Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Disciples’ Solstace

So I heard this line of scripture quoted way out of context:
“Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more”

We live in a dark world, and it’s getting darker.  The consequences are that lights shines ever more brightly.  But then … remember that according to our Lord, everyone who does evil hates the light, and doesn’t come to the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.

Know what you get when there’s a very bright light in a very dark place? 

We are emerging from a world that had lots of shades of gray into a world that’s increasingly black and white.  The goats are separating themselves from the sheep, because they don’t want their actions exposed. 

As this trend gathers momentum, it will be increasingly difficult to choose the light.  Many of our friends and family will not so choose. 

I know this isn’t exactly a warm fuzzy Christmas message, but…

This may be one of the last Christmases.  Our Lord may return at any moment, and He Himself told us to prepare and be ready for His return.  But also, as the contrast increases between ourselves and our friends and family … disciples will become the prophets who are disliked by kings and peoples.  Our Father’s message of hope is also a message of repentance.  The message we deliver to the prodigal is: “come back home.”  The prodigal may not love that message, and he may kill the messenger.  It is the way of things. 

People don’t like change, and prodigals left home for a reason.  They want their “freedom,” and to be on their own and to choose to live selfishly and have fun.  They don’t want to get up early and work for the Father.  They only want to serve when it’s convenient, when it’s cool, popular, warm and fuzzy.  They certainly don’t want to leave their comfort zone and come into the light. 

If Christmas is really a celebration of the coming of Jesus into the world, then the first Christmas Eve was a night of tears and difficulty for our Lord’s Father.  Yahweh sending His Son into this dark world must have been the most difficult thing a Father has ever done or will ever do.  But He gave us this gift – the greatest one ever given.  And when His Son returned home, Jesus left us with the challenge to follow His example, and give ourselves daily. 

It’s all a question of perspective, really.  One human’s delirious joy at being saved is another’s dread of having light shined on his sin.  One loving Father’s difficult night became a celebration for a whole world.  And one Man’s gift – became our challenge, and gave rise to a new, eternal kingdom. 

The quote at the begging of this article is from Romans 5:
The Torah came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Romans 5:20-21
One bit of this hit me really hard this Christmas morning, for the first time: “So grace would reign.”  Paul is writing that before Jesus’ sacrifice, the “ruler” (through the Torah) was: sin.  But now: grace reigns. 

The word for “grace” in Greek is: Charis, and it means simply: gift.  To put it another way, “giving rules.”  Giving!  Rules!  Can you see it?  Jesus gave Himself, God gave His Son, and we are asked to give!  Why do people hate our Father’s message?  Because He asks them to give – and they want to receive. 

Who’s your daddy?  Who’s your king?  Who rules your life?  Giving or taking?

merry christmas

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

False Light

Consider the words of the prophet Isaiah:
Woe to those who drag iniquity with the cords of worthlessness, & sin as if with cart ropes; who say,
“Let Him make speed, let Him hasten His work, that we may see it; & let the purpose of the Holy One of Israel draw near & come to pass, that we may know it!
 Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!
 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes & clever in their own sight!
 Woe to those who are heroes in drinking wine & valiant men in mixing strong drink, who justify the wicked for a bribe, & take away the rights of the ones who are in the right!  
Therefore, as a tongue of fire consumes stubble & dry grass collapses into the flame, so their root will become like rot and their blossom blow away as dust
 For they have rejected the Torah of Yahweh of hosts & despised the word of the Holy One of Israel. 
Isaiah 5:18-24

Do you recognize the relationship between these characters?   

People who are wise in their own eyes are featured.  This is the one with high self-esteem, isn’t it?  The one so confident he is right that he can boldly demand that God do His work, and confident that His work will be to their benefit.  These are the folks who are "cool," "righteous," but who fellowship sinners – so long as they have money, popularity and power.   

Have you heard someone describe their church saying things like, “We have problems, sure.  We may not follow all the precise technical things of the bible exactly, but it’s my church, and I love them and will be loyal no matter what.” 

If you were a fool, would you know it? 

The truth is, of course, that being wise in your own eyes (or in the eyes of your friends) means that you are no longer putting God first.  God’s foolishness is far above the wisest wisdom of men (1 Corinthians 1.25).  His Torah is to be followed to the letter, and His Holy One to be followed, imitated, loved and obeyed.  

But when we start thinking we are smart, we substitute the darkness of our own folly for the light of God, and in fact call our own “wisdom” the wisdom of God. 

What about you?  Do you celebrate grace and continue in sin that grace may abound?  Do you tell yourself that your wisdom is sufficient, and your opinion as good as the next guy’s?  Do you walk in the True Light or the false light?

Will you humbly and reverently trust and obey?  

Monday, December 10, 2012

Light and Time


  • “Pay me now, or pay me later” 
  • Confess now … or be confessed later
  • Try now … or die later
  • Love now … or be destroyed
  • Die now … or die later
  • Be humble now, or be humiliated later

There’s a terrible day coming, it’s the Day of the Lord.  Many will approach that day with confidence, and most will live right up to the day in ignorance.  Our Lord said this day would be like the Day of Noah: 
“For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah.  For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they didn't understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.”
Matthew 24:37-39
Some think everything will be okay, but will be shocked to be the one who looks into the face of eternity and hears the 7 horrible words, “Depart from me, I never knew you.”  (Matt 7.23)
There are those who are pure in their own eyes yet are not cleansed of their filthiness.Proverbs 30:12
We live between now and that inevitable day – once it’s here, the day will provoke the strongest men to break down in terrifying fear and dread.  They will realize in that moment that they are facing God, that He knows everything they've ever done, and He is about to decide their eternal destiny. 

There will be no masks on judgment day … no dark clothes or vertical stripes will cover up the fat people.  There will be no place of darkness or shadow, for God’s light will be so bright that it will reveal everything. 

The weird things you've done will be revealed.  The most shameful thing you've done – it will be announced on the broadcast, so that everyone will know. 

Perspective & Urgency
Most of the world will read a message like this and be turned off, because they are only capable of seeing this as a message of judgment against themselves.  But a true disciple of Jesus will see it differently. We know that as long as we walk in the light and work to correct our sins, we’re forgiven.  We are the people who have hope!  Praise Him! 

The concern for a disciple of Jesus isn’t for ourselves, it’s for those around us.  Who will reach them with the message of hope, and when? 

Jesus said:
“We must work the works of him who sent me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work.”
John 9:4
As long as we are alive, we are the lights in the world, and we must work while we can.  The message of hope is better than any other, yet it is a message of repentance.  We need to get our friends, family and acquaintances to act now while there’s still time.  Not just for their sake, but for the sake of those they will influence. 

Remember the story of the Rich Man & Lazarus from Luke 16?  It was too late for that man to warn his family, and now all was lost.  Repeatedly Jesus said to “be ready,” and Paul wrote these words: 
Now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Don’t participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light. For this reason it says,
“Awake, sleeper, & arise from the dead, & Christ will shine on you.”
Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. 
Ephesians 5:7-16

Make the most of your time, because the days are evil,” Paul wrote then, and it’s still true today.  Make the most of your time, because it is short, and your friends who aren't living like true, committed disciples are in grave danger.  And among those who may be saved, they aren’t living with this sense of urgency for their friends, family & neighbors. 

What about you?  Do you have a sense of urgency about our Lord’s Day?  Will you rescue your neighbor, or will you be too consumed with the concerns of this world? 

Let your light shine while you can, for the day is coming when it will be too late.  

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Ancient Light – Modern Transparency

One of Germany’s most modern buildings is also one of her oldest: the Reichstag.  This building was originally built in the late 1800s when Germany was ruled by an Emperor, or Kaiser.  In fact, when the words “To the German People” were inscribed on it, Kaiser Wilhelm II objected, because it seemed too much like a democracy.  The picture here shows the modern building which is the meeting place of the German parliament.  It is famous for its glass dome which provides a clear view of what’s happening in the chambers below – symbolizing complete transparency of their government. 

Transparency is a term that we use today to refer to things we can see through, but also to show things are exposed to the light of day … so that all can see what’s going on, and there are no secrets.  In the bible, the term for this idea of transparency is “light.”  The idea is that for those who are true followers of God, we walk in the light of day … the transparent people.  We are the people who can be seen for what we are – even our flaws (In fact, perhaps especially our flaws). 

See what Jesus said about those who choose the light over the dark (and vice-versa):
This is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light, and doesn't come to the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.
But – he who practices the truth comes to the light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”             
John 3:19-21
Most people don’t want to walk in the light because then people will see our flaws!  We do NOT usually want others to see our sins or ugly things, do we?  On the other hand, consider these words of Jesus:

He began saying to His disciples first:“Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. Accordingly, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in the inner rooms will be proclaimed upon the housetops. I say to you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!"
Luke 12:1-5

Walking in the Dark is Contagious
Do you know why Jesus said to “beware”?  “Leaven” is the way the ancients understood things that are contagious.  Leaven is the stuff that makes bread rise.  It’s actually microscopic organisms that reproduce and spread.  Our Lord commanded us to “watch out” for this, because it’s contagious.  Once people start covering up their sins … then no one wants to reveal theirs.  This same disease has grown over 2,000 years since Jesus’ day, and now it’s in ALL churches.  Some are so blatant in acceptance of this hypocrisy they build small wood boxes where one can “confess” privately to their church’s magic man (priest).  This is how “cover-ups” begin, and one reason why Roman Catholicism has such a bad history of violence, deception, murder and immorality. 

Fear God, Not Man
Another thing you’ll notice in that reading is that Jesus basically points to the obvious: it’s all coming out in the open, eventually, because God already knows.  Confession & walking in the light are about human relationships – the True Judge already knows more of our sins than we know ourselves.  So the question is … will you continue to hide your sins in the shadows because you fear other people, or will you instead fear God and walk in the light? 

Sharing the Light
Understand this well … because it’s not just about you.  When you offer someone the Good News, they are being offered freedom and enlightenment, but the price for those things is that one MUST repent!  It means he or she must leave the concealing darkness and start walking in the light, and that is painful.  So when you rescue a person from the kingdom of darkness, do so with gentleness and not judgment.  They must expose themselves, but we don’t have to make it hard to do so.  Remember to have some compassion, for the One who forgave us was also compassionate. 

Forget what others think, and be concerned only for what God thinks.  Trust Him, obey Him, and walk before Him fully exposed.  It will not only bring about forgiveness, it will also set an example for others that it’s OK  and finally … it makes it much harder to sin when you've already agreed to expose yourself! 
This is the message we've heard from him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.
If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and don’t practice the truth;
but –
if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word isn’t in us.
    1 John 1:5-10  
The one who says he is in the light and hates his brother is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother abides in the light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and doesn't know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
   1 John 2:9-11
Are you walking in the light?  
Are you the light of the world (Matthew 5:14-16)?

If not … find a fellow disciple and friend … and confess your sins now, today, as soon as possible.  There is no need to carry this around with you, and your confession will help both of you. 
Confess continually … this is walking in the light, and it’s freeing and wonderful (after the initial pain).