Autumnal Easter

autumn-leaves

Living in New Zealand, we have our seasons at the opposite time of year to northern hemisphere folks. This is most obvious at Christmas when we are eating salads, having barbecues and going to the beach while the US and Europe are eating stodgy winter food and peering through frosted windows at snow.

Easter is another festival that for us is ‘back to front’ with respect to the seasons. Here it is autumn, not spring, so the tenuous link between eggs and Easter is lost, let alone how rabbits come into the picture.

Some suggestthat the date of Easter should be moved so that southern hemisphere churches can better appreciate the seasonal nuances of a spring festival, or we should reflect on the ‘refreshing coolness’ of autumn as symbolic of the resurrection. The first suggestion is unworkable and the second is grasping at another tenuous seasonal gimmick.

Autumn gives its own meaning to Easter, with a depth that goes beyond mind games. To every Christian, Easter means the death and resurrection of Jesus. Autumn brings a natural emphasis to the first part of this meaning.

The days cool down, mornings and evenings darken, and nature braces itself for the temporary death of winter. So too we walk through Lent aware of the impending death of Christ. His was also a temporary death but no less decisive for being overcome by the resurrecting power of God.

Seeing trees change colour reminds us that we’ve been here before. The winter to come may be hard but the seasons do change, the approaching season of coldness and death will also pass. This is the value of the liturgical calendar, reminders of what faith means in all the changing seasons of life and that through all such changes Jesus remains constant as our rock.

Fading light adds a solemn weightiness to our experience of Easter. The cross is symbolic of our faith and I appreciate the added emphasis autumn gives to this crucial element of Easter. Summer is over, the hardest part of the year lies ahead. At Easter we remember our desperate need of salvation and the awful cost of it. We move on into the darker months knowing the hope we have in Christ who rose again and conquered both death and the sin that causes it.

The darkening days of autumn also call to mind what Jesus spoke in relation to the death he would die:

So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” (John 12:35-36 ESV)

Let us walk in the light of Christ and the hope of the resurrection.

Improving your eyesight

I am eagerly awaiting some new glasses to help me read easier. The bill for them will not be so welcome, but it has stimulated my thinking about eyesight and how precious it is.

Without vision I could not navigate through my days, I’d be reduced to fumbling around home until I could get someone to guide me where I wanted to go. Even then I’d be more of a liability than an asset at work, unable to view the computer screen, restricted to verbal communication tools and oblivious to most of what is happening. My primary means of taking in information would be taken from me – reading. Without being able to read I feel as though I would shrivel up!

Protecting our eyes

We all have reflexes which help to protect our eyes: blinking, tears, turning the face away, not looking directly at the sun. Then we take this a step further in some situations to wear protective safety glasses at work and sunglasses in bright sunlight. If our eyesight is impaired we go to an optometrist to get corrective lenses. Most of us value vision very highly, we like to be able to see clearly. Blind people know that there is a dimension of life which they are not able to experience due to being unable to see.

Eyes of the heart

According to the Bible there is a realm of existence which we are unable to detect with our physical sense. The spiritual world is invisible to us, no matter how good your natural vision is. Without God’s work in us we are blind to God’s grace, sometimes having a hint of it’s existence but remaining unable to experience it.

having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,
(Ephesians 1:18 ESV)

Even once we are renewed by God we need some work on the eyes of our heart so that we can see better. (I almost wrote ‘properly’ but I doubt we ever actually see properly in this life). We are all sinners and so must rely upon the corrective lenses of Scripture to fix our myopia. We also need help from others who know the path and can help us know where the pitfalls and stumbling blocks are which cannot be seen in our blind spots.

And don’t forget that there is one who throws sand in our faces to blind us to the gospel:

In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
(2 Corinthians 4:4 ESV)

So keep returning to the Bible, to wise counsellors, and to God in prayer that He will open the eyes of your heart. Also remember that much wise counsel and eye-opening assistance comes from the words written by other reliable Christians:

 I will keep coming back to anyone who helps me see and be astonished at what is in front of my face — anyone who can help heal me from the disease of “seeing they do not see.” (John Piper, Why Chesterton’s Anti-Calvinism Doesn’t Put Me Off)


Gifts I have noticed recently:

934) New coffee mug with a message I needed on it.
935) Some quiet time to ponder and read the Bible.
936) A potential new opportunity.
937) Renewed hope.
938) Disappointment leading to re-evaluation.
939) Morning bustle of the people I love most around me.
940) Slowing my mind and doing one thing at a time.
941) Watching home movies from 5 years ago.
942) The marvel of an e-reader, an entire library in my pocket!

Image: iStock

Crepuscular

If I had to choose a word to describe my life at the moment it would be ‘crepuscular’. The Oxford English Dictionary defines crepuscular as:

1 Resembling the twilight of morning or evening; dim, indistinct; not yet fully enlightened.
2 Of or pertaining to twilight.

Working shift work and with winter closing in it feels as if I live in a perpetual twilight, not only in terms of the light levels I experience but also socially – I am out of sync with the rest of society so my weekends occur at odd times and I have to work during the real weekends.

Then there are other aspects of me that could be described as dim and indistinct, maybe I will tell you about it one day.


Photo of paper bag: iStock

Colour

Joining today in 5 minute Friday led by Lisa-Jo Baker,  who posts a single word prompt. The idea is that each person simply writes for 5 minutes based on the prompt without stopping to edit or fix up punctuation.
After enjoying the practise last week I’m going to write for five minutes on the topic of:

Colour

I love colour, though ironically tend to be rather grey and devoid of colour myself. Once I was told that psychiatric patients tend to wear loud coloured clothing so perhaps that has constrained me.

I love colourful people, at least they are interesting.

I love colourful homes, not just the colour of the paint scheme, but also the stuff a person has collected and how they live.

I love the colours of nature, I even pray for one of my daughters that her dreams will be filled with “flowers and rainbows and butterflies”, kind of hippyish I know but she loves colour too.

I would love to shed my own greyness, to be colourful, to be interesting, to step out and show the true colours of joy and delight that God created every person to be.

Stop

Maybe I have discovered a new goal for myself here!


Image of colourful figures: CamiloTorres

Deranged by darkness

When tiredness overcomes sanity!

Several of the blogs I regularly read participate in 5 minute Friday led by Lisa-Jo Baker, who posts a single word prompt. The idea is that each person simply writes for 5 minutes based on the prompt without stopping to edit or fix up punctuation.
I’ve often wanted to have a go at this but never gotten around to it. However, today the word prompt is exactly what has been on my mind this last week or so and I had been considering writing something but didn’t quite know how to start. So here is a bit of a brain dump on the topic of: Tired

I have been thinking a lot about “tired” lately – working night shifts and having only a depressed mind for company I struggle to hold things together sometimes. It is one thing to be tired in daylight hours when there is light to see by, but in the dead of night when peering into the blackness simply reflects my soul a heart hangs heavy with waiting for the light. What if today were to be the one day in all of history when it won’t come – finding me here, alone, deranged?

Many hours later, in sunshine, I am rational again, lucid, and thank God that yet again His mercies are new and He did send the light into the world. The light by which even this stumbling soul staggers towards home.

Stop.

(For a little insight as to where some of these thoughts come from see: Psalm 130:5-6, Acts 2:20, John 1:9, John 12:46)

Also notice why it takes me a long time to write blog posts – I write slow, not many words made it onto the page in 5 minutes!


Image of hands trying to cover eyes by Vlue via iStock

Am I reflective?

How do you see? We see an object when light reflected off it’s surface enters our eyes and is translated into an image by retina and nerves. The light does not usually come from the object itself, mostly it is from the sun in daytime. As the light shines it reveals to our eyes all that was hidden by darkness. If my life is pure and holy others will see Christ clearly reflected with minimal distortion. If I am corrupt and filthy Christ’s glory will remain brilliant, but my filth will be starkly illuminated against his holiness.

But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
(Ephesians 5:13-14 ESV)

How do you see? We see an object when light reflected off it’s surface enters our eyes and is translated into an image by retina and nerves. The light does not usually come from the object itself, mostly it is from the sun in daytime. As the light shines it reveals to our eyes all that was hidden by darkness.

As Christ shines in the darkness (John 1:5) the true light reveals all. People will see who I am as Christ shines upon me. If my life is pure and holy they will see Christ clearly reflected through my life with minimal distortion. If I am corrupt and filthy they will see me clearly for what I am – Christ’s glory will remain brilliant, my filth will be starkly illuminated against his holiness.

Focus

Human mesenchymal cell

I have set myself to make 2011 a year of focusing on essentials. One of the most fundamental elements of our lives is how we spend our time. Don’t panic… I’m not going to start preaching about time management! I am more concerned about some of the junk I spend my time on. Junk such as Facebook and casual internet browsing. I can easily kiss goodbye to several hours in an evening on those two alone. It always feels important at the time, and often is interesting stuff I am reading, but that time spent keeping up with 20 blogs pushes more important things out – such as reading the Bible or praying for my own kids.

“One of the great uses of Twitter and Facebook will be to prove at the Last Day that prayerlessness was not from lack of time.”
John Piper

Therefore I have decided to put some self imposed limits on these things. I’m not going to tell you what my own time limits are, or what blogs I have dumped off my RSS feed, these are things specific to each individual and to the phase of life we are each in. I think the internet is a great tool, but there is no need for me to turn the tool into a time-wasting toy. I am choosing to be “intentionally uninformed” so as to leave time in my days to inform myself about God.

Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread,
but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense.

(Proverbs 12:11 ESV)

In the end it is about focus. If I want to see God I need to focus my attention upon Him and purposefully block out other distractions. This is similar to how a telescope or microscope works – they each have lenses which focus light, they also have a tube (or equivalent) which keeps extraneous light out. The only light you want in a microscope is that which is directed through the sample and lenses, the stray light in the room reduces the clarity of the image and reduces resolution. This is especially so with fluorescence microscopy, good fluorescence images require a darkened room, meticulous sample preparation, a sophisticated microscope and a lot of skill. Obtaining a few high quality, informative images can take weeks of preparation – work that requires skill, concentration and focus, even through all the boring steps of what is a long, and at times tedious, process. Yet these images have opened up new ways of seeing and understanding the very basis of life – well worth the effort in my opinion.

So too with seeing the glory of Christ, it takes time, discipline and sometimes a bit of tedium, but the vista is far better than any microscope image!

The hidden light

Pondering the curious situation in which Jesus, who is the “light of the world”, needs John the Baptist to go ahead of Him as a witness to the light.

Is it not strange that the one who is the light of the world, who dwells in unapproachable light, would need a witness to confirm who he is? Surely the light of men would shine so brightly as to be unmistakable?

John 1:5-12 begins by proclaiming the triumph of Jesus over darkness. But don’t jump to victory too quickly — where does the light shine? That’s right, the light shines in the darkness. When it is dark people don’t see very well and so God sent a witness to alert folks that the light was coming. He (the light) came to his own, but his own did not receive him. They either didn’t recognize who he was, or didn’t want him even if they did recognize him.

Here is tragedy, those who do not receive Jesus forfeit an astonishing gift — to become children of God. What is required is so simple:

to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.
(John 1:12)

To all who believe in Jesus, he gives the right to become children of God. What is given is astonishing, and who it is given to is astonishing.

This blessing from God is given to those who are in darkness yet believe because a witness was sent from God to testify about the light. If the witness had not been sent (by God) then none would have believed and been given the right to inherit God’s kingdom. This is grace.


Photo of solar eclipse: Luc Viatour

The source of eternal life

The opening verses of John’s gospel are clearly alluding to the account of creation in Genesis 1. Compare John 1:1-5 with Genesis 1:1-4. As I have already commented, we see that in the beginning was Jesus who is God, he created, and there was darkness. In  Genesis 1:3 God creates light, in John 1:4 we are told that the life which is in Jesus is light.

This light which John refers to must be more than the light of Genesis 1:3 because Jesus is God, he is not created and John is saying that the light he is talking about is in Jesus in that it is of the life that is in Jesus — life that is uncreated. It follows therefore, that the light of Jesus is likewise uncreated, in other words, eternal.

Jesus refers to himself as being the light of the world (John 8:12). The life of Jesus is the light of men, and we also know from 1 John 5:11 that God has given us eternal life, which is in Jesus. It is consistent with John’s use of language to think of the ‘light of men’ as being the eternal life we receive from Jesus. In fact reading the entire prologue of John’s gospel (John 1:1-18) makes this quite clear.

Pursue the perfection of God

I read this the other day and it has stuck in my mind:

Glory is virtually the physical manifestation of all the perfections of God’s being – His goodness, truth, faithfulness, righteousness, holiness and wisdom. (Sinclair Ferguson, In Christ Alone p59.)

If I hold this concept in mind, then consider that even the seraphim who dwell in God’s presence cannot look directly upon His glory but cover their eyes (Isaiah 6:2) and that He dwells in unapproachable light (1 Timothy 6:16), I begin to appreciate the awesome perfection of God.

When Moses asked to see God’s glory, God told him that He would make His goodness pass by him (Exodus 33:18-19). After this encounter the face of Moses shone and even his brother was afraid to go near him (Exodus 34:29-30). Being in the presence of the perfect One had changed Moses so that his own being now radiated or reflected glory.

All of us who love Christ probably long to be in His presence as Moses was, yet I am also greatly afraid to be so immediately in God’s presence. Isaiah knew the fear of encountering God and I know my sinful heart well enough to know that I also would be completely undone in that situation (Isaiah 6:5).

Then, having been blown away by the glory of the perfection of God, I come to the command of Jesus in  Matthew 5:48, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” This is a hard call for us sinful humans, but I can explain no better than the ESV Study Bible notes for this verse:

Scripture is a reflection of God himself as he has made his will and character known to his people. As Christians seek to live in conformity to Scripture, they are in fact pursuing the very perfection of God.