John preached that the Messiah would come to "burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire". He painted a picture of a God that would bring harsh judgement. He spoke of the "wrath to come" when Jesus showed up. However, Jesus, as He began to interact with people was not at all like that. He healed the undeserving, forgave the worst of sinners, ate with the most notorious criminals, and smiled on those struggling with life. John was looking for judgement. Jesus brought mercy and kindness. The fact that God was not acting like John expected (notice that word), caused him to question who He really was. Do we not all suffer with the same problem? Do you have expectations of God and how He will act? Do I really need to ask you if He has done everything just the way you thought He would? The god that we have invented in our religious circles is very predictable and easy to understand. (funny how he tends to look a lot like us) The true God of the Bible is beyond human understanding. He can be loved, adored, worshipped, obeyed, enjoyed, and followed. But, He can never be figured out and explained fully by mere mortals. He is always good, but, He is never fully understood. He is much too big for me to squeeze into my little mind or "godbox". Jesus' answer to John is life saving for all of us. He replied to John's inquiry, "blessed is he who is not offended by me".  Grab this life altering truth. "If you will let me run my world the way I want to, even if you don't understand the whys and hows, I can be good to you as I have promised to. My blessing comes freely to those who are content not to have to understand everything." Are you there? Have you chosen to trust (notice that word) Him when nothing makes sense? You will never experience "the peace that passes understanding" until you can give up having to understand everything. The more I get to know Him, the more I realize how little I know about Him. However, the more I get to know Him the more I trust Him, and the less I need to know everything. I have surrendered my previous expectations of Him and replaced them with the simple truth that He is good. All  the time.  

Father, I don't have to understand you to walk with you. I don't have to see where we are going to follow you. I don't even have to like the path to stay on it. All I have to know is if you love me. When I can't understand your ways, I'll trust your heart.

Get up

Posted by Brandon Patton on Thursday, March 14, 2019 @ 9:38 AM

He cried out "Lord, save me". Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him.

Matthew14:30-31

Arguably Simon was the most famous "faller" in the Bible. He stumbled, fell, screwed up and blew it more than anyone in the whole book. The reason that their is so much about the famous fisherman and his famous falls in God's Word is so that God can speak to you through the example of Simon's life. The purpose of  his underwhelming life being so exposed in the Bible is not to parade the weakness of Simon, but rather to reveal the goodness of God. What is He saying to you by the fact that He chose an "ignorant uneducated" fisherman that couldn't control his temper to be the chief apostle and leader of the only eternal institution in history? What does this reveal about Him? The fact that it seems that Simon could do nothing dumb enough to stop God from restoring him and continuing to use him is a beautiful testimony to the grace and kindness of our Father. It wasn't that Simon used the grace of God as an excuse to keep stumbling, he really wanted to follow Jesus well. It was just that he was a guy that really struggled with walking a straight line. The most famous betrayal in history was when Simon cursed and swore that he had never met Jesus after being asked if he was one of His followers. Surely this was the last straw for God's patience to be broken and kick Simon off His team.  What would you have done to a friend like that? Scripture records that Jesus never mentioned the incident to him. He simply asked him if he still loved Him. After he responded that he did, Jesus again commissioned him to lead His church. Amazing grace? Amazing God! You and I have yet to plumb the depths of His kindness toward sinful people like us. His forgiveness and patience know no end toward His own. The one outstanding trait that Simon did possess was his ability to get up off the floor after falling. He never hesitated to call out to Jesus after he fell. And Jesus never hesitated to restore him. What a message the Bible is broadcasting to us today through the life of the well intentioned but struggling fisherman. "He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it until the day of Jesus". Listen to me and Simon, there is nothing wrong with falling down, there is something wrong with staying down. When you fall, I don't care if you are closing in on Simon's record for most falls in a lifetime, get up. Reach out to Jesus, He's reaching out to you!  

Father, surely the Bible is accurate when it declares that "God is for us". Thank you for loving those of us who struggle to walk straight. Thank you that "your mercies are new every morning"! 

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