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)

What About The Law

Many Christians today don’t think they should follow the law, because they reason, they are covered by the blood of the lamb, and therefore are not in need of the law. We don’t need to follow the “Jewish” laws, because that’s legalism, and isn’t legalism what Christ taught against, when he called the lawyers and teachers of his day hypocrites?

Is this, in fact, truth, or just something we want to be true, something we tell ourselves in order to justify our own idea of what God’s plan entails? What about the Ten Commandments? Christians certainly believe in those. Are they not a part of the law? Christ himself said that he did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it (Matt 5:17). In fact, he goes on to say that “not one pen stroke of it would pass away until God’s purposes were complete.”

So what about the law, and what does it mean to be under the law? I heard an excellent example the other day from Adam at The Parable of The Vineyard YouTube channel, and it went something like this:
When you drive your car down the street and you go the speed limit you are abiding by the law. But let’s say you roll through a 25 mph school zone at 35 mph and you get pulled over. The police officer gives you a ticket, and a summons to appear in court. You are now no longer abiding by the law, but are under it. You can only be under the law, when you violate it and a penalty has been assessed, in this case a fine.

So, let’s also say that when you get to court, a concerned parent from the school offers to pay your fine, and all he asks in return is that you abide by the law, and not speed in the school zone. The judge then releases you, and are once again living according to the law. Now, when you leave the court, do you immediately go out and race through a school zone again, or do you think of the concerned parent who paid your debt?
Here’s the paradox: If we live by the law, we are not under it. It is only when we break the law that we find ourselves under it, because breaking it, like living by it, has consequences.

This is how it is with Christ. We acknowledge that he paid the penalty for us, but does that mean we are free to ignore the law, say that it doesn’t matter, because Jesus paid and I don’t have to? He told the adulteress, when all her accusers had disappeared, “Go, and sin no more.”

God’s commandments are not an arbitrary set of rules that we can follow or not according to our own desires, but an expression of the attributes of love, God’s love for us. In total, he gave Israel, his set-apart people, 613 commands. Of those 613 rules to live by, He wrote the first 10 with his own hand, which suggests they must be pretty important. In fact, all 613 can be encapsulated in those first ten. They are how we show God our love, and how we can also reflect His love to others. And, the ten can also be subdivided into just two, the two Christ spoke of in Matthew 22, when he said all the law could be summed up by this: Love God, and love your neighbor.

“Love God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” One to four are all about loving God.

1. You shall have no other Gods before me. Number one is about loyalty: Love is Loyal.
2. You shall not make for yourself graven images, no idols that you might bow down to or serve. Number two is about faithfulness: Love is Faithful.
3. Don’t take the name of the Lord your God in vain, don’t misuse it, do not bring God’s name to naught. Number three is about reverence: Love is Revenant.
4. Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy. Time set-apart on a recurring and regular basis to spend with God. Number four is about intimacy: Love is Intimate.

“And the second is like unto it; love your neighbor as yourself.” Six to ten are about loving your neighbor.

5. Honor your mother and father. Show them you are grateful for all they have done for you, indeed given up for you, and that you value their guidance. Number five is about respect: Love is Respectful.
6. Do not commit murder. This one seems straight forward, right? But it’s not because it also applies to gossip as gossip is, in reality, a form of murder, since it assassinates character. Number six is about harmlessness: Love is Harmless.
7. You shall not commit adultery. Keeping sacred the special bond of marriage that is the foundation of the family unit. Number seven is about purity: Love is Pure.
8. You shall not steal. Taking what does not belong to you is the epitome of selfishness, and emphasizes getting rather than giving. Number eight is about generosity: Love is not selfish, but Generous.
9. You shall not bear false witness. Don’t speak falsely, lie, speak unjustly, or devise ways to deceive others. Number nine is about truthfulness: Love is Truthful.
10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or goods. We should not crave nor desire what is not ours. Number ten is about contentment: Love is Content.

Christ tells us in John 14:15, “If you love, keep my commandments.” 1 John 2:5 says that if we keep doing what he (Jesus) says, then love for God has truly been brought to its goal in us, and we are also told in 1 John 5:3 that loving God means obeying his commands, and that his commands are not burdensome.

~SLM

What Love is: A Litmus Test

It seems that the world is upside down right now, that everything is wrong side out and backwards. We want the madness to stop, but we’re at a loss as to how. We say we want to get along, that we want peace and love, but from the virulence and frequency of the bombastic and self-righteous screeds that are posted every day to facebook, twitter and any number of “social” forums, it is clear that most of us have no idea of what we’re doing or why. We want desperately for things to go differently, to head in a new direction, the direction of unity, but it seems we’ve lost our way. We don’t know anything about kindness, tolerance and love, or if we had ever learned, we’ve forgotten, developed a collective case of CRS (can’t remember shit), as if modern life has divorced us from knowing, understanding exactly what it means to love.

So how do we know what love is? It sounds like a simplistic question, but is it really? We think we know what it is; we think love is about the sentiments reflected in a popular song, quotes by the Dalai Lama or Mother Teresa, a warm and fuzzy feeling about our friends and family, or a heart shaped emoji we use to react to our friend’s posts. But, love is so much more than these, greater than our trivialities. It is the one thing that never fails, and is perhaps the most challenging feet we could attempt in our lives. And, we do know what it looks like, because we’ve been given a litmus test for love, a laundry list by which to check our actions. The test goes like this:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.  1 Corinthians 13:4-8

We must test everything against this standard, continually asking ourselves; is it patience or is it pride, is it kindness or cattiness, is it truth or rumor parading as truth, does it persistently hope for the best or is it flip and conceited, is if faith-filled or self-filled? If the words we speak (or type) cannot pass this test, if they are unkind, conceited, ill-mannered, selfish, proud, a diatribe of what’s wrong, we are not speaking from a place of love.

Here’s what else we’ve been told about love:

Forget about the wrong things people do to you, and do not try to get even. Love your neighbor as you love yourself. Leviticus 19:18

But I say to you, love your enemies. Pray for those who hurt you. If you do this, you will be true children of your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:44-45

If we are jealous, act impatiently, are brutish, or delight in situations that prompt us to say “ain’t karma a bitch,” we do not know love. If we take it upon ourselves to “get even” with those who would do us harm, we are not coming from a place of love, but of darkness and hate. What then, do we do with hate? There is no reasoning with it, any brute force or mighty action that can stop it, because hate is not the cure for itself. There is only one antidote to hate, only one power mighty enough to stop it in its tracks: Love.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

If we love one another, we don’t give up on each other. We aren’t gleeful or smug when evil things happen to others, even when they are our enemies. We continue to hope for the very best with all the patience in the universe, because that is what we have been called to do, what we’ve been commanded to do,  and the example we are expected to set as a follower of Christ.

~SLM

I heard this on the radio this morning and thought it appropriate for this post – thank you Danny Gokey for this beautiful song!

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

 

Transitions

Letting go and letting God is much easier said than done. When our lives are unsettled, then transitions occur, our troubled minds find no rest. This is when we must resolve to trust the most, but is usually when we are the least willing to follow. We stand frozen, like Lot’s wife, mournful for what we are leaving behind, unwilling to fathom that what lies ahead could well be what we’ve always dreamed of. Instead, we allow ourselves to be convinced that the difficulties and strife we’ve just come through is far better than what may come into. We make many small transitions every day, a new boss, a road closure, an unexpected delay, without letting them stop us in our tracks, yet the larger ones paralyze us. How are they different? We have no trust that what we are being delivered into will be better than what we are delivered from. God’s timing is hardly ever our timing, and if it were, we’d probably never follow His plan. Matthew 6:34 tells us, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” I guess it’s human nature that we are more willing to “stay with the devil we know” rather than take the leap toward something more. It’s sure, it’s safe and trusting means we admit we are not in control, we admit we haven’t made very good choices.

But what about the God we know? Have we no trust in his ability to keep us? Why is it so difficult to cling to His promises? Psalm 23 begins with this line: The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall lack nothing – NOTHING! Even when it looks like there is no road, we must trust that God will provide. We see only a small portion of the puzzle, and when we reflect upon our journey, don’t we always see just how lovingly we’ve been cared for?  

It occurs to me that it’s our attitude toward our life’s events that needs adjusting. How different, more calm and blissful would our lives be if we stopped lamenting what we perceive as misfortunes and embraced God’s plan? What if we were to relish the twists and turns of this roller-coaster ride we call life, and face each day with this thought: These are exciting times that God has provided for me, I can’t wait to go down this road, to see how this will all shake-out, and to see who I will become as a result of it all!

~SLM

Deuteronomy #3: The Good Land

It seems the more we have, the more we tend to take things for granted. Whole generations have grown up not knowing how much they are given, how much they have in relation to those around them, how truly blessed and fortunate they are to be able to live in comfortable houses, have plenty to eat, have the latest gadgets, multiple automobiles, good incomes, and more of everything. Deuteronomy 8 tells us that it’s precisely in times like these, times of plenty, when we should “remember the Lord,” that we should praise God for the “good land” into which he has brought us.

Great blessings come with great responsibilities, and we are warned to keep our pride in check, to remember the source of our blessings. When times are good, and everything is going our way, sometimes we forget to be grateful, thankful for all that has been given us. Back in the day, we’d have said, “you’ve got to dance with the one who brought you,” meaning that we should not let it slip our notice just how we got to where we find ourselves, and who it was that made it possible. Proverbs 16:18 tells us “pride precedes a disaster, and an arrogant attitude precedes a fall,” and this is so very true; it’s exactly when we become all full of ourselves, patting ourselves on the back for all that we have accomplished, that we set ourselves up for a little humble pie.

Dear Lord, help me to affix my eyes upon you and on your Word so that I may ever remember who brought me, who has protected me and provided for me, who has given me the many gifts I possess, who has led me into my “promised land,” so that in the end it will go well with me. Amen

~SLM

Unsettled Waters

Sometimes it’s remarkable to me how certain snippets of scripture in moments of synchronicity stand out in our daily lives, asking us to ponder them, to go deeper, and to consider what they can teach us. Lately Matthew 14:25-31 has had such a place in my life, and specifically verses 28-31 where Peter says to Christ, “if it is really you, tell me to come to you on the water, and Jesus says, “come.”
It occurs to me that whenever we move through anxious times, through rough spots in our lives, where everything seems upside down, and we aren’t sure how it will all turn out, this is the time when we have our best opportunity for spiritual growth. It’s the time to be single-minded in our attention, having the strength of faith to keep moving forward, trusting God’s promises to us. This passage is about stepping out in confidence, leaving the safety of the boat to move across the unsettled waters with our eyes fixed on the goal, trusting that we will be held safe in the journey. It’s about letting the storms, no matter what they are, or how they present themselves in our lives, rage about us as they may, without losing our devotion, and coming into the embrace of our future selves, our new selves in Christ.
What I get out of it is this: If we trust in God, we have to trust in His promises, completely, without dropping our focus. It’s when we lose focus, letting the raging wind and churning seas fill our sight, that we fail, that doubt creeps in and we lose faith; our faith in our ability to follow, and more importantly, our faith in the fact that it’s the loving arms of Christ which supports and sustains us, which gives us a “bridge” for troubled waters, and allows us to carry on in miraculous grace.
And so to end, a prayer…
Thank you Lord for your loving care, for your wisdom and guidance. You know just what I need, and you fill my life with peace and love, each breath I take with the wonder of your graciousness. Let me know the meaning of faith with every fiber of my being, know that no matter how it appears, I am fully taken care of, and know that all of my needs are met at every moment. Amen
~SLM

 

Update:  Songs on the theme that presented themselves over and over…

  1.  www.youtube.com/watch?v=dy9nwe9_xzw