Monthly Archives: January 2022

Walk by faith…

As an assignment I asked students to describe the way they wanted to grow in 2022. One said “I want my faith to grow.

This morning M’Cheyne brought me to this:

“So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians‬ ‭5:6-7‬ ‭ESV‬‬

But, sometimes our fear is stronger than our faith*

I surely know what that feels like. Here’s an old post that describes my discipline to build trust in God:

* Dallas Willard says somewhere that these days ‘trust’ is a more understandable word than ‘faith’. I tend to agree.

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Buffet Christianity

It is natural for us to gravitate to what we like, to what we are familiar with, to that with which we feel comfortable. Such as it is with buffet Christianity. In the last few years I’ve noticed an increase in this phenomenon, the pandemic is a partial cause.

A recent Christmas dinner
in Eastern Europe

When we sit down to a big feast there is often SO MUCH on the table from which to choose that I wind up with only small tastes of everything. Then, if I succumb to the appetite I get my favs as seconds. I choose what I like over that which may be good for me (gravy instead of greens for instance).

For a long time now* we’ve chosen what we like in a congregation, what style we’re comfortable with, how interesting is the preacher, etc. It has down to what we want that drives the decision.

The pandemic sent us to our phones, tablets, and other screens to ‘attend’ our church’s service.

Some of us have never returned to ‘in-person’ because of … well, there are a hundred reasons.

But staying virtual, with no personal connection, is this truly helpful, is it wise? Is it biblical?

One of my fellow disciples put it this way:

To make plain the brilliance [Epiphany y’all! – .ed] of the Gospel. … This can ONLY happen in community. This can not happen in isolation, or on the bike, or in the mountains, or at the beach, etc.

The writers of Hebrews addresses this succinctly:

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews‬ ‭10:24-25‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

When the writer said this, he meant gathering (that’s essentially what the Greek words for church means) in a congregation. In that congregation we participate, share and are accountable.

Long ago, before all the choices and styles. Jesus’ followers went to church for hope and to receive instruction. For them it was neither an obligation nor a choice, they were so glad to unite with those who also followed Jesus – which, at that time was often dangerous.

So for months now, I’ve been encouraging friends to get serious about getting back to being present with fellow saints. My pastor friends tell me that too many of us are still sitting in front of screens watching. Let’s get IN and among. Yes, be wise in regards to the virus, but when it’s safe, commit to being in the local congregation, it’s biblical and so much better to be seen and engage than the virtual.

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* While not exclusive so, this was once a truly American phenomenon. This reality is based on a lot of factors, the increase of types of churches from which to choose. Our choices have take precedence over commitment and submission.

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Light for wisdom

Last summer

I love to hike in the woods near our home. I love the way the path and the surrounding woods look different at different times of year, partially because of the different angles of the sun. This is also true for hiking at different times of day. The light changes everything.

Hopefully today!

The light has come.

In a series on wisdom a preacher noted that attaining wisdom is walking a path, it is not like going through a door.

As we are thinking about the light, and being the light, I want to apply that illustration to understand how the light gives us wisdom.

Imagine I were hiking at night. I would have to have a fancy headlamp, that seems to be so popular today, to see my way along the path. The light on my forehead would help me stay on the path. As I walk the path more and more, I know it better and better and can more easily make decisions about stepping on rocks, fallen tree trunks or over them.

Ephesians uses walking as well as any book of the Bible. The longer we walk with Jesus on the path, the wiser his light makes us and thus we can be a brighter light for others on the path.

Keep your glass clean, the light bright, and walk on!

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Upon what corner need the light to shine in our hearts?

Epiphany is the coming of light. This light is for all people (people groups, ethnicities) – so says Jesus. But it’s not just the light on the path TO Jesus for the first time, we Christ followers need it constantly.

Light from the wood stove up in my favorite retreat house in Hungary

I think there are two ways we need the light daily – sin and wisdom. Let’s think first about the light and our sin.

C. S. Lewis wrote about rats in the basement. They scatter when the hear you coming. So when you turn on the light you don’t see them. He used this metaphor in a discussion about our sinfulness.

Our constant battle. I need the light of Jesus to shine into my heart as I worship him (see Ps. 100 yesterday). The more I dwell on him and his light the more glaring my sins are, and if I’m really paying attention, the faster I’ll see them so I can confess and repent and keep going with him! I must be vigilant in the battle between the flesh and the spirit.

Or not.

An alternative is intellectualizing away my sin and refuse to shine the light. The less I look, the less I want to look. It feels soooooo good to not see my sin. I can just go my merry way into the pit. I don’t need the light because I’m just fine, thank you very much.

I. Don’t. Think. So.

We need to remember the ongoing need for the light.

Imagine an old hurricane lantern inside which is a flame. This flame shines through the lamp’s glass.

Now imagine this lamp has been neglected and the glass is smoky, dusty and barely translucent. It is certainly not transparent so as the show the true brilliance of the light inside.

This is the condition of a Christ follower whose attitude toward sin is a bit too casual. The light is inside, but difficult to see and therefore a less effective source of light.

The glass door on the wood stove is another great example. The glass in the door gets grimy fast in the winter as it is used so much. I clean the glass every morning before lighting the first fire of the day. I want to see through the glass to check the fire.

Perhaps this is the very reason to take stock daily. Maybe Luther’s suggestion about daily meditating on the 10 Commandments is a pretty good idea after all.

Take a moment, take stock, run to the throne of Grace because forgiveness and help are there. There is light!

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Into the throne room…

My Psalter reading this morning…

Hearing Keller inspired me to read the Psalms every month and began during my sabbatical in May. My dear fellow disciple Bill gave me this psalter over a decade ago and it is a blessing.

brought me to Psalm 100 and I decided to use it in a copy-meditate* time. Here is the result…

During Epiphany, we need reminding to run to the throne of Grace where is the light so that we are made more like him to be his lights… I see a pattern of worship in this psalm:

Make a joyful noise, all the earth (go walk in the woods and listen)…

Serve with gladness (dwelling in him fights feelings of drudgery)…

Sing!

Recognize that God is god. I am not (this is really hard)…

I didn’t create me (so I can’t fix me)…

Come to the throne with gratitude (cultivate thankfulness by practicing it)…

Regularly remind yourself that he is good…

and faithful…

always.

Glory to God!

___________________

* The discipline of copy-meditate helps me slooooow down as I copy scripture in my notebook.

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An effect of the light…

We’ve said that Epiphany is the season of light to the world. Jesus IS the light to the world. As he lights us, we are his lights to the part of the world immediately around us.

But if I’m going to be an effective light to others, I must allow the light to probe into my darkness. Make no mistake, even though the light is IN me, there are still corners of darkness. (Paul describes it as the inners battle between the flesh and the spirit.)

The first commandments remind us not to have other Gods, yet Calvin says we are idol factories. What are your idols? In a helpful book about work, Keller says:

Money and power certainly top the list. But remember that an idol is a good thing that we make into an ultimate thing.*

To engage in the battle mentioned above each morning I remind myself of the gospel in two ways:

1. I remind myself of the 10 commands (thank you Dr. Martin).

2. I run to the throne of Grace and plead for help because I know that I am a wretched man.

Remind, confess, beg for help.

Receive his help.

Repeat.

Slowly, he changes me and help me be more and more free from the idols that I so love. Slowly he turns my light up so that others may see.

Thanks be to God!

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*Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work by Timothy Keller
https://a.co/ajyRKfV

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