The fellowship

I have heard many Christians who have walked away from one church, or the church altogether, blame other Christians for their spiritual state. The church didn’t do enough for them. The other members didn’t include them enough. No place was made for them. May excuses are given, but no responsibility is taken. Their cold spiritual climate is blamed on everyone but themselves.

This is the message he has given us to announce to you: God is light and there is no darkness in him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness. We are not living in the truth. But if we are living in the light of God’s presence, just as Christ is, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from every sin.

1 John 1:5-7 (NLT)

This passage puts the responsibility on the individual to be a part of the body, not the body to make the individual a part of them. If we are living in the light… then we have fellowship with each other. Fellowship with the rest of the church is a natural part of a healthy relationship with Christ. Expecting that the church tend to your personal relationship with Jesus is backwards. Jesus first. Church second.

It is ignorant of us to put thing in the wrong order and then try to pass the blame around without ever accepting the responsibility we have to keep ourselves in the light. No one else can do that for you.

Instead of spending so much time looking for someone or something you can blame, why not use all that energy and put it toward your relationship with God? If we all put as much effort into our spiritual lives as we do placing blame, the church would be a much happier place and we wouldn’t have to worry about where the blame goes because there would be no reason for it.

Get into the light. Then get into fellowship. In that order. The church can help you, but they can’t do it all for you.

Daily Bible reading: Ezekiel 47-48, 1 John 1

Boast

Boast is a strange word. We don’t use it often and when we do, it can have negative connotations. Pride. Arrogance. Biblically speaking, the root word translated to boast can also be translated to shine.:

SHINE: To emit rays of light; to give light; to beam with steady radiance; to exhibit brightness or splendor.

Now that changes things a little bit, doesn’t it?

This is what the Lord says: “Let not the wise man gloat in his wisdom, or the mighty man in his might, or the rich man in his riches. Let them boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord who is just and righteous, whose love is unfailing, and that I delight in these things. I, the Lord, have spoken.

Jeremiah 9:23-24 (NLT)

As humans, we cannot truly boast. We cannot truly shine. While we are made in God’s image, we are meant to reflect His glory, His light. We have no light of our own. Anything that we reflect other than God’s glory is a counterfeit.

But God, in His love and kindness has given us the capacity to know Him. And not just know about Him, but to truly know Him.

KNOW: To perceive with certainty; to understand clearly; to have a clear and certain perception of truth, fact, or any thing that actually exists.

God has given us both the capacity and the right to know Him, with clarity and certainty. And He delights in us when we do what He has allowed us to do. God loves it when we get to know Him. He’s not hiding from us. He doesn’t hold back from himself. He gives. Freely. This is what we should boast in—the truth that should radiate from us: that God knows us and that we can know the Creator of the universe, that He doesn’t want us to just know about Him, but that He wants us to know Him intimately and without doubt.

The more time you spend with someone, the more you reflect that person’s attitudes, ideals, and even mannerisms. It’s the same with God. Our time with Him should be so influential that we imitate Him in every way. Like a proud parent when their child mimics their (good) behavior, so God also delights in us when we act like Him.

So go ahead, boast. Shine.

Daily Bible reading: Jeremiah 9-10, 1 Timothy 3

Children of the Light

There are many definitions for the word light. It’s meaning goes far beyond that of simple illumination:

  • life
  • day
  • means of knowing
  • a window
  • God
  • Christ
  • joy
  • comfort
  • deliverance
  • the Gospel
  • a true Christian
  • favour

All of these things exemplify light.

For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night.

1 Thessalonians 5:5 (NLT)

When we claim the title child of God, it means so much more than belonging to God. And that is a wondrous thing! When Paul says that, as Christians, we are children of the light, we have life, we have a way of knowing, we have joy, comfort, deliverance, favour. And, if we have anything other than these things in our lives, we have allowed ourselves to be pulled back into the darkness that Jesus died to save us from.

DARKNESS: absence of light; obscurity; want of clarity; that quality or state which renders any thing difficult to understand; a state of being intellectually clouded; great trouble and distress

These characteristics are unbecoming of a Christian. They have no place in our lives. Do we live in a dark world that would see us all brought back into that darkness? Yes. But that is why we are called to let our light shine. Let our joy, our clarity, our comfort, our deliverance, and our favour overflow and overcome the darkness that surrounds us.

But let us who live in the light think clearly, protected by the body armor of faith and love, wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation.

1 Thessalonians 5:8 (NLT)

The close we get to God and the longer we remain in His presence, the more clarity we will find and the more confident we will be in our salvation. Darkness will become a distant memory that no longer has a hold on us because we are protected by these gifts from our Father.

So let us live as we are meant to, as children of the light. Let us cast all darkness from our lives and walk in the close comfort that comes with our salvation.

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 62-64, 1 Thessalonians 5

Shine?

From a young age, Christians are told to let our lights shine. What does that even mean? Do I literally have to have a light? If not, what is my light? How do I let it shine? Does it have a switch? Am I responsible for flipping it? If not, how does this whole light thing work? Letting our lights shine has become a nearly meaningless and clichéd line we use all our lives without really thinking about what it means.

God, through the prophet Isaiah, breaks it down into the simplest terms.

Feed the hungry and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be bright as day.

Isaiah 58:10 (NLT)

Feed the hungry and help those in trouble. That’s it? That’s it. Matthew says it in a similar way.

In the same, way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.

Matthew 5:16 (NLT)

The term good deeds is also translated as light. In both cases, light means things like luminary, bright, clear, morning sun, to shine or make manifest. Everything about these roots indicates a rather public display.

But what about Matthew 6:1 where it tells us not to put our good deeds on public display? Well, it’s all about the heart behind the action. Jesus was talking about the hypocrites who made sure people were watching before they did something. It was all for their own selfish gain so that they themselves would be praised. But God is telling us to do these things when people are watching and when they aren’t. He tells us that our purpose behind our good deeds should be to point people back to Him.

By taking care of the very basic needs of those around us for no other reason but that they need it is allowing our light—Jesus—to shine. When we show others the love and mercy that Christ showed us, the glory is not ours, but God’s alone.

So now that you know how and why to do it, shine!

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 56-58, 1 Thessalonians 3

 

This little light

I’ve been talking a lot about work lately. Partly because I’ve been working so much and partly because never before have I taken note of so much opportunity to put the Word into practice.

For God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey him and the power to do what pleases him.

Philippians 2:13 (NLT)

By all accounts, the apartment site I’m currently working on should be two months behind. The roof was late and everything else that followed was pushed back—except the move-in dates. While I don’t think that anyone will be moving into their first floor apartment by the end of next week, it’s amazing how much this crew has been able to do given the insane schedule they’ve been kept to. But, with the insanity of the schedule comes short fuses and a lot people working out of order and on top of each other. I shouldn’t really even be on site until just about everyone else is gone, but there I am in my safety shoes and hard hat cleaning in preparation for occupancy on a very active construction site.

And in all of that, I feel as though God has given me a mission. He’s given me a light—His light, Jesus—and the command to let it shine.

…Let your lives shine brightly before them.

Philippians 2:15b (NLT)

On a site full of foul language and bad attitudes, I should be like a beacon of hope and peace. And that’s exactly what I’ve been praying as I sing worship songs and dance to myself like no one is watching (I thought no one was listening until I literally ran into the site supervisor the other day when I thought I was alone in the room).

While it may not be my job to make sure everything gets done properly and on time, I can certainly take it upon myself to change the atmosphere wherever I go.

The atmosphere is changing now
For the Spirit of the Lord is here
The evidence is all around
That the Spirit of the Lord is here

Here as in Heaven, Elevation Worship

Where I go, the Spirit of the Lord goes.

Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.

2 Corinthians 3:17 (NKJV)

When I walk onto that site today, I fully expect the atmosphere to change. I’m just a lowly cleaner, but little do they know the power that lives within me. The power to change. The power to heal. The power to set free. The power to move mountains. Even the power to get the building done on time. Wherever we go, God has given us the ability as well as the command to make things change. What can you change with your light today?

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 34-36, Philippians 2

The belle of the ball

The power goes out. You have one candle, but a whole room to light. What’s the best way to get more light? Reflect the one you’ve got.

Back in the days before electric or even gas lights, candle light was the only way to go. Unless you wanted to burn your house down or create a sauna of smoke and flame, one would add glass and mirrors to a room in order to create more light without creating more heat and open flame. It’s why you often see so many reflective surfaces in old houses and castles. The true belles of the ball weren’t the ladies in all their finery, but the mirrors that made the magic happen—reflecting the light of hundreds of candles to light up an entire room.

But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, then the veil is take away. Now, the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, he gives freedom. And all of us have had that veil removed so that we can be mirrors that brightly reflect the glory of the Lord. And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him and reflect his glory even more.

2 Corinthians 3:16-18 (NLT)

We are all mirrors. Before we get to know Christ, we are covered and unable to reflect anything. The veil absorbs light. But when Christ comes along, he rips that veil apart, allowing us to reflect his glory. The veil represents the Old Covenant—the thing that separates us from God and whose purpose was to reveal sin. The New Covenant redeems us from sin. The veil is gone. Torn. No more. Jesus fulfilled it and killed it, bringing a new covenant that doesn’t reveal sin, but redeems us from all sin.

By accepting this new covenant, the true reflective nature of our spirits is revealed and we become like a mirror in a ballroom reflecting and refracting the glorious light of Jesus. The Holy Spirit continues to work in us, buffing and polishing and smoothing so that we can become more and more reflective until we are perfected until all that remains is the image of Christ.

For more on the covenant, read the message notes on Compatibility from Pastor Morris Watson.

Daily Bible reading: Proverbs 19-20, 2 Corinthians 3

Identify

One of the greatest struggles of our culture today is identity. We all want—need—to know who we are and who everyone else is. There are infinite ways to identify ourselves, but we make our greatest mistake when we determine our identity by what we do rather than who we are.

One mistake or misstep can change the course of your life when you become identified by that one action. In a negative context, if a person kills someone, that person is forever known as a murderer. That person could become the world’s greatest philanthropist, yet that single action determines how they are perceived for the rest of their life. In a less drastic context, if a singer has one hit song, they are forever known as the person who sang that particular song. It may not matter that they’ve sung a hundred other songs, that one song becomes their identity.

There is so much more to us than what we do. By making a determination of who we are based on just one portion of our lives, we reject our true identity.

You are among those who have been called to belong to Jesus Christ.

Romans 1:6 (NLT)

What better way to discover your identity than looking toward the One who created you? My true identity, your true identity, is in Christ. You don’t need to go find yourself if you know Christ because who we are is found in him. The trouble comes when we reject our Creator.

From the time the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky and all that God made. They can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse whatsoever for not knowing God.

Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. The result was that their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they became utter fools.

Romans 1:20-22 (NLT)

When we reject our true identity—as belonging to Jesus—darkness and confusion set it. It is no wonder that, in a culture who has rejected the very idea of God, people have so much difficulty finding their identity. With no light to guide their way, their path can only lead to darkness and death.

Jesus said to the people, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t be stumbling through the darkness, because you will have the light that leads to live.”

John 8:12 (NLT)

Our journey of self-discovery should only ever lead us to one place—Jesus. We have all we need to know how we should identify ourselves in the Word of God. We are called to belong to Jesus Christ. When you identify as a child of God, you need look no further.

See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!

1 John 3:1a (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 62-64, Romans 1

Wormtongue

Afterward they preached from town to town across the entire island until finally they reached Paphos, where they met a Jewish sorcerer, a false prophet named Bar-Jesus. he had attached himself to the governor, Sergius Paulus, a man of considerable insight and understanding. The governor invited Barnabas and Saul to visit him, for he wanted to hear the Word of God. But Elymas, the sorcerer (as his name means in Greek), interfered and urged the governor to pay no attention to what Saul and Barnabas said. He was trying to turn the governor away from the Christian faith.

Acts 13:6-8 (NLT)

As I read this passage, my mind immediately went to a scene from J.R.R. Tolkien’s, The Two Towers. It’s one of my favourite scenes in the movies when Gandalf (newly turned from the Grey to the White) arrives in Rohan with Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli. Instead of finding a bustling, prosperous land, they find a king poisoned by the whispering lies of Grima Wormtongue. Théoden has so long been subject to the lies that he is even unaware of the death of his son.

Gandalf has quickly assessed the situation and silences Grima before he has the chance to speak. “Be silent! Keep your forked tongue behind your teeth.”

Théoden’s mind has been captured by the evil Saruman, but Gandalf approaches saying, “I will draw you, Saruman, as poison is drawn from a wound.” Saruman, speaking through Théoden believes he has the upper hand until Gandalf reveals the white cloak beneath the grey. Saruman is stripped of his power and cast out from Théoden.

Though I have no proof, I wouldn’t be surprised if this passage in Acts inspired Tolkien to write the scene as he did. It is a powerful moment when the light overcomes the darkness and the truth casts out the lies.

We cannot allow ourselves to make the mistake of believing that we are safe from people like Elymas and characters like Wormtongue. They truly do exist. There are those who would whisper lies until they take root in our hearts and seem to be truth. This is why we are instructed to guard out hearts.

Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do.

Proverbs 4:23 (NLT)

If we guard our hearts and continue to fill them with God’s Word, we leave no room for those evil whispers that would choke out the truth. Those words will have no effect on us. We will be able to see them for what they are and banish them before they are ever allowed to settle. So fill your heart with good things to protect it from the bad things.

I have hidden your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.

Psalm 119:11 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Job 31-32, Acts 13:1-23 

 

Shadows and light

All through Bible school, I heard the term type and shadow in reference to comparing the Old Testament against the New. It’s all type and shadow. After you hear something over and over again, it can either become a great revelation or it can cease to carry meaning altogether. I claim the latter on this particular term. Until today, that is.

I’ve always known that the New Testament is a brighter reflection of the Old Testament. There are many parallels to be found between the two. But it wasn’t until reading Stephen’s last message to the high council that the light finally came on. He is telling the tale of Jewish history. (This is moderately amusing because, who would know Jewish history better than their high council?) Stephen starts with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel), and goes on to Moses.

And so God sent back the same man his people had previously rejected.

Acts 7:35a (NLT)

That sounds familiar.

Come to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by the people, but he is precious to God who chose him.

1 Peter 2:4 (NLT)

Moses was a man rejected by his own people. Jesus was a man rejected by his own people.

He was the mediator between the people of Israel and the angel who gave him life-giving words on Mount Sinai to pass on to us.

Acts 7:38b (NLT)

Israel needed a mediator between themselves and God so that they could receive the inheritance God promised to them. Hey, I know someone else who needs a mediator to receive an inheritance.

The is why he [Jesus] is the one who mediates the new covenant between God and people, so that all who are invited can receive the eternal inheritance God has promised them.

Hebrews 9:15a (NLT)

Could it be that God had already proven it possible that a man rejected by his own people could still be their saviour? The Jews, knowing the account of Moses, should have been well-prepared to receive Jesus. Yet history repeated itself, the Old Testament becoming a shadow in the light of the New Covenant.

The great difference is this: where Moses was unable to reach the Promised Land, Jesus has already gone ahead of us. Our way is paved and ready to go. We have two choices—we can be like the ten scouts who saw only giants and impossibility or we can be like Caleb and Joshua, ready, willing, able, and full of confidence.

You can live in the shadow of the Old Covenant or bask in the light of the New.

Daily Bible reading: Job 4-6, Acts 7:20-43

Give to the light

Did you know that in many Latin-based languages, there is no specific word to describe the term to give birth? In Spanish, the term is dar a luz. Directly translated, it means to give to the light. If you’re familiar with any of the languages that use this term, perhaps it is of no great revelation to you. But what if we put it in the context that Jesus used?

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”

John 3:3 (NLT)

Unless you are given to the light

Believe in the light while there is still time; then you will become children of the light.

John 12:36 (NLT)

When we are born again—accept the free gift of salvation and accept Jesus into our lives as Lord and Saviour—we are given to the light. We become children of the light. We are then able to see through the darkness and no longer have to stumble around because we cannot see where we are going.

I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the darkness.

John 12:46 (NLT)

When we stop trying to put our trust in ourselves or those around us and put our trust in Jesus, we are no longer in the dark. We give ourselves to the Light. The Light of the world. The Light that gives life. The Light that illuminates our path. And then that Light shines in and through us so that we can guide the way for others.

Daily Bible reading: 2 Chronicles 4-6, John 12:20-50