Saturday, January 27, 2018

What's In a Name?

A couple of days ago, I was at the Nashville airport in need of some hydration.  Even though there were several stores selling water, I felt compelled to keep walking.  I stopped at a restaurant that had a little area with beverages at the checkout.  The lady working had a foreign accent that I recognized, but couldn't pinpoint the specific country.  She was so sweet to help me find an unrefrigerated water.  As I went to pay, I asked what her name "Salwa" meant.  She said "Comfort."  From our very brief encounter, I felt genuine enough to tell her that she seemed like the kind of person who is comforting.  That's when she said "With Jesus God, yes.  He is the source of comfort."  My eyes lit up, and I said, "I'm so glad you know Jesus.  I know Him too. "  As I asked questions, she went on to talk about church and how she often remembers and celebrates what He has done on the Cross for her and all who trust in Him.  I inquired where she is from since her accent could only reveal so much.  Her answer was a nation where we have people serving and sharing!  My heart rejoiced to meet this beautiful lady from a land where many do not have this true and lasting hope and joy through the Lord.  While she may have met Him here (I'm not sure), I thought of our brothers and sisters there who risk much to share the Good News.  On behalf of our brothers and sisters there and in similar nations, let us remember them and offer prayers of thanksgiving, protection, and strength for them.  

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Love and Light

Several circumstances over the past few months have led me to the book of Ephesians: a friend choosing that book to study together, my home church going through it, as well as the Bible Study I attend.  So, I was thinking how the Lord must really want to get the Church's attention with His message to the Ephesians, which led me to read a letter to the church in Ephesus in the book of Revelation.

I suppose it's because I was reading a lot about John the Baptist during Advent and His role to prepare the way of the Lord, but what stood out to me was how his message was pretty much the same as to the church in Ephesus and I'd say us.  He said we must change.  From what I've read, he focused on forgiveness for our offenses against God and others which, if truly embraced, should produce a change in us to where our lives are characterized by good works.  

The church in Ephesus, I noticed, also had the call to change, but theirs was because they'd abandoned the love they'd started out with.  It really humbles me because this church sounds like the model Church in many ways.  They do bear the fruit of good works that John the Baptist spoke of, and they are able to endure hardships and even discern evil and false doctrines.  But should I be surprised that the Lord who looks at the heart would cut through all the extras and examine the true source of what even empowers the Church to be the Church?

And it's not even a "Well, we all have strengths and weaknesses, and this is where you could do better" like I've sometimes read before; but no, He warns that He will remove the lamp stand from the church who's lost its "first love."  And if that seems harsh, perhaps it's because we may sometimes forget our identity in Christ, that we bear His light and are to shine His light to a world of darkness.  I guess said differently, a church without love is a church without light; and why would anyone keep a lamp stand that is the equivalent of a burned-out light bulb?

This convicts me greatly.  If given the choice, I'd decline such an evaluation for fear of the saddening, humiliating truth.  Except that it's truth that sets us free.  And there's an ultimatum when we do find ourselves in this predicament: "Remember...from where you have fallen; repent, and do "the works you did at first."  

So, as this New Year begins and I'm confronted with a world full of darkness, at times my own, I have hope: that the God who has chosen us to be His light in a dark world uses His power to forgive us, to empower us to forgive others, and to change us from self-centered vacuums to those who yield to His love and are able to love others by that same power.  

"God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.  If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sins. " 1 John 1:7