Archive for the ‘Pass The Salt’ Category

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.

 

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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!

An Advent Quest

Reading John 18:28-38

 

A story more associated with the Easter season than Advent, the encounter of Jesus with Pilate is very fitting for today.  Found in John’s Gospel (18:28-38) the setting is at the government administrative center where Pilate lived and held court.  Religious leaders hauled Jesus before Pilate because they wanted to apply the death sentence but did not have the authority to do so.  So they accused Jesus of sedition and treason –claiming to be a king when Caesar is emperor over the Jews.   Pilate senses this is a railroading job, but is forced by protocol to see this through, and ultimately, sentence Jesus to execution.  Pilate asks Jesus “Are you the King of the Jews?”  Jesus asks Pilate his motive in this question.  Ultimately, this is the question we must each arrive at, and consider our motive for asking.  Why do you want to know about Jesus? Our reason for enquiring may determine the answer we perceive. What do you want of Jesus? Do you, like Pilate, want wash your hands of the whole thing and get on living your life your way?  Do you want learn from and encounter a good teacher and maybe pick up something positive for your life?   Are you looking for something deeper, some connection with your creator, some answers to your life?  Are you looking for something else?

Consider the answer Jesus gives Pilate; “you are right in saying I am a King, in fact for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.  Everyone on the side of the truth listens to me.”  An Advent/Christmas theme indeed!  For unto us a child is born… peace on earth and good will towards mankind.  This, Jesus says, is truth.  Pilate asks –I wonder with sneer or with a world weary sigh?-  “what is truth?”   The truth is that God became human to provide a sacrifice on our behalf.  To provide a way for us to enter into relationship with our creator, a relationship on this earth and into eternity.  The King of Kings born in human in humble circumstances, laid in a manger.  The King of Kings hanging on a cross, His life for ours. A King of Kings who is coming back to inaugurate His Kingdom in its fullness -a 2nd Advent.

What are you looking to discover about God this Advent season?  What answer do you seek from Jesus? May you encounter the living God who is calling you into relationship with Him!

 

Marriage Postives

We have been lead to understand that 50% of marriages end in divorce, and that the divorce rate among Christians is no different than the rest of society. Thankfully recent study and analysis reveals the inaccuracy of those statistics. The reality is that, in Canada, 67% of marriages last a lifetime! In the USA the divorce rate for first time marriages is around 28%. In Canada 41% of men in a common law relationship consider themselves committed.

So the reality is that marriage is in way better shape than we have been told. Those who are married live longer, are generally wealthier, can climb out of poverty easier and have happier children. If you are married there is a greater likelihood you can make it than not! If you are considering marriage the stats show that it is a positive step. That doesn’t mean that marriages don’t take work. Marriage is hard, sacrificial work. It does, however, mean that the effort is more often worth your while.

Scriptures tell us that marriage is God’s plan for men and women. For this reason, the writer of Genesis tells us a man will leave his mother and father and be united with his wife. The idea that the divorce rate amongst Christians was the same as the rest of society came from people checking a box that they would identify themselves as Christians. But if further questions were asked –do you read your Bible? Do you pray regularly? Do you attend worship services?- those who answered in the affirmative had a divorce rate 30-50% lower than the general population -15%!

To have a strong marriage, maintain a strong spiritual life. The more you love God and realize you are loved by God, the easier it is to love others –especially your spouse. May you be encouraged in your marriage relationship with God’s help.

Disappointed

Reading:  Isaiah 63:7-9

How do we respond when we are disappointed by someone? The high road is to forgive, or shrug it off, and/or give them another chance. The high road is often a tough climb! We lose trust in those who disappoint us. We expect them to disappoint us again, so we take steps to isolate ourselves from them and their inevitable failure.

What about when we disappoint someone ourselves? The high road is to apologize and change our ways. However, we may rationalize: “Their standards are impossible,” “I did the best I could… well, maybe if I hadn’t forgotten I could have done better.” Perhaps we discover that we are broken hearted that we’ve let someone down again.”

Disappointment often generates hurt; pain that colours our response and ability to take the high road. Isaiah the Old Testament prophet writes (63:7-9); I will tell of the kindness of the LORD. The good things He has done according to his kindness and compassion and belief in his people. Isaiah sees God’s disappointment with us, and how God responds in kindness, with compassion and belief in His people. God, in fact, is distressed at our distress in disappointing Him. Not so much that He caves in or gives up, but provides a way of redemption and restoration –God himself comes to secure that redemption on the cross. Jesus endures pain to restore us and give us the opportunity to become what He has created us be. The proper response is to give ourselves to God, asking forgiveness and committing to live our lives for Him, and then walking in that relationship.

O LORD, you are so good –you act on the assumption we will obey and follow you, and when we realize our failure, you hurt with us. Not just because your plan failed, not just because we let you down, but because we hurt. O great God, your ways are amazing, Even when we have disappointed you, your pain is because we are in pain. Then you provide a way, a healing way. I’m sorry, I choose you. Draw me closer to you, to walk in faith, hope and love.