Light Bearer

“…that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life.” Philippians 2:15-16

As we prepare to send the kids back to another school year and prepare for the changing of seasons, I’ve been praying over how to pray for them. As they grow, you move into uncharted territory with these not-so-little-anymore people and prayers that once seemed enough don’t feel the same anymore.

Their world gets bigger, their circles grow, they aren’t safely sheltered anymore but very much exposed. The idea of sending them out to the world is terrifying at times. My instinct all summer was one of “prepare, prepare, prepare…” for whatever that’s worth. Prepare for the good and the bad because they both will come. And so we do. We impart what we can to them and pray some of it sticks.

And Jesus reminds me this morning that it’s not about my preparation or lack of it. It isn’t in the little verse cards they made for their lockers. It isn’t in my attempts to get it all said, because there will always be more to say. It’s in knowing who God is and who we are in relation to Him. And so I was lead to this verse in Philippians that reminds us of some basic truths;

  • It’s a crooked world. We can live holy and pure in the midst of it.
  • It’s a dark world. We are called to be the light.
  • How do we do it? We hold fast to His truth.

That’s worth more than all my well-intentioned lectures or lessons. It’s not from a fancy best-selling book of the month, it isn’t dressed up or altered in any way. It’s just God’s roadmap for us. I love the simple.

Love God. Love each other. Hold fast His words. Be the light.

 

Authority Over Darkness

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“Here is joy that cannot be shaken. Our light can swallow up your darkness: but your darkness cannot now infect our light.”

C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce

The Bible tells us that our adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (I Peter 5:8). It doesn’t say he IS a lion. He came in the form of a serpent in the garden and used deceitful, lying words to gain authority from Adam and Eve. He didn’t come in the form of a powerful beast because his ONLY power over us is through our minds. He knew he could never overpower God directly, so he had to get his power from man, who willingly handed it over. On his own, he is completely useless. Sometimes we see him as almost equal with God in influence and power, which he isn’t.  He doesn’t get authority from God to come at us, we have to give our consent and cooperate with him.

His darkness cannot infect our light if we don’t let it. He may be LIKE a roaring lion, screaming “dismal forebodings” into our ears, but he only has power when we take those lies and believe them over God’s revealed word.

He MAY devour us if we give ourselves over to him, but the Bible doesn’t say he WILL. We have a role to play and a choice of who we yield ourselves to (Romans 6:16).

The world is very, very dark. The things going on today probably couldn’t have even been imagined a generation ago. The one true thing we can take comfort in as believers is that Christ has overcome this world and the enemy is already defeated. With so many operating under the influence of satan right now, that is a hard thing to see. We act as if he is all-powerful when he just isn’t. Jesus gave his disciples (and us) the power over these things (Luke 9:1). In all the darkness and evil surrounding us, we can be confident that we have the God-given authority to stand against it and be a light. We can swallow up that darkness. God is waiting for individual hearts to turn to Him and do what He gave us power to do.

“He sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” (Luke 9:2)

It’s not some kind of metaphor. We really are to preach the Truth of His word and heal the sick. The physically and spiritually sick. In the New Testament, spiritual warfare is always demonstrated as being in our minds. Not outside us in the heavenly realm, but inside our thoughts. The way to overcome these very real battles is by renewing our minds to God’s truth.  (Romans 12:2, Ephesians 6:12). The guys in the New Testament didn’t make it complicated either. No hard doctrine and lists of rules to follow, no required waiting period for answers or miracles, no complicated spiritual warfare rituals like we make up today. They focused on sharing the Gospel and took their authority.

Peter commanded the lame man at the gate to get up and walk (Acts 3:6). He didn’t beg God to do it, he used the authority God had already provided to him as a believer. God’s power, we plug into it.

Luke prays that “with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Jesus” (Acts 4:29).

The darkness simply cannot overcome the light. It’s defeated. How amazing if we would all individually cooperate with what God has trusted us to do – preach the Word and watch it change lives!

There’s a catchy song we sing in the car about “learning to be the light”… We are imperfect beings with a perfect God who can learn to be that light. Just a little bit of truth can swallow up a whole lot of darkness. And the darkness cannot infect our light if we don’t allow it in. That is a joy that can’t be shaken and it should embolden us to get out there and do what God has given us authority to do!

Trees and Branches

IMG_5297I came across a poem the other day that made me laugh. Not in the sense that it was funny, but in the sense that it was so strange it made me chuckle and cringe all at the same time. It was written by a self-proclaimed “spiritualist” and made it’s way into the “Christian” (loose air quotes here) blog world.

Here’s the crux of the poem:

You take a walk in the woods and see all these different trees. Some are crooked, some tall, some not very healthy. You understand that certain trees just didn’t get enough light or water and thats why they are how they are. You don’t get upset about it, you just accept it. So why can’t we just do that same thing with people? Why do we judge and get upset when people are not what we want them to be? We should practice turning people into trees in our head and let them be as they are.

Serious. Just imagine everyone like a messed up tree and they won’t seem so bad and you’ll be a better person for it.

It was received with a thousand “amens” and multiple comments about how practicing “non-judgment is the most important thing…” etc.

I get it, I get the gist of what the spiritual guru man is trying to say – there’s stuff that happens that makes us windswept and crooked and stumpy and imperfect and we need to let everyone be who they are. No person (or tree) is perfect. We can’t look at the faults of our fellow “trees” while ignoring our own, etc.

I appreciate the comparison, but this is where spiritualism, in all it’s fanciness, diverges with Christianity. The spiritualist reaches out and tries to make sense of the imperfect with more imperfect. It’s like a short journey down a dead-end street. As Christians, we have God’s word, thank goodness. It’s clear. It’s pretty simple. It’s always the best way. This is why I’m so cautious about these popular sites and authors who just write down whatever sounds fashionable and comfy for the moment.  When you take out God’s word and insert popular opinion, things get muddled.

I do not believe our highest goal in life should be to “not judge”… I don’ even think thats Biblical or possible. Letting people stay thirsty or in the dark (like the sad, proverbial tree in this poem) is not what God wants for anyone.

God created man in His own image, for relationship and growth and experiences. 

If we want to compare ourselves to anything in the tree family, it should be a BRANCH. Jesus gave us the example himself in John 14.
“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. (v 5). 

Branches cannot exist on their own. They are connected to something bigger. If Christ is our vine, we have all the water and light we will ever need. Branches get pruned and taken care of so that they may bear fruit.

That wild, twisted, thirsty, light-starved tree in the poem? It bears no fruit. It’s half-dead. That’s how we would be without Jesus. The enemy would love for us to just accept that lowly position and “let it be”. Christ came to transform us, and to rescue us.

In all the “not-judging” going on, people are wilting away and starving for truth. In the name of “letting each other be”, we are letting each other remain in the dark.

I guess the tree analogy isn’t so bad after all – but it should point us to what we DON’T want to be. For the “spiritual” the very best they can hope for is acceptance of all the ugly and unhealthy in life. The most important thing to them is that we don’t judge them for it. I so wish they could see the freedom Christ offers. Living water and endless light and life when we join ourselves to the Vine. We still have our knots and bumps. We are all crooked. Branches need a lot of pruning. But we don’t have to go at it alone.

We aren’t meant to live separated from our source of water and light. And we aren’t called to leave others in the dark either. It’s ok that there are crooked, thirsty trees in our midst – we all were at one time. Let’s point them to the light and the water though, because none of us were created to stay that way.

Five Smooth Stones

Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them.

“I cannot go in these,” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So he took them off. Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.

1 Samuel 17:38-40

The story of little David and his victory over Goliath is my 6 year old sons favorite thing to read. It’s the first story he looks up when he gets out a picture bible. I’ve become accustomed to it, memorized it, and I confess, tired of it at times. Little guy defeats big giant, with only a stone and God’s divine help. Got it. Check. It is an amazing story – and I feel bad thinking I’ve read it one too many times. I ask him if he wants to read a different story – nope. So we read it again, from a different kids Bible. We talk about how little people can do big things for God. We reaffirm that we are in Gods army and He is in charge of winning the battles we face. It’s all very good stuff. And I believe it. But for some reason, it was more of a picture on a page than a truth in my heart.

God never meant for us to be bored with His Word, not ever, but sometimes those truths just stay there on the page, flat and lifeless. We need them to be life and truth, but sometimes it just isn’t there.

I was flattened most of this past week. Sick to my stomach, I was horrified in a way that I cannot put into words, and I won’t try. We are accustomed to hearing awful things on the news, but Newtown was different. I walked around all week in their shoes, as did every parent I know. I found myself no longer caring about the mud on my floors or dried toothpaste mess in the sink. Truthfully, I was damn thankful for my mess. I went through the motions of sending my boys off to school acutely aware of how exposed we really are. Painfully aware that I need to go to the Lord with these anxieties, I asked that He show me what true protection really means.

We fashion our own little worlds as best we can, organized and tidy. I send the boys off to school – every fiber in my body fights against it while my head tells me to chill out. Later that morning, digging for a Post-It note in the kitchen junk drawer, I came across a little red and black bag given to my 6 year old a few years ago. It contains 5 little stones from the Valley of Elah, where David took on Goliath so long ago. Some very thoughtful friends had given it to us, knowing my little guys love for the story. I wondered how long it had been in there. No matter, I picked it up and put it in my purse. I started thinking about little David. I thought of how he tried to put on Saul’s armor and went instead for a sling and some rocks. The armor didn’t suit him. It didn’t fit him. It weighed him down.

I took out a rock and held it for awhile. Could it be that this is all we need? I started thinking of all the armor I walk around with that is anything but the armor of God. It’s so easy to pile on things in our lives that make us feel less exposed. We organize. We collect. We control. We build our suit of armor until it becomes too big and too heavy. Suddenly, we are too weighed down to fight the giants. David was successful because he went into battle in the name of the Lord. Period. Holding the little bag of rocks, I felt a kind of surrender that I had not felt in awhile.

We need to drop the heavy armor. We need to drop the fears and anxieties we walk around with all day. Accept that we are exposed – accept also that the God of David goes with us into battle and will fight for us.

The world tells us we have to be ‘holly and jolly’ this time of year. The world tells us we need to be dragging around a ton of armor to be happy and secure. God tells us to give up the charade. It’s ok to be broken.  As Christmas approaches, I pray God’s supernatural comfort over all those who are mourning.  The idea of a ‘holly jolly’ Christmas seems woefully artificial  right now. We need the truth to come off the page again. As we mourn the loss of innocence, I pray that we would turn our eyes to the child that came into a world just as dark as ours 2000 years ago. He came so that this sadness would not have the final word. This present darkness is too much for any of us to handle. In spite of all of this – because of all of this – Christ came into this mess of a world.

Don’t let the story fall flat. Don’t let the repetition make it dull and lifeless. May the story of Christmas come off the pages this year like never before. Let those who are hurting look through the artificial and straight into the heart of God. The Light of the World has come to dispel the darkness once and for all.