Archive for the ‘Pass The Salt’ Category

Light Of The World

Reading John 1:1-8

One of the things I enjoy about the back yard is the soft glow of the solar lights in the night.  When one arrives home after dark, these lights are a comforting beacon of home.  Solar lights work because they charge their batteries through exposure to the light of the sun.  Once the sun goes down the lights flicker on and glow.  If the day has been cloudy the lights still work, but they may not last as long into the night before they dim.  For those of us who live by faith, we gain our power, our reserve for the dark nights if you will, through exposure to the Son.  John’s gospel begins with a marvelous description of Jesus, the creator God, the source of life, and that life is the light of humanity.  A light that shines into the darkness.  John says the darkness has not understood the light.  When someone, even someone very religious, has not been in the light of Jesus, they lack the power to understand that light of life.  Faith is about relationship with Jesus and out of that relationship comes light. We do not seek the light, we seek the one who is the light! John’s gospel describes John the Baptist as one who “was not the light”, but “came only as a witness to the light.”  Like a solar lamp, our goal in faith is to reflect the light of Jesus Christ.  Matthew recorded Jesus saying “let your light shine before others, so they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven” (5:16).  Our good deeds do not generate light, rather they reveal the presence of Jesus in our lives and His light shines out through us and glorifies the Father. 

For the believer then, the practices of our faith: reading the Bible, prayer, worship, fellowship, service, etc., serve not to generate our light, but allow us to draw nearer to Jesus so that the light of His presence is reflected in our lives.  When we struggle in faith, it does not mean that Jesus has left us, but it can indicate that we have pulled away from Jesus and our ‘batteries’ have not been charged to last the long dark night.  This is where the disciplines of faith can help us and empower us.  We may not sense the presence of Jesus, but we press on in/with/for Him.  Feelings come and go, just as a dull day can slow down the efficiency of a solar charger, it nevertheless still works. My illustration breaks down if we push it too far in this area, remember Jesus said

“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.
Whoever believes in me,
as the Scripture has said,
streams of living water will flow from within him.” (John 7:37-38). 

Nevertheless, we too, when we are down, struggling, hurt and wounded can still reflect the light of Christ, can still draw nearer to Him through our faith practices. The key is a sincere heart; seeking Jesus, never giving up on Jesus, trusting Jesus.  He said also (Matthew 6:22-23) that the eye is a lamp of the body, if your vision is clear, your whole body will be full of light.  If we allow ourselves to be exposed to the things of life that are not of God, it affects the efficiency of our faith and capacity to be empowered and service God through the long night.  The best solar chargers actually rotate to take full advantage of the sun, perhaps is our faith is floundering or struggling we need to re-orient our posture towards Jesus, to be in the full light of His presence. That light can reveal some things that are not pretty, but late in life, John clings to the promise of God ‘if we confess our sins He is just and faithful to forgive our sins and cleanse us from every unrighteousness!”
(1John 1:9).

May you, by basking in the Son, have your soul charged to glow with the love of God to those around!

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Good Guilt!

Reading in Isaiah 6 and pondering the order of events.  Isaiah has a vision of the Lord God in his throne room.  A vision of great majesty, emphasising the holiness of God.  Isaiah’s response to this awesome vista is a painful realization of his own sinfulness before the Holy God.  God provides cleansing at Isaiah’s repentant confession.  God then declares that Isaiah’s guilt is taken away and his sin has been atoned for.  This is the essence of the faith journey, we encounter God, realize our sin, yield to God’s redemption and enter into His Kingdom.  Guilt is not always a bad feeling, if it draws us to seek God’s face.  False guilt will push us away from God, declare us unfit -which we are- but offers no redemption, only condemnation.  The issue is not our guilt, Paul reminds the Roman Church that all are guilty before God, the issue is one of redemption.  The sin that brings guilt needs atonement,  it needs dealt with, a penalty must be paid.  It cannot be swept under the rug or ignored, it must be faced.  Within Isaiah’s vision Go sent a seraph with a live coal to cleanse; for you and I, Jesus came and paid the penalty for our sin on the cross.  Isaiah 6 is an epic story because of the sense of calling to go and speak of God’s message.  After Isaiah is cleansed, and this is key, he hears God’s call, “whom shall I send?”  He can answer, “Here I am, send me!”  We sometimes get this mixed up, thinking our service for God will be what provides the atonement for our sin, but quite clearly our service arises out of God’s provision of atonement.  The gift of Isaiah is a gift for you today, serving God is not a condition for atonement, but a benefit of atonement.  God cleanses us to enter into His holiness, and from that place we can serve God. May you know the freedom of serving God from a guilt free heart!

The Greatest Of These Is Love

Reading Psalm 50, a Psalm that both encourages and challenges.  It begins with a beautiful image of God speaking through creation in sunrise and sunset, we land of the living skies people can resonate with that image!  The Psalm continues though with a rebuke for a tendency to place the practice of religion over the path of holiness.  Tradition and ritual serve us well when they point us toward the Master, they were never meant to be our master.  Our practices of faith and religion are meant to draw us closer to God, to encounter the love of the Creator and be in relationship with Him.  Holiness is something we cannot earn or merit, but in submitting to Christ it is bestowed and we then learn to walk in it with Jesus.  It is important to have that priority straight in our lives -relationship first, practices of religion to enhance relationship.  I write this article on Valentine’s day, we often use  1Corinthians 13 in weddings and this day as a reminder of the value of love.  It’s a good use of the passage, but in context it is not really about the love of a couple, it is about God’s love at work in and through us.  Chapters 12 and 14 discuss spiritual gifts and the unity of the church.  God is reminding us that gifts, like our rituals, have value to the body of Christ and growing in holiness, but they are not the goal or priority.  The priority we are told is this: “faith, hope & love, but the greatest of these is love.”  The Psalmist finishes with God’s call: “the one who sacrifices thank-offers honours me, and prepares the way so that I may show that one the salvation of God.”  A key to our religious practices, rituals and structure is thankfulness -learning to listen to God speaking to us in creation and in our lives.  A thankful heart is one that begins to grow in love.  A thankful heart is open to the salvation God has provided in Jesus Christ.  Give thanks with a grateful heart, God will lead you forward in faith, hope and love.

Light Of The World: Christmas Article 2017

There is always something special to me about the way we use light in our Christmas decorations.  During the dark daysnoopy 2016s of winter, these little lights are beacons of hope and warmth.  For the Christ-follower, Advent and Christmas is a call to be awakened by God’s presence in our lives. Our decorations using light nudge us to consider this great and amazing reality that God would become human.

 

 

Consider the account of creation in Genesis. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.   Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.   And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.   God saw that the light was good.”  (Gen 1:1-5)

Take note how John’s Gospel begins with a similar cadence; “in the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God… in Him was life, and that life was the light of mankind.” (John 1:1,4).  Light and life are identified as deeply intertwined, the advent demonstrates that the life of Christ is the light of humanity.  The first act of creation was light and the light was good.  Life and light coexist together. To have life is to have light… to have light is to have life.  John says the light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

John also describes John the Baptist in verses 6-8. “There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John.  He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.” John reminds us that that not everyone gets or accepts that Jesus is the light.

One of the themes of Advent is the sense of surprise in how, when and where Jesus entered this earth.  The people of Israel were expecting, even longing for the Messiah to come -but as a conquering King who would get rid of the Romans and establish them as God’s chosen and anointed peoples. The Magi went first to the palace of Herod to seek the new king. The people of that day missed the arrival of the true light that gives light to every person.  The Shepherds were guided to a stable, with a baby placed in a manger. For Jesus came not to redeem a nation or a peoples, but to redeem individuals.  So, John says: “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—   children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” (John 1:14) is why we celebrate Christmas and why light is such a significant part of that celebration.

The light of Christ is the light of mankind.  Having Christ within us means that we become light bearers.  We do not become the light -but Christ shines within us.  We shine like stars.  In these cold days of winter, as we celebrate the Advent of Jesus, may the light of Christ not only warm your hearts and souls, may the light of Christ be a beacon of hope and celebration to all with whom you come in contact.

 

In The Silence

On November 11th we pause at 11:00am for 2 minutes of silence.  We engage this time to remember the cost of our peace paid by our fellow citizens.  What should we be thinking about during that silence?  The reality is that you can think whatever you want, those who fought and died did so to stop those who would force their agenda upon others.  Typically, we think of the loved ones from our family tree and community, one reason we gather as a people on Nov 11th is to remember together.  Our rally cry “from the rising of the sun to the going down of the same, we will remember them.”  We remember too that, while humanity strives for good and recognizes the importance of that value, there are many who embrace a path of evil to accomplish what they want.  We remember that we are capable of atrocity if we let ourselves go to our dark side.  G.K. Chesterson, Catholic Theologian and writer, was asked to submit an article to the London Times newspaper entitled “What Is Wrong With This World.”  He answered back:

Dear Sirs:
I am.
Yours Truly,
GK Chesterton.

The silence is an important part of our remembrance, it is an important part of faith too, the Psalmist writes ‘be still and know that I am God.’  To embrace and live in peace calls us to work through our inner struggles, pain, anger and goals.  Many of the New Testament letters begin and/or end with the phrase ‘grace and peace to you’. We have the freedom to choose to live in grace and peace. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian Church, ‘if anyone is in Christ they are a new creation’, faith in Jesus is renewal of our heart and soul that allows God’s peace to begin to reign. There is an ongoing journey of faith we can embrace during the moment of silence, a prayer.  The Apostle Peter outlined it this way: ‘make every effort to add to your faith goodness; to goodness, knowledge, to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness’ and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.’  May you, on this Remembrance Day, embrace afresh the commitment to honour the price of our silence, and engage in the personal decision to choose the way of peace.

Seeking The Creator

Reading John 10

 “But religion is an inconvenience only to those who are travelling against the grain of creation, at cross-purposes with the way that leads to redemption.”
P121 “A Long Obedience In The Same Direction” Eugene Peterson

 

If you will agree that there is a Creator, you might further agree that the Creator has a plan and purpose for this world, and for you.  Our world is a difficult place, we often wonder if it is broken and perhaps at times we despair if it is possible to see it restored/repaired.  Our efforts often seem to produce amazing results, other times it looks/feels like two steps forward and three steps backwards.  The Christian world view sees this world as created by God and that it was good.  However, it didn’t stay that way, humans messed it up.  The Creator gave us the ability to choose, and while we often choose well and wisely, we seem to just as often choose poorly. On our own, as humanity, it appears to be a loosing battle.  One of the hardest things to figure out are the excesses and problems caused by ‘religion’.  In and of itself religion is the quest for the Creator, however, we try to make that our own and a way to justify our actions that are not for the larger good.  Two steps forward and three steps back.  Eugene Peterson, in his book A Long Obedience In The Same Direction says this: : But religion is an inconvenience only to those who are traveling against the grain of creation, at cross-purposes with the way that leads to redemption.”  Here is our conundrum, seeking God is impacted by our issues, the very ones that require we need God.  But, it is not a lost cause.  The key is in Eugene’s line about the way that leads to redemption.  If we are not that concerned about being in a close relationship with God through the redemption of Jesus, religion becomes a tool, a crutch or even a weapon.  Religion is a problem when are not truly seeking the Creator.  God is merciful and gracious and understands our capacity to seek is warped, that’s why Jesus came.  Take heart dear seeker, Jesus said “I have come that you might have life and that you might have life more abundantly” (John’s Gospel, chapter 10). To allow your religion to line up with the Creator’s plan for you, seek the redemption found in Jesus Christ!

The Finger Of God

Reading Luke 11

Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey.  The last line of a comment by Jesus found in Luke’s gospel (Chapter 11).  Jesus drove out a mute demon, and some in the crowd wondered if it was by his own demonic power (Beelzebub) that Jesus did this.  Others thought he must be from God and pestered him for another miracle -a sign from heaven (more for entertainment value it seems). We are told that Jesus knew their thoughts and told them that a house divided could not stand.  He also said that, if he drove out evil spirits by the finger of God, then they should already recognize the Kingdom of God has come to them.  This is our struggle often, to correctly identify and respond to the presence and working of God’s Kingdom around us.  He illustrates and challenges our responses with two stories.  First, he talks the strong man who guards his house, at least until someone stronger comes along and clears him out. He also tells about a man who gets rid of an evil spirit in his life and cleans himself up. But the evil spirit comes back, finds the man’s ‘house’ clean and brings back seven more spirits even more wicked -the man’s condition is worse than it was before.  As I ponder these illustrations there is indeed a message for us as we consider the work of God’s Kingdom in our lives.  We can’t become holy and righteous on our own, it is not our own strength or effort that makes us clean and acceptable before God, in fact trying to make ourselves acceptable to God on our own may make our lives worse! After those two illustrations Jesus says: “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey.”  It’s not about our making ourselves acceptable before God, it is about yielding to Jesus that he might make us acceptable. What do we need to obey in the word of God?  Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength.  To obey God’s word is to love God, and allow God to love you.  Blessed are you to hear and to obey!