Let There Be Light


In this case, “let there be light” does not refer to part of God’s act of creation. Rather, as part of my church’s Scripture reading program, we have been going through the book of Exodus, including all the instructions about putting the tabernacle together.

The cool thing about writing these short devotionals or meditations is that they require me to think more about the passage than I most likely would have otherwise. I mean, putting the tabernacle together is not the most action packed, gripping section of Scripture. This is the passage I was assigned for July:

Then he made the lampstand of pure gold. He made the lampstand of hammered work, its base and its shaft; its cups, its bulbs and its flowers were of one piece with it. There were six branches going out of its sides; three branches of the lampstand from the one side of it and three branches of the lampstand from the other side of it; three cups shaped like almond blossoms, a bulb and a flower in one branch, and three cups shaped like almond blossoms, a bulb and a flower in the other branch—so for the six branches going out of the lampstand. In the lampstand there were four cups shaped like almond blossoms, its bulbs and its flowers; and a bulb was under the first pair of branches coming out of it, and a bulb under the second pair of branches coming out of it, and a bulb under the third pair of branches coming out of it, for the six branches coming out of the lampstand. Their bulbs and their branches were of one piece with it; the whole of it was a single hammered work of pure gold. He made its seven lamps with its snuffers and its trays of pure gold. He made it and all its utensils from a talent of pure gold. Exodus 37:17-24)

My thoughts:

For the longest time I’ve struggled matching pictures of the Menorah with this description of it here in Exodus. I mean there are two branches and then three cups, but four bulbs and flowers and then six branches, only to conclude with seven lamps. Usually when I finish this section, I feel quite befuddled, and I’m glad that someone with a bit more visual acumen than I, has been able to translate these words into an actual object.

Of course Moses had the heavenly pattern, so he knew before he gave the artist the description, what the holy light was to look like.

Now I have the internet, so at long last I think I understand how all the parts fit. More importantly, I see this: perpetual light. Many parts fashioned as one lamp. Function and artistry in combination. Another of God’s “perfect sevens.”

All of these are important, but I am drawn to the fact that God wanted the things of worship to be beautiful. Yes, they all had a purpose, an important function. And yet they were all created in beauty. Beneath each lamp was not a block or a slab. Rather the casing was a bulb and a flower.

In the same way, I believe God wants the writing or editing I do to fulfill a purpose, and He wants me to do it in a way that displays His glory. It’s not enough for me to meet a deadline if I grumble the whole time. The beauty is as important as the function.

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Published in: on July 18, 2018 at 5:22 pm  Comments (3)  
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Light And Darkness


lunar_crepuscular_rays_2Years ago when I was teaching, we took our eighth graders on a three-day science field trip to Catalina Island. One of the activities was to experience a sight deprivation maze. It’s hard to imagine a place as dark as that cramped labyrinth was.

From that experience I can tell you confidently, darkness is not beautiful. In fact, you can’t see the darkness. You simply can’t see anything. No shades or shapes, not even movement. Your eyes can’t register a single thing because of the absence of light.

Light, on the other hand, is exceedingly beautiful in its many manifestations. I thought of this again on Sunday as I was driving to church. Sunlight streamed through parted clouds, lining them with gold. Not silver, like the cliche. But it was so brilliant, I suppose you might say it was sort of silvery-gold.

And just the day before, as the sun was about to break above the horizon, its light painted a scattering of woolly clouds with pink, all but their outer gray edges. That’s nothing to the sunsets we get in the fall. Then there is the full moon climbing through the early night, or the crescent moon lingering with the last stars in the early dawn.

Light in its many forms is beautiful. Well, maybe not all artificial light can be said to be beautiful, but natural light does dramatic things. Starlight twinkles, sunlight refracts, candlelight glows, and firelight dances.

Any wonder then, that Scripture says Jesus is the Light of the world?

Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life
– John 8:12

Yet, most likely, because of the little bit of physical description we have of Jesus, we don’t think of Him as beautiful. Isaiah 53:2b says,

He has no stately form or majesty
That we should look upon Him,
Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.

But then this from Psalm 27:

One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the LORD
And to meditate in His temple. (v. 4 – emphasis mine)

This morning I was listening to Awaken the Dawn, an album by Keith & Kristyn Getty. One song, “What Grace Is Mine” opens with these words:

What grace is mine that He who dwells in endless light
Called through the night to find my distant soul

The phrase “endless light” grabbed me. Not only does God dwell in endless light, He is endless light. It speaks to God’s eternal nature, but it also promises unlimited beauty. And what a contrast to the “night” through which He calls – the darkness of sin that blanks out the light. No wonder He needs to call me. My condition prohibits me from seeing even endless light. Except, He tore the veil.

All fear can flee for death’s dark night is overcome
My Saviour lives and reigns forevermore

This post is an edited version of one that first appeared here in January 2011.

Published in: on November 3, 2016 at 5:48 pm  Comments Off on Light And Darkness  
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Creation


EarthriseI read the creation account in Genesis today, and I have more questions about creation now than I ever did before. It’s almost like the opposite of “familiarity breeds contempt.” Rather, the more knowledgeable I am about the events, the more curious I am about how it all worked. I see things I never saw before. And I also find myself questioning the explanations I’ve heard or read in exposition of the passage.

Here’s one. When did God create water?

Before the six “days” of creation start, Scripture says, “The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.” (1:2, emphasis mine)

So where’s that water come from? In fact where did that formless and void earth come from? The logical answer seems to be, Genesis 1:1—“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

But many Bible scholars tell us today that the Jewish way of writing is not the linear approach we Greek-influenced thinkers write. Their method was cyclical. They wrote and moved a step to the left and down, then down another step, then to the left again, to the left and up, up and to the left—and they’re back in the vicinity where they started. Consequently, “God created the heavens and the earth” was not one thing followed by a different thing, but it was the great thing—the topic sentence, if you will—followed by details that expounded on it in cyclical fashion.

Well maybe.

As most people calculate the days of creation, then, light came first.

But what is light? According to the day-by-day listing of creation, light came on day one but the sun didn’t come until day four. So there was light from some source apart from the sun. And that source would be what? What did God create when He created light? Was it the particle/wave electromagnetic radiation—photons that move through space at a measured speed? Except space didn’t exist yet. And this light came from what source? If there are no stars, no sun, no human whose retina responds, what is light?

So far, we’re only on verse 3 and we have uncreated water and created light that emanates from who knows where and consists of who knows what. Hmmmm. This creation story isn’t so easy.

But what if day one doesn’t start with light? What if verse 1 isn’t a topic sentence but actually tells us what God created in the beginning—an earth, formless and void, dark and covered with water, for which He then created light.

Of course that doesn’t answer the question, what was the source of that light? Except we know from other places in Scripture that God Himself is light, so it would seem from His being, He brought forth light.

All this to say, I believe the Bible one hundred percent, but it isn’t always easy. And why should it be? God who spoke the world into being isn’t exactly manageable either.

I kind of look at the Bible like a giant jigsaw puzzle. We have the pieces and they all fit to make a whole picture, but we’re looking at the image on the box top through a murky lens called sin. It keeps us from seeing where some of the parts fit, so we have to try this piece or that to see where it belongs best. And some pieces, we just have to wait until the end when all the rest comes together before we can see clearly where they go.

The questions about creation simply grow in number when we get to Genesis 2 where it appears God made Adam before He made other animals:

Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. (2:18-19)

So which is it, Genesis 2 or Genesis 1:

God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind; and God saw that it was good.
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness (vv25-26a)

Of course atheists and progressives are quick to jump on such “discrepancies” and say they prove the Bible is wrong or pure myth or a fabrication from some deceiver trying to create a religion.

These differences make me ask questions. How can this be? I know it is, because God put it in His word: “All Scripture is inspired by God . . .” God who cannot lie, who is never wrong, inspired both Genesis 1 and Genesis 2. So I look for possible ways the two passages can fit together. As a result, I come up with some “what if’s.”

Here’s the first one. What if Plato was right about his theory of forms and there exist non-material abstracts that are the highest form of reality? Consequently, before God formed animals from the dust of the earth (Gen. 2), He first formed them as a non-material reality, an abstract concept of lion (which he allowed Adam to actually name) and bear and butterfly (Gen. 1).

It’s a “what if” and I’m sure there are other possible ways that the two can fit and both be true without chalking up the creation account to pure myth. What seems most clear to me are these two realities: 1) in the beginning God; 2) God created.

Those are not confusing or hard concepts. They are simple, straightforward, all encompassing, and true—repeated over and over and over in Scripture with unwavering certainty. Whatever parts are murky because sin has muddled the picture, those two corner pieces are crystal clear.

And it is from the known that we read Scripture, not from the unknown. So we take the truth of God’s existence and the truth of His creative work, and we view the Bible and the world from those basics, and others like them.

We might have a pile of what-if’s and even some parts that have no apparent way of fitting, but we can be confident that in the end, where they belong and how it all comes together will become abundantly clear.

Published in: on July 27, 2015 at 6:41 pm  Comments (7)  
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Free Speech Dumped, So Bring On The Light


FedEx_Trucks_AlaskaThe NBA commissioner has ruled. Donald Sterling, owner of the LA Clippers, will be fined 2.5 million dollars and banned from NBA basketball. What’s more, the other team owners are being encouraged to vote him out as the owner of the Clippers. Apparently, they have the power to do so according to their constitution.

Never mind that Sterling made his racist comments in a private conversation without the knowledge that he was being taped. The commissioner responded to that fact by saying, The remarks are public now and they express what he thinks.

So there you have it. If someone says something offensive in private, he can be punished.

I cry over this. I hate that an eighty-year-old real estate mogul and sports team owner has horrible, racist attitudes. How many people has he hurt over the years with his money and power and influence? Even one is too many.

I also hate that this case of racism in high profile places sets a precedent for punishing speech because it is offensive to society. Truly, most people may not realize it, but free speech died today.

It’s horrible, I think, that something so clearly wrong—racist comments—should be at issue. But agreeing with or hating what Sterling said is not the issue. Free speech says the person holding a minority view has the right to voice his opinion. But apparently not any more.

I also hate the fact that this high profile case involving racist language has taken front stage. People died in a string of tornadoes in the Midwest and multiple people have lost their homes. A young man walked into an Atlanta area FedEx and started shooting, eventually killing himself. This just days after a boy in England stabbed his teacher to death.

Ukraine is facing the possibility of civil war, the Middle East peace deadline expired, an explosion in Syria killed dozens, gunmen stormed the Libyan parliament, over a hundred people have died in Saudi Arabi of the Mers (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) coronavirus, and the Yemen army initiated an offensive against al-Qaeda.

All I can think is, how dark is the world, how much people need the light.

The light is not a list of moral imperatives. It’s not a return to the values of our Constitution. It’s not even a love-your-neighbor campaign.

The Light is the Light of the world. And Christians have been called into that light, called to proclaim that light

But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9)

Believers have been called out of darkness, but even more, we’ve been rescued from it:

For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Col. 1:13-14)

Every person we know is either in the domain of darkness or the kingdom of light. There is no neutral territory. Everyone in the domain of darkness needs to be rescued. Granted, it is God who does the rescuing, but remarkably He earmarks those of us in His kingdom to be a part of the process. Here are ways God uses believers.

  • We can all pray—that God will send more workers into the harvest, for one. But also that He would open the spiritually blind eyes of those who do not know Him.
  • We can live life in a countercultural way that pleases Jesus.
  • We can be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks us to give a defense of the hope that is in us.
  • We can go into the world and make disciples, starting next door, down the block, across the street.
  • We can support those who take up the mantle of missionary and move to the inner city or to a country in the 10/40 window or wherever God calls.

Above all, it’s time for Christians to step up, not to hunker down. It’s tempting to duck when battle rages around us. And make no mistake—we are in a battle:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Eph. 6:12)

But we are equipped, and we have our marching orders:

Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. (Eph. 6:13)

Yes, free speech has been dumped today, but more’s at stake—the eternal destiny of . . . well, everyone we know. So while it’s yet day, we’d best be about our real business.

We’re No Longer Saving Daylight


westcoast sunsetI enjoyed an extra hour of sleep Saturday night, but I have to admit, each year I find this clock changing nonsense connected with Daylight Savings Time to be annoying. For one thing, I can never figure out which change of the clock shifts us into Daylight Savings Time and which shifts us out.

But this weekend, one of the news anchors said something about the end of Daylight Savings Time, so now I know–at least for a week or so. 😉

Actually I find the whole concept to be ludicrous. I mean, who’s kidding whom, that we’re actually saving daylight by shifting our clocks an hour? For me it’s a matter of whether or not it’s dark when you get up in the morning or when you finish work at night. One end or the other, it’s dark, and as the days get shorter, it’s actually dark on both ends.

So we’re clearly not saving any daylight. No matter what we do with our clocks, the sun ignores us and rises and sets at God’s command, according to the pattern He established years ago when He put the greater light in the heavens to rule the day.

It’s really quite a reflection of Mankind’s attitude, I think–us saying we’re saving daylight.

God saved daylight once. He stopped the sun in its tracks extending the day so His people could experience a great victory in battle.

We don’t save daylight like that, and never will. But we sound so powerful, so in control by saying we’re saving daylight. We don’t want the sun to go down when it actually does, so we’ll save daylight.

That’s the old carnival huckster’s trick, selling the public a bit of swamp land based on sleight of hand. Look at how much light we have in the evening, they say, in hopes we won’t notice how much less light we have in the morning.

So now we’re done with it. For a few months, at least. Not that I think those who believe Mankind is able to manipulate time see us as any less in control now than before. I suspect they believe we are capable of pulling our planet out of global warming or climate change–take your pick. If only Man had been around when the Ice Age first showed signs of becoming a thing! I mean, what aren’t we capable of doing?

Such a sad perspective.

I’ve stood on “solid” ground, with the earth bucking and quaking beneath me. I’ve been in the ocean with one wave after another towering over me so that I knew I wouldn’t have the strength to evade one more. I’ve been in the mountains in the winter as the sun goes down and realized the fine line between being warm and dry and freezing to death.

Who is Man that we think we can save daylight? In truth, there’s not much we can do about God’s creation, though we like to think we can. The spate of floods and tornadoes people from Colorado to Oklahoma experienced this year should wake us up to the fact that we aren’t in charge.

Ironically, God assigned Adam the job of cultivating and caring for the earth. He was the steward, I guess you’d say. But post-fall, we want more, we want more. Now we want to manipulate what God made, for our own ends.

For instance, we develop antibiotics and believe we will eradicate disease, only to discover that in the process we’ve created a strain of germs that are resistant to our drugs. Pandemics aren’t a thing of the past at all but a thing of the future. And so is famine and a variety of other “natural” disasters.

Funny how we can save daylight but make no dent in all the blizzards and hurricanes and tidal waves this world throws at us.

If only we’d come to our senses and run back to our sovereign Father, the Creator and Maker of heaven and earth, and admit that we have been trying to usurp His authority. The world is His, we are the mere caretakers. He gives us the good gifts we enjoy–the rain that brings the food we need, the sun that warms us, the land that produces the rocks and trees to provide us with material for shelter, the very air we breath.

Saving daylight? We might as well say we are dismissing gravity.

Light is God’s realm. He describes Himself as Light, after all. If nothing else, maybe starting or ending Daylight Savings Time can remind us who the true and eternal Light is. And that He is the One who saves.

Published in: on November 4, 2013 at 5:19 pm  Comments (2)  
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Stumbling Around In The Dark


A month or so ago I cut open my toe, which bled a lot, all because I was stumbling around in the dark. Granted, I was trying to get to a light to turn it on, but that doesn’t fit the metaphor I want to use. 😉

I thought about stumbling around in the dark when I read the story of Israel setting out to conquer the Promised Land. After Moses charged Joshua to lead the people, he died.

So there they were, on the wrong side of the Jordan, and lo and behold, as God had those past forty years, He came to their rescue First He gave them specific direction and then He worked a miracle so they could cross. More than that, He told them how to go about taking Jericho, and a week later He brought down the walls of that fortified city.

All this time God had appeared among them as a cloud in the day and a pillar of fire at night. This Presence either filled the tabernacle–the tent where they were to offer sacrifices and where the High Priest was to meet with God–or moved away, which meant they were to break camp and follow.

I haven’t found anywhere in Scripture that says when God no longer moved with them in this way. I wonder if He would have continued to do so until they finished conquering the land (a process that took at least five years). But apparently the people decided they no longer needed Him to tell them were to go.

Hence, Joshua sent spies to the little town of Ai, decided they could take it with a mere 3000 men, and sent them off. God, however, was not with them. Those Israelites were routed. Then and only then did Joshua and the elders of the tribes fall on their faces before God. Graciously He told them what the problem was: disobedience.

He even helped them determine who the disobedient person was and then passed judgment on him. Once again He was prepared to lead His people. This time he gave Joshua a battle plan. He was to put men in ambush, then draw the opposition away from the city.

The plan worked perfectly and Ai fell.

So why didn’t Israel continue to let God lead them?

After Ai, a group of people nearby decided they didn’t want to die and they didn’t want to leave their homes and they didn’t want to forsake their gods, so they came up with a plan to fool Israel into making a treaty with them.

Israel fell for it.

So all this time they’d lived in the light, guided by God’s pillar of cloud or fire, and now they couldn’t even seem to ask Him if making a treaty with these people was a good idea.

They abandoned the light in favor of stumbling in the dark.

Before we think too harshly of them, perhaps we should first think about our own prayer life and see exactly what we are asking God. Already I can hear a handful of people saying, Oh, but God doesn’t work in that way any more.

Really? You mean having the Holy Spirit living in my life is less advantageous than having God’s presence fill the tabernacle? I don’t think so. Rather, I think, just as the people of Israel did before Ai and before making that treaty, we ignore the light and stumble along in the dark. Scripture calls this quenching the Holy Spirit.

I can’t help but wonder how many Ai’s we would successfully conquer or how many treaties we would avoid if we walked in the light instead.

Published in: on October 25, 2012 at 5:35 pm  Comments (2)  
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Whose World Is It, Part 5 – In, But Not Of


One last important point for us to understand regarding the issue of who’s ruling the world.

First some linguistic background. The Greek word for world is kosmos (which you may recognize as the source for the English word cosmos). According to Strong’s Concordance with Hebrew and Greek Lexicon, the Biblical meaning of the word can be outlined as follows (excluding several points that seem irrelevant to this discussion):

3) the world, the universe

4) the circle of the earth, the earth

5) the inhabitants of the earth, men, the human family

6) “the ungodly multitude; the whole mass of men alienated from God, and therefore hostile to the cause of Christ

7) world affairs, the aggregate of things earthly

    a) the whole circle of earthly goods, endowments riches, advantages, pleasures, etc, which although hollow and frail and fleeting, stir desire, seduce from God and are obstacles to the cause of Christ

I’ve always assumed that context made it clear which of these meanings applied to a particular verse, but now I see that some people might take a verse like John 3:16 and read into the word world, not “the inhabitants of the earth,” as I do, but “the world, the universe.”

I still think context reveals meaning. For example, John 3:16 follows “For God so loved the world” with “whoever believes in Him,” clarifying that this use of world relates to entities with the capacity to believe — humans.

Perhaps the most telling passage in this discussion is I John 2:15-17 because John clearly uses the world in several of its meanings. In other words, he puts the universe and the aggregate of things earthly together, under the same admonition:

Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. [emphasis mine]

James echos a portion of these thoughts when he says, “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4).

The Christian, then, is to be distinct. We are to fix our eyes on Jesus, set our minds on things above, reject loving the world and things in the world.

But what about “the ungodly multitude; the whole mass of men alienated from God, and therefore hostile to the cause of Christ”?

I haven’t done an exhaustive study of the word “world” to say categorically that I know this to be absolute, but I have reason to believe that, rather than rejecting love for the world of lost sinners, the Christian is directed to love each.

One passage that leads me in this direction is Philippians 3:18-19 where Paul says, “For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things” (emphasis mine).

Why would Paul be weeping unless he felt great sorrow at the condition, including the destruction, of these enemies of the cross?

“Enemies” brings me to the second reason. We are instructed in Scripture to love our enemies. In addition, Christ told us that we would be hated in the world.

“If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. (John 15:19; see also John 17:14)

On the strength of this hatred, I conclude “the world,” meaning, “the ungodly multitude; the whole mass of men alienated from God, and therefore hostile to the cause of Christ” encompasses the enemies I am to love.

So here’s this final point: not loving the world but loving those trapped by their own sin nature in the system that hates God and teaches them to do likewise puts the Christian in a tenuous place. We must be close enough to “the ungodly multitude” so we can love them but far enough from “the aggregate of things earthly” that we don’t start loving them. Therein lies the tension of being in the world but not of it.

The significance for writers is this: while there is a place for writing to encourage, instruct, or admonish fellow believers, our call as a group is not limited to that type of writing. We have a responsibility to “the ungodly multitude” too. Who else do we think is going to see the light we are to be, in a crooked and perverse generation? (See Phil. 2:14-15)

As Jesus reminds us, light needs to be displayed prominently, not hidden away. Writers, including bloggers, aren’t exclusive in this opportunity, but working with words makes our light-showing job all the easier.

Published in: on November 9, 2011 at 1:24 pm  Comments (3)  
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Light In A Dark Place


Particularly memorable for me is a scene in C. S. Lewis’s The Last Battle. A group of dwarfs have followed the band of Aslan-followers into a rundown shed.

Inside Lucy, Peter, and the rest find sunlight and growing things. It’s like Narnia of old.

They try to coax the dwarfs out of the huddle they’re in with some fresh fruit, but they grouse and complain about the dark, about the smelly hay Lucy is trying to force on them. In the end, the dwarfs remain blind to the beauty around them while the Aslan-followers move further up and further in.

Whatever C. S. Lewis intended with that scene, I think it accurately portrays the difference between those of us whose spiritual eyes have been opened and those still blinded — by sin, the world, riches, worries, the idol of self-effort, what have you.

The thing is, none of us can do a single thing to restore sight. We can plead with God to restore sight, but we can’t do it. Not for ourselves and not for anyone else.

So, do we pray and walk away?

Not if we take seriously what Jesus said.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven (Matt. 5:14-16).

It seems to me our job is to shine our light — not in a closet, but out in the open where people are looking.

I think that makes some of us uncomfortable. Maybe we mix up what Jesus said about praying in secret and giving in secret with doing good works. Our prayers and our alms-giving are not supposed to be done in a way that has people noticing what we’re doing.

But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.

But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you (Matt. 6:3-6).

Good works, then, must be different if they are to be done to attract attention.

But there’s another key. When our good works get attention, they ought not earn us applause. Our good works should spur others to give God glory.

That’s the other part that makes us uncomfortable, I think. How do we get people to credit God, not us, for something we do for His kingdom?

The “ah, shucks, it wasn’t much” approach comes across as false humility and in the end belittles the good work and consequently the one receiving it and God who should receive the glory.

The Apostle Paul didn’t seem to have this problem. When he healed a lame man in Lystra, the people started calling him and Barnabas gods. They’re response?

When the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their robes and rushed out into the crowd, crying out and saying, “Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to a living God (Acts 14:14-15a, emphasis added).

Perhaps we get confused about who’s light we’re shining, and that’s why it feels uncomfortable to us to deflect praise to God.

If someone handed me the keys to someone else’s car, I wouldn’t stand around hemming and hawing as if somehow to refuse to take the keys that didn’t belong to me was an embarrassment.

Light in this dark world — may I always remember the light source is God Himself which is why the praise should be His.

Published in: on May 24, 2011 at 2:19 pm  Comments (1)  
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Light And Darkness


Years ago when I was teaching, we took our eighth graders on a three-day science field trip to Catalina Island. One of the activities was to experience a sight deprivation maze. It’s hard to imagine a place as dark as that cramped labyrinth was.

From that experience I can tell you confidently, darkness is not beautiful. In fact, you can’t see the darkness. You simply can’t see anything. No shades or shapes, not even movement. Your eyes can’t register a single thing because of the absence of light.

Light, on the other hand, is exceedingly beautiful in its many manifestations. I thought of this again on Sunday as I was driving to church. Sunlight streamed through parted clouds, lining them with gold. Not silver, like the cliche. But it was so brilliant, I suppose you might say it was sort of silvery-gold.

And just the day before, as the sun was about to break above the horizon, its light painted a scattering of woolly clouds with pink, all but their outer gray edges. That’s nothing to the sunsets we get in the fall. Then there is the full moon climbing through the early night, or the crescent moon lingering with the last stars in the early dawn.

Light in its many forms is beautiful. Well, maybe not all artificial light can be said to be beautiful, but natural light does dramatic things. Starlight twinkles, sunlight refracts, candlelight glows, and firelight dances.

Any wonder then, that Scripture says Jesus is the Light of the world?

Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life
– John 8:12

Yet, most likely, because of the little bit of physical description we have of Jesus, we don’t think of Him as beautiful. Isaiah 53:2b says,

He has no stately form or majesty
That we should look upon Him,
Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.

But then this from Psalm 27:

One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the LORD
And to meditate in His temple. (v. 4 – emphasis mine)

This morning I was listening to Awaken the Dawn, an album by Keith & Kristyn Getty. One song, “What Grace Is Mine” opens with these words:

What grace is mine that He who dwells in endless light
Called through the night to find my distant soul

The phrase “endless light” grabbed me. Not only does God dwell in endless light, He is endless light. It speaks to God’s eternal nature, but it also promises unlimited beauty. And what a contrast to the “night” through which He calls – the darkness of sin that blanks out the light. No wonder He needs to call me. My condition prohibits me from seeing even endless light. Except, He tore the veil.

All fear can flee for death’s dark night is overcome
My Saviour lives and reigns forevermore

Published in: on January 31, 2011 at 7:45 pm  Comments (3)  
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What Do I Say about God?


Recently I commented about the trend that seems to be catching on among Christians to duck the name. Not that they are embarrassed by Christ, they tell us, but because of what the world thinks of Christians.

And clearly, I see this problem. Why not start over, with a new name? Then people won’t have a preconceived idea of who we are before we even open our mouths.

But I question if the problem is in what we’re called. After all “Christian,” as I understand it, was first used as a name to discredit those who believed Jesus to be the Messiah. The name was derogatory … but accurate.

Today we have a greater burden, perhaps. The name is derogatory and inaccurate (i. e., Christians do not act or believe the way the world has us pictured). But perhaps that last part has as much to do with us as it does with the ones talking about us, as some of the commenters to the post “What Are Christians Known For?” said.

Here’s what I’m thinking. When Jesus left, He commissioned His disciples to replicate—to make other disciples. While He was here on earth, He told His followers they were light, that they were to so shine that men might see their good works and glorify their Father. He also said that no one after lighting a lamp puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand.

As I confessed yesterday, too often in my life, I’ve hidden the light of Jesus. So I have to ask, what would my life look like if I am to let my light shine? Which brings me to the title of this post.

I think my light shines dimly or brightly according to what I say about God. And by “say” I actually mean more than just words.

I can “say” all kinds of things. I can even believe them at the cognitive level. I can say it’s going to rain, for example. I can believe it’s going to rain. But do I take an umbrella with me?

So, what am I saying about God? I can list out a good number of His attributes, all things I believe Scripture reveals about Him. But if I am to let my light shine, it seems to me the real question is, So what?

In what way does my life verify my belief that God is Holy, for instance. Or compassionate. Merciful, long-suffering, forgiving, just. Am I content to say, God is a giver, so He should give to me? Or am I willing to dig into Scripture and learn more of Him, then let Him shine His light through me?

Published in: on July 15, 2009 at 10:51 am  Comments (8)  
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