How Many Lights Do You See – Four or Five? (the scandal of certainty in uncertain times)

A simple phrase at the start of Luke’s gospel sucker-punched the solar plexus of my soul.

Luke is the logical gospel for the season, so I dove in headlong, not suspecting any immediate surprise in such familiar territory.

Suddenly, there it was, this throbbing heart hunger, identified and called out by the author/physician at the close of his introduction. Perhaps he is the writer to conduit some inner healing.

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught. Luke 1:1-4


Certainty in uncertain times. Certainty concerning the things I’ve been taught. Wow. That’s it.

I’d danced around my longing for it until Dr. Luke tapped my knee with his gospel hammer and my spirit kicked him clear across the room.

Certainty. A slippery quality in divisive days. Some would say an antiquity, an archaic notion. Others declare it a fool’s desire, the refuge of the unsophisticated, a distinctive of the simple and uninformed.

It’s de rigueur, for those wishing to appear wise and inclusive, to qualify every statement with a modifier indicating that facts change, truth is relative, and perspective may shift with prevailing winds.

I appreciate an openness to other positions, sensitivity to culture and worldview, and willingness to listen and learn. But, not everything varies with perspective.

There are absolute truths. There are eternal certainties that don’t vary with timelines, cultures, genders, or vantage points. Even if to believe the contrary is the fashion of the age.

Toe-ing the cliff-edge of 2018, most of what I see for certain is change – personally and globally. Change on numerous fronts – some welcome, some dreaded, along with threats, shifts, and other transitions. On the last page of every calendar, I find the phrase, Beyond here be dragons and so I press into Dr. Luke and say, yes, help me locate certainty concerning the things I’ve been taught.

Jesus. Of Him, I am certain. That He lived. That He is God. That He died for my sins and rose again. That He is coming again. Still, it’s a certainty I don’t take for granted.

Daily, in a fallen world, we’re confronted with subtle (sometimes not so subtle), mental, societal pressures to deny certainty, to question perspective, and to speak only what is acceptable, not what is truth.

The persistence of the fallen planet under the influence of the chief deceiver, nibbles at the edges of our faith all the time. Like beach erosion, certainty must be measured and combatted after every major storm, and monitored even after minor squalls.

Do I know that my redeemer lives? Yes. Do I believe the Bible is reliable and true? Yes.

But while our anxiety fixes on threats from North Korea, the deceiver slithers across the transom of a thousand open-doors in our every day, curling himself around our thoughts with an ever-tightening choke-hold on truth and we need the Holy Spirit to unfurl him with the certain remedy of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Modern life is like an old Star Trek: The Next Generation Episode (an homage to George Orwell’s 1984), where Captain Picard is tormented by a ruthless captor who continually shows him four bright lights, promising Picard comforts and relief if he simply states there are five.

Watching this scene play out, I think of the inquisitors we face daily.

“If God is real, there’s no way He’d allow suffering. Let go of your juvenile need for a great bearded man in the sky.”

“You say God is love, but it’s not love to tell people how to live, is it?”

“No one can know what the Bible is really saying. It’s so full of mistakes. Grow up. Move on.”

“The writers of the Bible weren’t as informed as we are now. Update your translation. Admit no one can really know what God wants.”

And right now, today, we withstand the pressure, but one thing I know for certain – without Jesus, we will fall. Humans reach limits. And our enemy persists, fueled by his hatred of our God.

Captain Picard is released before he succumbs to the torture.  His admission, though, to his counselor after he is free, should caution us all.

“Captain Jean-Luc Picard: At the end, he gave me a choice – between a life of comfort… or more torture. All I had to do was to say that… I could see *five* lights, when in fact there were only four.

Counselor Deanna Troi: You didn’t say it.

Captain Jean-Luc Picard: No. No. But I was going to. I would’ve told him anything. Anything at all. But more than that – I believed that I could see… five lights.” (Chain of Command, Star Trek: The Next Generation, 1992)

We’re big on announcing that we know the reason for the season, but are we certain of what we’ve been taught?

What better way to celebrate Jesus’ birth than to remind ourselves of who He is, to consider what we believe with certainty. What better preparation for a new uncertain year than to affirm the spiritual ground beneath our soul’s gospel-shod feet?

Walk with Luke through a thorough examination, eyewitness accounts, of Jesus’ life on earth and enter the new year reading the Acts of the Apostles. Re-establish certainty in Jesus and then, you too, will understand this riddle:


What did one domino say to the other? We don’t have to fall.

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    The Conversation

  1. Thank you Lori for encouraging words!

  2. I LOVE it when the Spirit pulls out His holy highlighter and points out something I’ve read a thousand times but never seen before. And then you tied it into TNG too. This couldn’t get any better!
    Also, great word about holding steady to Truth when the world around us is in flux.

  3. Jann Butts says:

    This is an uncertain world, constantly changing per the whims of a fickle society. Only God is constant, unchanging and true.

    Thank you for a timely message, Lori!

    Happy Yeshua’s birthday to you and your family!!