Everything With Nothing (part 1)

“Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3)

Let there be light.

I like that. Good choice in words if I do say so myself. I sit back in my chair and fold my arms in repose. I can say and do this (and not have it be a supreme act of folly or arrogance) for one reason alone: because I am one of God’s sons. What does this mean?

The writer of Hebrews lays it out. “But we see Jesus…” (2:9) It starts with Him. Jesus came first to show us how it was done. It says He “was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death”. Before we go any further, I must say that there is suffering in this world. In spite of the original words of God the Father, not all is light. The dimness and darkness in the world take their toll. Often, it’s not until we’ve become mired in our fair share that we even begin to yearn for the light, for something other than pain and misery and suffering. Paul (who certainly had his fair share) qualifies suffering by saying that it’s “not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18). Peter says it’s “much more precious than of gold which perisheth” (1 Peter 1:7). Any suffering worth its salt plays in to the sufferings of Jesus, i.e. suffering for the same reasons as did He. If that makes sense. We can’t choose our crucible because we didn’t make ourselves and although we might have gotten into a scrape or a circumstance or a situation through less-than-noble decision making, seen another way, you’re exactly where God wants you. The grass may be greener in Heaven, but your faith is too green for that yet, if I may. Mine too.

It continues: “crowned with glory and honor’ that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man (and woman). For it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things…” (Hebrews 2:9b-10a, emphasis mine)

One of the reasons that Jesus came to die is because His honor was at stake. He created us in His image and it’s a bad reflection on Him if He’s not willing to take it (His image) to the grave to see if it stands the test of His Father’s back. That’s right, God the Father turned His back on His Son. When Jesus cried out as to why His Father had forsaken Him, I don’t remember hearing a response.

“…in bringing many sons (and daughters) to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” (Hebrews 2:10b) What’s going on here? The music stops. All of Creation grinds to a halt. It says “for whom are all things” and “by whom are all things”. This Creator. The One who started this party has just exited the building. The light goes out.

“And the sun was darknened…” (Luke 23:45)

As an aside, the Sanskrit word for ‘dragon’ is darc. The English language is a node off the branch of Germanic down to Proto-European. Simplistically explained, our language is about as far away from Sanskrit as you can get, linguistically speaking. And our words ‘dark’ and ‘dragon’ come from different Indo-European roots. The correlation here, is that darkness is darkness. A spectrum of black.

“And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” (John 1:5) The devil still has no idea what God is doing. While space may be black as night, this creation is based on light. On God. Know this. Revel in it. God did all of this for us.

“Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours; Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas (Peter), or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; And ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s.” (1 Corinthians 3:21-23)

Challenging One to a Dual

What are you looking at?

“The light of the body is the eye: If therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.” (Matthew 6:22)

The whole of life boils down to a sort-of binary, if that makes sense. The simplicity of faith in Christ is maintained through all the hustle and bustle and busyness of life by “looking unto Jesus” (Hebrews 12:1). Binary, in the sense that there are all sorts of other places in which to invest our attentions. And yet, all the time, God is looking at us, straining to make eye contact. If thine eye be single

Surely you’ve heard of Strabismus? It’s painful just thinking about. Where both eyes are looking in opposite directions. I would say this plays into what Jesus was saying by keeping one eye on Him and the other, elsewhere. “If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee…” (Matthew 5:29) But surely, it’s not your eye’s fault, is it? Is it.

The Urim and Thummim were essentially ancient dice that the Hebrew high priests used to help determine aspects of the will of God (this was prior to receiving the inner witness of the Holy Spirit). While “Urim” means “lights”, “Thummim” refers to, not “dark”, but “perfections”.

“This then is the message which we have heard of Him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth.” (1 John 5-6)

And then David says this:

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me…” (Psalm 23:4)

Did you ever wonder where God is? Out of all the points in space from which to tangentially look out into infinity, did you ever stop and think how God, from wherever He may be sitting right now, has connected with you? Food for thought. Thing is, He does it from within. Through Jesus and then the Holy Spirit. Or, not necessarily in that order? I don’t know. I do know that if you have the slightest inkling of desire to connect with your Heavenly Father, He’s already there. See, with reference to John and to David, walking in “darkness” all depends on the…not quantity, but quality of the light within us. If you have any light, any light at all diffusing through your being, it’s from God. The rods and cones in our retinas are sensitive down to one photon. One little point in the universe. That’s pretty awesome. That’s the connection. God’s looking at you with eyes of love. Don’t turn away.

Light. Dark. God wants to shine through you to reach the world. Know that wherever you find yourself, God is there with you. Ready to fill you with His light and love. And ready to send you out wherever you want to go! Don’t kid yourself. It’s challenging and rewarding in equal measure (more so the latter, if I may). It takes time but it’s so worth it.

Forget to turn off the lights

Tricks of the Light

On

“Then I saw that wisdom excelleth folly, as far as light excelleth darkness.” (Ecclesiastes 2:13)

Speaking of the Styx River, the ferryman who took the souls across was named Charon. Contrast that with the word chiaroscuro. That word literally means “light, dark”. Chiaroscuro is an art term that refers to the distribution and balance of the light and dark tones in a piece. The ‘chiaro’ meaning ‘bright’ and ‘warm’ and the ‘scuro’ giving rise to words such as ‘obscure’ and (further back) even ‘cloud’. As with most things, there’s more than one way to look at this.

“And no marvel; for satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.” (2 Corinthians 11:14)

Because that’s who he used to be before he fell. Jesus says (Luke 10:18): “I beheld satan as lightning fall from Heaven.” The name ‘Charon’ has nothing to do with the first half of ‘chiaroscuro’. And whereas the Styx river and the Greek underworld connote nothing but suffering and hopelessness, the opposite holds true for the root of ‘chiaro’. It’s from the same root as ‘clarity’ in Latin. This all might sound obscure and merely anecdotal, but consider. If Jesus Himself says that satan can “transform” into an “angel of light”, we’d do well to identify the source of the light that we see. That may well be a hard pill to swallow but know that God fully understands our desire to substantiate and substantiate, our faith. Nothing wrong with that at all. In fact, it would do us good to run a sort-of spiritual and mental spring-cleaning—an audit as it were—to ensure that we’re on the right track. “But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light.” (Ephesians 5:14) In other words, the true light, from God, will reveal anything less that we’re operating in and on. Before satan fell, Isaiah chapter 14 (12-14) delineates the details leading up to his fall: “How art thou fallen from Heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou has said in thine heart, I will ascend into Heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.” Lucifer, as it said in Isaiah, sought to rise above the clouds and “be like the most High”. Apparently (and I don’t mean to be flippant), that was a no-no. His name meant “son of the morning”, not “morning”. Only God holds that title and it’s never been up for grabs. Interesting thing though, and I digress, Jesus says that “every one that is perfect shall be as his (and her) master”. I can’t pretend to fully understand the implications, but it would seem that Jesus has given us the opportunity to become like Him in a way that even angels don’t have access to with the way they were created.

So we know that light may not necessarily be a good thing, spiritually speaking that is. Maybe we should term it differently. I mean, ‘light’ has a pretty positive connotation. And many people have a hard time believing that something that seems so good would turn out to be the very thing impersonating Jesus, the “true light” as John called Him. The Holy Spirit is here to help.

“That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” (John 1:9, emphasis mine)

Off

Contrast the above with this: “If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:23a)

Darkness, on the other hand, isn’t all bad either. The ‘scuro’ part of ‘chiaroscuro’, comes from the same Indo-European root as ‘cloud’. There are some clouds that are downright beautiful to behold. Some clouds refract the sunlight within and provide a rainbow without rain. One morning, I saw a bright unbroken rainbow with two yellow streamers breaking off midway through the arch. It hadn’t rained at all in the night yet the sky was covered with a blanket of lumpy clouds.

“Clouds and darkness are round about Him: righteousness and judgment are the habitation of His throne.” (Psalm 97:2)

Now, “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5), but getting there? It very well may take a turn for the dark and stretch out for miles and miles and years of obscure darkness before you realize that your were approaching God. So was that darkness a bad thing? It’s all in how you look at it and it’s always darkest before the dawn. God appeared to Abram in Genesis 15 (verse 12) after He had made the Covenant with him: “And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him.” That’s pretty scary. The thing about it though is that God had some pretty bad news for Abram. After just having told him of his abundant offspring, God had to tell the other side. The thing Abram wanted most was an heir. Isaac was the son of that promise, that Covenant. But the great, great, great grandchildren of Abram (now, Abraham) would be enslaved due to the opression of Egypt. There’s another side to it, a chiaroscuro. A balance of light and dark.

Here’s the thing: God is Love. But God is also just. And while Jesus soaked up all the justice of God when He suffered His atoning death for man’s sin, God’s love was able to shine in a fuller way than ever before. But it doesn’t mean that He still isn’t the same judge He’s always been. A “way of escape” has been provided for us in the person of Jesus. The only thing I can recommend is knowing and loving Jesus personally. Everything balances out then because He knows and loves you. And you know and love Him.

Stygian Surroundings

“Then said I, Woe is me! For I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” (Isaiah 6:5)

The word stygian originates from the mythic, underworld river Styx. It’s a synonym for dark. Pitch black. Think about this though: stars show up better when there’s less unnatural light (called light pollution) to obstruct their natural light. Diamonds, too, stand out in all their brilliance against a black velvet surface. Sometimes, God lets the atmosphere around us get so black, stygian even, before He intervenes. In other words, He wants us to stand out—for all the right reasons. Humor me here. I’m not necessarily a shy person, but I certainly don’t like to be stared at and observed. There’s a poise between stage fright and unnatural charisma that I seek to maintain. But that’s me. And I wasn’t always that way. I seem to have been born with a youthful shallowness that sought attention in spite of having nothing inside that warranted any more than the average person. Does this make sense? The balance between hamming it up for an imaginary audience and maintaining my inner equilibrium in a crowd is something that took years to develop, understand and implement. When you stand on a stage and the spotlight hits you, all is dark around you. And thank God the light is so bright you can’t see the audience.

“Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.” (Romans 7:14)

God’s nature is the opposite of sin. And while we may not practice any of the outward, observable sins such as murder, adultery, or gluttony in all its forms, there are still ways that need refocus or overhaul when we meet God. “Sin”, as Oswald Chambers put it, is “red-handed mutiny against God”. God’s love is the other side of the coin and when we admit our sin, and whatever we can put our finger on, God will begin to cleanse us from “all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). But it’s a process.

“But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.” (Genesis 15:16, emphasis mine)

In the above verse, God foretells Abram of the scale of sin, so to speak, of the Amorites. I can’t pretend to know the extent of what He’s speaking to, but honestly, it sounds like something akin to a battle tactic being revealed to Abram. It’s like God is preparing His master-stroke in allowing the “iniquity of the Amorites” to get so bad as to necessitate a new paradigm of holiness. One that would stand in such stark and sharp contrast to the darkness surrounding it. Isaiah (59:19) says as much: “So shall they fear the name of the Lord from the west, and His glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him.”

Is this the answer you need? If you’re asking, why do things keep getting darker and worse? The answer very well may be that God wants to reveal His light in you to where there’s absolutely no mistaking that God is in you. The hope, the love, the forgiveness. You will be that beacon for them so hang in there!

“Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons (and daughters) of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.”

And when you get there, don’t forget this: “I am as a wonder unto many; but Thou art my strong refuge.” (Psalm 71:7)

Getting Warmer

Just a little closer…

One appeal of any public function or get-together, where you don’t know anyone attending, is the warm inviting nature of the strangers you have yet to meet. At least, that’s what one hopes. You take a deep breath, pull open the door and step inside. Well, someone is usually there to open the door for you at church.

In a church atmosphere, where sometimes the last reason for attending is because you want to, the parishioners are the deciding factor as to whether or not a newcomer is going to return. When my parents divorced, few people we encountered at the numerous churches we visited as a (broken) family really understood what it was like to have the family unit dissolve. And fewer still, it seems, were able to do more than simply understand—to give that which was required to rebuild one’s soul.

“He restoreth my soul” (Psalm 23:3)

Okay, so the above verse says that God is the one who restores one’s soul. Whew! Because I sure don’t know how to do that. I know (barely) what it took to get myself back to a hundred percent (or whatever percent I’m operating at now). One ingredient is time. I hold up my hand, counting off on my fingers. I suppose another ingredient would be hope. Hope can be a pretty amorphous thing. Hope is good, but hope must necessarily be rooted in something, really someone. Namely, Jesus. “Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul” (Hebrews 6:19). Hope is essential, but what about the substance needed to nurse a hurting soul back to health? I know what will hinder the convalescence: a cold shoulder. A person who attends a church looking for something as-yet undetermined is not likely to return unless they sense warmth in the atmosphere. And what if your church was the last resort for them? It is essential that we as Christians are attentive to the unspoken, unformed needs of the strangers in our congregation. Social mores might prevent us from delving into a person’s business right off the bat. But there’s nothing keeping us from intimating to others the strong warmth of the Holy Spirit (“the comforter” John 14:26) that let’s them know they’re loved, accepted, appreciated, validated, etc. The list goes on. Everything God gives us through our struggles is intended to spill over to others to help them along in their journey. And the warmer we get to God, the warmer we’ll be toward others.

“If you want to get warm you must stand near the fire” C. S. Lewis Mere Christianity

 

“For our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:29)

Let the gravity of God pull you closer.

Available Light

“For with Thee is the fountain of life: in Thy Light shall we see light.” (Psalms 36:9, emphasis mine) Light reveals darkness.

So it’s only fitting that we should seek out the darkness and shed a little light on the subject.

With God’s help of course: “He discovereth deep things out of darkness, and bringeth out to light the shadow of death.” (Job 12:22)

To my mind, there are different types of darkness: There’s the darkness of not knowing (see Deuteronomy 29:29). For a time, this may be necessary, but I believe that God will tell you if you want to know (see Jeremiah 33:3). That is, if you’re willing to wait on Him (see Daniel 10:12).

Then there’s the darkness of suffering. Suffering is a special place (and I don’t mean to make light of it) that few people ever allow themselves to experience. Rest assured though, God will begin to open your aperture and let His light in (the human eye is so sensitive as to detect a single photon of light–thank you Johannes Kepler).

Suffering’s a complex and holy topic. Not one to be dismissed with platitudes and homilies. (see Isaiah 45:3, hang in there!)

And then there’s the darkness of evil in which this world is so steeped. This one’s pretty easy. Did you know, we’re the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:14)? And “children of the day” (1 Thessalonians 5:5)? When we, with the help of the Holy Spirit deal with our unrenewed minds, our “darkened understanding” (Ephesians 4:18; see also Romans 12:1-2), we are going to illuminate the hell out of this world.

Be grateful for the chiaroscuro–the balance of light and dark–in your life. Sure, “clouds and darkness” may be “round about Him” (Psalms 97:2), but “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5)