Tag Archives: grace

Light and Shadow: Grace and Truth About Our Lives

The Story of Christmas is Eternal Light shining in the darkness and Eternal Love that united God and humankind forever in Jesus of Nazareth (Gospel of John, chapter 1, verses 1-18). Johns beautiful hymn reveals a world of light and shadow, of divine grace and demonic deception, of receiving and rejecting love.

For this reflection, let us consider the shadow side of every good intention and the wisdom we need as the navigate the rapids of daily life.

Religious faith if often a positive force, offering meaning, fostering humility, and transforming character. As a Christian, I affirm that in Jesus of Nazareth, we have the final and sufficient disclosure of grace and truth to the world. But there can be a shadow side of intolerance, institutional oppression, and disrespectful interaction. For all Christians – and any adherents to a religious tradition – we must see all our neighbors as divine image-bearers and engage peaceably, work together harmoniously when possible, and love sincerely, even as we pray for their conversion.

Patriotism can help unite diverse groups under a banner of idealism. It’s shadow side in history includes nativism, racism, and failure to respect other cultures and systems. White supremacy is a subtle stronghold. The answer is to love the ideals while building bridges of friendship and trust.

Agitation for racial justice is noble and still needed as we try to realize the dream of our founders and MLK. The shadow side is hatred for historical oppressors that leads to a new racism, such as the Nation of Islam. The answer is grace and truth, love in action, as we confront systemic evils and build personal connections.

Liberty for and true toleration persons that identify as non-binary and part of the LGBTQ+ networks are important if we believe all people are created equal. The shadow side here is the radical agenda that calls for the destruction of the biological family and sexual anarchy. Toleration is living with our differences, not demanding that all agree with the choices and ideologies chosen by others.

Recognizing the unjust history of Western colonialism is vital for humility and forging a better future. The shadow side of legitimate critiques is a failure to see the oppressive histories of others’ cultures and bright facets of the global influences of a culture infused with some Judeo-Christian values. Critiquing the West’s imperialism toward Muslim lands during the 19th-early 20th century period is important. The shadow side is that we forget the 1000 years of Islamic expansion and destruction and the jihadism that refuses to grant equality to outsiders. Ignoring this and only feeling guilty will place more nations under the intolerant rule of Sharia.

Finally, we must affirm the goodness of liberty and the potential of each person to bring good to the world. The shadow side is excessive focus on self, with “my dreams” and “my gifts” being separated from good to others.

May we welcome the Light of Christ into every shadow in our souls and our systems, our hearts and our habits, our highest ideals and deepest dreams.

People of Faith in a Confused World

Friends, whether you are a devout Christian or a skeptic, inoculated to religious language or open to supernatural experiences, the importance of understanding faith is vital as we navigate our lives in a hostile and indifference world.

Four facets of faith are vital for our walk with the Lord and effective service and witness in our world where everything seems up for grabs:

  • We are people of “the faith” – the Event of Jesus Christ: his incarnation, sinless life, atoning crucifixion, burial, glorious bodily resurrection, ascension to the right hand of the Father, and Return in glory (I Corinthians 15; Romans 1:2-4, 16-17; I Timothy 3:16; Jude 3). Unlike most religious systems, our Christian life is built on God’s own activity in history, with the Cross and Resurrection as the defining events and definitive foundation. We must defend this truth amidst all the skepticism, historic revisionism, and basic doubt about the truthfulness of anything!
  • We are people with “saving faith.” We can be assured by the Holy Spirit that we are God’s children with a secure eternity (Romans 8)! How completely different this is from all other religions, with their emphasis on human effort. We are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2).
  • We are people with “growing faith.” This faith can move mountains when we trust God (NOT trusting our faith level!). Faith grows as we obey the Lord – and his first and foundational command is love (Galatians 5:6).
  • And, we are people open to the manifestation gift of extraordinary faith (I Corinthians 12). This is often linked with other gifts and is part of God’s sovereign activity as we seek to edify the Body and evangelize the world.

As we navigate the turbulent waters of a world in need, may the Lord strengthen all facets of faith, from solid apologetics concerning the Bible and truth, to deep assurance, to compelling obedience, and openness to the miraculous.

Observations of Our World

I am very concerned with the triumph of emotivism in academic/intellectual circles. Critical thinking is not confined to a culture, gender or race. Critical thinking needs new attention so our dialogues move us toward truth, and, where possible, principled compromise on policies. Please friends, let’s be unafraid listen with humility and observe with objectivity.

In our polarized world, there two things that offer hope:

  1. shared encounters in community worship; and
  2. shared engagement in God’s work that renews our communities. God’s presence expands our hearts in holy love and practical work expresses our unity in service.

For centuries, human beings have sought meaning. In our century, we are debating the meaning of being human. Grateful for the Biblical story that offers identity and hope, humility and purpose.

Lord, please heal us.
Heal our hearts: touch our deepest wounds as use us as emissaries of compassion.
Heal our heads: liberate our minds from captivity to crowds and release fresh thinking.
Heal our hands: deliver us from selfish motives and methods and unleash innovation and integrity for the common good.
Lord, heal our land, one prayer, one kind word, one sacrificial act at a time.
Amen.