Let There Be Light

1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was unformed and void, darkness was on the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God hovered over the surface of the water. 3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and God divided the light from the darkness. (Gen 1:1-4)

We are called to walk a path of light, to “be a city on a hill” that we may shine brightly before men, as a beacon, and that means to step away from the darkness, to leave its ways behind, to live in the light. In the beginning, God pulled the light from the darkness as a means of setting it apart, separating it, sanctifying it, making it a foil for the darkness. 1 John 1:5-6 tells us that “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” We cannot live in the light while we relish the acts of darkness. They are mutually exclusive groups, sharing nothing in common, and are therefore incompatible.

What, then, is God’s light? How do we define it? Is it not but a contrast between two opposing elements, between black and white, between all that is good, right, and true with that which is not? In Ephesians 5:8-9, Paul says, “For you used to be in darkness; but now, united with the Lord you are light. Live like children of light, for the fruit of the light is in every kind of goodness, rightness and truth.” Truth is what gives contrast to darkness, what exposes all that we thought to be hidden. But more than this, contrast is also what brings to light all that lurks in shadow, because sometimes, “darkness” is more subtle than mere blackness. It can also be like filtered light that’s been misdirected and distorted until its purpose is obscured, no longer providing sharp relief, and no longer serving as a beacon. Paul continues in Ephesians 5:11-14 saying that we should “have nothing to do with the deeds produced by darkness, but instead expose them…everything exposed to the light is revealed clearly for what it is, since anything revealed is a light.”

Every instance of “light” in our world is just a reflection of God’s ultimate goodness. If you trace the light back to the source, it’s God! And, that’s why Paul tells us in Romans 13:12, “The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” The light of God is not only our protection, but also our calling as His chosen people, His children. Every day we are in active battle with a world of darkness, and that’s why we’re told to “put our light on a stand, and not under a basket” and this means we must place it in the most advantageous spot for all to see, that we may provide a sharp contrast to the darkness. Think of a time when you were in a dark place, and the light brought you out of it. What form did light take in that moment? And looking back, can you see how it was strategically placed in your life to show you the way, to deliver you from evil and to bring you into God’s light?

The color black appears as it does, because it actually absorbs all visible light reflecting nothing back to the eye – it takes. Likewise, the color white is simply the reflection of visible light – it gives. What we learn from these opposing properties is this: When we choose not to be reflections of God’s light, only taking in, we not only live in darkness, but we also create darkness in our hearts. And in contrast to this, when we are reflections of God’s light, casting everything back, we become co-creators with him through Christ.

A Prayer:

Help me to remember, Lord, who I am and what I am supposed to be. If I am to be your light in this world, that means I am to be a reflection of who you are. Help me, Lord, to be a positive reflection, to remember that everything I do and say must reflect rightly upon you, that I may not take your name in vain, but bring honor and glory to you in thought, word and deed. ~Amen

 

~SLM

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Christ Jesus his son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 Jn 1:7)

Blindness: The Best Medicine

​In my Monday night group, we’re studying the life and ministry of the Apostle Paul, and we were asked why we thought God would strike Paul blind to get His point across. Was it to simply humble him, or did God have something else in mind on that fateful day on the road to Damascus?

Among the possible reasons we came up with were: 1) When one sense is taken away, we compensate through one or more of our other senses, so maybe blindness obliged Paul to listen; and 2) Sometimes, drastic measures are called for so that we may “see” what God is saying.

Listening is, by far, the one thing humankind struggles with the most. We have been given eyes to “see” and ears to “hear,” but we can’t seem to coordinate their use. When we see, we seldomly listen, and listening is paramount to recognizing the voice of Wisdom, the voice of God.

Like Paul, we can become so convinced of our own wisdom that we can’t even see what is right in front of our faces. We think we know, and we’re passionate about it, even when what we “know” is completely wrong. We tend to live life in a bubble of our own making, and when we look for validity, we tend to only see those things that confirm our correctness, our righteousness, giving us a false sense truth. That’s why we are told that we shouldn’t worry about the speck in our neighbor’s eye, when we have a board in our own. It’s because we look at the world with impaired vision, and reality is more vast than our limited scope can comprehend, and perhaps, being struck blind is what we need, when we can’t see any other point of view but our own, when our prejudice gets in the way of our ability to see the truth.

Often times, it does, indeed, take something drastic to stop us in our tracks. A bolt from the blue is exactly what is needed, a shock to our senses meant to get our attention, to help us reevaluate what we think we know, to make us see things in a new way. Paul’s whole life changed after that fateful day. His blindness gave him the chance to listen, to evaluate in a new light, God’s light, all he had learned and studied up to that point in his life. Sometimes blindness the best medicine to show us how we’ve been blind, to humble us with the light of truth, and to send us down a whole new road.

~SLM

Sticks and Stones: The Wisdom of Minding Your Mouth

Sticks and stones may break my bones…but do we really believe names can’t hurt us? Our words, the things we say, can affect our lives in ways we can never imagine. Regardless of what the old adage claims, broken bones, though they be painful, eventually heal. But, careless or misplaced words, whether single syllabled or compound, are another story altogether. They can leave deep and life-long wounds, and as we are reminded in James 3:5-6 (MSG), “A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything – or destroy it. It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire.” Once the [word] genie is out, there’s no going back, you can’t recall it like a bad tweet, once it hits the air, the damage is done. Words are powerful tools that can open doors or lock them, unite nations or divide them, build up and encourage or tear down and destroy. “By our speech, we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke, and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell,” James continues.

Minding your mouth is a pretty big thing, when it comes to living a wisdom-filled life. In fact, shooting off our mouths is one of the biggest failings of humanity. We’re in love with idle talk and especially our own opinions. We prattle on and on without much thought about what we say, as if our words have no real meaning, and are only background noise that is easily dismissed.  We fail to see that the freeness with which we spew our every random thought, with which we are so righteous about having the “right” to say, is not always right. Instead, we throw it out there without consideration, getting so caught up in our “right to free speech” that we forget our words are alive, they have impact, force.

The unguarded tongue is more dangerous than any suicide bomber could ever be. While he may cause us physical pain, loss and suffering, an explosion of words can do far worse damage, it can break our spirit, can set us on a downward spiral of degradation and despair that only God can help and heal. “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips,” says the Psalmist in Psalm 141:3, and rightly so, since it’s what we say that saves or convicts us, that matters most. “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:37

~SLM

The Narrow Path

Lately, I’ve been chewing on the book of Genesis, the story of Adam and Eve’s epic fail in particular, considering what it says about human nature, and what wisdom can be gleaned from the account.  My nephew thinks I’m crazy to be fixed on a “silly old myth that doesn’t have much bearing on life in the modern world.” But, is that in fact true? Have we really “evolved” beyond a tale of choices and consequences, of responsibility and self-examination?

If you think about it, it’s really much more than a “silly old myth” about a man and woman, and a snake; it’s about the choices we make and the consequences of those choices, choices that, even now, in our modern “evolved” world, are presented to us every day of our lives in a myriad of forms. It’s also about taking responsibility for our choices, owning up to the mistakes we make, rather than pointing the finger at someone else.

In the Book “The Road Less Traveled,” psychologist M. Scott Peck, says, “Whenever we seek to avoid the responsibility for our own behavior, we do so by attempting to give that responsibility to some other individual or organization or entity.” Blaming others for our behavior is nothing new, we’ve been doing this since time began. Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the snake, and a quick look at the any newsfeed suggests that we haven’t changed much since. Dr. Peck goes on to say that when we blame it means “we then give away our power to that entity.” So Adam gave his power to Eve, and she in turn gave hers to the snake, absolving all, save the snake, of any wrongdoing, right? Not at all. Contrary to what we think we are doing, when we blame others for our actions, we aren’t exercising our “get out of jail free” cards, we are actually giving our power to those we blame, assigning the control over our lives to an outside force, making us hopeless, helpless, a victim.

Eve made a choice to eat the fruit and serve it to her husband. Adam made a choice to eat the fruit, even though he, too, knew it was forbidden. We all make choices, and we can choose whether or not to partake, yet if we do, we must know that there will surely be consequences. We can eat of the fruit, or not, but that road, if we choose to go down it, is wide and well-traveled, and where it leads? Well, that’s a different matter all together. And, making our way back? Well, as we have been told, “Small is the gate and narrow the path that leads to life and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:14)

The narrow road is fraught with difficulties and challenges, because our desire to back up, to have a do-over, our resolve in the matter, will be tested again and again. Speaking truth in the face widespread dishonesty and doing what’s right, when no one else does, is not easy. Accepting our shortcomings, taking responsibility for them and resolving to change is harder still. Yet this story challenges us to confront the difficulties we face in life, to own up to our faults, to look for that “narrow” path. In truth, life is difficult, it’s unfair, no matter which path we take, but the difference is this: The narrow path teaches us so much more about ourselves, about the nature of reality, of God, and how we fit into the cosmic plan; it gives us perspective and teaches us perseverance, and trust, and leads us to life, and to God’s peace.

~SLM

 

The Poor in Spirit

In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ begins his discourse by saying, “blessed are the poor in spirit, for they will see the kingdom of heaven.” So what does it mean to be poor in spirit? Does it denote those who are below the poverty level or, those who are pitiful, helpless or weak?

Perhaps it could be better understood, if it read humble of spirit – Happy are those who are not full of themselves, who are humble and least in their own eyes. When we are full of ourselves, it’s hard to see beyond the 2-foot sphere of our own personal space, our own point of view.  We are inwardly focused, looking at everything through the narrow scope of me-ness. We can’t see how our actions affect the lives of others, as if the wake we leave behind us in our passing is some mysterious phenomenon that is happening to us rather than being created by us, making us “stiff necked” and “hard-hearted.” When in our conceit, we think we know the answer; there is no room for maturation, no room for toleration, no room for truth. We become egotistic, unresponsive and dismissive, being so convinced of what we “know” that we miss what we need to know. We are in short, arrogant of Spirit.

Yet, if we are humble of Spirit, modest, unpretentious, respectful and obliging, the beauty of life opens up to us. When we realize how little we understand, grasping that our lives affect others in ways we could not begin to imagine, our outlook on life becomes more conscious, more courteous, more reverential. We become receptive of God’s will for us, we see through the eyes of Sprit and become teachable; we see what is important. And this is what is truly important: to keep our eyes fixed on Him who created all things, loving Him with our whole heart, our whole being, seeking His counsel, His way.

It really is an all or nothing proposition. As we are told in Luke 16:13, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” We serve either ourselves or God.

~SLM

Shemitah

eclipse_sunset

Sometimes, what we need doesn’t exactly line up with what we think we need. Our lives are filled with highs and lows, with straight paths and twisting, rock-strewn passages that take more stamina and fortitude than we are even aware we possess. It brings to mind Ecclesiastes chapter 3. The one that starts with “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time…” 2015, for me, was a time to be silent, to be reflective, in short, Shemitah.

As we count down the end to 2015 and look forward to the New Year, I’d like to share a few thoughts on my time-out, my Shemitah year.

  • When you promise God that you’ll do something, it’s best to be faithful to that promise lest he force you to keep that promise by any means necessary.
  • True forgiveness is a very hard pill to swallow, but once you’ve choked it down, I mean really let it go, there is such freedom in it, compassion, love, and joyous peace.
  • Trusting in God is something that has to be actively practiced EVERY day. It’s hard sometimes to give it over, but every time you do, it turns out to be soooo much more than you could ever have imagined.
  • Actively loving others is hard, very hard, and without God’s help, we pretty much suck at it!

Shemitah is a time of respite from your labors, a sabbatical; it’s about the space in between, the quiet void that speaks more loudly than the words that surround it, about what we learn through contemplation rather than action, about faith in God rather than our own earthly wiles and abilities, and why we are needed instead of what we need.

I look forward to resuming my postings in the coming months, and wish all a happy and fruitful new year, and may your 2016 be blessed beyond measure.

Shalom

~SLM

Whatever Happens, Be Thankful

It’s so easy for us to be thankful when Life goes the way we think it should, we say “Praise God,” or “God is good.” And it’s also easy to forget. When life smiles on us, the stars align, and we seem to dance into our future without a care, we get all full of ourselves, feel entitled, forget to be grateful, and when life throws us a curve ball, we can’t bring ourselves to it. But gratefulness is important, whatever happens.

In 1 Thessalonians 5 Paul tells us to be thankful in every circumstance. No matter what the situation we find ourselves in, whether joyous and care-free or stress-filled and disastrous, we can be certain that we are exactly where we have been called to be. God has put us there. Paul tells us in Romans that all things work together for God’s good purposes. At any given time, we are where we are most needed to do honor and glory to God, even when we can’t see it. We must press on, remembering that where we find ourselves is merely a weigh station along the road, a pause, a side trip, not the final destination.

Here is the constant: God is good, and no matter how bad I’ve been, or how I perceive the circumstances that I may find myself in, He still is. So, thanking him every day for whatever life throws my way is the best way I know to be faithful to Him, to honor Him, because He has put me here, this is where he needs me most at this moment in my life.

~SLM