Dec 02

Waiting

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Waiting can be exciting. Waiting can be painful. Waiting can be both at once. Tension. Anticipation and hesitation. Joy and Fear, all wrapped up in one uncomfortable package. Waiting. Which is the heart of this Advent season. The nights grow long, but this is called the “season

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Waiting can be exciting.

Waiting can be painful.

Waiting can be both at once.

Tension.

Anticipation and hesitation.

Joy and Fear, all wrapped up in one uncomfortable package.

Waiting.

Which is the heart of this Advent season. The nights grow long, but this is called the “season of light.” The twilight tension causes us to wonder: which will grip us finally, the bright light or the dense darkness?

Sufjan Stevens puts it this way:

“Once in a while, you may think you see better than the others
Scrambling around in the dark with your drum
There is a time when young men must grow up and be brothers
Are you afraid of growing too fast?”  (“The Child With the Star on His Head“)

Isn’t that the Advent lie we settle for? Don’t we all scramble around in the darkness, thinking we can see better than the others, even though we can’t see much of anything?

Our waiting is tempered by the flash of a new toy. Illuminated by the glitz of a seasonal spectacle. Neither will overcome the darkness, both will lose their luster and we’ll be left in the dark.

There’s a kind of false child-likeness in this fleeting search for the light. Jesus praised the children and little ones, but probably not because of their tendency to dash after new shiny things.

We turn waiting into stalling or settling. Stalling the journey of growth and transformation. Settling for the flashing lights whose cords will eventually burn out.

You can wait and grow, you can’t stall and grow.

Waiting means there will be a time to grow up, stalling is settling for the fear of that growth. Fear of bumping into our own darkness. Fear of bumping into the darkness of our sisters and brothers, of our enemies. Fear that the light may not come and so settling for the glitz and glamor of this commercial season.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. For there is another, a “child with a star on his head, and all of the world rests on his shoulders.” And he won’t call us to bright lights that will eventually fade. He’ll call us to the light of the world.

He will expose our darkness and the darkness of our sisters and brothers. His light will pierce the darkness all around us, the darkness of death and disease. The darkness of violence and injustice. The darkness of trying to purchase eternal life with a credit card. The darkness of stumbling around in isolation, contented with our own understanding of the world and our place within it.

The light will come, but the light will not leave us alone in the darkness. Because in the light we won’t just see the child, we’ll see faces all around us. Faces, which moments before weren’t far from our own, but which were kept hidden from our eyes by the darkness we settled for.

**Student-led vigil at Georgetown,  by MICHELLE XU/THE HOYA

The light has already come, and the light will come again. But will we be transformed and walk in the light or settle for the darkness of our own path, our own way? That’s the question I’m wrestling with this advent season.

Yes, Come, Lord Jesus. Transform our darkness to light. Free us from bondage to the lesser lights we chase after, set our hearts alone on your Light, the One who was and is and is to come.

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Oct 20

Can I Get a Witness: Living a Life That Reveals the Truth

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If someone didn’t know you went to church, would they know you are a Christian by the way you live your life? I ask myself that question all the time. The answer never seems to come quick. I have to wrestle with it for a

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If someone didn’t know you went to church, would they know you are a Christian by the way you live your life?

I ask myself that question all the time.

The answer never seems to come quick.

I have to wrestle with it for a while. That’s not because I am weighing some massive moral dilemma that is taking place in my life. It’s just that I want to be sure that my answer is honest and without the need to spin the truth.

In his latest book, Kingdom Conspiracy, author Scot McKnight writes, “Credible living makes for credible witness to the truth of the gospel.” The weight of a statement like that cannot be overlooked, its importance cannot be underscored enough. Committed apprentices of Christ concern themselves with living a life that reveals the truth about Jesus’ teachings.

The main message of Jesus that set off an irresistible revolution was that of love, manifested in our actions. Jesus addressed this in the Sermon on the Mount. He instructed his followers to live a life according to God’s will that influences their community and brings glory to God.

We can find this message in Matthew 5:14-16,

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

What gives credibility and truth to the teachings of Jesus are the ways we live this out in our daily lives. People need to see that we live as we believe. And then we need to give credit where credit is due – to God.

The world doesn’t normally operate according to the teachings of Jesus and the will of God. This can make it difficult for us to love others with all our heart and soul and mind and strength. (John 13:34-35) It’s precisely why this message of extraordinary love seems so radical to people who don’t follow Jesus. Who else instructs followers to love their enemies? (Matt. 5:44) Who else says it is part of the mission to bless those who persecute? (Matt. 5:11-12) Only Jesus!

As people dwelling in the Kingdom of God, we are called to live with and love one another regardless of the circumstances. If people are going to surrender their lives to Christ, it’s important for them to see what God’s love in action looks like. They need to catch the vision of the joy and peace and contentment that the with-God life brings. If someone didn’t know you went to church, would they know you’re a Christian by the way you live your life?

Here’s the challenge that I’d like to issue. Take some time to give the following question some thought and then join me in conversation: What are some other markers of a credible life that makes for a credible witness to the gospel’s truth?

I look forward to hearing from you soon!

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Feb 19

When It Gets Dark

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When It Gets Dark

This is a guest post by Casey Tygrett.   Walking through our house one night, with the lights off, I suddenly became disoriented. My arms extended out in front of me, fingers searching for a door frame or a light switch, I looked like a

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When It Gets Dark
This is a guest post by Casey Tygrett.
 
Walking through our house one night, with the lights off, I suddenly became disoriented.

My arms extended out in front of me, fingers searching for a door frame or a light switch, I looked like a bewildered Frankenstein monster cruising through the dining room.

I had made that trip – from the bathroom to the bedroom and vice versa – more times than I could count but for some reason the depth of darkness made it impossible to navigate. I began to wonder if I had been turned around, maybe headed in the wrong direction. I suppose if I had wandered long enough without making contact with a hard surface, I would have wondered whether or not I was still in the house.

As irrational as that sounds, when you don’t find something solid in the darkness it is all too easy to assume the worst.

Thinking on this as I drove to the office today, and the old hymn “The Solid Rock” came to mind. One line in particular:

When darkness seems to hide His face…

I encounter in myself and in others the tendency to lose God in the darkness. The darkness of health & financial issues, the darkness of a loss of that “electric spiritual sensation” that comes from our first encounters with prayer & Scripture, the darkness of relational dysfunction and destruction – all of it can lead to our experience of the hiding of God’s face.

We lose Him in the darkness and we assume, not that the light is inadequate to see Him, but that He is gone.

Behavioral psychologists talk about the learning process that infants go through to establish something called “object permanence.” When you show a toddler a rubber ball, then hide it behind your back, the child is devastated. Why? The reason is that they have no sense of object permanence – for all they know the ball has evaporated and vanished and no longer exists.

When we are faced with darkness in our lives, our sense of object permanence – in relation to God – is knocked off kilter. We get saturated in darkness and start to believe that our flittering fingers will never again grasp the firm, solid face of hope and grace and salvation.

David wondered, in the darkness of his conflict with enemies, how long this darkness would last?
 
Jesus wondered, pierced on a Roman execution device, how long God would turn away from this suffering?
**Candles in the dark--Rob Milsom / CC ND 2.0

**Candles in the dark–Rob Milsom / CC ND 2.0

So what do we do? We grope in the darkness. We put our hands out in front, we walk and we stumble and we stubbornly remember that God is present and good and true even when the light is insufficient to see Him. Even when we suffer. Even when we are confused, misdirected, and even feel lost.

We stumble through darkness knowing that the dark may “hide” His face, but it cannot “overcome” it.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (1 John 1:2-4)


Casey Tygrett is the spiritual formation pastor at Parkview Christian Church. He is also part of the adjunct faculty at Lincoln Christian University & Seminary and blogs at www.caseytygrett.com. He and his family live in suburban Chicago, IL.

 

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Jan 06

Epiphany: Bask in the Light

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epiphany

Have you ever had a light-bulb moment? All of a sudden, something clicks in your brain and you can’t imagine how you didn’t realize it sooner. Just like someone walked into the dark room of your mind and flipped on the brightest light you’ve ever

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epiphany

Have you ever had a light-bulb moment? All of a sudden, something clicks in your brain and you can’t imagine how you didn’t realize it sooner. Just like someone walked into the dark room of your mind and flipped on the brightest light you’ve ever seen.

Another word for those moments is epiphany. A brilliant thought strikes you out of thin air. Fog clears out of your mind and suddenly everything is clear.

You can’t imagine going back to the fog or walking back into the dark room.  Epiphany is a moment when you can’t see the world the same way you did before, when you get some new tidbit of knowledge that you can’t forget. For just a moment, things make sense and you bask in the glow of your epiphany.

Today we celebrate Epiphany in the church. On Christmas we celebrated the birth of Jesus, the Son of God made flesh. During Epiphany we celebrate the revelation of this good news to the whole world.

Epiphany marks the visit of the Magi, the wise men from the East (Matt 2:1-12). The visit of the Magi isn’t really about the details of their identity, but about the revelation of the good news of Christmas to the wider world. The child Jesus will be a light to all peoples.

A Different Way

Today is the day you receive new knowledge, making it difficult to go back to life before.

On the Magi’s journey to Jesus they are warned in a dream to return home a different way. Who knows what their dream was about or what they saw, they couldn’t live life the same way they had before. Visiting this infant changed at least their journey, if not their lives.

We too are in on this revelation because of the story shared in Matthew’s Gospel. During this season of Epiphany we will watch this child grow and perform signs and wonders, healing the sick in body and spirit, eating with outcasts and sinners, bringing the good news of the kingdom of God to all whom he encounters.

And we, like the Magi, will face the choice: to leave along a different route or to continue on in the way we’ve lived. Everything will change after this encounter.

This Son of God, the light of the World, calls us into new life.

Those walking in darkness have seen a great light. Those who have seen the light can’t go back into the fog or darkness of life before. Because of this little infant, everything we know has changed and we see a little more clearly.

epiphany

Photo Credit: Wendy Longo photography

Arise, shine; for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
For darkness shall cover the earth,
and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
and his glory will appear over you.
Nations shall come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn. (Isaiah 60: 1-3, NRSV)

Indeed the light has come, this light-bulb moment is the good news of epiphany.

 

 

 

**Featured Image Photo Credit: Dineshraj Goomany

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