Mirrors

Blog 8.15.2022

Mirrors

The other day was my 20-year high school reunion. I obviously didn’t go, but thankfully because of Facebook, I was able to see some friends share their experiences, and I was if I was able to attend. However, there was something that shocked me, and all my friends were… old. I could see the same faces from 20 years earlier, but they had changed, weathered by life and experiences. This seems logical; it has been two decades since we’ve seen each other, but the more shocking thing is that they had aged while I am still an 18-year-old kid. Now we all know the ridiculousness of this statement; of course, I have aged. Mentally I don’t feel I am any older than my mid-twenties, but the reality is that I am pushing 40. The point that James addresses in his epistle as he writes about our perception. 

James 1:22-27 –
“But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not just hearers who deceive themselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for [once] he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25 But one who has looked intently at the perfect law, the [law] of freedom, and has continued [in it,] not having become a forgetful hearer but an active doer, this person will be blessed in what he does. 26 If anyone thinks himself to be religious, yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his [own] heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 27 Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of [our] God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, [and] to keep oneself unstained by the world.”

We might think we are young, but a simple glance in the mirror will confirm or deny that reality. In the same way, we can’t say we are doers of the word if our actions don’t reflect it. We can intently study God’s word, and if we never put it into practice, what good is it? I could research and devote myself to the intricacies of Greek and Hebrew languages, but if I never start living out the message in this book, what is the purpose?

So, let’s not fool ourselves anymore; I am not 18 years old, and if we are claiming to worship God, let us do it with word and deed. Let’s not just say we are Christians; let us do the things we claim to be our purpose. It is easy to say we are Christ-followers, but putting these principles into action is far more challenging. So let us hold up a mirror and reflect on who we really are.  



Privilege of Suffering

The Privilege of Suffering

We live in extraordinary times. The other day I thought how magnificent of an era in which we live. It was 110 degrees and truly unbearable outside; however, I was able to eat ice cream in relative comfort. Now I say relative comfort because my air conditioner has been unreliable. Yet I am still able to live in comfort, which translates to 80 degrees, a difference of 20+ degrees. At no other time in human history have these two phenomena been so readily available. To have frozen dessert whenever I want it and not have to suffer the intensity of an eastern Washington summer is a modern marvel. For anyone who lives in the United States in the year 2022, you must realize that we have won the economic lottery. Yet, even with all of these amenities, I can still find an opportunity to complain. I wish it were one-degree cooler, or I wish it were a different flavor of ice cream. After these outlandish considerations, I must stop and realize how incredibly spoiled I am. In fact, the most routine flavor of ice cream, vanilla, was only available to royalty until the 16th century. Most spices were luxuries until the turn of the last century.

Perhaps we have it too easy. I am almost unacquainted with real suffering. In our society, we deaden ourselves to any sense of discomfort. If I feel a headache coming on, I’ll grab a dose of acetaminophen. If I am starting to feel bored, I’ll plop down in front of a TV screen. Everything is readily available and easily obtained. Even the thought of menial labor seems too distressing to consider. It is no wonder that Christianity has become so watered down; it has become counter to our culture that the thought of picking up our cross and following Jesus is foreign to us. When we think of Christianity, we believe that Jesus’ sufferings were all the sufferings that will ever happen, but that is not how the New Testament writers thought of our existence.

2 Corinthians 1:3-7
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. 6 If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.”

1 Peter 4:14-19
“If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” 19 So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.”

For these apostolic authors, suffering was a certainty. Paul, in a topsy-turvy passage, states that we can gain comfort from our sufferings. And Peter informs us that everyone will suffer, either as a criminal or for the sake of Christ. Nevertheless, he was sharing that it is far better to suffer for doing the will of God because of the final judgment that will one day visit us all. And so, in a society that avoids suffering at all costs, perhaps the best thing we can do is reminisce on the words of Paul in his letter to the church in Philippi.

Philippians 1:29
“For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him.

We should interpret our lives under two privileged banners. The first is that we trust in Christ. Trusting in Christ is, without a doubt, an essential mark of a Christian. It is best to comprehend that regardless of what difficulties may come into my life, I have the blood of Jesus and the love of God resting on me. But I should also reinterpret suffering, especially for the Kingdom’s sake, as a privilege. We may think the best thing we can do is to eliminate suffering for ourselves, but if we avoid every discomfort, we slip into a state of lethargy and complacency. As a result, we cease to suffer, even for God’s Kingdom, and that is the greatest tragedy of all. 



Please & Thank You

 Please and Thank You.

The other day Theo and I were driving in the car, and a song came on the radio; it was “Fill my Cup” by Andrew Ripp, and he asked, “Why the singer didn’t say ‘please’ when he asked God to fill his cup?” for being a 4-year-old he makes a good point. And I stopped and realized how wise this is. That got me thinking, “Why don’t we say ‘Please’ when we make requests of God?” I started reflecting on my prayers and thoughts toward God and how I don’t even use common courtesy in my appeals when I pray to God. I ignore even the most basic manners and niceties required of my children when I speak to our Heavenly Father. ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you, are simple ways to soften the request and be polite and respectful. It places the petitioner in a position of humility and changes the tone of the prayer.

Meanwhile, we whine and demand like bratty, ungrateful offspring. We call out to God without ever giving a second thought to the nature of our asking, let alone the content of our request. As a result, our prayers are not only self-centered, but they carry a feeling of entitlement, reminding me of the timeless passage in James.     

James 4:2-3 “You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”

Everything in this passage points toward self-centered attitudes. It is all about desires, covetousness, and personal pleasures. In this passage, we see the first concern is that we attempt to solve our problems independently without asking God. Then when we finally ask, our hearts aren’t in the right place. Perhaps our motives will begin to align if we approach God with a polite, respectful, and reverent attitude.

It is not as though God doesn’t want us to ask. He is ultimately good and wants to give us good things… but what we ask for is not often of the highest caliber.

Luke 11:11-13 “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

We should note the contrast that Jesus uses in this passage. Jesus plainly states that we can give ‘good’ gifts even though we are evil. God can provide even more perfectly than we can even attempt. Jesus then clarifies that the best and highest gift is the Holy Spirit. Signaling requests pertaining to the spiritual nature are better than a request of the physical variety.

Let’s change our attitude toward asking God. First, let us humbly and respectfully approach Him, even using words like ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you. And then let us make sure we are placing a value on our spiritual concerns and not only on our physical dilemmas. Finally, let us take note of how our prayers change by adjusting these two areas when we talk to God.



Bluetooth

Bluetooth

My phone died this last Wednesday. My first discovery was it is shocking how much I rely on my phone. People would call and text; I could hear it ring, yet there was no way for me to respond. It was incredibly frustrating. However, I did discover a workaround. If my phone is in my truck, I could send text messages and make calls using the truck’s Bluetooth capabilities. However, for this to work, I needed to be in my vehicle, and it needed to be on; for this to happen, it meant running the engine because it was 95 degrees outside. A running truck uses gas; we all know gas prices are too high to sit in my vehicle and make phone calls. Therefore, I have been largely unreachable for the last five days. Then whenever I would get into my truck, I would see that I had missed notifications and texts to which I could not respond. Reminding me how much I use my phone with each report and alarm. Being tethered to a vehicle reminds me of a passage from Hebrews; the writer compares the earthly priesthood with the position that Jesus holds. Simplistically, priests are the agent acting between the people and God. The uncleanness of humanity requires purification before approaching a holy and righteous God. The priests were the conduit for the people of Israel to interact with God. 

Hebrews 7:24-26 – “But because Jesus lives forever, his priesthood lasts forever. 25 Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf. 26 He is the kind of high priest we need because he is holy and blameless, unstained by sin. He has been set apart from sinners and has been given the highest place of honor in heaven.”

Hebrews 8:1-2 – “Here is the main point: We have a High Priest who sat down in the place of honor beside the throne of the majestic God in heaven. 2 There he ministers in the heavenly Tabernacle, the true place of worship that was built by the Lord and not by human hands.”

Similar to my phone, I needed a way to make and receive phone calls, but I needed to use my truck’s Bluetooth capabilities to channel the phone’s abilities. However, that would mean permanently attaching me to my vehicle, which is awkward and untenable. Prior to Jesus, God’s people were tied to a priesthood, a limited intermediary that could allow them to approach and connect with God. This changes with the sacrifice and priesthood of Jesus. He is forever able to intercede and interact with God, as he is God and in the presence of God. We do not have a secondary instrument required to connect with God. Our access to God is immediate and instantaneous. We don’t have to enter a man-made temple or location; we become the temple. We don’t need an intermediary or mediator; Jesus is that, and he always has access, and even more than that, his sacrifice made us a kingdom of priests. Making our access to God is perfectly complete. How great it is to have direct access to the God of the cosmos without needing a mediator. 



Rise & Shine

Rise and Shine!

One of the fastest ways to be discharged from the military is having a non-disclosed medical issue. Individuals who decide to enter the armed forces report to their closest Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS). At MEPS, medical personnel will evaluate recruits on their mental and physical fitness to join a military branch. This process involves an in-depth medical evaluation, checking eyesight, joints, cardiac functions, and any possible motor issues. However, there is one area that they can’t check and can go unnoticed until a recruit arrives at their basic training station. This condition affects about 3% of adults, but it is far more prevalent in children, affecting about 17%. So what is the reason for immediate discharge? Somnambulism knew as sleepwalking. Most people grow out of this condition as they grow, but it is easy to see why it is detrimental to the armed services. It would be unfortunate and dangerous for an individual to sleepwalk in a combat environment. And although it might not even seem like a big deal in civilian life, it would have dire consequences on the battlefield. Therefore, once an individual is diagnosed with somnambulism, they are immediately discharged from service.

Before this diagnosis, a person might not even know they sleepwalk. However, cramming 60 people into an open bay barracks and physically exhausting the recruits leads to the right circumstances for this disorder to be noticed. Monitoring sleeping habits was one of the duties of the nightshift of Charge of Quarters (CQ) to see if anyone was waking up and wandering around.

Sleepwalking in the military makes me think of two verses regarding our Christian walk. The first comes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, the infamous log and speck passage.

Matthew 7:3-5
“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

We can only notice these circumstances when we live in an intimate community with each other. You must know someone well to see a speck in their eye. Like sleepwalking, you must be in a tight-knit group before someone else can notice something like this. A hermit living alone in the mountains might never know they have a problem like sleepwalking. However, we all have specks or even logs, and living in proximity to others can address these hidden obstacles. Unfortunately, many people want to avoid this scrutiny and would rather not know or hide that they have internal struggles. This leads me to my second thought about sleepwalking.

Ephesians 5:8-16
“Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” 15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”

This passage instructs us to walk as children of light, meaning we don’t choose to bury or avoid our issues. Instead, we want to expose them to the light. We don’t purposely hide our hang-ups, but we want to use our time wisely to bring Christ to the world. And we cannot do that if we are living halfway in secret. So, I urge you today to Rise and Shine!



Delivering the Good News

Blog 6.27.2022

Delivering the Good News

Invariably, when there is something to be accomplished in the Condos home, a generalized request is sent out, “Would someone please pick up the firetruck in the middle of the floor.” The only people to hear that request are typically the other parent, who is already attending to another pressing matter, probably a missing shoe. When the original request is unsuccessful, I develop a more specific plea, “Theo, please put the firetruck into the toy bin.” Once again, Theo either did not hear the request or ignored it because it was “boring.” However, Cooper will have heard it and sharply replied that he is also looking for the missing shoe. This is precisely why I asked Theo to take care of it the second time. The only way a request like this ever gets accomplished is by taking the time to personally walk up to Theo, get on his level (possibly stooping to the ground), and ask him to pick up the toy. Finally, after all that effort, someone will pick up the toy, accomplishing the simplistic undertaking.   

The irony of ministry or perhaps just communication is that the people who need to hear a message are never listening. I was given terrific advice nine years ago as I started my ministry career: “Never present a message designed for one specific person.” When you ignore this advice, you only harm yourself. You will spend hours crafting the perfect sermon or lesson for the targeted person to hear. You will work on details that will strike the heart and possibly affect real change in the individual. But, almost without fail, the person you were hoping to reach won’t be there when it comes time to present the message. In the grand scheme of things, it always works out because God was simultaneously working on someone else’s heart, but for the presenter, the message does not land the way we intended, and you will feel discouraged at your failed attempt.

Having listeners attend to a message is not new; Jesus encountered it throughout his ministry and pointed out this fact to his disciples in the first parable. 

Matthew 13:13, 19, 22 – “13 This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. … 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. … 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.” 

Jesus begins by stating why he used parables, which indicates the audience’s willingness to hear and understand. Many do not want to hear; perhaps it is too “boring,” complicated, or different from their preconceived biases. Others hear, yet other priorities take root; maybe they are looking for a lost shoe. However, the message still needs to be declared. 

Romans 10:14-17 

 “But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? 15 And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!” 16 But not everyone welcomes the Good News, for Isaiah the prophet said, “LORD, who has believed our message?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ.”

People still need to believe and to believe, and they need to have first heard about Jesus. So perhaps, just like the opening scenario, we specifically address them and have a one-on-one conversation about Jesus. And to be most effective, we must personally walk up to them, get on their level, and tell them about the Good News. 



What Will You Do For Jesus

What Will You Do for Jesus?

We get it; working around Sundays can be a challenging prospect. Often it seems as though the ritualistic nature of Sundays gets in the way. Amanda and I began celebrating Father/Mother’s Day a day earlier than everyone else this year. The reasoning is simple, our Sunday mornings are filled with other pertinent matters. And so, my wife, in her amazing and brilliant wisdom, decided that it would be best (read less chaotic) if we simply observed these special days a day earlier. The funny thing is it took us eight years of ministry to figure this out, although we’ve only had children for four of those years. Regardless of how long it took, this switch was transformative for our family. We were able to celebrate each other and enjoy the morning at a relaxed pace. Why were we trying to cram everything into one day? Why did we feel we needed to mash everything into a Sunday morning?

Some of that is trying to keep up with social and cultural norms. We play along with what society says and don’t consider why we are doing these things. Some of it has to do with our luxurious living, where we dedicate a whole day to a parent or person. Gone are the days of a coffee mug and tie. Now we feel the need to lavishly exaggerate our celebration. I believe it is good to recognize the people in our lives, and it is positive reinforcement for all we do for each other. The problem is, why do we feel the necessity to pack it on top of Sundays? A day where we should be reflecting on Jesus.  

Mark 16:2- “Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb.”

Acts 20:7- “On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight.”

1 Corinthians 16:2- “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.”

From these passages, we can see the forethought that should go into our weekly meetings. We will go out of our way to schedule and prioritize every moment of our lives, but we will seldom put that same effort into making sure we are meeting together on a regular basis. If I assert that Jesus is the most essential piece of my life, can I reorganize it to reflect this reality? What else could I switch around to place more emphasis on the body of Christ? 

Historically the Jewish people were well accustomed to making their rhythm of life reflect their spiritual reality. I am not suggesting that we become dogmatic or rigid about these concepts; I am merely suggesting that we think of our lives with this question: What will you do for Jesus? Switching up our special day observances was a simple and beneficial way for my family to say, Jesus comes first. 



Memories

Blog. 6.13.2022

Memories

Attending someone’s memorial service is one of the more underrated experiences that most people avoid or dismiss. Being in this profession for the last nine years, I have had ample opportunity to listen to an individual’s farewell tribute, even when I didn’t know them personally. It is fascinating to hear about someone’s life and legacy. I get to formulate my thoughts and opinions about them from the perspective of their entire life. And typically, at these celebrations of life, the only things that are shared are good memories, so I get to know the best about an individual (this helps with the concept of grace). We often see people for a brief snapshot of their life, and these moments only give us insights into who they are and the lives they lived. But at a memorial service, I can hear their impact and the memories shared across the totality of their existence. Whenever I leave a service like this, I feel the urge to make the most of my time on earth. I think of the memories I will leave for others to cherish, and I want to make sure that the memories that people have of me are good ones. And when people think of me, it will be a fond memory they recall. 

Memories are an interesting phenomenon. They are tied back to the person that we once knew. They link us to each other in ways that overcome space and time. We can instantly recall someone in our life’s history long after our interactions with them are gone. It is a humbling and encouraging thought to know the impact we can have on each other. Tragically our intimate recollections are also fleeting. It will eventually disappear no matter how much we want to hold onto a memory. It is a sad truth that there will come a time when no one will remember us. The writer of Ecclesiastes put it like this: “No one remembers the former generations, and even those yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow them” (Ecclesiastes 1:11). Think about it from your anecdotal perspective; what do you really know about your great-great-great-grandfather or grandmother? Do you even know their names? As depressing as this thought can be, I want to leave you with a hopeful message; no matter who forgets about you on earth or how temporal everything appears, there is one who knows you and will never forget you. 

Luke 12:6-7 
“What is the price of five sparrows–two copper coins? Yet God does not forget a single one of them. 7 And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.”

Although there will come a time when no one remembers you, God will always know you. Jesus’ words in this passage are reassuring and comforting. We are so valuable to God; He even numbers the hair on our heads. The details that God knows about us are truly immeasurable. And even when others forget about me, God will know these intimate details. And for those who participate in the new covenant, there is an additional benefit. 

Hebrews 8:10-12 
“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. 12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”

God will remove all our sins and remember them no more. Like these memorial services, He will recall only the best parts of us and bring them to memory. Our earthly memories will fade and come to an end, but to the Living God, we will always be remembered as those made blameless in the blood of the Son. That is why the best actions we can take in this life are not to live for the praise and accolades of men but to secure our treasure in heaven, where even memories will not be extinguished by the ravages of time. 



Starting Today

Blog 6.6.2022

Starting Today

Record numbers of those professing to be followers of Christ are leaving their churches. Across the board, young people are turning their backs on formal religion and its ritual observances. The Barna Research Group noted an alarming statistic that “nearly two out of every three young Christians (64%) disconnect either permanently or for an extended period of time from church life after age 15.” Reading a statistic like this will always break my heart. My heart aches for those that leave and never come back; for them to approach the love of Christ and reject it overwhelms me with sorrow. Their website (Barna Group – Knowledge to navigate a changing world) has a lot of great resources; they have done a lot of surveys and research on how to maintain this disappearing demographic. I highly recommend looking into their assortment of studies to gain perspective.

However, I believe two things can happen when we look at research studies and surveys like this. The first is that we begin to feel hopeless, desperate, and perhaps that all is lost. I encourage you to not fall into this trap of thinking. We (Christians) are built upon hope; even when all seems to be lost, we have a God who can do the impossible. “Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).

The second is that we tend to point fingers when we read this kind of information. We blame every generation for its failings. We condemn the one generation for their lack of love. We blame another for their lack of conviction. Yet another is blamed for its soft stance on biblical issues. We point fingers and blame everyone for their contributions to this problem. Jesus has a far different approach to looking at these issues; they are found in Matthew 7:3-5, the discourse of the speck and log. Jesus plainly teaches that when there are glaring weaknesses in our spiritual walk, we first address our shortcomings and then help out those around us. We all have spiritual struggles; to deny this is to call God a liar, “If we claim we have not sinned, we make [God] out to be a liar, and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:10). The proper adjustment is to take stock of your own walk and fix the areas you are lacking, and if you are lacking, God will bring you to maturity. If you don’t know if you have a speck in your eye, ask someone; perhaps they can see it well enough to help you pinpoint the culprit.

In their book “Faith for Exiles” David Kinnaman and Mark Matlock present a strong strategy for exodus-proofing a church. It is by maintaining a multigenerational approach to all aspects of life. This means breaking out of a “Sunday morning mentality” or having conversations with people in a different age category. It might even mean leaving your specific region of the building to talk to someone across the aisle. Here are some questions to consider: when was the last time you spoke to someone that was not your “”normal”” group at church? When did you seek out someone in a different age group than you? These little questions are the specks in our eyes; let’s not let them turn into logs.

One final thought on issues like this. It is easier to “”Monday morning quarterback”” or second-guess what we should have done in the past. It is harder to look forward, hold ourselves accountable and make the necessary adjustments. It is like putting our hand on to plow and looking back; we can’t live like that. Starting today, we must keep our eyes firmly fixed on our intended direction and start moving the way we should be heading.

Luke 9:57-62
“As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “”I will follow you wherever you go.”” 58 Jesus replied, “”Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”” 59 He said to another man, “”Follow me.”” But he replied, “”Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”” 60 Jesus said to him, “”Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”” 61 Still another said, “”I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”” 62 Jesus replied, “”No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”



The Path Of Light

Blog 5.30.2022

The Path of Light

My boys love playing in the dark; I think all children do. It is mysterious, disorienting, and allows for a little more mischief. When the lights go off, there are shrieks of excitement. Then, they begin bumping into each other and flailing around in the dim light. It is fun for a time, but eventually, there is a minor injury, and the lights have to come on to solve the issue. Because of that reason, I am not a proponent of playing in the dark. The lighthearted play gets out of hand too quickly, and I must figure out what happened in the darkness, which is impossible because I don’t have night vision and can never be sure what transpired. Typically, I have to tell the boys, ““This is what happens when you play in the dark, it might be more fun, but someone will probably get hurt.””

I can resolve some of the injuries by introducing a tiny battery-powered flashlight. It is amazing how this small device allows for their creative juices to unfold and gives them the ability to avoid collisions in the darkness. I am also impressed by how a flashlight enables them to control their environment. No matter how dark their room might be, that tiny light gives them power over their surroundings. They are no longer hindered by their lack of sight; they can navigate in a way that is transformative.

The world we live in is dark. There is no denying that it is also apparent that this was not how God intended it when we spoke that everything was “very good at the end of His creative actions in the first narrative in Genesis. It is also no surprise that many people enjoy living in darkness. It is mysterious, disorienting, and allows for a little more mischief… for a time. The challenging part is so many people live in this darkness that they don’t even know how to find a light. If they could find the light, they would not know how to switch it on.

This is where God has been gracious to us. In the narrative of Nehemiah, after some Jews returned to Jerusalem after their exile, Levites stood recounting their history of God’s people. They retold the pattern of God working as the Israelites wandered through the desert.

Nehemiah 9:19 
“Because of your [God’s] great compassion you did not abandon them in the wilderness. By day the pillar of cloud did not fail to guide them on their path, nor the pillar of fire by night to shine on the way they were to take.”

God does not leave us to stumble around in the darkness. He does not resolve to let us trip over and harm each other. Instead, God gives direction and leadership to a wandering and disoriented group of people. In His great compassion, He provides a light that shines in the darkness.

John 8:12 
“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ““I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.””

It is no doubt that the life of Jesus is the path we are to take. We are to live like Him because he is the light by which we walk. In a disorienting and confused world, we need to grab hold of the Light. If we do, we might be surprised how much control and awareness the Light will provide us. Tragically, what we witness now is people attempting to fight darkness with more darkness. This can never be the solution. The only way to be surrounded by darkness is to be changed into a demonstration of the Light.

2 Corinthians 4:6-12 
“For God, who said, ““Let light shine out of darkness,”” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. 7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.” 

Take a moment to reflect on these words of Paul. The situation is not grand for those that hold the light. They will be hard-pressed, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down. However, the light will still be shining within them. I love how Paul writes this. We hold our lights in jars of clay. In this scenario, the light can only shine out of the mouth of the jar, a very limited opening. That is until the jar is crushed. It is at that moment the light can be visible for all to see. It is not until we live in a self-sacrificing way that the Light will be apparent to all. It is at this moment that “his life may be also revealed in our mortal body.””

Eventually, the darkness will lose its appeal. Maybe not for everyone, but for those who are seeking, a light will shine out of the darkness like a beacon of hope. And when people come searching, we should be ready to show them what true Light and Life really looks like. The path of Jesus, the path of Light.