The Light Shines in the Darkness

Sometimes, every fibre of your being tells you that the darkness has won. The darkness has snuffed out the light and there’s no way forward; no hope for the future.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

We’re just less than a week into a brand new year. Over the past week or two, many people have been looking back and looking ahead. A number of people I know have been saying that 2017 was an “annus horribilis” and for some others, not just a horrible year but the worst they’ve experienced. They have high hopes for 2018 because it can’t possibly be as bad as 2017. The personal trials that we face are very real. Shattered relationships, lost loved ones, sickness, depression and more can threaten to crush and swallow us.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

When we look a little wider we see unspeakable atrocities across the world. Innocent people slaughtered, children being trafficked for the perverse desires of others, natural disasters, wars, violence and more. While anyone who has the opportunity to read this is probably living relatively comfortably, there are millions of people living in extreme poverty. Most are wondering where they might find their next meal. The numbers of those who are refugees, internally displaced, or seeking asylum is in the millions. Our world seems to be beyond help. How can there possibly be a way back from this?

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

I’ve seen some of the world’s injustices first hand over the past few years. I’ve sat in the homes of the poor and heard their heartbreaking stories. The nature of my work means that I am constantly immersed in stories of people who are powerless to change their circumstances and who are at the mercy of others who take advantage of them in the lowest possible ways. Constantly hearing such stories has brought me to tears several times. This world can be such a dark place.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

The good news is, no matter how bad things get, no matter how dark it gets, the darkness will not overcome. Yes, it will feel like the darkness has won and that there is no way to turn things around, but there’s something bigger going on.

It’s helpful to remind ourselves that the darkness is no surprise to God. He hasn’t been caught off guard. He is still in charge, and He is still sovereign. Even before time began, even before the darkness began to descend, God had a plan to shatter the darkness with light … light so powerful that it can never be put out. That light is God Himself in the person of Jesus.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. – John 1:1-13

As you start this year, a year that will no doubt bring a mixture of joy and disappointment, remind yourself that no matter how dark it may seem to be, you don’t have to fight the darkness alone. In those moments look for the light that shines in the darkness. It may seem faint at times but it’s there.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

This is an updated post, first published in January 2016.

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Useless Faith

It all stands or falls on this. There’s no middle ground. Jesus’ life isn’t simply an object lesson on living well.

The faith of many millions over centuries hinges on the resurrection that Christians celebrate on Easter Sunday (and throughout the year). If that one moment in history didn’t happen then our faith is a complete farce.

In a letter that he wrote to the church at Corinth a couple of thousand years ago, the Apostle Paul claims that if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then the whole Christian faith is useless and all the world’s Christians are poor suckers who should be pitied.

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.

We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.

For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.

If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. – 1 Corinthians 15:12-19

Paul’s saying that the idea of Jesus being a good teacher who said some interesting things isn’t an option. He’s telling us that the whole Christian belief rests on the crucifixion and resurrection being historical fact.

For many, that’s too much of a stretch to believe. How can it be true that someone could be brutally killed yet return to life three days later?

But imagine for a moment that it is true. That would mean that death doesn’t have to be the end because it has been beaten at its own game.

We’ve all been inspired by the lives of others, even knowing that they have died or will at some stage die. Once they’re gone the story of their life, their trials and triumphs continue to influence and motivate us. Surely the story of someone who even triumphed over death itself should give rise to even greater admiration and inspiration … but of course only if the story of them defeating death is true.

When we look at the evidence, the truth of the resurrection emerges very clearly as the best explanation. There is no other theory that even come close to accounting for the evidence. Therefore, there is solid historical grounds for the truth that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. – Matt Perman

In his article, Historical Evidence for the Resurrection, Matt Perman takes a brief look at some of the reasons that many people over the past two thousand years have believed that Jesus rising from the dead isn’t just a nice story, it’s fact.

I don’t have time for a useless faith.

I’m not prepared to believe fairy tales and so while many will scoff and think I must be crazy, I will say that I believe that death has lost its sting because God raised his son Jesus from the dead.

That’s what I’ll be celebrating today and for all eternity.

I pray that you’ll take time to consider the significance of the Easter story this Resurrection Sunday.

The good news is that God, out of His love, became man in Jesus Christ in order to pay the penalty for sinners. On the cross, Jesus died in the place of those who would come to believe in Him. He took upon Himself the very death that we deserve. The apostle Paul says “He was delivered up because of our sins.” But the apostle Paul goes on to say “He was raised to life because of our justification.” Paul is saying that Christ’s resurrection proves that His mission to conquer sin was successful. His resurrection proves that He is a Savior who is not only willing, but also able, to deliver us from the wrath of God that is coming on the day of judgment. The forgiveness that Jesus died and rose to provide is given to those who trust in Him for salvation and a happy future. – Matt Perman

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Is it still confronting?

squatter slums

I’ve been asked pretty much the same question in a variety of ways over the last couple of years. Does it still affect you? Do you still find poverty confronting? Do you get used to seeing people living in extreme poverty?

My job as a Relationship Manager with Compassion Australia occasionally takes me overseas to see our work on the field. On those visits I not only visit the local churches that partner with Compassion, I get to visit some of the homes where those being sponsored live. I’ve recently returned home from another one of those visits and met with people who have been given enormous hope despite their poverty.

Yes, it’s still confronting, maybe not as surprising as it once was but completely confronting. No I don’t get used to seeing people living in extreme poverty. Yes, it still affects me deeply. When any of those answers change I’ll find a new job.

Click on the photo above to get a closer look at just one very small part of a squatter slum in Manila in the Philippines that I visited. You can see dozens of makeshift homes, mostly single room dwellings made out of whatever materials can be found, all perched precariously above an open canal filled with raw sewage. When the floods come, that canal swells and pushes its vile contents chest deep into the homes in the surrounding area. Locals told us that several of those communities have been destroyed by fire multiple times. The poor have no option but to clear away the ashes and begin again.

How can it not be confronting to see precious children and their families living in such terrible conditions?

These are people created in the image of God, being forced to live in cramped, unsafe circumstances. Poverty ties their hands. They have no choices. No way to lift themselves and their families out of their situations. Poverty tells them this is all they can ever expect.

It’s more than confronting. It’s unacceptable.

I find it completely unacceptable that in a day and age when we have every resource we need to turn poverty on its head, there is still such a gap between the excess we experience and the complete lack of resources experienced by many, many millions around our world.

Some would throw their hands up and say that that’s the way it will always be and I would challenge them to think again. Over the past few decades we’ve seen a dramatic decrease in extreme poverty around the world, which tells us we can make a difference, but the statistics are still alarming. There’s still much to be done and it won’t be done unless we all play our part in bringing about change.

So yes, it’s still confronting. It’s still unacceptable. It’s still something I want to spend my life changing in whatever way I can. I know that I can only play a very small part in bringing about change but I’ve seen enough to know that small change isn’t insignificant change.

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Chynna Stole My Heart


I met Chynna yesterday. She stole my heart.

The poverty we’ve been seeing around parts of Manila in the Philippines over the past few days has touched me deeply but it suddenly became real when I met Chynna, an 11 year old girl that our family recently started sponsoring.

When we arrived at her local church, a church which partners with Compassion, Chynna and her mum were standing outside waiting. They were excited and nervous. So was I. Chynna’s mum bent down and said something quietly in her ear then pointed towards us.

We walked inside and I was introduced to a nervous, shy, but very happy little girl. Both her and her mother were beaming. They had been told that today they would meet Chynna’s new sponsor. Chynna had been sponsored previously but for whatever reason, her sponsor had cancelled her ongoing support. I was more than happy that our family could step in and begin supporting Chynna so that she can be released from poverty in Jesus’ name.


I gave Chynna a number of small gifts, including a small photo album with pictures of our family and Australia. There’s still room in the album so that we can send more photos. I’ll certainly send a few that were taken at our meeting yesterday so that she can remember that very special day.

Chynna’s home is a short walk from the church and I was invited to visit. As we walked out of the church Chynna grasped my hand and walked beside me. We followed her mother through the street and down a small alleyway. Their home is just one room, about 3 metres by 3 metres. There is one double bunk inside. 9 people live in that one home. Despite the limitations of housing that many people in that space, the room was neat and orderly. Other family members warmly greeted me and those that were with me.

After spending some time there I had the opportunity to pray for the family, specifically Chynna and her parents. We then wandered back to the church.

We spent a little more time together while we had a tour of the facilities used for the Compassion project and more more of the children being helped by the local church. Then it was time to go.

Chynna’s mum once again expressed her thanks and Chynna gave me a goodbye hug. It was hard to leave but it was time to go.

The letters we write to Chynna will now have greater meaning. The letters we receive will hold great significance. We can’t be there each day to support Chynna and her family but by sponsoring her I am convinced she is part of a community which loves her and will ensure the very best for her as she continues to grow.

If you sponsor a child, never underestimate the significance of your contribution. If you’re not already a sponsor, please consider sponsoring a child today through Compassion.

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Poverty Doesn’t Define Micole

Wall Art

Micole was born into poverty but the poverty he faces every day no longer defines him.

Over the last few days I’ve heard incredible stories of transformation as I’ve been part of a group visiting the work of Compassion in Manila, Philippines. I’ve had the privilege of traveling here with some former colleagues from 98five. They’re taking the opportunity to tell Perth listeners about the people we’re meeting and the life change we’ve seen.

I had the honour of meeting Micole when I visited a church in Manila which partners with Compassion. He’s now 19 yet despite being registered in a Compassion project from the age of 7, Micole openly admits that he made a number of bad life choices. He says he was smoking, drinking, fighting and choosing the wrong friends. That was all before he turned 16. He described himself as being trouble for his parents and his siblings described him as a ‘black sheep’.

At the age of 16, the things Micole had been learning at the local church began to become real to him and he started to understand the help he was receiving thanks to his Compassion sponsor.

I see the goodness of the Lord in my life. I grow spiritually and because of that I read the word of God, I pray to him every day, I confess my sin and he forgives me. Now I commit myself to God I spend more time with him and I see that he change my life. Before I have a messy life because of the sin that I have but God fixed everything. He directs me in the paths of righteousness and now I have a ministry in our church which is teaching and music. We teach children in outreach and Sunday School extension in music. Sometimes I am the song leader in praise and worship team in our Sunday service.

Micole says that he is so glad and blessed that he came to know God in his life. He thanks God that he used the church and Compassion to help him change and submit his life to him and he is happy to serve Jesus.

God will never leave me, I just call his name whenever I am afraid and broken he is always there for me to make me happy, cheer me, hug and protect me. He is faithful and loving. Thank you Christ Jesus for changing my life and now in all I do I honour you.

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