You Are the Light of the World

harbor lights

There’s a song our choir sings titled Be Ye Glad (Michael Blanchard) that has the line “So, be like lights on the rim of the water, giving hope in the storm of the night”. I’m not sure exactly what Mr. Blanchard meant but I imagine it’s close to what I think of in this photo.

The lighthouse shines brighter than all the other lights and is the true one to follow. But, the lights along the shore are also helpful and make the journey safer and easier. They show where and where not to go as we focus on the lighthouse.

The lighthouse, of course, represents Christ, Who outshines all others and is the Way, the Truth and the Life. But we’re in the picture, too. The lights along the shore represent us – the lights on the rim of the water that help others on their journey. This fact doesn’t diminish the brightness or glory of the true Lighthouse, for it is Him, our Savior, who gives us our light, and places us where we can best shine to help others.

You are the light of the world.” Jesus’ words given in Matthew 5:14

So, let us shine.

 

 

A Busted Mailbox, and Just Getting By Spiritually

Rural-Mailbox-Post

It was the middle of the night when someone swerved off the dirt road in front of our house and flattened our mailbox. It would have been better if the box and post were demolished, but they happened to be salvageable.

The post had broken below ground, so I stood it up and tamped the dirt back around it. A couple of leftover deck railing balusters nailed between the post and the landscape timbers around it made suitable braces. The contraption worked, but had a slight forward lean and twisted to the left, and looked like a busted post held up by two sticks.

“New post and mailbox” went on the to-do list that day. My wife, Sharon, and I discussed it at times, and we searched for what we wanted. Maybe it was time for a change – perhaps, a different style that would still fit with the dirt road location. After several tries to find something different, we gave up and decided on a mailbox identical to the one we had, and a post only slightly different from the old one.

“Put up post and mailbox” went on the to-do list that day. But, everyone knows you can’t rush out and just do it. You have to think and plan, consider the weather, decide to paint or stain the post, etc. etc. And, with a mailbox, you need to make sure you have the time to complete the installation without being interrupted (after all, the mail comes every day except Sunday, so you must have a place for it at delivery time.) So, the mailbox and post sat under the carport where I laid it when I brought it home from Lowes. After that, anytime I got in or out of the truck, I had to step around the post and mailbox.

I’m not sure how or why it all came together, but one Saturday morning I took down the old mailbox and began the installation. The post was standing and the mailbox labeled and attached when the mail carrier drove up. I asked her if the height suited her and met the regulations, and she said it was great. I tamped the post in and stained it, and the task was complete.

And, it only took me two years.

The problem was the old mailbox worked in its catawampus condition, so it never made it to the top of the to-do list. It was ugly, and the door might flop open if you didn’t close it just right, but it held mail just fine. As I said above, it would have been better if it had been a total loss. Then, I would have had to get a new one and install it quickly. But, we could get by with the old one and did, for two years.

Just getting by can become quite comfortable. The knowledge of something being out of kilter becomes blurred or filtered out of our vision. The thoughts of “I need to fix that” come farther apart and last shorter and shorter times, until the response becomes “Well, it’s not really that bad. I can get by with it.” And, we do just that – get by with it.

The physical things in our lives, such as catawampus mailboxes, should be addressed. But, it often happens the top of our to-do list should come on the spiritual side. “Just getting by” in that area could mean we’re outwardly following God’s Word, while inwardly our attitude conflicts with it, as Jesus explained in the Sermon on the Mount (“Ye have heard that it was said of them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment…” Matthew 5:21-22.)

Or, as the Apostle Paul wrote in 1st Corinthians 13, our faith, knowledge and charity might be what people would consider good, but we are just getting by if we aren’t acting with love.

Jesus, in Matthew 23, berated the Scribes and Pharisees for just getting by with tithing of their herbs and spices, while leaving out such matters as mercy. I picture them proudly going to the Temple with their pouch containing an ounce of this herb and five grams of that spice, while stepping around the blind beggar on the steps outside.

As I said, just getting by can become quite comfortable, and in these busy times, sometimes it seems necessary. In some areas, such as mailboxes and posts, it may not be significant. But, if we discover we are just getting by (going through the motions, checking off a list, etc.) concerning our walk with God, it’s time to stop “stepping around the post and mailbox on the carport” and address it.

It’s possible that may be easy to do, but usually it won’t be comfortable and it won’t be instantaneous. It may take two days, or two years, or a lifetime of continuous work, but, thankfully we don’t have to do it alone (because we can’t).

“Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” Isaiah 41:10

Polishing Up Our Graces, for God’s Glory

Needs Some Polishing!

This Reflector Needs Some Polishing!

 

My first real job was as projectionist at the Georgia Theater in downtown Statesboro, Georgia. It was an interesting and fun job, most of the time – but, since it was back in the time of one screen with the same movie showing for several days, it could be boring, too.

Several memories come to mind about the job: My first night working by myself, I learned that if you incorrectly flip the thingy that holds the film frames straight, the movie shows half on the screen and half on the wall, and you start getting yelled at by members of the audience.

When I worked on Friday or Saturday night, my (future) wife, Sharon, and I sometimes stayed after the last showing. We were able to eat the surplus popcorn and listen to music on the theater’s sound system. It wasn’t fancy by today’s standards but was the best sound in town in those days.

But, something I read this week reminded me of the projector’s carbon arc lamps used back then, and the reflector that focused the light on the film. In the arc lamp, two carbon rods are brought together and an electric current flows through them (see photo.) As you move the rods apart, an arc forms and creates a blinding white light. The light from the arc goes in all directions within the projector chamber, and because the frame of the film is very small, there isn’t enough light going to that one spot to clearly show the movie on the screen.

That problem is solved with a concave shaped mirror near the back of the chamber. It reflects and focuses the light on the film frame and the images as bright and clear as daylight appear on the screen.

Since the reflector was partially surrounding this miniature blast furnace (the arc consumed the copper bit by bit), it would get smoky and splattered with bits of metal. If you paid attention to how the movies looked you could see the screen darken over time and know when to polish the reflector. (The one in the photo definitely needs polishing)

That meant it was time to get out the Bon Ami. Bon Ami was, and still is, a powdered cleanser that consists of tallow soap and feldspar, a natural mineral abrasive. The cleanser was spread over the reflector with a wet cloth, then allowed to dry. When it dried, it formed a film on the mirror (much like car wax.) As you rubbed the film off, you were using the abrasive to remove the smoke and tiny bits of carbon, and also polishing the surface. It was amazing how improved the reflector was after the process. The images “bright and clear as daylight” were a reality again.

In his Bible Study on Philippians, Sinclair Ferguson wrote “Suffering is the friction which polishes our graces. Without it, we would be all the poorer as reflectors of the image of (Jesus).” As I read that in our Bible Study this week, you can see why it reminded me of getting out the Bon Ami and polishing the reflector.

Many books have been written about Christians’ suffering, and these few words can’t address the depth of questions that can be discussed. So, I’ll just try to give us something to think about.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke of us being the light of the world, and noted that you put a lamp on a lampstand for it to be seen. Then, He said  “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 5:16 ESV

We have no true light of our own that will glorify God. As Ferguson wrote, the light we want to shine before others is a reflection of the image of Jesus.

As you read the following passage, think of God using our suffering as His spiritual cleanser – maybe taking off a bit of pride here, or a bit of self-righteousness there, but particularly polishing off the smoky film that not only blocks out God’s marvelous light that is shining upon us, but also prevents us from being able to reflect that light (the image of Jesus) and focus it on others.

Through him (Jesus) we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,  and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. ” Romans 5:2-5 ESV

And the image becomes bright and clear as daylight again, and the Father, who is in heaven, is glorified

(If you’re interested in a little more info on the projectors of the past, here’s a link with good info and photos)
http://www.mywvhome.com/1900s/plaza3.html

(PS: I hope to be posting again on a more regular basis – life got in the way!)

Autumn Can’t Be Remembered – How About God’s Love?

chapter graphic

I’m reading “Travels With Charley” by John Steinbeck, which tells the story of a trip around the USA they took in the 1960’s (Charley was his poodle). Steinbeck’s first stop was in Maine, so early in the book he wrote a good paragraph to ponder. A woman was describing the majesty of the autumn colors of the tree leaves. She said “Autumn can’t be remembered, it’s a surprise every time.” She explained that you think you remember, but the first day it’s in full splendor you realize your memory has faded from the real thing.

I thought of a trip my wife, Sharon, and I took to Colorado a few years ago. The first sight of the Rocky Mountains was stunning – bringing the open-mouthed wonder kind of stare. I think I can still see the mountains clearly in my mind, but another trip and another sight of them would be stunning again – A surprise every time.

I mentioned the woman’s statement to Sharon, and her first thought was that first day you notice the greenness and newness of life in Spring after a long, seemingly dead Winter. You realize your memory has lapsed from the actual level of beauty.

These sights may be so glorious and non-ordinary that the routine of daily life tends to dull our remembrance. Routine begets routine and we end up with a veiled version of the true picture. The surprise doesn’t come when autumn or spring happen, or when we see the Rockies. They are well known parts of God’s Creation. The surprise comes when we encounter the real thing again, the veil is lifted and the actual beauty comes back into focus.

God’s love is well known to believers. It should be no surprise when His mercy and grace reveal it to us. But, we can allow our thoughts of God’s love to become routine – to become a veiled version of the true picture. Then, we talk with someone whose heart has recently been changed by God. The wonder and amazement  fill us with joy, lift the veil, and we see the actual beauty once more. We are surprised by the Lord’s gloriousness because we have not remembered it as it is. (The circumstances that bring that same response are too numerous to list!)

I stated above that we shouldn’t be surprised when God’s mercy and grace reveal His love. That’s from considering the many times it has been revealed.

But, there is a basic level of surprise that should always be there for believers. That surprise is that the Holy God of all Creation loves and saves sinners from themselves.

And, on this Christmas Eve, we should remember God’s love in its full glory, and be surprised and thankful and awestruck that God came to Earth for one purpose.

And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.”   Matthew 1:21 KJV