Friday, March 26, 2010

Residual Light

Recently I was talking with a friend who used a new term that he had heard in a management seminar. The term “residual light” actually comes from astronomy and is used to describe the light that still exists from a star that has died. You see starlight created today in the Milky Way traveling at the speed of light (299 792 458 miles per second) takes years and years to reach our sight here on earth.

According to the website there are two primary ways for a star to stop emitting light. It can simply die a long slow death and go cold or it can go super nova and explode with a spectacular light show and creating a black hole when it dies.

This idea of starlight started me thinking about light and how it is dealt with in the Bible.

· Light is seen as a symbol for what is pleasant, good, or uplifting, and is especially related to God. “The Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory” (Is 60:19). The psalmist exulted, “The Lord is my light and my salvation,” and proceeded to ask, “whom shall I fear?” (27:1). God is said to be robed with light (Ps 104:2) and light dwells with him (Dn 2:22).

· During the plagues in Egypt the Egyptians experienced thick darkness while the Israelites had light (Ex 10:23). When the Israelites left Egypt, they were led in the wilderness by a pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night (Ex 13:21). The pillar gave them light while their enemies were in darkness (Ex 14:20). In later days Israel remembered that God did not abandon his people even when they sinned; the pillar of fire was always there to show them the right way (Neh 9:19; cf. Neh 9:12; Pss 78:14; 105:39).

· A Godly leader is sometimes identified with light. Thus when the Israelites decided that King David should no longer risk his life on the battlefield they said, “You shall no more go out with us to battle, lest you quench the lamp of Israel” (2 Sam 21:17).

· Sometimes judgment on Israel is expressed as a withdrawal of light: “Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord! Why would you have the day of the Lord?… Is not the day of the Lord darkness, and not light, and gloom with no brightness in it?” (Amos 5:18, 20; cf. Is 13:9, 10).

· In the Old Testament the absence of light is a synonym for disaster. There are those who “grope in the dark without light” (Job 12:25). Bildad saw the light of the wicked put out in punishment and death (Job 18:5–17). The wicked will be “thrust from light into darkness, and driven out of the world” (Job 18:18). In the aftermath of the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem was the lament, “He has driven and brought me into darkness without any light” (Lam 3:2).

· In the New Testament Jesus said, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12; 9:5), and “I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness” (John 12:46). Jesus told his followers to believe in the light while it was with them (John 12:35 Christ not only brought a revelation from God as a revealer but He himself was and is the revelation and light himself. (John 1:1–10)

· Followers of Christ are also called light in the New Testament. When they are called the light of the world, there is clearly no saving significance in the description. They do not accomplish the world’s salvation. But they do point it out. It is their function as redeemed people to live as redeemed people. They are to show the quality of life proper to the people of God and in this way act as light to the people of the world. They are to let their light shine before the world in such a way that people will see their good deeds and so come to praise God (not, be it noted, those who do the deeds, Matt. 5:16). It is important for those in this position to make full use of the light they have. It is tragedy when the light that is in them is darkness (Matt 6:23; Luke 11:35).

You and I know many churches and even people that have been great lights in the past but today like dying stars have either become cold and lost their fire or have gone super nova and have exploded wreaking havoc not only with those closest to them but in the community around them.

The light that is Christ, who dwells within his people, is supposed to have illuminated us. If we ignore the illumination he brings us and live like those in the dark, then indeed we are in deep darkness. We are worse than others because we know what light is and what it can mean to us, and have turned away from it.

How do we fix this lack of light in our lives? Two things: First recognize it and repent (that means change your ways) and second, like the story of the wedding party waiting for the bridegroom be prepared with enough oil for your lamp so that when the time comes your lamp is lit and shining at it’s full capacity! Third, we must stay connected to the source of our Light.

Anyone got a light?

Pastor Val

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Finding God’s Will

So often we think of God’s will being a specific path and that missing it will cause us to miss His perfect will. One problem with this understanding of God’s will is that it only takes one of us to mess up getting God’s will right for us to cause the entire universe to fail in their goal of following God’s will. Like a string of dominos once one falls the entire line goes down. There seems to be some truth in this when we look at the concept of original sin. After all by one man sin entered into the world and death by that one man we call Adam. And it is also true that by one man the world is redeemed. The entire world, even the entire universe is in the process of being recreated to God’s original intent.

But often the ways of God are often multifaceted (think Sovereignty of God vs. free will of man or individual vs. group responsibility). It would appear that God’s will is for a destination and he will allow us choices to arrive at the destination. For example God did not plan on Israel to have a king, and yet when they demand a king God grants them their request. Even though they clearly disobeyed God ultimately the King that they eventually got became the human ancestor of the Messiah! God uses our free will to bring about His will for our lives.

If you want to know what God’s will for your life is, I know what it is and I’m here to tell you (grin)!

For believers, God’s will is for us is to be conformed to His Son’s image (Rom 8:29). This in reality means that His desire is for us to be conformed to God’s image. What I mean by that last sentence is that not only is Jesus God, He also looks just like God. (John 14:9)

God’s plan for us is to be conformed to Christ’s image. The human author of the book of Romans in the Bible calls this transformation and it is accomplished by the renewing our mind. (Rom 12:2) The word transformation in the Greek could be translated morphed. Like a caterpillar we are called to morph into a new creature, a “spiritual butterfly.”

From the very beginning the core of Christianity is centered around change. To adapt is not an easy thing it is easier to stay the same. Too often we see our rigidity as a virtue. Character doesn’t make you hard, nor does it make you soft. Godly character makes you pliable in the Holy Spirit’s hands.

The Bible is all about change:

  • Transformation = change
  • Conversion = change
  • Repentance = change
  • Sanctification = change

Getting ready to change

Pastor Val

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Repentance Gone Wrong

I was surfing some blogs tonight and ran across this blog on the Acts 29 blog site.

I was moved by this blog and wanted to share a portion of it with you. If you would like to check out the entire blog you can find it here


False repentance conflicts with the biblical pattern by displaying our pride and self-interest instead of displaying contrition. Consider the example of the nation of Israel in Psalm 78:32-35:

In spite of all this, they still sinned;

despite his wonders, they did not believe.

So he made their days vanish like a breath,

and their years in terror.

When he killed them, they sought him;

they repented and sought God earnestly.

They remembered that God was their rock,

the Most High God their redeemer.

Israel clearly experienced a severe discipline at the hands of the Lord. This judgment obviously produced a very unhappy situation for God’s people, driving them to seek God in repentance. They earnestly repented, remembered and sought the Lord. Surely this repenting would rectify their familial relationship with God. But notice how God views their repentance as the Psalm continues:

But they flattered him with their mouths;

they lied to him with their tongues.

Their heart was not steadfast toward him;

they were not faithful to his covenant. (78:36-37)

Here we see the illustration of pretender repentance: words without heart. Israel’s repentance was insincere. They told God that they were sorry with their mouths, but He knew that their hearts were still committed to slavishly following their sins.

Instead of real brokenness over their iniquities, God’s people feigned repentance to obtain rescue from the consequences of their sins, but not the sins themselves. As such, God did not recognize their repentance – because pretender repentance is not repentance at all.

Israel’s example should help us see that sometimes the greatest battle with sin is our very repentance of it. Listen to Paul’s encouragement to the church at Corinth:

As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved,

but because you were grieved into repenting. For

you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss

through us. For godly grief produces a repentance

that leads to salvation without regret, whereas

worldly grief produces death. (1 Corinthians 7:9-10)

Pretender repentance is a dead end. If we demonstrate anything but godly grief over our sin, we will experience a lifetime of losses. Therefore, if we would fight sin well, some of us may actually need to repent of how we have repented in the past so that the grace of God is exposed and not our arrogance.

This is one of those times when I wish I had written this blog. I would only add that pretender repentance makes us feel good about ourselves but it rarely fools godly people and never fools a holy God!

Lord forgive me of the times when I have played the repentance game!

Pastor Val

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Should a Follower of Christ be Willing to Change?

God is unchanging theologians call this immutability. As God the Son, Jesus is also immutable. Hebrews 13: says that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Since this is true why are Christians supposed to change? Why do we assume that a refusal to change is a stand against corruption? It amazes me how many use their faith as an excuse to remain ignorant. It sounds so spiritual to wrap up their ignorance by claiming that all that anyone needs to know the Bible. Is that really what the Bible says? Is this the model we find in Scripture?

I am reminded of a quartet of young men in the Old Testament book, Daniel. The nation of Judah was taken into captivity by Babylon. Their captors choose the best of the young nobles to be trained in the schooling, wisdom, and culture of the conquerors. Theses guys are know as Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They were schooled to be counselors to the King. As such they were expected to master all new information and to be of help as advisors in the court.

If we are to take our cues from these young men we need to be voracious, intentional learner. So often people of faith are seen as dogmatic, rigid and unchanging and yet we are called to learn which is to change and often to adapt.

Adaption can only happen when we first have settled on what our core values (or non-negotiable) are. Once we understand what they are we can learn to be flexible (adaptable) on other issues.

The aforementioned quartet knew what their core values were and we unwilling to compromise those but were willing to compromise on negotiables. They were willing to learn the ways, knowledge, and customs of their captors but were unwilling to eat non-kosher food.

You see these men knew the difference between adaption and adoption. The later is the compromising and capitulation of all of your beliefs and values. While the former is live out your values in the real world.

People who have not identified what their core values are will default to one of two positions. The first is to be dogmatically rigid on everything and thus incapable of addressing societal change and issues. The second is to have no convictions at all and thus incapable of taking a stand on any issue.

Don’t confuse rigidity with having convictions!

As I have often said throughout my ministry, “If you are unwilling to change you should have never become a follower of Christ, for God has called us to a life of change as each of us journey through this life being changed into the image of Christ.” (See Romans 8:23)

Changing for the better

Pastor Val

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Experience and Curiosity

Why do we so often accept the premise that God is withholding something so good that we believe that He has His best interest at heart and not ours? When in reality He is trying to save us from heartache, pain and often death.

Often we believe our leaders, parents and elders of trying to keep us from experiencing something that would enhance our lives rather then trusting them to have our best interest at heart.

I have a family member who has repeatedly said that they would prefer to learn things by experience and I always want them to be willing to learn from others (especially me!). Today many of our post-modern generation only want to learn from experience. This type of learning has been elevated above any other form of learning. Know what it’s called when you think that you have to experience everything before you can know better? I call it stupidity! God calls it Death!

Find it hard to believe the death reference? Well, let’s take a look at Genesis 2.

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” Genesis 2:15-17

And when they did eat of the tree they did die (spiritual death happened immediately and physical death began). Yes, often curiosity does kill. There are some things you are not supposed to experience on pain of death!

Sometimes we need to accept the wisdom offered to us from those who have learned by failure and sometimes we need to be willing to accept God’s Word when He says “No!” Often He desires to build our lives simply on the “Wisdom of God.”

When we insist to learn from experience pain is inevitably the consequence and that shows us as unteachable (which is another way of saying stupid!) When we stop learning we stop growing. The opposite of growth is – yes you guessed it death!

Let’s choose life!

Pastor Val