When Life & Light Broke In

darkspace

“In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”  John 1:4-5

In John 1:1-3, John points his readers back to creation.  You can read about that HERE.

In verses 4 & 5, John continued the thought about who the Word (the Son, Jesus) really was.  If we thought His person and work began as a child in the manger, or even as one who was conceived of the virgin Mary, we’d be wrong.  He is the One who created.

John moves us from the idea of creating all things (rainbows, trees, puppies and people) to even more basic elements of life and light.  In mentioning life and light, John reminds us of two things that were necessary for creation.  Remember Genesis 1:2?  In this verse it says, “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the earth.”  The Son was not just one who formed creation.  Life and light were needed to form and fill the creation.  Without them, the universe would be a dead, dark ball of rock hurtling through space.  And life and light were IN HIM.

We think of life purely as a biological function.  If we think that light is created by the Sun, we couldn’t be more wrong.  In the order of creation light existed before the Sun (day 1 and 4 respectively).  And in the New Heaven and New Earth there will be no sun.  Why?  “For the Lord God will be their light… (Revelation 22:5).” Life and light are not accidents of nature, nor the result of an impersonal bang.  Life and light have always been and will always be in Him!

John wrote that this life is our light.  The life which emanates from God directs us back to Him and delivers us from darkness.

John wrote, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”  The light that flows from the life of God broke into the dark space of the universe.  It began the movement that was creation.  Everywhere it went it made darkness run.

Darkness has never conquered light.  Light always dispels darkness.  It pushes the darkness into the shadows where it may wait, but it can never advance against the light.  Later in the gospel, we will see what happens when the life and light of God breaks into creation again.  It will rock the world and set it on a course toward the new, redeemed and restored creation.

What does all this mean?

  1. John informs us the Word (The Son, The Christ) is the source of elements that are necessary for us.  The material world doesn’t provide what we depend on, or long for.
  2. John prepares us for appreciating the in-breaking of life and light in the coming of The Word.
  3. John also helps us anticipate the victory of the light and life of God.  The darkness that seems to be marching victoriously through our world is no match for the life and light of the Word.  It couldn’t stand in creation and it can’t stand now.

Prayer:  O God, my God!  You are life.  You are light.  Let me know by experience that all I need and all I long for is in You.  Your Word, the Christ, is the One who began all things and the One who continues His work of bringing us toward a victorious future.  Forgive me for the times when I’ve believed Your Son (by action and word) as less than He is.  Forgive me for the times when I give up on your light.  Forgive me for the times when I let go of your life.  Renew and restore me by pushing darkness out of my life and filling me with the light and life of Your Spirit.

Amen.

As always, Comments, shares and subscriptions are encouraged and appreciated!

Where Did Jesus Come From?

creation

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through Him and without Him was not anything made that was made.  (John 1:1)

If we want to know about someone, we go back to their origin.  Psychology has come to understand that family of origin is crucial to gaining perspective.  John used the same tack in helping us understand Christ.  He wants us to understand Christ fully.  So he takes us back to the beginning.  But it isn’t Jesus’ beginning… it’s the beginning of creation.  We can’t know anything about Christ before we existed.  He was simply “in the beginning with God.”

John’s opening words echo the words of Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God created…”  The beginning is that timeless time before time when God as Father, Son and Spirit alone existed.  It was the moment in forever when God would act and begin the work that would create us.  That’s where the Word was.  That’s who the Word was with.

And then the Word made all things.  How did that happen?  I think it’s interesting that John referred to Jesus as “the Word.”  And how did God create in Genesis 1?  He created through His Word.  He spoke, “Let there be light!”  The Word, or the Son is clearly the agent of God in creating all things.  God speaks, the Word moves.  The Father wills, the Son makes it happen.

Look at his involvement again.  “without him was not anything made that was made.”  Some people say there is room in Scripture for God creating the world over millions of years.  There may be.  But there is no room for a process of creation that doesn’t need the Son to bring into existence everything that is new.  Every new gene, every new element, every new atom was brought into existence by the Word of God, who is the eternal Son.

Matthew’s genealogy takes us back to Abraham.  Luke’s genealogy takes us back to Adam.  John’s takes us back to the time before time.  And confirms that the Word is there!  And he is active – the agent of God – through whom all things exist and move and live.

Most of us create an image of Christ that is much smaller than who He really is.  In doing that we limit his importance, his authority and his power in our life and world.  In your heart and mind, don’t just place him in a manger, or even on the cross, but place him at the beginning; conferring with and acting on behalf of the Father.  Today, worship the Christ who brings about the creative will of God. Thank the Son, without whom we would never exist and never have the hope of knowing the Father.

How have you limited Christ and his role in your life?

See the next post on John 1:4-5 here.

Comments, shares and subscriptions are encouraged and appreciated!

What Does God Offer In Our Pain?

comfortBlessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.” (2 Corinthians 1:3–7, ESV)

One night, several months ago, I was alone on a ministry trip.  I sat in my motel room, having had a day of chest pain.  It was one of those times when I had taken my extra shots of nitroglycerin and things had calmed but it wasn’t going away.  I laid alone in my bed, thinking of going to sleep.  I didn’t know how to pray.  I didn’t have the words, or the energy.  But I needed the comfort of God.  I laid there and the words that came out of my mouth were,

“Now I lay me down to sleep. 

     I pray the Lord, my soul to keep.

     If I should die before I wake,

     I pray the Lord, my soul to take.”

I hadn’t prayed this prayer for nearly 50 years.  At once my soul quieted before God.  I was okay with whatever he chose for that night.  I rested him him.  His comforting touch was real.

In Paul’s words above, we can hear God’s invitation to experience His comfort.

  1. His comfort flows from His nature.  “He is the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.”  If you’ve ever been comforted it’s been from Him.  When we know His comfort, we know something of God’s nature.
  2. Comfort is God’s response to our affliction.  “who comforts us in all our affliction.”  Without affliction, we would never experience the wonder of His comfort.
  3. The experience of affliction and comfort is part of our sharing in the life of Christ.  “For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ, we share abundantly in comfort too.”Affliction, when lived through with patient endurance is a life of oneness with Christ.
  4. God comforts us, so we can share comfort with others.  When it comes to love, grace and comfort, we can only give from what we’ve received.  “If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort…”

When you find yourself afflicted, allow yourself to sit.  Don’t demand relief, or resolution.  Wait for His comfort.  It may come in a whispered prayer, a verse of Scripture, or the prayer of a friend.  Let him console you.  Let him give you rest that will last through the night.  And in the morning, you will have a gift to give another – the comfort you’ve received from God.

Refocusing My Page

onward

In the past few months, I’ve found difficulty writing with any regularity.  I’ve done a lot of reading, listening and conversing, but have had trouble posting.  I think I’ve lost my sense of purpose in writing this blog.

Often I have so many ideas in my head that I distract myself and I don’t write.  Or, I write and then lose interest by the time I’m done with the blog I’ve written.  You should see my note file on all the ideas, partially written and completely written blogs that never get posted.

I need to focus.  So, in the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking about what God has called me to do.  At the center of my call has been to encourage and strengthen others in their faith.  To me, that has always been what it means to be a pastor.  Paul said it best to Timothy in 1 Tim. 4:12-16.  In summary, he told Pastor Tim to be an example with is life, stick to the Word and use the gifts God’s given Him.

So, I’ve decided at least for a new season, I want to write to encourage others.  And there is nothing that has encouraged me more than God’s Word.  I hope to use my gifts and opportunities to spur others onto a closer walk with Christ and leaving a grace-filled imprint on the life of others.  For awhile, I will step away from issues, to THE ISSUE, namely, how we relate to Christ and how He relates to us.

Now, for the name…  “Glass Pulpit” has served me well.  It has allowed me to write about what goes on in me.  It has challenged me to live on these pages with authenticity and vulnerability.  Hopefully that won’t change.  But self-revelation isn’t my purpose, rather it is my tool.  The new name, “Onward and Upward” is a phrase I used often with my teams, when we ended meetings.  It was a reminder that we aren’t where we could be.  And Christ is calling us toward Him.

It’s a popular phrase that reflects Philippians 3:14 “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

So that will be the new name for a word-centered, encouraging, grace-filled blog that invites everyone to a richer experience of Christ.

If you subscribe now, I would appreciate you sticking with me.  If you don’t, I would be honored if you would subscribe.  The blog will continue to be posted on Facebook and Twitter, but by subscribing, you can make sure you get the encouragement you may be looking for.  My goal is to post a blog every Monday as an encouragement for your week.  I’m sure I’ll post at other times as the Spirit leads.  Let’s trust God together to speak to each of us, so we may journey with Him more closely.

As always, thanks for reading.  And if ever you have ideas for a post, I would love to hear it.  Just shoot me an email at rev.jimrenke@gmail.com.

What Should Donald, Hillary, or I Be Afraid of?

160302005451-trump-and-hillary-exlarge-169Hopeful ramblings…

I fear, it’s time we had a little less confidence and a little more fear.

Psalm 47:2 “For the Lord, the Most High, is to be feared,  a great king over all the earth.”

This fear is rooted in the reality that God reigns supreme.  This world is His.  And all who have power are accountable to Him.

Psalm 47:7-8 “For God is the king of all the earth… God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne.”

None of us are open to the wisdom of God for his world, without the fear of God.  Without fear, we determine our own values, we define our own problems and we devise our own solutions!

Proverbs 1:7 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

In the book of Proverbs, 14 times the fear of the Lord is tied to some aspect of living in wisdom and understanding.

When God’s character and sovereignty are ultimately revealed, it will evoke the response of fear and worship from all.

Revelation 15:3,4 “…Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God Almighty!     Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations!  Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name?  For you alone are holy.  All nations will come and worship you,  For your righteous acts have been revealed.”

Life will be better for all, if we would open our hearts and minds to this reality now.  My fear is that whomever we elect, God will need to teach him/her or them the lesson of Nebuchadnezzar.  Reading Daniel 4, God loved King Nebby and his world enough to force him to realize his pride and God’s right to rule and reign.  It took a humbling downfall to get him there.  But he got there.

Daniel 4:37 “I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.”

Now, just in case we Christians are tempted to say, “Yeah, that’s right Donald!  That’s right Hillary!”  That same fear must reside deep in our hearts.  It is not fear of the world.  It is not fear of a ruthless, vindictive God.  It is fear of the God who rules and reigns over His creation.  Let’s call it supreme respect and awe.  It compels us to long for his salvation and live under his rule, leadership and authority.

It has been a mark of God’s people. And it should be again. It empowers our witness and enhances our effectiveness.

Acts 9:31 “So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up.  And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.”

2 Corinthians 5:11 “Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others.”

I don’t really know how I’ll vote.  But what I hope to see before election day is a crack in the facade of self-confidence and a glimpse of humility, however small it may be.  I pray that this fear would also reside in me.

It is only in humble fear that any of us will be ready to receive the wisdom of God.

7 Indicators We May Be Losing Our Missional Edge

losing edge

We face an ongoing challenge in planting, or leading churches today.  It’s tough to stay committed to God’s mission of reaching the lost.  It’s easy to fall into the pattern of doing church without really impacting lives with the transforming work of the gospel.  It’s easy to lose the mission, while doing church!  As I’ve listened, watched and experienced in various ministry settings, there are indicators that we have lost, or maybe haven’t had a missional edge.

 

#1 Lack of personal transformation of the leader(s).  When we stop being shaped by God’s heart, in the deepest recesses of our soul, we lose God’s heart.  And God’s heart is for the lost.  Personal transformation keeps the leaders close to God’s heart for mission.

 

#2 Lack of personal outreach of the leader(s).  Recently, I’ve been reminded again and again, leaders who don’t live outreach can’t lead outreach.  Personal outreach constantly tenderizes the leadership heart for the broken around them.

 

#3 Sunday has become the mission.  When ministry’s effectiveness is measured by weekend attendance, the mission has been lost.  In missional churches, Sunday is the launching pad for a week of God’s people doing mission in their world.

 

#4 Transfer growth is the primary growth of the church and the church is okay with that.  When this happens mission has slipped.  We’re just shuffling sheep.  And if that’s enough, see #3.  Conversion growth is God’s desire and design for healthy church ministry.

 

#5 Paid professionals do the ministry because we want things done professionally.  Our ministry values make it nearly impossible for lay people to be involved, except to serve the desires of staff.  The mission requires that each believer be ready to use his/her gifts to bring the gospel to their world.

 

#6 We value image over substance.  We want to look good.  We want to feel successful.  We want church to work like a well-oiled machine.  We stop looking for deep, transformational, prayerful and messy change.  It’s only when we are being shaped by the presence of Christ, that we can show people the Kingdom of God.

 

#7 We want immediate ministry success (usually defined as numbers), over ministry resilience.  Ministry resilience (the ability to adapt, stay faithful and move forward in our world), requires enduring through trials over time while experiencing the faithfulness of God.  Ministry resilience is what keeps a ministry on mission for the long haul.

 

My prayer is that the body of Christ will be led by pastors and churches who are committed to staying on God’s mission for the long haul. If we’ve lost the edge, I think regaining the edge must begin with #1 and #2.  From there God can reshape his mission in us.

 

How have you seen these at work?  Are there other indicators that you’ve seen or experienced?

Please share if you think this would be of encouragement to any others!  Thank you.

 

A Rose By Any Other Name…

Look at these two News Headlines and ask, “What’s the difference?”

Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 11.26.31 AM

Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 11.25.27 AM

Both stories show governments reaching beyond their God-given responsibility to control the church and limit the work of the gospel of Christ.  The first is a government trying to control the gospel outside the walls of a state-approved building.  The second is a government trying to control the life and message of the church inside the building.  Which is better?  Neither.  It’s the same spirit at work.

Just a note of encouragement… the gospel won’t be stopped!  It is life!  And life, grace, forgiveness, hope, righteousness wins.