Tag: light

Death Valley

As a child, I loved our Christmas holidays. Every year we would burrow into our VW Rabbit and head down to California for a two-week skiing holiday. We would share a house with our extended family and spend the two weeks skiing, hiking, travelling to natural hot springs, and visiting with family. On the way home (if we were visiting our family in greater Los Angeles), we would sometimes swing through Death Valley .

Death Valley is the lowest point (over 30 metres BELOW sea level) in North America and a desert.

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The surrounding mountains would be cloaked with snow and there was the odd winter that featured snow on the desert floor.

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Driving through, we could see the tracks of the borax wagon trains and see where seasonal rivers (flash floods) had carved paths.

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Most years we drove through, we saw no flourishing plant life. There may have been the odd Joshua tree or other cacti, flowers withered on their stems, or the frequent bleached logs.

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One year we decided to visit our extended family in Los Angeles in the summer. My dad rarely had time off in the summer, but one year we did. My dad wanted to see Death Valley in the summer, so we drove through and saw the same valleys covered in wildflowers. As the winter snow melted (in the valley and from the surrounding mountains) the flowers had been provided with sufficient moisture to germinate and flower (ever so briefly). The appearance changed so dramatically, it was hard to believe that we drove through the same valley. It was amazing to see what a bit of water could do.

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All of this is a lead-in to the verses I just recently re-read in Isaiah. Isaiah 43:1b-3a, 19 says, “Fear not, for I have redeemed youI have called you by your  name; You are MineWhen you pass through the waters, will be with youAnd through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you. For am the Lord your GodThe Holy One of Israel, your Savior; 19 Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

We have such amazing promises in these few verses. First, God has redeemed us. He found us where we were but did not leave us there. He is making something wonderful in and through us. Second, He shows us how precious we are to Him by announcing that we are His. (Everyone else, hands off!) Third, God promises that He will be with us when we pass through the waters and walk through the flames (trials and tribulations). Finally, we have His promise that He will make roads in the wilderness and call forth rivers in the desert.

Sometimes we feel like we are in the desert: nothing seems to be flourishing and the little life that is there seems to be all prickles. And yet….

When the waters come, there is life in abundance.

And God promises to provide that water.

I can’t wait to see what God will do this year. He will provide water and we will flourish. I don’t know how or where the water will come from, but that is not important. What is important is that we wait upon God and His timing for the waters (of blessing) to come. Let us do our part in being faithful to His Word and then He will do His part (in His timing) and bring the blessing that only He can give. That way all glory belongs to Him and we will have the privilege of praising His name.

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Ireland

Ireland just recently held a referendum on whether or not to repeal the 8th Amendment (Right to Life). The pro-abortion side won (66% in favour of repeal). During the subsequent days, I came across two widely different perspectives. The first comment was on Facebook and said, ‘I’m sorry. Let me get this straight. A guy walks into a classroom and shoots 20 children causing a nation to believe it’s time to re-examine gun laws? In 2012, in the US alone, 1.2 MILLION unborn children were hacked apart and discarded like trash but that’s OK? I think it’s time for our nation to re-examine its morals.’  The second comment came on my Twitter feed and said, ‘Huge congrats to #Ireland for overturning their archaic and dangerous abortion law. They will repeal their Eighth Amendment in the name of a more humane law. See U.S.A., it can be done! #GunReformNow.

What is really interesting to me is that both quotes equate abortion laws with gun laws. They just come at it from differing perspectives. The first comment is about how abortion kills far more people than guns, and yet we only care about restricting access to guns. The second comment is about how abortion is more humane than gun deaths. I guess the second person has never really thought through what an abortion actually involves.

If you read any article on either abortion or gun laws, you will see people holding very strongly-worded opinions. Each side almost vilifies the other. Rather than appealing to reason, the object seems to be to call the ‘other side’ more derogatory names than they do ‘our side’ (whatever that means). As Christians, we are not to participate in such conversations. God has called us to support and encourage those who are weaker (1 Thess. 5:14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all), and this includes unborn children. According to Isaiah, we also need to ‘Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow’ (1:17).

So, how should we engage in this debate? First, pray. Then pray some more. Then let your actions speak before your words. Realize that social media is (usually) not the forum to hold a civil, nuanced conversation. Don’t just talk, but act (James 1:22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves). We need to be an example (lead by doing) rather than just telling others what to do (lead by telling).

Some good books on this topic are:

Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions About Life and Sexuality by Nancy R. Pearcey

A Practical Guide to Culture by John Stonestreet

Same-Sex Marriage: A Thoughtful Approach to God’s Design for the Family by Sean McDowell and John Stonestreet

 

What If Jesus Meant What He Said? Part 3

Part 4

Our Suffering and Persecution Reveals Our Savior

 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you (2 Corinthians 4:7-12).

In the New Testament we see that Jesus said, ‘You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven’ (Matthew 5:14-16). The ‘lamp’ Jesus’ hearers would have been picturing was a small earthen vessel – a simple clay lamp which would be continually refilled with oil to keep burning.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we are the light of the world because Jesus, the Light of the world, dwells in us. He is the treasure in our ‘jars of clay.’ Just like the battle in Gideon’s day, for our battle plan to be effective, our clay jars must be broken for the light to be manifested. It is in our brokenness that the world will see Jesus Christ.

We speak often of transparency, but do we know what that means? The word itself originated in the late 16th century, and it means ‘shining through.’ Being transparent isn’t letting people see into you – it’s letting them see through you. There is a big difference. True humility is not emphasizing all our shortcomings. Rather, it’s about showing His salvation despite our failures. Brokenness is a conduit to that end. Here is a litmus test: when another person leaves a conversation with you, do they leave thinking about your life (whether it be your perceived successes or failures) or about your Savior? Does the world see the beauty of Christ alive and at work through your brokenness – a brokenness which is changing you more and more into the image of Jesus Christ?

Let us not run from the very battle-plan that will reveal our Savior to a lost and dying world.”

Part 5

Suffering and Persecution Reinforce Our Strength

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations,[a] a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).

Much of the church is weak and sickly. Not because Christ isn’t enough, but because we confuse weakness and strength. We try to pray away the difficulties of suffering and persecution, when our Lord not only refused multiple times to take Paul’s thorn away, but declared weakness as the very channel through which God displays His strength.

In 2 Corinthians 12:7, Paul stated that the thorn was ‘given’ to him. Not imposed, but given as a gift – an asset. Furthermore, did you notice the purpose of the thorn? The apostle stated, ‘to keep me from becoming conceited.’ It would be easy to assume that this ‘messenger of Satan’ was simply an enemy attacking Paul, but since when does the Enemy of our souls want us to not become conceited? God was in ultimate control.

Lessons or opportunities from God are often accompanied by a messenger from Satan. The Enemy wants us to focus on the thorn and miss the test that God has prepared for us. We might see a problem when God wants us to use that very situation to teach us patience. We might see our failures when God is showing us His faithfulness. We might see sorrow when God is revealing in us His strength. We might see disease when God is teaching us dependency. God tests His own to prove them, not to disqualify them.

Going back to Gideon’s confrontation with the Midianites, what was God’s reason for not wanting 32,000 soldiers to head into combat? ‘The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me’’ (Judges 7:2). This brief life is for the glory of God – the glory of a God who loves us and wants us to enjoy Him forever in His kingdom. When Jesus tells us to deny self and take up our cross, this is not a punishment but a privilege. It is an invitation to allow God’s life to be manifested in our mortal flesh, thorns and all.

Bibliography

Bramsen, N. (2017). What If Jesus Meant What He Said? Dubuque, IA: Emmaus International.

A Light in the Darkness

These are the dark days of December. They are dark for a variety of reasons. For those suffering from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), these shortest days of the year often lead to emotional darkness as depression sinks in its talons of despair. For others, they are mourning the death of a loved one (and that is a reality at SCS) or are dealing with the shock of a medical diagnosis or a worsening medical condition. As we look around society, we can also see the spiritual darkness spreading (read https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/breaking-canada-wont-fund-student-summer-jobs-unless-employers-demonstrate). What a trifecta: physical, emotional, and spiritual darkness.

When I think about the encroaching darkness, I am reminded of this quote from The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.

“Far above the Ephel Duath in the West the night-sky was still dim and pale. There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.” (Tolkien, Return of the King, p. 901)

From here, I like to move to Scripture. Isaiah reminds us that:

The people who walked in darkness
Have seen a great light;
Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death,
Upon them a light has shined (9:2).

We have the light of God’s Word to comfort and encourage us. As we look at Christmas lights, either on houses or on trees (or elsewhere), let the light remind us of the light that we have through Jesus Christ. Let us continue to look ‘unto  Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God’ (Heb. 12:2). And the best way to do that is to continue to turn to Scripture to read and re-read the many promises that God has given us through His Son.