Monday, December 28, 2009

Hey Jude!

Photograph of The Beatles as they arrive in Ne...Image via Wikipedia

WAY BACK WHEN, in my junior high school days, I remember going to a little "dance" party at a friend's house (a birthday party if my memory serves me correctly), some one put on the Beatles "Hey Jude" which was considered a "slow-dance" song. So there we were "slow-dancing" to "Hey Jude," and as you know the ending of the song includes a long section of "na-na-na-na-na-na's" they only problem for our little group of dancers was that the record got stuck and we didn't figure it out for a good 10 minutes or more. The sight of 10 junior high couples going round and round for minutes on end must have been something to laugh at. Thankfully, I really "like-liked" the girl I with whom I was dancing. Ah, junior high love.

Now, you might be asking yourself, "Self, where in the world is Pastor Randy going with this?" Well, I will tell you. I am going to Jude. Not the song title (which seems to have nothing to do with drug abuse and the use of heroin, but was written about John Lennon's son, Julian), but I am going to that second to the last book in the Bible, the Book of Jude, all one chapter of it.

Paul McCartney's song really does have similarities to Jude's letter to the Church, within limits of course. McCartney's song calls for a young man to deal with the hard things that are being dealt to him, and to not let those things dictate his life. In Jude's letter to the church there is a call for the followers of Jesus to deal wisely and actively with the things being dealt to them by those who might say they believe in Jesus, but who in reality are living quite contrary to the call of Christ.

Jude's words (all 619 of them) come hard and fast. He spends the first part of his letter pointing out those who are bringing destruction to the church. Warning his readers of the ultimate end to those who continue to walk contrary to the design of God. His condemnation comes against those who are 1) self deluded, 2) self polluted, 3) self promoting, and 4) self-empowering even over the "powers" in heaven. (Jude 1:8-11)

His letter would be completely discouraging if it were not for the words of challenge he brings after his words of condemnation. He brings a strong call to the church to rise up and live as it was designed to live.

It is these words of challenge that I am going to focus upon in this week's sermon with the hope that his words will bring a proper call to commitment as we embark upon a new year. Jude reminds us that we must 1) remember the Apostle's teaching, 2) be built up in the faith, 3) pray, 4) abide, 5) wait, 6) practice mercy, and bring salvation. (Jude 1:17-23)

I guess the biggest difference between the song and book could be found in the reality that the strength is not to be found in our self to make the difference in our lives ("...Then you can make it better...,") but rather found in the One who can "Keep you from stumbling." (Jude 1:24) May we all so be committed to the Lord and His work in this coming year.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

GIFTS & GIVERS: Wrappings Matter

MY GRACIOUS AND LOVING WIFE taught me many years ago that how a gift is wrapped matters. Gifts that are wrapped with care and creativity go to express the "worth" of both the gift and the recipient of the gift. A gift not wrapped or just thrown into a bag without any forethought just is not as special as a gift that was thoughtfully wrapped. Now, I know that there are some of you reading this that would disagree with the above, but I will stick with what my wife has taught me...I feel it's better that way.

In my Advent Sermon series ("What are You Getting for Christmas") we have been looking at some of the gifts which God has given to us, such as His Light, His peace, and His joy. This week on Christmas Sunday as we light the fourth Advent Candle, we are focusing up God's gift of love.


As I pondered God's great gift of love in His Son, Jesus the Messiah, I was drawn to my wife's words about the importance of the "wrapping" in displaying the worth of both gift and the one receiving the gift. In God's gift of His Son to be our Savior, He not only wrapped Him in human flesh (John 1:14) but Jesus was the very love of God (John 3:16; Romans 5:8.)

I suppose God could of scared us into accepting His Son as our Savior. He could have sent Jesus to unleash the justice of God upon those who have disobeyed His commands and turn to worship the god of self. But God chose to not to scare us into salvation, but to love us. Jesus came as the love of God to us. God wrapped His gift of forgiveness, reconciliation, grace, mercy and salvation in the Person of Jesus Christ in order that we should see, hear and experience the love of God in the greatest wrapping possible.


So, this Christmas, as we ponder the manifold gifts of God, let us not forget that God has wrapped all of His gifts with love and in love. Remembering, that these great gifts, which come from the hands of our loving heavenly Father, come to us not to be horded but to be shared.

How can you share God's gift this Christmas season? How can you wrap it in the Love of God? Blessed to be a blessing; gifted in order to give. This is who and what we are as those who have received such an indescribable gift (2 Corinthians 9:6-15.)
Enhanced by Zemanta

Sunday, December 06, 2009

GIFTS & GIVERS: Oh, for the Joy!

ASK PEOPLE THEIR FAVORITE CHRISTMAS CAROL and many times the answer will be "Joy to the World." Sure, they like "Away in a Manger," but when it comes to Christmas carols it's "Joy" that wins out! (No, "Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer" does not classify as a "Christmas Carol.")

JOY is one of the top emotions for the season, and rightfully so.  There is JOY when the kids see Santa and packages with their names on them under the tree.  There is JOY when the aromas of fresh-baked Christmas cookies and breads permeate our homes. There is JOY that comes as we hear the clarion call of the bells, and yes JOY when we sing the Christmas songs.  Truly, JOY is the emotion of Christmas.

JOY fills the Christmas scene.  There was the JOY that filled the proclamation of the angels (Luke 2:10-14). There was JOY in the shepherds hearts as they saw the new born baby and recounted the message of the angels (Luke 2:16-20).  I am sure there was JOY in the heart of Mary as she pondered the little one in her arms and the greetings brought to Him that night (Luke 2:19). And there was JOY in the attitude of the magi who had traveled so far to worship the new born King (Matthew 2:1-12)

JOY is a gift that God gives to us, and like His gift of peace, it is not dependent upon the circumstances.  For when the angels withdrew to heaven and the shepherds returned to their fields, life was still waiting to be lived.  They were still shepherds...but forever a different group of shepherds for they had met the Good Shepherd on that dark starry night.  And when the magi returned to their far away countries by a different route because of the threat of death over their heads, they returned a different group of kings for they had worshiped the King of kings. And even when Mary and Joseph had to bundle up their new born son and head south to Egypt for  fear of Herod (Matthew 2:13-18) they knew that even though they were in exile they carried with them God's promised Deliverer.

JOY is still a gift that God offers us today.  Even in our rough and tumble world, His JOY remains firm and steadfast in the hearts of those who know Jesus, the Son of God, our Savior.

So, this Christmas, receive again God's gift of JOY, and remember, this gift is given to be shared.  How? By letting Christ dwell richly in you.  By focusing your heart on His.  By remembering that is was His JOY to go to the Cross for you. (Hebrews 12:1-3) As you do these things, His JOY will be manifested in and through you, and you will sing with the carolers of the ages,
"Joy to the world the Lord is come,
Let earth receive her King.
Let every heart, prepare Him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and heaven
And nature sing."

Enhanced by Zemanta

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

GIFTS & GIVERS: Wrapping the Unwrappable

THE SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT is approaching and for us at Felton Bible Church it will be a full day of celebration and fellowship as we remember the One who came as the Prince of Peace, as we remember His great gift to us as we share together in Holy Communion, and as we gather around the tables to enjoy another scrumptious FirstSunday Fellowship Meal.

Last week's message "What are You Getting for Christmas?" focused upon the reality that we have been given much so that we could give much. (Genesis 18:18; Galatians 3:8; 1 John 4;10; 1 John 4:19) And in particular we focused upon Jesus being the Light of the world (John 3:19-21; John 8:12) and our call to live in that light (Ephesians 5:8-11) and to be a light (Matthew 5:14-16). This week we shall focus upon the gift of God's peace that comes to us in and through the Person of Jesus Christ, and what it means to not only get that gift, but in turn to give that gift as well.

So, the question before us today is, "If we have received God's gift of peace, how then can we give it away?" As I pondered this question I realized that we are talking about "incarnational-giving." That is giving in the very same way (limited as we may be) as God gave to us through the Son, Jesus the Christ.

In the Incarnation, God was wrapping the unwrappable. (a new word, I believe. ;o)) God was taking Himself, and wrapping Himself in human flesh (John 1:1-5; John 1:14; Philippians 2:5-11). When we speak of incarnational-giving, we are talking about in some form giving ourselves as gifts to another.

If we are talking abut giving the gift of peace, how can we wrap that gift, which is in many ways unwrappable? What are the ways in which we can give peace that goes beyond just saying, "Peace be with you"? I am working through the possible ways that can be done, and I know that this gift will at the least demand presence (there's the Incarnation again), and meeting of real needs (there it is again), and it will most like be costly, at least in the sense of time (I suppose we could read that as "sacrificial" another aspect of the Incarnation). Beginning to get the picture?

I would love to hear some of your ideas about how we could wrap the unwrappable in regards to God's gift of peace. I am sure the Scriptures would help us in that matter. There are those words about God's peace in the Apostle Paul's letter to the Philippians (Philippians 4:4-9), which might give us a good starting point, and to that I would had our Advent text for this coming week which includes God's Word through the Prophet Isaiah,
He tends His flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those who have young. (Isaiah 40:11)
So, as you seek the gifts to give this Advent be sure to add to your list God's gift of peace. I am sure you know at least one person who needs that gift.

Shalom.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

GIFTS & GIVERS: Taken for Granted

GIFTS AND GIVERS CAN BE TAKEN FOR GRANTED. For instance, take my mom. I could always count on her to provide new packages of underwear every Christmas morning. There was one year that she forgot, and I remember almost going into shock. Now that she's gone to heaven, well, I have to buy my own!

We can get so used to the ways things are, that when they change we are left standing with our mouths wide-open in disbelief. I guess we don't miss things until they're no longer given. It becomes increasingly easier to take for granted that both giver and gift will always be around. And when that happens we move from gratefulness to grumpiness in a heart-beat.

My key sermon text for this coming first Sunday of Advent is taken from Isaiah 9:2,
The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.
Light, now there is another thing I take for granted, until it;s longer available. Living here in the Redwood forest we loose our electricity numerous times throughout the winter months. The rains descend, the winds blow, the trees fall, the power goes out. That's the way it goes around here. But no matter how often it happens I never fail to flip the light switch up to turn the light on. I just take for granted that the light will go on, even if I know that the power is off.

The interesting thing is that after a day or so with no power, when it does come on we are sometimes saddened. The truth is living in the dark has its benefits; no TV, more time with the family huddled around a candle, earlier to bed, all benefits we do not avail ourselves of when the power is on.

Yet, truth be known, I enjoy living in the light. It has great benefits, not least of all safety and security. When God spoke through the prophet Isaiah He was declaring to the people of Israel that light was coming. He spoke to a people who had been living in darkness (being away from God) for so long that they were taking the darkness for granted. Sadly in fact, when the light came they were not even able to recognize it, as the Gospel writer John wrote,
The true light the gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world could not recognize Him. He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him. Yet to all who did receive Him, tho those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become the children of God. (John 1:9-12)
This Advent season my prayer is that I will not take the Giver and the Gift for granted. That I will not be so comfortable in the dark that I would refuse to turn on the light. That I would desire the light, welcome the light, and live in the light. This is my Christmas prayer.

I pray it for you, as well.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Journey Toward Contentment

Last week I began a little series on contentment, (The Journey Toward Contentment) seeing how we were entering the seasons of Thanks-giving and Gift-giving, I thought it would be an appropriate topic. My texts last week were taken from the Psalms of Ascent, (Psalms 120-134) and we talked about having the correct priorities, the correct people, and the correct places aligned as we took this journey toward contentment. I am not sure how the sermon went over, but a group of us did have a good discussion in my study afterwards as we sought to discuss the practical implications of the journey.

As we continue on the journey this week I am focusing upon the giving of thanks, and the Apostle Paul's directive to "give thanks in all circumstances." (1 Thessalonians 5:18) This directive, along with those that surround it (1 Thessalonians 5:12-28) are easily read but difficult to apply. I mean really, give thanks in all circumstances?!

Well, being one who believes in the triune God, and who believes that His Word is true, I guess I must believe these declarations are true as well, even if I find them hard to apply. What I have discovered is that thanks-giving in all circumstances is more Whom you are thanking, and what you are thanking Him for, rather than the present circumstance in which you find yourself.

One thing that I have personally discovered is that as I place my focus upon God and upon others, my thankfulness in all circumstances increases.

This past week my family and I went to watch Disney's newest installment of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" (You must see it in 3D to really appreciate it!) Therein I was once again reminded of the importance of contentment and difference wrought in old Ebenezer Scrooge once he got his priorities, people and places in correct order. He learned that contentment was not to be found in hoarding, but in handing out, not in getting but in giving. And that is why once again this Christmas season I am promoting the ministry of the Advent Conspiracy, who are asking the question, "Can Christmas still change the world?" (Nice follow-up t my recent sermon series on "Changing Our World for Good.") I believe we can!

That is why I am encouraging my family, friends, blog-readers(?), to give a gift to the least of these. (Matthew 25:31-46) Rather than spending time and wrapping paper for a gift for _____________ (fill in the blank), give a gift in their name to a ministry of compassion like, Living Water or Food for the Hungry or __________________. Give a gift that blesses God, blesses those who receive the gift, those in whose honor it is given and blesses the giver. Now, there's a way to spend Christmas that will increase our thanks-giving in all circumstances and move us toward contentment.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Language of Sanctity

OVER FIFTY YEARS AGO Thomas Merton wrote a description of America which could have been written today. In the words of Merton, describing the beliefs of his friend, Lax, we read,
Lax's picture of America -- before which he has stood for twelve years with his hands hanging in helplessness at his side -- is the picture of a country full of people who want to be kind and pleasant and happy and love good things and serve God, but who do not know how. And they do not know where to turn to find out. They are surrounded by all kinds of sources of information which only conspire to bewilder them more and more. And Lax's vision is a vision of the day when they will turn on the radio and somebody will start telling them of the love of God in language that will no longer sound hackneyed or crazy, but with authority and conviction: the conviction born of sanctity. (The Seven Storey Mountain)
Today, America is still looking for someone to tell them of God in a language that cuts through the facade and speaks to the heart. I believe that this language must be the language of holiness. Though, when I speak of a language of holiness, I am not referring to some rarefied tongue which utters words which demand a theological dictionary to understand. I am referring to a holiness that is born in the heart surrendered to God's ownership and lived out through the hands moved by the His Spirit.

This is a language that speaks through acts of compassion and mercy. It is a life that lives out the life of Christ in the world. It is not only a life that speaks the truth of God, but also lives out the truth of God. It is a holiness that is lived on the streets.

God spoke through the prophet Isaiah concerning this type of life:
6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness£ will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
11 The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings. (Isaiah 58:6-12)
I believe when we learn to speak and live this language then our light will shine, more importantly Christ's light will shine in and through us and this bring light to the world. (Matthew 5:14-16) Then the world hear, and believe.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Thursday, November 05, 2009

GONE FISHING?

OK, SO MANY MIGHT THINK I HAVE BEEN "GONE FISHING" sine I have not posted here for quite awhile, but the truth is a man has to have his priorities! Right? Of course, right!

Though I have not been "gone-fishing" this week's sermon text from the Gospel of John deals with the issue of fishing, and seeing that this sermon should be the last in my sermon series, "Changing Our World for Good," I thought it good to open the Pastor's Study back up.

Our text for this week is John 21:1-25 where we find the risen Lord Jesus fixing breakfast on the shore of Galilee while the disciples struggle to bring in another miraculous catch of fish. (Luke 5:4-8) Another time where a second lesson is needed to teach the disciples the deeper truth.

Early in Jesus' ministry He called to Himself this group of men and told them He would make them "fishers of men." (Luke 5:10-11) And yet, how quickly after the glorious resurrection of Jesus, the Messiah, did these same men return to the lesser work of fishing for fish, which by the way, was not proving too profitable for them. I believe there is a lesson to be learned that once Jesus gets a hold of our lives the old ways of life will no longer profit us as we thought they did in the past.

There are lots of lessons in this passage, but the one that grabs me is the strong call from Jesus to Peter, "Then He said to him, 'Follow Me.'" (John 21:19) The reality is, the resurrection of Jesus changes everything. It changes our work, our home, our relationships, our past, our present, and most definitely, our future. To respondto God's grance and love poured out to us in and through the Person of Jesus Christ, and then return to "life as normal," is just wrong. We are not given the place to hang out a sign that says, "Gone Fishing," unless we are out fishing for souls with Jesus in the boat.

It is this fishing the Lord desires to find us doing as we follow Him awaiting His return. (Matthew 24:46)
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

TRUTH and CONSEQUENCES

TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES WAS A GAME WE USED TO PLAY AS KIDS. And of course it also was a television show during the "golden days" of TV. But as I read this coming week's sermon text (John 18:1-40) and contemplated the words of Pontius Pilate, "What is truth?" (John 18:38), I was reminded that it is not truth or consequences, but rather truth and consequences.

Pilate's question was of course a good question, one that has been asked in one form or another since God inquired about the truth of who ate the fruit from the tree in the midst of the Garden of Eden. Parents and philosophers, pastors and potentates have been seeking the answer to the question for millennia, and it's answer seems always elusive. It's answer seems determined by season or circumstance, or at least by the need of the moment. And so we continue to ask, "What is truth?"

Even as theologians we try to answer that eternal question. We try to nail it down into some propositional form. And just when we think we have an answer for the ages, somebody changes the question ever so slightly, or some new "revelation" comes to light. (Just take the flat earth "truth" for example.) So what are we to do? Can we ever find the truth?

I believe we can.

The problem in discovering the truth comes from the fact that we see it as a propositional statement, a reality that can be measured. But the truth is the truth is not a thing, but a Person. And until we come to know that Person all other truth will leave us questioning. When Pilate was searching for the answer to his question, what he failed to realize was that the truth was standing right in front of him. Truth was on trial, and without Pilate's realization of the Truth that stood before him all his decisions, no matter how truthful, would fall short.

Jesus said, I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). This is the Truth we need. To know this Truth is to know the Truth that will set you free. (John 8:32) To not know this One who is the Truth is to place yourself in the face of dire consequences! This is the Truth the world needs to know. A truth that goes beyond determining the human genome, or finding the "god-particle." It is a truth that brings us true life, a forgiven, reconciled life.

The one Truth that will set us free!
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

ARE WE THERE, YET?

MIAMI - JUNE 20:  Marvin Juarez from Miami, Fl...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

HOW MANY TIMES did I drive my dad crazy by asking him, "Hey Dad, are we there yet?" I can remember he usually answered in one of four ways. First, "No, we still have five-hundred miles to go!" Which to me meant nothing because I had no concept of mileage/time. His second answer was usually was, "We'll be there when we when get there!" Again, big help! Even I knew that! Then there was the eternal lie, "We'll be there real soon." Yeah, right! And then there was the silence, usually followed by the stare in the rear-view mirror. At which point I would slink down to the floor of the back-seat. (No seat-belts in those days.)

In our passage for this week's sermon we will be looking at John 16:16-33. As I have read it over and over again I could picture the disciples asking Jesus what He was talking about, but never quite getting the answer for which they were looking (hoping). They kept asking, "What does He mean in a little while we will see Him no more, and then we will see Him?" (John 16:17-18) Much like a 6 year-old in the back-seat they were getting anxious that they might never get to where they were promised.

Into their anxious thoughts Jesus spoke this truth, It might seem like we are never going to get where I promised you, but take heart soon you will see me again (John 16:22-24), and when you do it will be so amazing that all your grief will be turned to joy. Little did they realize that though it looked like their journey was going to end in death of their rabbi, friend, and Lord (and even in their own deaths), in reality the journey would be one to the resurrection and beyond!

Jesus told them, yes the journey is indeed long and rough and filled with trouble. Yes you may feel trapped in the back-seat, but Jesus reminded them than in Him they would find true peace, because he had overcome the world. (John 16:33)

Jesus knew that the journey he had called His disciples on would be tough, but He also wanted them to know that the destination would be one of great joy and of everlasting peace, and would be completely worth the trip.

It's the truth He wants us to know as well. Are we there yet? Soon, maybe very soon!

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Monday, September 07, 2009

Not Without Reason

I remember this acquaintance I once had, (I really wouldn't call him a friend) every so often he would come up and whack my in the arm. When I asked him "why?" he would respond, "no reason," and just walk away. I always thought that if you're going to punch me in the arm, you should at least have a reason. But I guess some people will do mean things for no reason at all.

In this week's sermon passage (John 15:18-25) Jesus states that there are those who have "hated me without reason." (John 15:25) Jesus' words at this point are a quote from the Old Testament, from Psalm 69:4,

Those who hate me without reason
outnumber the hairs on my head,
many are my enemies without cause
those who seek to destroy me
I am forced to restore
what I did not steal.

Ecce Homo (Behold the Man!), Antonio Ciseri, 1...Image via Wikipedia


Scholars have said the Psalm 69 is the most quoted by the New Testament writers. And for good reason. As you read through it it is quite evident that the words of the psalmist can be placed in the mouth of the Messiah, the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53.

As I studied this Psalm in light of John 15:18-25, I was specifically drawn to the final phrase where the psalmist (Messiah) declares that he is forced to restore what he did not steal. Is that not what Jesus did on the cross? He paid for the sin that was not His. By His death He brought back to us the possibility to live in a restored relationship with the Father, a relationship that for Jesus did not need restoration. Yet, in the darkness of the Cross, He too knew the depth of separation from the Father which sin brings. (Mark 15:34, Psalm 22:1)

The death of our Savior Jesus the Messiah, brought about by a hatred which was thrown at Him without reason, but His death was not without reason. In fact, it was something that God had reasoned from of old.

Come, let us reason together
says the LORD,
"Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be white like snow;
though they are as red as crimson,
they shall be like wool."

How good is our God! For He has not given us what was reasonable considering our state, but in His grace and mercy He has done the incomprehensible paid the price for our sin. As the hymn writer, Charles S. Gabriel (1905) wrote in the refrain to his hymn, "I Stand Amazed in the Presence,"

How marvelous! How wonderful!
And my song shall ever be:
How marvelous! How Wonderful!
Is my Savior's love for me!
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Better than Facebook

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 25:  In this photo ill...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

OK, so I confess, I enjoy spending time (wasting?) on Facebook. Sometimes I do think it borders on the voyeuristic, but truly it is a great way to find and keep up with friends. Though I must wonder how many of the 416 people listed as my friends really count as friends? In fact, there are those who I really count as friends who are not on Facebook.

In this week's sermon passage (John 15:1-17) Jesus, in speaking with His disciples, calls them friends (John 15:15). Now, we must say, that's even better than having thousands of friends on Facebook.

Friendship with Jesus is quite different than friendship with those on Facebook. His friendship is one that is marked by His sacrificial death for us (John 15:12-13), and maintained by an open relationship of communication (John 15:15).

Yet, unlike Facebook friendships, our friendship with Jesus carries with it some important requirements: obeying His commands (John 15:9-13), staying attached (John 15:4), and loving each other (John 15:17). Hardly burdensome when we consider the benefits friendship with Jesus brings: fruitfulness in life (John 15:6), open communication with God (John 15:7), His promise to remain in us (John 15:9-10), the gift of His joy (John 15:11), and the list could go on if we would take a survey of the rest of Scripture.

So, enjoy your time on Facebook, if nothing else it sure makes a good prayer list! But remember, there is a friend who sticks close than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). And if you're going to be adding a friend, Jesus is the best one to have on your friend list!

See ya on Facebook.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Combating Homelessness

Skid Row, Los AngelesImage via Wikipedia

LAST WEEK ELEVEN from our church family (7 youth, 4 adults) traveled to southern California to serve at the Los Angeles Dream Center. It was a week that truly impacted each one of us. We started our week in a light-hearted fashion by spending a day at Disneyland, that place where dreams come true, and then spent the rest of the week experiencing the ministry of the Dream Center as they endevor to help those whose dreams have been shattered by homelessness, drugs, abuse, crime and the other destructive epidemics that ravaged the inner-city.

Our sermon passage this week is found in John 14:15-31. And in many ways relates to the realities that we experienced last week while we were serving on the streets of L.A. I believe one of the greatest fears I possess is that of being homeless, but as I was reminded last week, homelessness goes far beyond not having a roof over your head.

In reading through this portion of Scripture I was reminded that there is a marked difference between being home-less and being house-less. Being house-less is an issue of "location." Being home-less is an issue of the heart.

In speaking peace to His disciples, Jesus reminds them that they shall not be left as orphans, those without both house and home, but rather he was sending to them the Holy Spirit (John 14:16) and that He and the Father would also make there home within them. (John 14:23) In this passage we are reminded that homelessness is so much more than being without a place to live, and we are reminded of what is needed to insure that a person can be at home even if forced to live under a bridge.

To find our home with the Heavenly Father requires that with live in relationship with Him and this relationship involves keeping His commands (John 14:15), namely, to love the LORD with all your heart, soul, mind and strength (Matthew 22:38) and to love your neighbor as Jesus has loved us. (John 13:34-35)

As we continue to live out the life of love in and through and by the Person of Jesus Christ, let us continue to do what we can to combat house-less-ness, but also let us combat the deeper need of bringing people home to the Savior, for this is the greatest need.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Monday, August 10, 2009

So Close...Yet So Far

There are some passages of Holy Scripture that are more worrisome to me, than others. Take this coming week's sermon text from John 13:18-38. It this encounter around the table Jesus introduces to His followers that there is a betrayer in their midst. One who has journeyed with them for three years and one who had the responsibility of keeping the common purse of this band of Jesus followers. As the writer John records it becomes obvious by the end of the meal, that the betrayer is Judas.

What makes this disclosure even more striking is that even at the very time of Judas' turning he is sharing bread with Jesus, he is in close proximity and fellowship with the one whom he will turn over the authorities for 30 pieces of silver. (Matthew 26:15) So close, yet so far away.

Whenever I read the accounts of Judas' betrayal (Matthew 26:14, Mark 14:10, Luke 22:3) I wonder does that capacity reside within me? I pray not! John makes an interesting comment in John 13:27, that it was after he took the bread from Jesus that Satan entered his heart. At one level it sounds like up to that point Judas still had the opportunity to do right. I certainly cannot say what the reasons where for Judas to betray the Lord, I am sure there was more than one, but the bottom line is, he did.

It's easy to cast Judas in a bad light, but the passage goes on to remind us that Judas was not the only "betrayer" in the group. Even Peter, the Rock, one of Jesus' closest disciples would turn his back on the Lord. He stood in the shadows of Jesus' trial and when questioned as to his commitment to Jesus of Nazareth, denied knowing Him, not once, not twice, but three times. (John 18:25-27) Peter even knew what was coming (John 13:36-38), he could have steeled himself for the coming trial, but alas, he too betrayed his Lord. He was so close, yet so far away.

What about me? So close...

Stay close!!!

Monday, August 03, 2009

Holy Pedicure

OK, I'll be honest, this week's study passage is one of those that can make me feel uncomfortable. It's the washing of the disciple's feet by the Lord Jesus. (John 13:1-17) It's not uncomfortable because Jesus is bending down, wrapped in a towel, taking the form of a servant to wash the dirty feet of His followers. No, it's uncomfortable to me for two other reasons:

First, is it where Jesus tells His followers, that as He, their Lord and teacher, have washed their feet they should do likewise. (John 13:14)

Second, is that we have taken the above directive and developed it into some sanctified ritual. By that I mean, in some faith traditions there is a regular foot-washing ceremony, like the regular Communion services we celebrate. Or, if we have not created a "special event" we have spiritualized Jesus' actions and words saying that this means we are to have a "servant's heart" in regards to our dealing with each other and the world-at-large.

I believe that both of these miss the boat.

To make the act nothing more than ceremony we rip it from the reality of life. (Sometimes I believe we have done the same with Communion, but that's for another blog.) When the foot-washing is done within the walls of the sanctuary it becomes sanitized and weak, not really accomplishing the task for which it was designed, that is the actual removal of dirt from a persons feet so that they would not be offensive to others reclining at the table.

When we spiritualize the act it becomes too easy to think we are humbling ourselves to the menial task of a servant, when in reality we seldom bend far enough to truly take the servant's posture. If that sounds judgmental it is only because I am looking into the mirror of self-evaluation as I type this blog!

It seems to me that if Jesus was only referring to the actual washing of another person's feet, then those who are professional pedicurist must be some of the most spiritual, Jesus-modeling people around. Like most things within the church today, we run the risk of "professionalizing ministry" and thus loosing the deeper truth our Lord and Savior was seeking to impart to us.

So, what is Jesus teaching? Well, lest I give away all my thoughts for this week's coming Sunday message, allow me just a few thoughts to wet-your-whistle, and maybe get other ideas following. Some lessons for me from the Master.
  • Keep your eyes open to the practical needs of those around you.
  • Seek to offer down-to-earth practical help.
  • The Jesus-life is sometimes nothing more than dirty work.
  • Jesus is not only my Master, but my Model for how to live.
  • Humility comes easier when you know Who you belong to, and where you're going.
  • Being a servant means stripping off that which hinders.
Well, that's enough to keep me busy. How about you?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Reasons

Yes, it has been awhile since I posted to "The Pastor's Study." Reason: I was on vacation, but now that is over and I am getting ready to enter back into the "Pulpit," even though we don't officially have a pulpit anymore.

Just because I was away does not mean that things were not happening or that God was at work, in fact, while I was away two young men made that greatest of all decisions, the decision was to respond positively to the grace of God offered through the Person of Jesus Christ. These two men made that choice to say I want to follow Jesus as my Lord and Savior. Of all the news I heard while on my vacation that was some of the best! We give God praise and glory!

There are lots of reasons that people finally respond to God's gift of grace, and sadly there are many reasons why people do not, or if they do, seem to hide it away from public view.

Our sermon text for this week is John 12:37-50, where we see Jesus coming to the end of His earthly public ministry. Things are at once both winding down and winding up. The public miracles and preaching will be finished and the public attacks, ridicule and His very public crucifixion are beginning to come to the fore. In the midst of this Jesus once again makes it clear that some will choose to reject Him and some will choose to receive Him, and the reasons why are as varied as the people who seek Him out.

What is evident is that the choice of how we respond to Jesus is highly personal. A crowd can witness a miracle, or hear His stories, and within that crowd some will believe and some will not. Some will stand boldly to declare their new faith in Jesus, the Messiah, and others may hide in the shadows afraid of what people might say and do.

It is important to note that Jesus reminded His listeners that their choice not only affected their relationship with Him, but also with God the Father. To reject one is to reject the other. To receive one, is to receive the other. The choice we make is truly a BIG one.

I am so glad that those two young men made that BIG choice, and made it correctly. For that we can all truly rejoice!

Friday, July 03, 2009

GLORY in the SKY!

HAMBURGERS WITH SLICES OF GRILLED PINEAPPLE, the family gathered around the patio table savoring the flavors of summer while making plans to attend the local gathering in Scotts Valley to experience the evening sky filled with the glorious colors of exploding fireworks and the reverberating concussive thud to be felt in our chests. Ah, this is the joy of celebrating our American Independence Day.

We are willing to walk a mile carrying the needed provisions for the evening. We deem it fun to cuddle up and wrap blankets around us to keep off the evening dew-filled chill. We even graciously tolerate the traffic-filled ride to find our way back home. It's what the holiday is all about. It is even better enjoying it together as a family. (Especially since this may be the last one for awhile for my two eldest kids, Trinity is headed to Rome, and Krista, back to Africa.) Of course, the fireworks, with their attendant oohs and ahs, are truly the much-needed icing on the cake.

The Bible tells us that there is coming a Day, another day in which we shall look to the sky in the celebration of our freedom. But this freedom is not from the tyranny of some earthly empire, but from the tyranny of sin and death! A Day is coming in which we shall look toward the heavens as our souls will be filled with the reverberating sounds of a trumpet call and we shall see the Glory of the coming King of kings and Lord of lords. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18) I surmise it shall be even better than all the BBQ's and fireworks we could every imagine, and it is shall be the greatest gathering of family ever! A Day to declare our independence from this world and our complete dependence upon Jesus, God's Son, the Messiah, our Savior!

As we celebrate our national independence let us not forget to celebrate our spiritual dependence upon Jesus. As the evening of the Fourth of July draws to a close and we pick up our blankets and make our way slowly back home, as we lay are weary, but thankful heads upon our pillows, let us not forget to set our alarms to awaken us to celebrate the fifth of July by gathering with God's people in worship as we draw together to celebrate the reality of our Lord's promised return and His sacrifice upon the cross which made our true freedom possible!

Come! Let us worship the Lord with the anticipation of His glory in the sky!


(Note: heading out on vacation for a few weeks...Pastor's Study will be vacationing, too. See you on my return.)

Friday, June 26, 2009

We Can't Escape It

Yesterday, Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson "went the way of all flesh." And with their passing we are again brought to the stark reality that death is something that none of us can escape. Whether life is lived long, or cut drastically short, death is the specter awaiting each of us.

To be honest Farrah's and Michael's deaths upset me, but not for the reasons which most are upset. I am upset because the deaths of these two celebrities will cause us to forget the ongoing tragic deaths around the world in places like Darfur and Congo. I know some of you are thinking, "come on Randy, lighten-up, quite being so cynical and harsh."

Well, that's just the place I am.

I am sadden by many who are suffering that I personally know...good people...humble people...people who have lived quiet lives of serving God and man, and now find themselves being chased by death. For these and for many others, my heart hurts.

These thoughts of death and dying do bring us to this week's sermon passage from John 12:12-36. It is here we now see Jesus moving straight forward to His death. Not sherking from it, not hiding, but resolved to accomplish that for which He was sent. (John 12:27)

Jesus came for the purpose of dying, so that through His death we might have life. (John 10:10; John 20:21; 1 John 5:12) I cannot say that for anyone else. And as they say, "the proof is in the pudding," or is Jesus' case, in His resurrection!!!

How good it is to know that we can be part of the wonderful harvest that has been brought forth because of Jesus' sacrificial death. (John 12:23-26) And that we, as the fruit of that harvest, have the responsibility to also die to self so that the planting and harvest will continue, and all for the glory of God.

Death does await all of us and the day of our death is known only to Him who is the Giver of life, so let us therefore live in the Light, as children of the Light; working while it is still day so that death shall not be an horrendous end, but a glorious beginning.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Flouresent Monkeys

I don't know if they really glow-in-the-dark, but it seems scientists have created a transgenic monkey. Apart from the usual ethical questions it is rather amazing what is being done these days. The unwrapping of the human genome is constantly changing how we see ourselves, and this has very powerful ramifications, some good and some not-so-good.

In his recent book, "So Beautiful," Leonard Sweet seeks to unwrap the DNA of the church. Sweet's thoughts are worth considering, and in many ways resonant with my own. For a number of years now I have wrestled with the question of who are we as the church, and what is our life to be like as those who have chosen to follow Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives?

One thing has become clear, just as in "making" transgenic glow-in-the-dark monkeys can yield positive results for the human race farther down the road, it can also open a Pandora's Box of unintended results. What is definitely called for is great and humble wisdom.

What the world sees as good and right is not always the case. And what can be said about the world can also be said about the church. In my sermon passage for this coming Sunday (John 12:1-11) we encounter Mary (the sister of Lazarus) pouring expensive perfume on the feet of Jesus. Some in the gathered group, namely Judas, see it as nothing but a waste of time and money. But, Jesus says that Mary has chosen the right thing to do. Mary has responded rightly to her Creator and has lived out that for which she was created, the total worship of the Lord.

This Sunday I am to not only preach about this encounter, but I am to share with the church the direction in which we believe the Lord is leading us as a local congregation. These are truly exciting days and we see God doing some amazing things in our midst and around the world (even more amazing than glow-in-the-dark primates), and yet we need to keep our eyes and heart focused, as did Mary, upon the primary mission which is the glory of God.

What is the DNA of the church? How are we to live out the lives we were created to live? As Leonard Sweet points out, the church, as God created it, is so beautiful. I encourage you to delve deep into the revealed mysteries of God and stand amazed at the beautiful work God has wrought. May we, as His Body, live forth as He designed for His glory.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Life or Death, Which Will It Be?

The older I get (just had a birthday last week) allows me to get closer to death. My friends and the flock get older too, and thus are closer to death. Lately, I have witnessed an increase in those affected by cancers, heart conditions, and various other illnesses that carry the specter of death around them. But death is not a respecter of age, for even this morning one of our senior church members lost an adult child to an accidental death, much to the tragic shock of all of us. Personally, my soul is wearied by those called to such suffering, my heart aches for them in their pain, suffering, and loss.

My prayer for them is that they will know deeply the presence of the Lord during their period of suffering and/or grief. I pray for His abiding peace to truly guard their hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord. (Philippians 4:6-7)

With all this in mind, this week's Biblical sermon text is even more striking and powerful. In our sermon series, "Changing Our World for Good," we look over the shoulder of Jesus as He encounters death face-to-face in the death of his dear friend Lazarus. (John 11:1-44)

There are, of course, many things to discuss and ponder in this encounter, but here is what grabs me today, and a question that has arisen in me numerous times over the years, it is, "why did Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead, was is not better for him to remain in heaven?" Now, I realize that Jesus did state that by His act of compassion in raising Lazarus people would come to believe in Him (John 11:15) and that God would receive glory (John 11:40).

But, is there more?

I believe there is.

In addition to God's power being displayed. In addition to a validation of who Jesus is. In addition to the restorative comforting His act provided to Mary and Martha. I believe Jesus also reminds us of the importance of life.

Life was God's creation, not death. We were created for life, not for death. I don't think we were even created for heaven, we were created for life with the Living God. We were created for living communion with the One God, who has eternally existed as a Tri-Unity. It is in the bringing of Lazarus back to life that Jesus is declaring that life is a good thing, it is that thing for which we were created.

Too often, my focus (our focus) is either on the tragic aspects of death which surround us, or upon the reality of life after death (which I admit is a great truth). But when are focus is solely upon those aspects we miss the truth that we have been given life, and life to be lived right here, right now. Jesus declared in John 10:10, that He came to give life and that life in abundance. In other words, is the raising of Lazarus we see that this is not such a bad place to be, this place called life on Earth, even with all its pain and suffering. In fact, it is the life we have now in Jesus that brings us the grace, compassion, steadfastness and hope to live this life.

For me to live is Christ!

So, shall we live?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Walking Blind

Sunday morning I shared about my early morning God-lesson as I watched two planets reflecting the light of the unseen sun. (sermon here) One of the lesson was that of the need for the darkness in order for the dirt-encrusted planets to shine forth. For us that darkness often refers to things like suffering and doubt. Elements that we do not desire nor enjoy, and yet are the very things that allow Christ's reflective light to shine forth.

This week's sermon passage, John 9:1-41, also deals with darkness and light in the form of blindness and sight. There is much to discuss in this powerful encounter between Jesus, the blindman and the religious leaders, but I would like to focus just on one short section that coincides with my God-lesson mentioned above.

In John 9:6-12 Jesus begins the healing process with spit and mud (pretty earthy, the basis of our very creation...hearkens back to Genesis 2:7). Then Jesus tells the man to walk blind to the pool of Siloam. I don't know how far the man had to walk, but Jesus could have healed him without making him walk one more step in the darkness that had overshadowed him from birth, and yet Jesus sent the man off with spit and mud in his eyes and in darkness to wash in the pool.

The spiritual lesson for me was strong. Jesus may bring healing into various areas of my life, while at the same time calling me to continue to walk in darkness. To walk obediently in the dark while His healing of my life is still in the process of arriving. I don't know why at one time the healing is immediate and at others it is still arriving, all I know is that sometimes the darkness is still present, and as with the planets allows the Light of the world to shine unto God's glory...which is the goal in all things. (John 9:3)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

So, Prove Me Wrong!

IN EVANGELICAL ECCLESIASTICAL PASTORAL CIRCLES, this coming Sunday (the Sunday after Easter) is lovingly referred to as "Slump Sunday." It's the day when churches suffer below normal church attendance, which often looks even more striking against the previous week's, above normal church attendance. The reason for this below normal gathering is often attached to the fact that so many in the church did more than usual the week before because of all the increase of religious activities during Holy Week, and now they believe they earned a Sunday off.

After over 30 years of pastoral work I have found the above phenomenon to be true. To be honest it's a little disheartening to us pastors. Sure, we can understand it, and it may even make some limited sense, but it still is troubling. It's not just having the CE attendees (Christmas/Easter) fail to return, but it's having the regular church family disappear as well.

When I was younger this whole event bothered me on a strictly statistical and numerical basis; numbers were down, giving was down, and this was not good. But now, it bothers me at a deeper level (though I miss the numbers as well). It troubles me that we can think that not gathering with the Community of Christ on a regular basis is somehow an option for us. Now, don't get your toga in a knot, for I know we all go other places and even pastor's take a week off from time to time. I know that, and I am OK with that, this issue is much more systemic than that.

Often, there is a sense that this "missing church" will some how not matter in the great scope of things. The danger is that this attitude can develop into a destructive practice. The truth is we were created for Community. As Christians are born anew into Christ's Body, the Church, and the church is not about doing, it is about being. Sadly, I know people who cannot miss a day without stopping at Starbucks. In fact, if they miss that opportunity they will make it the topic of conversation and complaint until they are able to return to their "temple" of choice, but these same people can miss a month of Sundays without the slightest affect upon their being.

Believe it or not, this brings us to our passage for this coming week, John 8:48-59.

In this encounter Jesus is once again defending who He is before the religious leaders. In John 8:58 He declares, "Before Abraham was, I AM." In that statement He made it definitively clear to His detractors that He was God, the "I AM." (Exodus 3:14) Yet, it should be noted that being the I AM did not mean He stood alone, but rather the greater reality was that He has dwelt for eternity in a Divine Community. What He did, what He said, was what He saw and heard from the Father. Jesus' very nature, that of being in community with God, had bearing upon all that He was and did. That community is imparted to us, His followers. It is what the Body of Christ is all about.

Jesus told His followers that apart from Him we could do nothing. (John 15:5) We, too often, personalize that statement. We make it all about Christ in me, but in reality it is much more. It is about community, and it is for the community, the Body of Christ. Apart from the Community of Christ, His Body, we can do nothing. Not just because the individual members of the local church hold some collective power that is transmitted to us, but because Christ lives in, and through, His Body. Remember the Word of God tells us we are not like a body, we are the Body. (1 Corinthians 12:27)

There is much to unpack in this passage this week, but let's not miss the truth about who Jesus is, how Jesus is, for we are called to be conformed to His image. (Romans 8:29) The community, gathering with it, is of vital importance to our journey in following Christ and in being made like Him by the Holy Spirit's work in us.

Will the Community of Christ gather this week with the numbers and enthusiasm, as it did the week previous? I doubt it! But to that I would love to say,

"Prove me wrong!"

Monday, April 06, 2009

HE IS RISEN!

HE IS RISEN!

That might be a scary prospect for a horror film. Something about some guy rising from the dead, sulking around the countryside looking for hapless victims to bring to his netherworld lair. Yep, I am sure Hollywood could make that title into a real hit for the Halloween movie season.

But, when I use those words, my thoughts fall not to images of death, but rather of life! It is a declaration of life-bringing truth. He is risen! This "He" is of course the man Jesus, who, as the Apostle's Creed reminds us, "was crucified, dead, and buried, descended into Hell, The third day He rose again from the dead."

This week we remember the Passion of our Lord. That passion was for us; to pay the full and complete price for our sin (Hebrews 9:22; 1 Peter 3:18). Because of this Passion He willingly journeyed to the Cross. (Hebrews 12:2) but His Passion not ony included His death, but His resurrection as well.

Jesus' resurrection was for the purpose of bringing life, not death. It was to move us from a place of fear to the place of faith. It was not a horror story, but the event that establishes hope. The shout of the Church, "He is risen!" Was not a shout of dismay but of joy. It was the constant reminder that all the Jesus said, did and promised was true! Sins forgiven! A place in heaven guaranteed! The relationship with our Heavenly Father restored! Purpose, peace, mercy, love renewed, continually!

I encourage you this week, as we remember the Passion of our Lord, to seek to renew your passion for Him. To call upon the Holy Spirit, that dwells in the life of every believer, to empower you anew. Cry out for the Resurrection Passion to fill your life.

Choose this week to live out the the life-changing declaration of truth, that "HE IS RISEN!" not just with your mouth, but with the everyday decisions of your life for "He is risen, indeed!"

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

He Ain't No Superstar!

Hosanna Heysanna Sanna Sanna Ho
Sanna Hey Sanna Ho Sanna
Hey J C, J C you're alright by me
Sanna Ho Sanna Hey Superstar

So goes the chorus of the crowd as the character of Jesus Christ Superstar enters the city of Jerusalem on the day we now call Palm Sunday. The only problem with superstars is that they too often fall from the heights and coming crashing into some dark hole of anti-stardom. Of the real Jesus Christ this of course is not true.

Jesus was no superstar, as our Bible text from last week's sermon (The Exclusivity of Jesus) pointed out, Jesus is the "light of the world." (John 8:12) He is not some superstar placed in the heavens by the decision of the populace, but in fact He is the One who is Light Himself.

The Apostle John would also write in his letters, "This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all." (1 John 1:5) Our Lord is not someone who shines brightly for awhile only to be overshadowed by some other light, no He is the One who was light from the beginning, and it is His light that is the very life of all people. (John 1:4-5)

Like the people of Jerusalem 2000 years ago, we are desirous of lifting people to superstar status. There seems built into us the need to have someone who shines brightly, a star that lifts us out of our own personal places of darkness and gloom. Jesus does that, but so much more.

In this coming Sunday's passage (John 8: 31-47) Jesus calls His would be followers to a place of commitment and action. He tells those gathered that to have a relationship with the heavenly Father demands that they have a relationship of trust and obedience with the One that the Father as sent, namely Jesus, the Christ.

The "hard teaching" of Jesus related in this passage again comes to the issue of light. To believe and trust in Him puts you in relationship with God the Father, the God who is Light, but to reject that relationship gives you another father, Satan, the father of lies, and to carry with our theme, the god of the dark.

As the events of that Passover week unfolded the people who were calling out for a superstar soon changed the words of their song,

We need him crucified
It's all you have to do
We need him crucified
It's all you have to do

How quickly the light of a superstar fades in our eyes. How desperately we need a light that bears no shadows, a light that fully encompasses the whole of our lives. This is the Light that is Jesus. This is the Light who is the one and only Son of God (John 3:16). This is the Light of the world, if whom we follow, then we shall never walk in darkness, but have the Light that is Life. (John 1:4-5)

This Passion Week, let us all seek to dwell in the Light. Let us choose to know the Father who sent His Son to be the Savior of the world, and let us follow Him. (1 John 4:14)

Monday, March 30, 2009

Now That's Dark


I THOUGHT I KNEW WHAT DARK WAS, until I took a tour of the Oregon Caves located in the mountains above Grants Pass, Oregon. As part of the ½ mile, 90 minute tour you are taken into one of the pathways between chambers at which point the Park Ranger/tour guide turns out the lights. To say you can’t see your hand in front of your eyes is an understatement. And there is no “letting your eyes adjust” either. It is just dark as dark can be. Truthfully, a pretty unnerving feeling. I more than welcomed the opportunity to bask again in the soft incandescent glow of the light strung overhead.

The Holy Scriptures tell us that without Jesus, who is the Light of the world, we are all walking in darkness. I am going to make the assumption that the darkness is not some sort of twilight time of dusky shadows but more like the intense blackout that I experienced in the cave. It is a darkness that over time leaves one with the inability to determine which way to go, and maybe even more not knowing that there is a way to go. It is a darkness that paralyzes.

The good news is that we do not have to remain in the darkness. Like the Park Ranger in the cave, our Lord is more than willing to illumine the path that leads to the fullness of light if we but call out to Him. It is the desire of our gracious Lord to not only shine His light upon the path of our life, but to lead us out into the day in which we can be completely encompassed in Him who is the Light of the world.

In the book of the Revelation, the Apostle John describes the fullness of the Lord’s light. He records, “The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it.” (Revelation 21:24-25) It is in this Light that we are called to walk.

So, let us walk.