Carry the Light

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S (Scripture): Acts 26:20b [Paul said to King Agrippa:] “My message was that they should change their hearts and lives and turn to God, and that they should demonstrate this change in their behavior. 21 Because of this, some Jews seized me in the temple and tried to murder me. 22 God has helped me up to this very day. Therefore, I stand here and bear witness to the lowly and the great. I’m saying nothing more than what the Prophets and Moses declared would happen: 23 that the Christ would suffer and that, as the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to my people and to the Gentiles.”

O (Observation): Paul stands accused by the Jews of inciting unrest and they make Paul stand trial. The Roman authorities don’t care much for these problems, but when the skirmishes become unrest for a large part of the population, they listen in.

King Agrippa listens to Paul’s claims.

But maybe these words are more for God’s followers.

Paul lays it out: Jesus was always part of God’s plan. As told through Moses and the Prophets, Jesus – the Suffering One for All – was not a backup plan when people “messed up.” People were never perfect, and thus wandering in the dark, fighting for self-preservation and self-interest.

Jesus is the light to all people, a true revelation of God’s glory.

And now, Paul simply witnesses to the light for all who would hear. He bears God’s redeeming word for all the heat.

A (Application): Quite often we feel like we have to defend Jesus and defend our faith in a preemptive way. Like anything we do could rightly defend our God.

I’m not saying we don’t stand up for peace and justice, but we first struggle with the idea that we are first and foremost seeking the light for ourselves. Sounds selfish, but this is the starting point for all of us. To stumble in the dark until the light is revealed to us in the person of Jesus.

In receiving the light, we are then compelled to share our story to any who would listen.

And as we share the light, as Paul does, we also remain humble, because the light is never ours to own. We simply carry the light for God. We give thank to God that we can carry that light that never diminishes.

We humbly, with broken hearts and minds, carry this light into our homes, work places and schools.

May we be the light…humbly thanking our God for brining the light to us in the first place.

P (Prayer): Lord, shine your light on this poor sinner. Amen.

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Promises, Promises…

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S (Scripture): Matthew 17:1 Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and brought them to the top of a very high mountain. 2 He was transformed in front of them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light.

3 Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Jesus. 4 Peter reacted to all of this by saying to Jesus, “Lord, it’s good that we’re here. If you want, I’ll make three shrines: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

5 While he was still speaking, look, a bright cloud overshadowed them. A voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son whom I dearly love. I am very pleased with him. Listen to him!” 6 Hearing this, the disciples fell on their faces, filled with awe.

7 But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” 8 When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.

9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Don’t tell anybody about the vision until the Human One is raised from the dead.”

O (Observation): The Transfiguration is a powerful story revealing God’s manifestation amongst the people: as the Law, the Prophets, and now, through Jesus. This ongoing story of God’s inbreaking into this world is put on display for Peter, James, and John. They see God clearly though the Law and Prophets, and in Jesus’ words and actions.

A (Application): I recently had a conversation with a Muslim acquaintance, in which he asked: “Do you see the Old Testament as important?” What a great question!

“Yes!” I told him. In fact, without the Old Testament, we might not understand the person of Jesus nearly so well.

The covenants God has made with Israel are fulfilled in the person of Jesus. The first promise (or covenant) is made from God to Abraham – a promise of many descendants and great rulers.

Then, the Law is set forth, with help from Moses. Later, God promises that God will build a house out of King David. And God promises to write the Law on the hearts of all of God’s followers (Jeremiah 31). Eventually, as all hope seems lost – the covenants almost forgotten – Jesus springs forth, of the line of Abraham, David, Jeremiah…down to Mary and Joseph.

Had I been more on my game when talking to my Muslim friend, I might have lifted up this passage (of the Transfiguration) as a great indicator of the succession of covenants and how important the Old Testament is as a witness to the sustaining power of God’s Spirit through the ages…to stick with us despite our failings as God’s people…to experience grace and forgiveness, unending.

And all of who God is shapes us! If my God is that forgiving, now I will embody forgiveness towards others. Instead of faith being a transaction or a belief in God, my faith is to be lived out is as if Jesus is alive in me. So, believing in Jesus is then a way of life, a way of seeing, a way of interacting, a way of hearing.

God has moved through the ancestors of the Old Testament, in the person of Jesus, and continues to live in me and all of creation, through the movement of the Spirit.

P (Prayer): Lord, grant us wisdom to witness the ongoing work of the Spirit in our world, in our very lives. Amen.

On BEING

S (Scripture): Mark 9:2 Six days later Jesus took with him Peter, James, and John and led them alone up a high mountain privately. And he was transfigured before them, 3 and his clothes became radiantly white, more so than any launderer in the world could bleach them. 4 Then Elijah appeared before them along with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. 5 So Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us make three shelters – one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6 (For they were afraid, and he did not know what to say.) 7 Then a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came from the cloud, “This is my one dear Son. Listen to him!” 8 Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more except Jesus.

O (Observation): Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets.  Jesus is the one who embodies the Law given to Moses (not the 600+ laws made up by the Pharisees).  He is also the ultimate prophet.  As defined in the scriptures, a prophet is the one who speaks for God to God’s people (and to the world).

So, Jesus appears on the mountaintop with Moses and Elijah – representatives of the Law & the Prophets.

Three of the disciples are present and are unsure of how to react.  Peter is so bold as to suggest building three dwellings…but that is not to be.  And on top of it all, they are to tell no one about this, until Jesus has risen from the dead. 

A (Application):  Sometimes we can’t handle what we see.  Sometimes the Kingdom is so overwhelming to experience, we can’t comprehend how to capture those Kingdom moments.  Perhaps, though, those moments are not so much about us DOING, but about us better understanding our BEING as children of God.  

Our character is something that we don’t want to work on, but is something that reminds us of our state of BEING.   Are we spending time with God?  How are my relationships going with my friends?  Am I meeting new people on a regular basis?   These are examples of questions that have to do with character, which has a direct effect on our BEING as children of God. 

Only in knowing that God claims us and transforms us (affecting our BEING) can we be released to practice living out our faith (using our SKILLS).   Knowing that God’s Kingdom is around us and being birthed all of the time into our world today, we can be assured that when we step out in faith, God is present and guiding us…even catching us when we fall & fail.   

When and how has your BEING been affected by Kingdom-moments lately?  Where have you seen God in your ministry?

P (Prayer):  Lord, sometimes we see your handiwork and just sit in awe.   Help us to take in these moments to transform our thoughts towards you and all that you do for us.  Amen.