When the World is Dark

Some days I wonder if the world has gone crazy: the former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke, running for Senate, mass shootings beginning to feel like weekly events in America, ISIS spreading violent, vehement hate, racial tensions and fears regarding the law and order system, and politicians spewing lies, slander, and no one bothering to care whether the information is true or fabricated. Hatred is far from a new phenomenon. And though violence and angst may seem to be on the rise, I believe there is an opportunity that lies at the center of all of this darkness:

“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.” – Matthew 5:14-16

“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions  and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.  Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” – Galatians 5:13-26

Orange Picking

 The most resounding commands in the New Testament (in my opinion) are to love God, love one another, walk in the light, and serve others. If we walk with the Spirit and live these core commands–I believe we can start a revolution of love. 

I am stubborn, distracted, all too often anxious, and usually some degree of tired. But God has been pressing in on my heart to lay my life before Him in prayer, to take time to bring others before Him in prayer, and to be filled with His Spirit so that I can fully love others in tangible ways.

Recently I realized that my capacity to love others and live a life of service correlates so directly to the condition of my heart–as Jesus emphasizes in the Sermon on the Mount. Where do our inner motives lie? Where are we finding our direction and purpose?

Moreover, the condition of my heart is dictated by what I tether myself to. Am I straining and binding down my mind with worry over things I can’t control? Am I allowing busyness to rob me of doing what is most important? Am I abiding in God throughout my day–or am I treating him like an ATM? Am I spiritually bankrupt?

Before Jesus’ arrest and death as a “criminal”, he gathers his disciples near him to impart some of his last essential instructions. Truths he knew they so desperately needed, but could not yet understand: great mysteries of the working of Father God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. He knew the fear, suffering, hatred, and challenges they would face. As well as the ones that we would face. They had barely started to grasp the incredible truth of who he was–God himself. And before long he would leave them to bring about a revolution of love and salvation to a world probably even more terrorized by oppression and fear than we are today.

 

Jesus would send them the miraculous gift of the Holy Spirit–through whom they would have wisdom and guidance and the boldness to change the world, and the gentleness to do so one heart at a time. But, the Holy Spirt was someone they must accept and allow to live and move in their beings–someone who they must walk with daily. I can almost see Jesus trying to convey to them that he would never leave them because the Holy Spirit would come. He leans in closer,

“Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5)

Apart from God we can do nothing. Nothing of eternal worth anyways. What fruit is your life bearing? Are you living each day on the strength that comes from the Holy Spirit within you–or are you running on fumes, tired and worn down by the grind of life?

Important sidenote, I don’t think that the Holy Spirit makes us the Energizer Bunny per se; in fact, sometimes I think the Spirit leads us to a places of rest and refreshment for our souls so that when strength is required of us, it is there. I can’t help but be reminded of David composing the 23rd Psalm, complete with green pastures and leading beside still waters, and the soul restoration that comes before the valley of death.

How desperately we need the voice and guidance of our Shepherd! For, apart from Him, we can do nothing. 

As I so often push off on my own, only to find myself tangled up in briars of sin or lost in the woods spiritually hungry and tired, I find myself bleating out to God, my shepherd, for help.

But following God means I need to learn to clear space to listen to and know His voice by letting His words composed in poetry, wisdom, parables, prophecies, histories, and letters seep into my heart and being. And in return I need to kneel before Him with open hands and an open heart to surrender my struggles and receive His grace and guidance.