The Light that Cannot Be Extinguished

be-it-unto-me

 

His tiny face sucked in that first draught of bitter, chilled air into his lungs, and the babe entered into the life of a dark world with one purpose for his existence–to bear the injustice and to shine as the one true Light in a very, very dark world.

 

 

(Liz Lemon Swindle, “Be It Unto Me”)

Atheist John Gray makes an interesting observation on the evil and suffering we experience: “In comparison with the Genesis myth, the modern myth in which humanity is marching to a better future is mere superstition. As the Genesis story teaches, knowledge cannot save us from ourselves. If we know more than before, it means only that we have greater scope to enact our fantasies. …The message of Genesis is that in the most vital areas of human life there can be no progress, only an unending struggle with our own nature.”

But, that is not true.
John 1 v 5 sepia.png

The power of darkness cannot overcome the Light of the World who has come to release us from the dominion of the soul’s midnight.  There is no darkness in His Light.

“You surely realize that even in the presence of color
Sight will see nothing, and the colors will remain unseen,
Unless one further thing joins them…”

What thing do you mean?”

“The thing you call light.”

-PLATO , The Republic

light-of-the-world-arise

isaiah-60-v-1

“Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord shines over you.
For look, darkness covers the earth,
and total darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will shine over you,
and His glory will appear over you.
Nations will come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your radiance. …
Your sun will no longer set,
and your moon will not fade;
for the Lord will be your everlasting light,
and the days of your sorrow will be over.
Then all your people will be righteous;
they will possess the land forever;
they are the branch I planted,
the work of My hands,
so that I may be glorified.”
(Is. 60:1-3, 20-21)

Advertisements

Why Do I Need Christmas?

christmas-why
Exactly…

Why is it that we need Christmas?

Do we really need Christmas?  Or is this season simply overrated? overhyped?  Filled with a mega dose of Hallmark and imaginative play on lofty, surreal ideals?  It seems overmarketed at least. It is the biggest retailing event every year.  Yet, why?  Why do we consistently support Christmas?

On a personal note, I need Christmas.  And, well, there is only one reason why I need Christmas.  It starts  with the beginning of the story…

Long ago…in the peacefulness of beginning, God lived here on earth. His face was seen by the people he made, and His beautiful glory and presence was known and enjoyed daily. In that day, the world was a garden, a true paradise that defied any imagination to envision a surpassing, unparalleled perfect home. Injustice did not exist. Hunger was unknown. Poverty was not conceived. There was no disease, death, or decay. God’s beauty filled the earth. But, like all good stories, there arose conflict that threatened the beauty. The created wanted control. Humanity decided to write the story, to be their own master. It ruined paradise.

The result is that all of humanity now lives in a broken world apart from the perfect community enjoyed in the presence and glory of God.
Paradise is now remote from earth.
When our relationship to God unraveled, our relationships with everything else unraveled. The ideal became desolate and broken, remote from the real beauty and glory. Mankind experienced psychological, physical, emotional, social, etc. alienation from God. So, we became the antagonist against a very good God.

I need a guaranteed hope for rescue, for I will suffer from this same malady to death. There is no perfection in this life apart from a true rescue of body and soul.  I need Christmas, because I really do need God to become a babe, live the life I couldn’t live, and give me a real rescue from the darkness.  I want to know real beauty and glory, live it, breathe it,  and be near.  If my soul so longs for something greater, what would that greater be?  The transformation of all that is broken into beauty that cannot be marred.  Christmas is a person, a deliverer, a rescuer promised–Emmanuel, “God With Us,” come to set his people free.  Free from fear.  Free from hate.  Free from self-love.  Free from serving the lesser gods that will not be able to deliver the true rest for our souls, nor fill it to overflowing with graces of real love and glorious tangible beauty. mt hood lost lake.jpg

I confess I need Christmas, because I need the promised babe of Christmas.  I need authentic transformational heart change. “To us, the greatest demonstration of God’s love for us has been his sending his only Son into the world to give us life through him. We see real love, not in that fact that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to make personal atonement for our sins.   If God loved us as much as that, surely we, in our turn, should love each other!”  (I John 4:9-11, Phillips).

photo credit:  unknown, internet

The Startling Reshaping of God

Add this preference.  Take away that dislike.  Choose the place and the how.  There are many ways to worship God, right?  The ancient story recorded in Judges eerily seems to mirror the current thoughts in the mainstream today.  The uncanny likeness sends chills down our pious spines.  Let it be a warning to our modern hearts to guard against making a god that conforms to our own shaping preferences. tim keller idol

 

 

How can a god save us  that we can control?

 

 

 

 

Judges 17 & 18
Oh, they had great dreams!  Lively discussions ensued as the tribe made plans to develop their future home.  The tribe of Dan had entered the Promised Land along with the nation of Israel ready to receive the long-awaited gift of a permanent home, but progress had stalled due to their failure to settle in their allotted territory and obtain their promised inheritance.  The Danites had been promised an inheritance by Yahweh, but their vision had become distorted and clouded with confusion.  Hazy goals are hard to see in a fog.

What was their vision statement again?

Micah was a thief.  He wasn’t even a respectable thief, either; for he had actually stolen a huge amount of money from his own mother.  Never fear, his mother was not one to bear a grudge against her son.  No, she would affirm her son’s choice to return the money by giving him a small reward.  Better yet, she would praise Yahweh for this blessing!  So, this indulgent mother hired the local silversmith to design a couple of images to celebrate her son’s return of the money.  Micah already had a shrine in his home, so this would be the perfect gift to encourage him for doing what was right.  Micah had his own personal gods, and he continued to pursue with dedicated fervor what he personally believed was right.  Full of religious intensity, Micah added an ephod and even hired a Levite priest for his own personal worship.  Believing his life was devoted to all that was right and good,  Micah said, “Now I know that Yahweh will prosper me, because I have a Levite as priest.”

Yet another example of how confession will bring the blessings of God, right?

1.  No other God

The Danites still needing to locate themselves permanently and finally agreed to pursue a piece of property that particularly appealed to them.  The Danites felt themselves justified in slaughtering a peaceful, undefended, unsuspecting community saying to each other, home sweet home“The land is spacious, for God has given it into your hands, a place where there is no lack of anything that is in the earth.”  The takeover was easy and did not require faith or courage.
Clouded vision distorts how we see things.
The Danites were happy.  They had secured their inheritance.  The Danite leaders had just been informed by their scouts that nearby there was an ephod, artisan images of worship, personal gods, and, the best of all, a Levite priest.  The scouts advised, “Now therefore consider what you will do.”  Indeed, what an opportunity!  So incredible was this opportunity that the men engaged the young priest immediately with a better offer as well as taking full advantage of the worship center.  “And the priest’s heart was glad.”

Weren’t these God’s provident blessings?  2.  No idols

Of course, Micah was not happy that his gods were taken away.  But, since these Danite men were too strong for him, he went back home.  What could he do?  It is what it is.

The Danites were on a roll.

Since the strategy had worked so well, they employed it yet again and enlarged their space by overtaking another quiet, unsuspecting community with sword and fire.  They also had a celebrity priest.  Gershom and his sons continued to serve as priests, and everyone knows that Gershom is Moses’s grandson.  Yeah, they certainly had been blessed.1.  No other God

Can we really reshape God from our own
cloudy vision?

God has revealed himself through his Word, not as our hearts direct.

Dancing in the Darkness Bringing Joy!

Lord of all creation is Himself born.
Indeed, a God of wonders bursting forth as divine light,
the rising sun coming to us from heaven,
dancing in the darkness bringing  joy to the world.

Dawn breaking
(Photo Credit:  Mikko Lagerstedt)

Born to save his people, he is a bridge groom in the manger coming for his bride.  The babe wrapped in swaddling clothes dresses his bride in white linen, with love wrapping her in his holiness, pure and bright.   The old hymn begins, “Man of sorrows what a name for the man of God who came…”  Man of sorrows, enduring sorrows with so much joy, suffered even the shameful death on the cross to obtain the embrace of his bride in oneness.   Known by his scars, those astonishing wounds are now healing for the nations, joy to the world.  “What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss to bear the dreadful curse for my soul…” are staggering words of joy that millions join to sing in endless hallelujahs.

Darkness has become dawn,
and now sweet Lord of joy,
you invite us to enter the joy of Yourself.

Dawn
(Photo credit:  Joe Holley)

Don’t Give Up!

Banished on the island of Patmos, can you imagine what the apostle John must have felt when Jesus’s beloved friend heard the voice of “one like a Son of Man”?  How long had it been? 16 yrs? . . . did he remember the breakfast smells of freshly caught fish wafting from the shore kindly prepared by a risen Lord? hope in the clouds Did he remember the day His dearest Friend left, his departure so stunning as he effortlessly ascended into the drifting clouds?  John’s own brother had now been killed by King Herod . . . faithful Paul, too, had been martyred. I wonder what he felt in the persistent silence of aloneness? John himself had been exiled for his testimony of Jesus, and now he was waiting weary & longing, patiently persevering.

Christ now stands in the midst of the churches, and we read what John records, “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, ‘Fear not, I am the first and the last, & the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” The coming King . . . don’t give up, John. Remember who I am. The foundation for our faith, courage and endurance is laid on this cornerstone. Oh, how He loves His church! Jesus is still the Shepherd of His sheep, leading us safely home.

Reflection of Glory

brilliant sun

Your Word, O LORD, is a forever Word, firmly fixed above us in the heavens, unmovable, unchanging, existing in permanent relevance. Your reliability is reality. And this world stands today; only because you rule. Ultimately, all things serve your will. In love, you call us to yourself, away from the ruin and destinies of pain in this world.
To any who believe, love, and trust you, Jesus, you have entrusted your good news of love and rescue to share, an exquisite, invaluable treasure offered to others in a vessel as weak as ourselves.  Wow!  You designed for your glorious love to be shared through us!  It is like putting an one-0f-a-kind, priceless treasure in a disposable, red plastic cup, easily broken or tossed away.  You allowed it to be this way on purpose, so that every one will know that the power came from you and never from us.  So each new day, as we look to you, Jesus, a part of our old self dies; so that, your life in us, Jesus, is seen more and more by others.  And as we fix our eyes on you, our Morning Star, we are being transformed into Your image, from one degree of glory to another.  So, by your grace, every-day-dying is at work in us, so that your life, Jesus, is reflected, your Light in us.  We are made to be in oneness with the Beauty we see.

          “We are to shine as the sun, we are to be given the Morning Star.” ~ C. S. Lewis

 

Darkness Without Light

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Exactly, why are we here?

We live in a world of frenetic bustle attempting to achieve relentless goals, but, for a moment, these snapshots of conflict give pause and remind us of our humanity and the soul wounds of war.  Every story matters. I believe each life has been given a certain number of days, and that each life has meaning and purpose. Without purpose, destiny is meaningless. I wonder if the struggle to find meaning in the darkness of injustice doesn’t show more clearly the need for light in the world. C. S. Lewis said, “If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.”  Our hearts beg for illumination in the darkness.

light shining in darkness

Darkness without light leaves no room for hope.
  Jesus, however speaks boldly, saying,
I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  The Holy Scriptures say this of Christ, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”  Only the flooding light of the Son of God can drown the darkness. He is the Sun of Righteousness dawning over the night of the soul.  If the claims of Jesus are not true, then we have no hope.  But, God actually offers a bigger and better hope.  God has not only offered light shining in the darkness, but He has prepared an eternal home, a new earth, where there will be no more angry blackness and bleeding soul wounds.

And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. …And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.”  (Revelation 21:23, 22:5).

Is 42 6 and 7

 

Longing for the Story to Be True

10th-century-greek-bible
How do you write words which simultaneously veil and reveal truth?
which direct a story line unfolding with perfect timing revealing a powerful meta narrative that transcends the mind that reads it?  that masterfully weaves multiple subplots intricately supporting and enhancing the one main theme?  to speak through different voices, periods, cultures with a unifying clarity? using various literary genres without distraction?  where the story’s truth rings loud and clear to every generation without fail?  that creates a longing in the heart that will never be satisfied unless the story is true?

For all to align, the author must be omniscient in the creation of the story, be driven with a meaningful reason to create, be directing the story with omnipotence which in turns conveys the ponderous purpose and meaning behind it, which will at the same time create in the reader such a forever longing in the heart, earnestly yearning deeply for the story to really be true, that will never be satisfied unless the story is real and true. C. S. Lewis kind of copy, an echo(C. S. Lewis)

Only an author wielding such a true wisdom and power can unveil his story with such detailed control and offer the substance that spans millenniums.  The author must also intimately know the reader in order to stir the mind, imagination and will of the person to seek the mystery and meaning of the story.  Desire is flamed as the message permeates the unknown recesses illuminating the darkest, most secret, and tender places of the heart; and the reader is called to  engage, for the heart of the story allows for no neutral ground, and the truth calls plainly in the streets for a response.

Sadly, there are few brilliant writers considering how many people have been born.  However, there is one book whose author continues to stir controversy, give hope, remain debated or revered depending on the reader: God.  The ancient one true God who speaks a living word “…piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”  The claim is ponderous, but the influence of this book remains without question.

Why?

Could it be that the invisible reality of the story beckons to what our soul remembers?  Could it be that the conflict of the story is resolved with such desperate, brutal grace that the soul is forever shaken by the unfathomable love portrayed?  It it because we know we could never write a story like that and be authentic, for we could never perform the action?

The Story:   In the beginning, God lived here on earth.  His face was seen by the people he made.  His glory and presence was known and enjoyed daily. In that day, the world was a garden, a true paradise that defied any imagination to envision a surpassing, unparalleled perfect home.  Injustice did not exist.  Hunger was unknown.  Poverty was not conceived.  There was no disease, death, or decay.  God’s beauty filled the earth.  But, like all good stories, there arose conflict that threatened the beauty.  The created wanted control.  Humanity decided to write the story, to be their own master.  It ruined paradise.  The result is that all of humanity now lives in a broken world apart from the perfect community enjoyed in the presence and glory of God.  Paradise is now remote from earth.   When our relationship to God unraveled, our relationships with everything else unraveled.  The ideal became desolate and broken, remote from the real beauty and glory.  Mankind experienced psychological, physical, emotional, social, etc. alienation from God.  So, we became the antagonist against a very good God.

We became like a fish flopping in a small puddle of water,
fish in a puddle
barely able to survive,

with no room for flourishing.

Created for God,
everything else is too small for our souls.

But, all of us try to achieve our potentials.  We pursue power, reputation, approval, relationships, family, success, money, country, causes, etc..  Not designed for such shallow waters,  we were never meant to live for those things.

God redeems in order to habit.   So the story churns on based on the very unchangeable goodness of God, the God who would keep His promises and finish the story.  God redeems and reintroduces home through the hero of the story, his Son Jesus Christ.
Home is a place for the deepest longings of your heart and soul to be met
by His presence;
and the way home is through his Son.

psalm 16.11In God’s presence is joy forever; that is, God’s relational presence & glory is the only environment where every created thing flourishes.  We stay frozen as acorns.  The majestic oak never rises apart from His life-giving blood.

C. S. Lewis cottage palaceOur potentialities will not erupt unless with are in the presence of God, for our souls only dance in His love.  Happy ever after is true in the joy of God’s presence.

Identifying the Problem

As evening fell his disciples came to him and said, “We are right in the wilds here and it is very late. Send away these crowds now, so that they can go into the villages and buy themselves food.”
 “There’s no need for them to go away,” returned Jesus. “You give them something to eat!”
“But we haven’t anything here,” they told him, “except five loaves and two fish.”

-Matthew 14:15-17, J. B. Philips translation

The wind-beaten faces of the fishermen divulged weariness and concern.  The raised brow of the tax collector questioned the late hour.  The steady gaze of Jesus’ inner circle of twelve fastened on him expectantly.  The men waited for their teacher to speak the words that would close the day.  It had been such a long day.  Hundreds, no thousands, of men had showed up to meet Jesus, some with families tagging along.  Sick family members had reached out to this gentle Healer and Teacher, and now they lingered cured of their sicknesses, curious, and fascinated with this man of compassion.  biblical crowdJesus’ disciples really wanted him to send the sea of listeners away. The men urged Jesus to tell the people to leave, using the crowd’s hunger as a reason.  Their argument highlighting hunger was just a sophism.  Jesus knew that.  The people didn’t need to go away. On another occasion, these same men had pushed children away from the teacher to protect him from being bothered.  But surprisingly, Jesus wanted the little children to be around him. Jesus didn’t push people away. The “sending-away” actions disclosed the disciples’ own impatience and self-protective desires.  It was hard to be around the crowds who continually overflowed with a river of needs.  Send them away.  Let them go get food.  Then, the problem would go away.  But, Jesus didn’t view people as the problem.

“There is no need for them to go away.”

No need?  Didn’t the crowd need to eat? Had the men spoken fact that was also untrue?

Then Jesus asked the disciples to do something startling; he asked them to feed this gathering of thousands, quietly unveiling their greatest need.

Feeding of the many. John 6:1-21. 1999 Mark A Hewitt. Lino cut & water colour.

Feeding of the many. John 6:1-21. 1999 Mark A Hewitt. Lino cut & water colour.

Again, the men spoke fact and fiction, “But, we haven’t anything here, except five loaves and two fish.”  True, but not true.  Let the men remember the Creator of the fish and the grain, the one who had already exhibited great power in healing disease.  Let their minds comprehend the fullness of the godhead that stood beside them with dusty feet in flesh and bone. Would they only rely on a single donated lunch to feed a crowd?  Would their vision remain limited to what they could see?  Would they understand the true need?
a need far greater than what they saw now.

Jesus simply replied to his friends stating the remedy, “Bring them too me.”  bread brokenness

Then the Lord of Creation blessed the food, broke the loaves, and gave back to his disciples enough bread to fill the crowd’s bellies full. The men walked through the vast crowd seated on the grass- giving and receiving-giving until all were satisfied, then receiving back the leftovers.  Each man looked down at the basket they were carrying. Each basket rim touched by the leftovers.  Though the offering was small, when it was surrendered to Jesus there had been more than enough to meet the need. Discerning the true need opens the eye to the remedy.

The Difficulty of Forgiveness

Forgiveness
is
difficult.
eye tear

The act of forgiveness requires two things:  mercy and justice.  It is impossible to divide love from absolute purity and goodness.  Is this not why hearts offended beat in turmoil? The heart gasps from the plunge of the sword into its warm, life-giving strength and feels the pain searing deep into the most secret, vulnerable and intimate places.  The heart weeps bloody tears because of the betrayal.  Bravely, it erects strong, steely barriers of protection to shield its Self from further injury.   Is this why the ancient struggle surrounding estranged hearts exists?  As much as one might want a relationship to be restored, we cannot do the required delicate and intricate heart surgery needed for both sides of the parties involved.  Let’s say my heart has been brought to a place of forgiveness, and I choose to forgive the person who has wronged me.  I can choose to relate to the person with a heart of forgiveness, but I have no capability to affect change in the other person.  Forgiveness only leads to reconciliation when both parties have experienced heart changes.

Jesus teaches about forgiveness and helps us dissect the heart.  His teaching reveals the heart’s greatest need.  Against external deeds of wrongdoing, Jesus offers a spectacular forgiveness.  It is unlike any other offer of forgiveness; for Jesus testifies, “I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people.” (Matthew 12:31).  He strongly states that there is no particular external deed that is off limits to the power of Jesus’s free forgiveness. Simply put, there is no offense so great that it cannot be forgiven by God. No matter what the offense, nothing will put a person outside the reach of Jesus’s all encompassing embrace of forgiveness and healing.  Jesus is the ultimate forgiver.

Yet, Jesus also acknowledges the perplexity of forgiveness when he says, “Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.” (Matthew 12:32).  Here the knife of dissection moves internally to analyze the heart.

Unless a person confesses that he or she has done something wrong, they can never undo the damage.

Although I am completely incapable of affecting another person’s heart or affecting change on both sides of the conflict; God is able to not only forgive and justify the sinner, but he is also able to breathe life into the soul clinging to dust.  The Spirit of God informs the heart of its great offense, and the heart must listen and admit its wrongdoing (John 16:8). Jesus is basically saying that the Holy Spirit speaks truth, and a heart must turn and agree with his verdict.  A heart must not deny or speak against the truth spoken.  But, when the heart of man denies its part, blameshifts the wrong, and uses self-justifying excuses, there is no other remedy.  

Humility
is the key
that unlocks the heart
wrapped in denial.

Proverbs 27.19

 

A heart must desire forgiveness before intimacy will be restored.
Is your heart listening or resisting
words of healing and life?
Any wrong can be healed,
but without humility
nothing can be healed.