I once led an overnight trip with 12 youth and 3 adults to Desoto Caverns in Alabama. It’s a large cave with lots of tight walls, sharp stalactites and stalagmites, and low ceilings. We walked for about an hour through the cave with our headlights on. Then the guide began to prepare us for the night we were about to experience as we slept in the cave. “It’s going to be really dark,” he said.

“OK,” I said. “Like how dark?”

“Like you can’t see your hand 2 inches from your face dark,” he responded.

I will never forget how completely, eerily dark it was when he turned off the lights. A few people quickly turned on their flashlights, so the sensation only lasted a few minutes. But after some brushing of teeth and bedding down in sleeping bags, every light was extinguished. I heard someone say in a whisper, O my God this is dark. It wasn’t profanity; it was a prayer.

What a long night that was with no light.

When the sun went down in the ancient world, it was completely dark. That’s hard for us to imagine, given our nightlights, bedside lamps, or the glow of a phone close at hand. But nightfall in Galilee brought total darkness. Candles and oil were luxury items. The average Jewish person wouldn’t have used one everyday.

The Gospel of Luke says that when Jesus arrived on the scene as the Messiah, His purpose was “…to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:79, ESV). This is spiritual language. He came to light up the dark places of the world that had been corroded through mistakes, failures, hurts, disappointments, and division.

The light shines brightest in the darkest places.

Our church has the opportunity to be a light in Knoxville. We join Jesus as “the light of the world” (John 8:12, ESV) to light up the dark places of despair and hopelessness.

All the Light We Cannot See

Yesterday was an incredible day of celebration. We had a welcome reception in our new children’s ministry space, honored graduates, enjoyed our children’s music participation in worship, and witnessed Charlize Dickie’s baptism.

One of the comments I heard from several people yesterday as they saw the renovated children’s space is that it is filled with light. The design concept was developed by our church member, Angie Lyon, and allows for the light from the back part of our building to infiltrate all through the classrooms.

Before, none of the natural light from the side facing the Tennessee River could come into the space. Now, the whole children’s area is light-filled and welcoming. There is also an echo in the design of the Sunsphere’s symbolic “light” in our city.

Our hope is that God will use the newly renovated space to bring the light of Christ into the lives of children and their families.

We have included a few elements in the new space that we hope will be especially helpful to families:

– a “quiet” space for kids that may be struggling with overstimulation;

– common areas where parents they can relax and get to know other parents;

– new AV equipment to help teachers lead their group;

– a new digital check-in system to help keep kids secure and to foster better communication with families.

This Little Light of Mine

The goal for the new children’s space is reflected in the motto for our children’s ministry: growing with God, the Bible, and each other.

We want every child to know about God’s love and what it looks like to grow as a disciple. Our teachers will equip the children with truth from the Bible and help the children develop relationships with one another.

Also, our purpose is to equip them to shine the light of Jesus for others to see. We are praying that God will send many more families to First Baptist so that more people can know the grace that comes through Jesus.

Thank you for your generosity and faithfulness in helping us get to this milestone. We look forward to seeing how God continues to work as we live into this new ministry space. I’m grateful to be part of the First Baptist family. Together, we are experiencing God’s goodness and grace in ways that we can’t experience those things individually.

Have a wonderful, light-filled week. I am praying for you and I love you.