To those who think that peace can be obtained solely through statesmanship, diplomacy, and communication, I echo the following:
As we now move into the Advent season, I think it might be worth thinking about what that really means. For one of my classes, I needed to prepare a brief (5-8 minute-ish) sermon to deliver as part of a worship service my group is leading in class. Below are my notes for said lesson.
- Advent is a time of year defined by expectant waiting for the arrival of Christ, the birth of the Messiah who has reconciled us to God, but all too often we only think of Christmas and Jesus’ birth from our own modern perspective. It is easy for us now to look at God’s plan of salvation and, if not understand it in its fullness, certainly to at least grasp the basic way in which God achieved our redemption.
- We often talk about God’s plan of salvation so matter-of-factly that we forget about the wondrous way God has chosen to interact with us. It is difficult, but try for a moment to get into the head of someone living in the era of the prophets of Israel, before Jesus’ coming. The prophet Isaiah wrote:
- “Therefore justice is far from us, and righteousness does not overtake us; we hope for light, and behold, darkness, and for brightness, but we walk in gloom. We grope for the wall like the blind; we grope like those who have no eyes; we stumble at noon as in the twilight, among those in full vigor we are like dead men.” -Isaiah 59:9-10
- The Psalms say:
- There are many who say, “Who will show us SOME good? Lift up the light of Your face upon us, O Lord!” –Psalm 4:6
- People, even the chosen people of God, who lived before Christ’s coming lived in a dark world. Not physically darker than that in which we live, but a place where darkness of spirit and un-Godliness reigned virtually unchallenged. Where the only people who knew the true God were located in a single region, and the rest of the world openly worshiped idols and demons in His place. It is difficult for us who live in a world of instant communication to understand, but in the days of the prophets there was nearly an entire planet that had never heard of Yahweh, His great faithfulness, or His promise of hope.
- The world was filled with spiritual darkness, against which the only hope was from God. How greatly must faithful followers of God have anticipated the Messiah? How they must have yearned, praying day after day for His coming to bring light into the darkness. For in the midst of the darkness, God sent His messenger to deliver hope for His people:
- “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and His glory will be seen upon you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising…The sun shall be no more your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give you light; but the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Your sun shall no more go down, nor your moon withdraw itself; for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of mourning shall be ended.” Isaiah 60: 1-3, 19-20
- In the middle of unquenchable darkness, God provided a hope for man to cling to, but He didn’t describe the whole plan; believers of the time could only trust in the Lord, for His good and perfect provision, then wait. Not simply biding their time, but expectantly, anticipating the day when their Redeemer would arrive.
- When Jesus came, He continued describing the world and His gospel in terms of darkness and light:
- “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” –John 8:12
- As I prepared for this lesson, two words jumped off the page at me from the last few sentences: “Jesus came.” Isn’t that amazing? We take for granted that He did, but what a relief! What an infinitely comforting thing, to have One who not only lights my way in the world, but IS the Light of the world. How blessed are we in this holiday season that we get to live at a point in history when Christ has already come and revealed Himself to us. How wonderfully blessed are we that in the middle of a dark world, we can KNOW the One who can light it up!
- This isn’t the end of Jesus teaching on light and darkness, however: Jesus, the King of Kings and Saviour of man also says to us:
- “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 Light of the world calls us to be HIS lights to the world. As we anticipate the arrival of the Christ, and His triumphant return, it is not good enough for us to stand alone, islands of vague light set apart from the darkness. We have been commissioned to go into the darkness and spread the light, the hope that we have been given.
At this point, we have a fun little participatory candle-lighting thing we’re doing, but that is neither here nor there. Hope this was en-light-ening.
This week I’ve been struck by a particular segment of Scripture several times, in class, at church, and on my friend’s blogs, so I figure I may as well jump on the bandwagon and post about it here.
“Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed,
‘The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious,slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth;
who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.’”
Is this as simultaneously exciting and frightening to anyone else as it is to me? The things that I do- the patterns of living, the thoughts, the habits, the daily actions and lifelong pursuits- will have repercussions upon my children, my children’s children, and so forth for two more generations!
It’s awesome that this works both ways- In families like Timothy’s (like I and II Timothy), the godly example of the grandmother then led to a godly life by her daughter, and both of them led to the life of Timothy, a man pastoring a church at an age when most of us were still in school. At the same time, however, the little sins that I allow to remain in my life will have unforeseen and untold consequences in the lives of my kids, and their…well, you get the picture.
Certainly does make you think twice about things, no?
Alright, here’s the deal.
I’ve realized that I rarely have time to just sit at my computer and type away a new blog post (except during class, but professors tend to frown upon that kind of activity…not to mention that it does tend to affect my ability to pay attention to the lecture), but that I do journal fairly frequently, and that those journal entries occasionally wind up being something that I wouldn’t mind sharing on here. I also just realized that I use parenthetical phrases quite a lot, because I chase rabbit trails (why rabbits, anyway? Why not wallabee trails, or platypus trails?) altogether too often. As this is unlikely to stop, however, you shall have to get used to it.
Anyhow, I was reading Acts 15, when I noticed something that I hadn’t ever really paid attention to before. Throughout this debate over whether one must be circumcised to be saved there is a deeper undercurrent of debate whether or not gentiles can be saved at all! Obviously this is no longer an issue of contention in the Church as a whole (else a lot of us would be in trouble [or not, depending on which side of the debate you took, I suppose]), but at the time this was a big deal. As I looked at the names involved in this debate, it wasn’t a random church in the middle of wherever, this was a big enough deal that Peter and Paul had to step in and clarify that gentiles didn’t have to become Jews in order to be saved. At one time, it was a matter of serious discussion among believers whether or not Gentiles could be saved at all!
This whole thing looks pretty silly from our perspective (hindsight being 20/20 and all that), which got me thinking about some other serious issues debated within the Church that now look pretty dumb now. For example, take the Arian controversy (basically that if God the Father begat the Son, the Son had a beginning and was, therefore, not fully God). Now we understand (well, maybe not “understand,” but we take it on faith because the Bible says so) that Jesus is fully man and fully God, a full member of the Trinitarian Godhead, but it was so contested in the Church during the 300s that the Council of Nicea was called to decide whether or not they thought Jesus was fully God. This makes me wonder- what sorts of things do we argue about now that will make future generations will look back at us and wonder what we were thinking? It reminds me of the movie Men in Black, when Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith have this conversation.
How many of the issues that we argue now will seem just as stupid viewed through the lens of history? Paul and Barnabas didn’t just argue, they stated the truth, then got busy WORKING toward telling the gentiles. Maybe we should quit trying to argue about abortion and simply love on hurting pregnant women. Maybe we should stop getting so worked up about how gay marriages are going to destroy the nuclear family, and start having Christian marriages that are different from secular ones, rather than having a similar (and slightly higher) divorce rate than those of the world. Maybe we should be too busy loving on the widows and orphans and lost and dying people all around us to be arguing over TULIP or premillenial dispensationalism (yes, I just used the last one because it’s fun to say).
Maybe we need to be putting a positive good out there, rather than just railing against the evil that surrounds us.
This is totally an indictment of myself as much as anyone else, but what am I doing to show the people around me Christ’s love? Am I known for my love of people, and passion to see them in relationship with God, or am I just known as a guy who can sing, or crack jokes, or whatever else I may do?
Time to change.
He passed me, oh he passed me;
And oh the joy that floods my soul-
Finals are evil, but now I know
he passed me, my grades will remain whole.
-Good luck this/next week, everybody!
And a new segment of the blog: I’ll post lovely ways to keep from being productive. They say that misery loves company, but so does procrastination!
I was an odd kid. I know that this may come as a huge shock to most of you, but it is a very true statement. While other kids dreamt of being a fireman, or policeman, or soldier, or whatever it is that normal kids dream about doing as adults, I (very seriously, mind you) had decided to be the President of the United States. Throughout my elementary and secondary education, when people asked me what I wanted to do when I “grew up” I usually replied that I wanted to be the President, the POTUS, the Chief Executive of the Free World, and was even introduced once on a TV program (TV Toastmasters, a public speaking show) as a future President.
This was a long introduction to say simply that something odd and unexpected happened today- I was nominated for office in Zimrah, the student organization of the music school here at SWBTS.
It makes me wonder who nominated me…