Monthly Archives: February 2015

Winter Moon – Reflected Glory

When the winter moon rises over a snowy countryside it casts a magical spell unequalled by any creation of Hollywood. Its soft light highlights every tree. It illumines the tracks of coyotes and turkeys and even the lowly vole.

And yet the moon creates no light of its own. It reflects the brilliance of the sun.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA In a similar way we are to reflect through our lives the grandeur of God. God created us in His image to reflect His glory.

By writing in Psalm 84 that “The Lord God is a sun,” the psalmist means God is the ultimate source of all light and life. He is the infinite, eternal, unchangeable fount of all goodness, grace, mercy, compassion, holiness, justice, wisdom, and truth. All creative genius flows from Him, as does the impetus for moral and ethical well-being. (See also James 1:17)

As His image bearers we should reflect into the world around us the moral attributes of God. “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for [to reflect] the glory of God”(1 Cor. 10:31). Tragically, we have “all sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom.3:23) by yielding to our fallen nature. What can we do?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt is only through fleeing to Jesus Christ to confess our sins that the dark cloud of our sinful selfishness that obscures God’s glory can be overcome. Once we have been cleansed through the work of the Holy Spirit, then we can become reflectors of God’s glory. “We who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit”(2 Cor. 3:18).

How does this work in practice? “You are the light of the world…let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise [glorify] your Father in heaven”(Matt. 5:14,16). As we give generously to others, we reflect God’s goodness. As we forgive others, we display the undeserved grace God bestows on us. As we have compassion on the poor, on refugees, motherless children, and widows we manifest the Lord’s tender heart. When we refuse to exaggerate, deceive, or lie we shed abroad the light of Truth. When we make wise decisions about our purchases and refusing to embrace debt, we shine light into theOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA confusing world of modern finance. Transformed people shine God’s glory into the darkness of our decadent world.

Lord, like the moon which reflects the sun’s light, help us to reflect your glory through how we live. May we be honest, generous, compassionate, forgiving, creative, and wise–all through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

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Seeing Green Instead of Winter White

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen cold deepens and snow spreads a thick white blanket over the land, I sometimes see green. No, not the hopeful green of spring but the fetid green of jealousy. The howling of frigid winds make it harder than usual to fight off feelings of envy for those who have flown south to warmer climes or boarded some cruise headed for sunny seas.

What’s the matter with a little envy, you say? For one thing, it sullies the beautiful white blanket that the Snow Maker on High has thrown over the countryside. The sparkle of sunshine on a million snowflakes grates rather than makes glad. In my future I see shoveling and slush and mud and mess. But why should we allow today’s enjoyment of life to be soured by thoughts of what others have escaped?

This green monster troubles us in many ways besides urging us to envy those who have fled the frost. It provokes us into longing for another’s fine house, classy car, prestige, vibrant health, flush bank account, athletic prowess, musical ability, apparently perfect husband, or even spiritual depth.

Envy and its Siamese twin, jealousy kill gratitude. We fail to be grateful for a warm house, three meals a day, Internet connections, one’s fa??????????mily and friends, the birds that visit the bird feeder, the squirrels that scamper in the trees, the snowplough that clears the road, the soup simmering on the stove, a cup of coffee and a good book.

Envy and jealousy destroy our ability to savor life today. “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones”(Prov.14:30). Instead of enjoying what life brings we live in a perpetual state of discontent. “Godliness with contentment is great gain”(1 Tim. 6:6). When contentment settles into our bones, we are enabled to relish all that God gives us richly to enjoy.

Envy and jealousy foster friction, controversy, and quarrels. James reminds us that fights and quarrels arise from our covetous desires for what another has. “You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures”(James 4:2,3). Our prayers may even be tainted by wrong motives.

Envy and jealousy distort reality. If we were omniscient we would realize sunshine does not create utopia. Many of the warmest cities have high crime rates. Many equatorial countries rate far down on scales that measure democracy, drug use, violence, and poverty. And we must remember that vacationing people take their problems with them. Grouchy people grumble even on the beach where they lounge. Critical people find lots to fault in Miami or Jamaica.

Our home on a winter's dayMore to the point, envy and jealousy are sin. The tenth commandment prohibits covetousness. There is great danger here! Covetousness, jealousy and envy start wars, destroy families, separate friends. (See 1 Cor 3:3) Indeed, envy led the religious leaders of Jesus’ day to deliver him up for crucifixion. (Matt. 27:18) If we discover jealousy or envy corroding our attitudes, the first thing we need to do is confess our sin to God and ask Him to forgive us for Jesus’ sake—and show how to purge it from our life.

On an ongoing basis what should we do? Look around for what we may be missing in our own neighborhood. Is there someone or some ministry that we could help? Watching the world news on TV may give us a more reasonable perspective on how fortunate we are and that should spur feelings of gratitude. Enjoy each day as a day of grace from the hand of God Himself. Spend time in prayer and Bible reading. Ask the Holy Spirit to develop within us a feeling of contentment. And take someone out for coffee or a meal.

Disguising Our Problems

Twice in the last week or so, snowstorms have covered everything with a glistening white blanket. Before the snow came, the landscape was dingy. Every Snowstormdiscarded beer can along the roadway was visible; today all is hidden.

Snow hides ugliness whether it be a rusting tractor, garbage along a country road, an abandoned factory, or the toxic tailings from an old mine. Then the temperature rises. The snow melts. Ugliness again becomes visible.

As humans we are adept at disguising reality. We decorate the surface of our persons with facelifts, hair transplants, and designer clothing. Companies fund research facilities to find new ways to improve our appearance. We borrow to buy upscale cars and upscale homes so we can pretend to be one of the upper crust.

Our societies value camouflaging reality. We disguise our frightening debt beneath a mumbo-jumbo of economic terminology. We blame others for our own choices— our parents or our government. We order research studies and Royal Commissions. We demonize other cultures while ignoring our own flaws. Hide. Disguise. Pretend. Camouflage. Cloak. Masquerade.

But the root problems remain: selfishness, pride, arrogance, addiction, irresponsibility, dishonesty—the pervasive sinfulness of the human heart.

Jeremiah knew that you can’t paper over a national problem with platitudes, byOur home on a winter's day crying, ” peace, peace, when there is no peace.” (See Jer. 6:14) Ezekiel realized that humans cannot be mended until God does radical surgery. “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ez. 36:26).

As Jesus explained to Nicodemus, “You must be born again”(John 3:7). Only the redeeming influence of the Holy Spirit who applies the blood of Christ to the inner fountains of our motivation can make us new. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come”(2 Cor.5:17)! New men and women gradually become kind, thoughtful, loving, forgiving, patient and creative citizens. Transformed individuals contribute to renewed and honest societies where truth matters.

I’m not saying that Christian conversion solves all problems. But expecting honest politicians and athletes and business people to just morph from the raw material of humanity is wishful thinking. The main problems of societies are moral and motivational. Convincing people about the transfo??????????rming power of the gospel is the best way to contribute to good communities.

Revivals have demonstrated this fact down through history. Witness the effect of the Reformation on Europe and the Evangelical Revivals on England and America. Toward that end let us live as true followers of Christ and pray for revival.