Hearts Flooded with Light

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I have not stopped thanking God for you.

I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God.

I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.

I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.

Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come.

God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.

(Ephesians 1: 16-23 NLT)

Sometimes if we take what we think we think about God and what we actually feel about God and put them in a room together we are surprised that they don’t look the same. Sometimes they don’t even look remotely related.  When we don’t have unity within ourselves? Well, that’s just crazy-making.

Both can be right and both can be wrong. When they are not aligned with who God really is both can string a barb wire fence between us and seeing the majesty of God. Both can place barriers in the way of stepping into a greater understanding of the incredible greatness of God’s power for those who believe in him. Both can restrain us from attaining everything he has for us.

“But I was always taught…”

“That reminds me of a painful time…”

His light soothes and comforts the downtrodden, the tired, and the despairing because it floods our hearts and replaces false ideas and bad memories with the trustworthiness of his splendour, his glory, his infinite grace.

He longs to give us spiritual wisdom and insight so that we might grow in increasing knowledge of God.

There is a reason why Jesus is called the Wonderful Counselor. He came to gently expose the lies we have absorbed and show us what his Father is really like. That knowledge is the foundation for confident hope.

Jesus is the light of the world.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining,

’til he appeared and the soul felt it’s worth.

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices

for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn…

(From Oh Holy Night by Adolphe Adams, English lyrics by John Sullivan Dwight)

There is more.

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Exuberant

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Our daughter needed to study calculus as part of her bachelor degree requirements. She liked math and was good at it so she happily signed up for the course. The problem was that the only class that fit into her timetable was the class her father taught. She had hoped to avoid that scenario, still being a teen and all.

One day she needed to ask a question about something she didn’t understand. Her father carefully explained the concept covering two blackboards with figures and diagrams, then turned and asked her if she understood.

“What? Oh…” she said looking up from the page she had been doodling on. “Um, sorry. I heard you go into your lecturing voice and I tuned you out.”

The students who didn’t know about their relationship gasped in shock. Those that knew the prof was her dad laughed.

This story came back to me today as I was thinking about relating to the many facets of God. Our daughter was relating to the man at the front of the class as the dad who had been responsible for setting limits through some chaotic years. In that moment she wasn’t relating to him as a valuable teacher and missed what he had to offer. (All was not lost. That was the year she gained respect for his skills and actually changed direction to become a math education major herself.)

Many metaphors describe the way God wants to relate to us; He presents himself as creator, king, father, bridegroom, shepherd, healer, provider, lamb, mother, brother, law-giver, judge, protector and many more. Someone once asked me, “Who does God want to be for you now?”

I didn’t understand the question at the time. God is God. Holy Other. Unchanging. There is no one like him.  What do you mean?

Since then I have come to know God as my loving heavenly father, Jesus as a brother and the Holy Spirit as a comforter. I’ve known him as a teacher and healer and encourager and even as an intimate friend who shares confidences. What I am still learning is how to be flexible when he wants to show me another aspect of himself.

Lately I have been spending time praying about some heavy matters brought to my attention. I feel privileged to be trusted, and I do remember praying “break my heart with what breaks yours,” but I’ve been feeling the weight of it lately. I know the joy of the Lord is my strength but I must have set it down somewhere and I’m having trouble remembering where I put it. Before I fell asleep I asked for an understanding of joy, because I don’t know how to make myself feel something I don’t feel.

It snowed last night. When I looked out my window this morning I saw the berries on the mountain ash tree covered with little tipped white piles of snow that looked like gnome hats. I ran out in my robe and slippers and took a photo, not caring what the neighbours digging out their vehicles thought. The mountain ash hats just looked silly. They reminded me of little red Smurfs. I smiled.

“There it is,” he said.

“There is what?”

“Joy. My joy. It’s been here all along. You just weren’t expecting it or looking for it.”

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I need to shift my thinking and learn to relate to God as someone who has tremendous joy in spite of seeing selfish people misuse their authority and abuse the vulnerable. He knows how all this ends, and it ends well.

I remembered a passage of scripture that talks about Jesus being exuberant and full of joy because of his Father’s plans. This scene happened after he commissioned 70 people to go out ahead of him and declare the kingdom of God by healing the sick and casting out demons.

The seventy came back triumphant. “Master, even the demons danced to your tune!”

Jesus said, “I know. I saw Satan fall, a bolt of lightning out of the sky. See what I’ve given you? Safe passage as you walk on snakes and scorpions, and protection from every assault of the Enemy. No one can put a hand on you. All the same, the great triumph is not in your authority over evil, but in God’s authority over you and presence with you. Not what you do for God but what God does for you—that’s the agenda for rejoicing.”

At that, Jesus rejoiced, exuberant in the Holy Spirit. “I thank you, Father, Master of heaven and earth, that you hid these things from the know-it-alls and showed them to these innocent newcomers. Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way.

“I’ve been given it all by my Father! Only the Father knows who the Son is and only the Son knows who the Father is. The Son can introduce the Father to anyone he wants to.”

(Luke 10 :17-22 The Message)

I put on my warm clothes and high boots and went out into the dazzling light of the day, plowing through white powder nearly up to my knees. I listened to the distant birds, and the babbling brook. I stood under showers of tiny diamonds as the snow crystals fell from high branches in the sunlight. Today I am learning who God wants to be for me now. Jesus is introducing me to a happy Creator – my strength and my joy.

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Moving Steadily Forward

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Injustice infuriates me. I hate it when the wicked prosper at the expense of the weak. I’m so tired of seeing demonstrations of the abuse of power in the media, in education, in scientific research, in religion, in families, in politics, in… well, in every sphere of life.

With the Psalmist I cry out, “How long, Lord? How long?”

Lately I have been drawn to Psalm 37, as my agony increases over the abuse of women, and especially children, who are victims of sex trafficking. I’ve known about it since I overheard people I worked with say that part of the cost of getting a producer to consider their project involved buying a boy for his use for the night.

They laughed.

I cried.

Now even more is coming to light despite many cover-ups. Sometimes this world is so ugly. Why do the wicked prosper?

I am reminded of William Wilberforce, who spent his whole adult lifetime working for the abolition of slavery in Britain. Sometimes change is a very slow process, at least by our concept of time, but what an example of endurance and perseverance!

In the late 1800’s and into the 20th century American doctor, Kate Bushnell, and her colleagues worked tirelessly to expose government sanctioned sex trafficking in the brothel camps provided for British soldiers overseas. Later she uncovered similar practices in logging camps and mining operations in North America. With day by day dogged determination she pursued and shamed authorities until laws and policies and were changed.

Sometimes it feels like a dreary long road, but David understood when he wrote: The steps of the God-pursuing ones follow firmly in the footsteps of the Lord. And God delights in every step they take to follow him. (Psalm 37:23)

In the end Kate Bushnell realized that real change required more than revised laws and policies. She saw that what was required was a heart change. Without it the demand for human beings who could be used and dominated continued. It’s not just a matter of prosecuting the people who sell captives, it’s a matter of changing the hearts of the apparently massive number of people who pay to use them. And those people are often also slaves – slaves to lust. Many, many people are realizing they are held captive by an addiction to pornography and illicit sex and cry out for freedom themselves.

A heart change is what God promises when people turn from their own ways of coping with personal pain and disappointment or feeling out of control and instead trust in Jesus Christ.

This is what we pray for. Freedom for all captives and an awakening of the realization that our hearts can only find healing and restoration in the heart of the One who created us for greater things. An awakening to new life as the Holy Spirit moves through our land.

So we press on, day by day cultivating faithfulness, trusting His promises, walking in his path and praying without ceasing.

So don’t be impatient for the Lord to act;

Keep moving steadily forward in his ways,

And he will exalt you at the right time.

And when he does, you will possess every promise,

Including your own inheritance.

You’ll watch with you own eyes

And see the wicked lose everything (verse 34)

But the Lord will be the Saviour of all who love him.

Even in their time of trouble

God will live in them as Strength.

Because of their faith in him, their daily portion will be

A Father’s help, and deliverance from evil.

This is true for all who turn to hide themselves in him!

(verses 39 & 40 The Passion Translation)

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