Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Darkness...is it Always Bad?

"Arise, shine for your light has come and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you" Isaiah 60:1-2.

Darkness is often equated with evil, but is that really the case? I don't think God always views it that way. Why? God is the one responsible creating darkness (Genesis 1:14). He made night and day and called His handiwork good. In subsequent verses, darkness gets top billing - "and there was evening and there was morning."

Night and darkness bring a necessary respite from the sun's heat, providing an environment for rest and sleep. Experience a total blackout and watch life's pace slow dramatically. If living in total darkness is really so terrible shouldn't we see scores of blind people freaking out?

A look at the tabernacle reveals God's willingness to dwell in darkness. The Holy of Holies contained no artificial light sources. The only light was God Himself. According to 1 Kings 8:12 God chooses to dwell in thick darkness.

Symbolizing depravity, sermons/teachings on Isaiah 60:1-2 often paint darkness as something terrible, but is it? Used twice in these two verses, the meanings of the word darkness differ.

"...darkness covers the earth..." The word here is choshak which means dark. This word described the plague that fell on and immobilized Egypt and was a direct show of superior power over their sun god.

"...thick darkness is over the peoples..." This word is araphel and means gloom in the context of a lowering of the sky or a dark cloud. In Exodus 20:21 the physical cloud that Moses entered to meet with God was araphel.

Is it possible that the light in verse one is the glory of God contained in His thick dark cloud (araphel) that hangs over the earth? Could the choshak indicate a removal of any and all distractions meant to keep people from seeing God's light and glory? If so, darkness is a good thing.

I'm not minimizing or discounting the difficult times that will come. The bible is clear, there will be wars, famines, plagues and earthquakes. You don't need to prophet to know this, just read the book.

I think Isaiah is portraying a marvelous interaction between God and man which will bring His light and clarity during trying times. Rather than avoiding that darkness, it will be the right place to go.

How about you? How do you feel about darkness and the night? If afraid, what do you think is the root of your fear? How would things differ if God surrounded you with choshak and eliminated anything that would hinder you from seeing and focusing on Him? Is darkness really always bad or evil?

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Refresh Their Memory

"All the ends of the earth will remember and turn back to Hashem; all the families of the nations will bow before you. For the kingship belongs to Hashem and he rules the nations. Psalm 22:28-29 Tanach (Jewish Old Testament).

I heard a speaker highlight this verse recently, emphasizing that the earth and the nations would remember God, not discover Him for the first time. Contrary to our sometimes limited perspective, God actively engages with people all around the world and instills the truth of His existence into their belief systems and traditions. Don Richardson's classic book Peace Child describes one such instance.

Missionaries to Irian Jaya, the Richardson's lived among warring tribes who considered deceit, trickery and betrayal to be admirable qualities. In their culture Judas was the hero and Jesus was the patsy.

Constant fighting prompted the Richardson's to decide to leave. When the locals discovered their plans, extraordinary measures were taken to dissuade the couple. In a solemn act of good faith, the tribe's chief offered his son, the Peace Child, to his adversary. Refusal of this gift was unthinkable. The rival chief and his tribe were compelled to accept the offer and to insure the child's safety for the rest of his life at all costs. Now one of them, the bond of peace was established between former enemies.

Don Richardson found the key - Jesus was God's Peace Child. In light of this new understanding the people readily received Christ as Savior. It would have been insulting to not accept such a generous offer. This event not only facilitated the preaching of the Gospel but also brought lasting peace among the warring factions.

Buddha was born almost 500 years before Christ and most of those who follow his teaching have no idea that he prophesied of a Holy One who was still to come.

"The then old Braham priest asked, ' What will be the characteristics of the Holy One be like?'

The Buddha answered, 'The Holy One who will keep the world in the future will be like this: in the palm of his hands and in the flat of his feet will be the design of a disk, in his side will be a stab wound; and his forehead will have many marks like scars.

The Holy One will be the golden boat who will carry you over the cycles of rebirths all the way to the highest heaven (Nirvana). Do not look for salvation in the old way; there is no salvation in it for sure. Quit the old way, and there will be a new spirit like the light of a lightning bug which will come down from the sky above to live in all your hearts and you will be victorious over all you enemies. Nobody will be able to destroy you. If you die, you will not come back to be born in this world again. You will go to the highest heaven (Nirvana).'"*

Perhaps one way to share Christ with others is to engage them and learn what they believe. We will probably find that God has already planted the truth into their beliefs and they just need to be reminded of them. Could a friendly, investigative dialog produce better results than heated debates? The truth is there just waiting to be remembered. Help them find it.


Permission was granted to copy these Buddhist Scriptures from Wat Phra Sing in Chiang Mai Province. The person who gave permission was Phra Sriwisutthiwong in Bangkok. It is guaranteed that this copy is accurate according to the original, that there is no error in transmission, which is the book of the district headman, the Religious Encyclopedia Volume 23, book 29. This inquiry was made on October 13, 1954 A.D. (Buddhist year 2497).

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Free At Last?

"You are not under law but under grace" Rom. 6:14.

Pondering this Scripture I wondered. What exactly does this mean and is it a good thing?

Relax, I'm not advocating legalism and a return to the rules and regs of the Law with all the ancillary precautions enacted to avoid any inadvertent infractions. For sake of discussion, let's assume that the Law is completely null and void. What would now be considered permissible?

Many Christians would sigh with relief. The issue of tithes and offerings is settled; these wouldn't be required, not that most do this. No more money guilt trips.

Skim through Leviticus 9 and you'll discover what would be the new norm.

- Sex with anyone, including close family members and animals is ok, even if not consensual.
- Everyone from parents on down can be treated with the utmost disrespect.
- All charitable giving is eliminated and it is everyman for himself.
- One is free to: steal, lie, deceive, bear false witness, defraud and cheat anyone including employees. Your business can short change customers at will, so buyer beware.
- Perverting and enabling the miscarriage of justice is now the new rule of law.
- Slander and libel permit anyone to be defamed and their character and reputation ruined without any fear of reprisal.
- One can hold grudges and take revenge into their own hands.
- Sorcery, divination and any sort of witchcraft have no natural repercussions. Good luck avoiding the spiritual ones.
- Got financial problems - sell your kids into prostitution. No one will care.

This list is incomplete. Without the parameters of the Law to set healthy boundaries one can indulge in all types of behavior that for now are deemed illegal, immoral and unethical, confident that they can expect the same treatment in return. Throw out the Law and the curses go with it. Sweet!

Before you cheer too loud think again. If the Law is now passé, the blessings associated with it are also gone.

- You'll no longer be blessed going in and going out.
- Expect every area of your life to be barren and unfruitful.
- Get used to lack, you'll always have more than enough.
- All defenses against your enemies are now eliminated.
- Accept the reality that weather conditions will work against and not for you.
- You'll no longer be blessed and prosperous, so don't expect good things to come your way.
- Forget about being the lender, you're conscripted to the borrower's status.

This too is a partial list. What's important to remember is this, no Law, no blessings.

I doubt that is what Paul had in mind when he wrote his letter to the Galatians. He provided a reasonable alternative in 5:8.

"But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law."

Walking in concert with the Spirit frees you from the compulsion of the Law, but doesn't violate or contradict it. The difference is a change of heart. Rather than trying to obey the Law in order to obtain God's favor or good graces, the believer's spirit moves in sync with the Spirit of God Who leads them away from undesirable behaviors and their inevitable consequences.

Being led by the Spirit is superior to attempting to keep the Law in one's own strength and ability. Realize that the prohibitions contained in the Law provided society with a strong foundation to live safe and productive lives. Remove the barriers in the name of "freedom" and all hell breaks loose.

How about you? What type of an environment would you like to live in? If anything goes and there are no absolutes, how will you deal with the fluid dynamics of a society whose standards are arbitrarily set by each individual? How would you like to have to constantly adjust to the environment around you? Where would you find peace and serenity? Would being Spirit led and not Law driven be an acceptable alternative to maintain the blessings of God in your life?

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Are We Really Ready?

"Looking for that blessed hope and, the glorious appearing of the Great God and Savior, Christ Jesus" Titus 2:13 (NIV).

Many Christian's long for Christ's return as a means of escape; they find the world crazy. Willing to forsake long term goals and plans, they prefer to hunker down and hold on. Years pass, He doesn't return and opportunities are missed. I fully expect Christ to return someday. I do wonder, however, if we really want Him to come back right now.

Sound heretical? Here's my point. When His disciples asked Him how to pray, Jesus taught them this:

"Thy kingdom come they will be done in earth as it is in Heaven" Matthew 6:10 (NIV).

From my viewpoint, earth in its present condition, doesn't look very much like Heaven. If our victorious King were to appear right now, would we want to proudly hand back the world to Him in its present condition?

According to Scripture, creation or the cosmos is eager for the sons of God to be revealed (Rom. 8:19) and its been waiting a long time.  Dependent upon the sons of God to take up their positions and reverse the damage done at the fall, creation waits by helplessly for us to get our act together. It's our responsibility but I don't hear many Christians voice concern about this or contemplate strategies that could bring this to pass. Much conversation is centered around how bad things are and the hope of departure before everything implodes.

That course of action doesn't seem to be producing many results. Luke 19 contains the Parable of the Ten Minas. A master equipped his servants and instructed them to occupy (in the Greek this means to busy ones self, or  to trade) until he returned. Lacking a detailed description of the survival mentality they should adopt, the workers were expected to be actively engaged and productive in the master's absence. Since the sons of God are those designated to re-right the wrongs creation has suffered, shouldn't we find out how to do this and get on with it?

We have an exciting and enormous job. God has entrusted the restoration of His ever increasing creation to His sons. He's confident that we're up to the task, but are we? Do we even know about this glorious opportunity He's afforded us?

To get on board with God's timetable and agenda, we've got some growing up to do. Scripture delineates the different stages of maturity a believer should progress through. To administrate the type of authority needed to fulfill God's plans requires wisdom and maturity not acquired by natural means. The writer of Hebrews addressed this matter.

"Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teaching about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instructions about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment" Hebrews 6:12 (NIV).

How many Christians have successfully mastered these basic principles? How many churches have a Christianity 101 class for new believers? If we haven't progressed beyond what are considered foundational issues, how can we hope to step up and into the training needed to be a mature son of God?

How about you? How would you describe a mature son of God? Since the restoration of creation is our responsibility, what steps are you taking to reverse its present fallen state? Has that thought even crossed your mind? What are you doing to mature into a son of God? What do you think would be Jesus' reaction to our handling of creation if He came back right now?