Clarity

Contact lenses are a wonderful thing … when they work. They free us up from wearing/losing/finding our glasses, they often work better than glasses, and they are able to bring our eyes up to 20/20 vision. From hard to soft to disposable, there are a lot of choices.

Wish you had blue eyes? Buy them! Need trifocals? We can do that! Have a condition known as “mono vision,” where one eye sees distance well and the other reads well? Lenses of different strengths can balance that out. Just don’t fall asleep in them or you will wake up thinking that someone put Vaseline on your eyeballs. And don’t wear them on a long airplane ride … the dry air turns them into see-through hockey pucks.

Do you ever wish you could apply 20/20 vision to your spiritual, emotional, or relational vision? In times of confusion, emotional manipulation, distraction, or when you realize you are in a cloud of deception, wouldn’t it be lovely to pop in clarifying contacts and be able to actually see things for what they are?

Fortunately for us, we can access the mind of Christ.

2 Corinthians (NIV)

10 The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us.

13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. 14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.

15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for,“Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?”

But we have the mind of Christ.

Using Christ as a lens through which we see the world brings a wonderful clarity which we could never achieve on our own. The triune nature of God allows us to receive the Holy Spirit in real time. God’s active, alive, and attentive Spirit stays in tune with our spirits and is ready to lead, guide, direct, and correct our vision no matter what we are doing.

We just need to remember to apply it. Like lenses that sit in the box in the medicine cabinet, all the clarifying power of God through the Holy Spirit is useless until we intentionally look for it and look THROUGH it. Discernment comes through prayer, scripture reading, talking with friends and mentors, and sitting quietly in the presence of God and LISTENING.

So open your eyes. Open your mind. Open your heart and invite the Holy Spirit in to show you what is truth. We have received the Spirit of God so that we may understand what God has freely given us. We have the mind of Christ, if we just LOOK for it. The Spirit of God never fogs over or dries out. You can always count on God’s perfect 20/20 vision for your life.

Clarity by Michelle Robertson

See Ya Real Soon

In the typical order of worship, there is one moment we all look forward to: the benediction. Come on, you know you do! It means the service has been completed, the message has been delivered, the songs have been sung, and the prayers faithfully prayed. It signals that the irritation of 1. trying to keep your kids quiet; 2. sitting next to someone who put on WAAAY too much perfume or aftershave; or 3. the loud whisperer behind you catching up on gossip is finally over and you can go home. Even pastors like the benediction. Trust me, we look forward to it, too. It means our week’s work is finished and for better or worse, we have offered our labor to the Lord and now get to catch our breath before starting all over again.

You know that in pastor-time, Sunday comes every 4 1/2 days, right?

Today we are reading Paul’s benediction to the people in Corinth. I love his happy goodbye as he is leaving people whom he loves:

2 Corinthians 13 (The Message)

11-13 And that’s about it, friends. Be cheerful. Keep things in good repair. Keep your spirits up. Think in harmony. Be agreeable. Do all that, and the God of love and peace will be with you for sure. 

That is a sermon in itself.

Be cheerful. No matter what your daily trials are, we all have eternity to look forward to at the benediction of our lives.

Keep things in good repair such as your house, your family, and especially your soul.

Keep your spirit up! Don’t let the small stuff get you down. By the way, it’s all small stuff.

Think in harmony. This one sentence is a whole sermon series. It is a great reinforcement of the fact that God desires unity in the body of Christ. That can only happen when we lay down our individuality, our differences, and we work to THINK in harmony.

Be agreeable. If you do these things, you will experience the peace and love of God all week. Sermon done, right there in the benediction.

Then comes this little challenge:

Greet one another with a holy embrace. All the brothers and sisters here say hello.

Reading this verse in a pandemic, or in flu season, or when people are doused in too much perfume, presents a bit of a stumbling block for us. Other translations go even farther and translate this as “greet each other with a holy kiss.” The lack of social cheek-kissing in America as you might experience in other countries makes this even more alarming for American readers. 

This way of salutation was practiced in eastern countries during Paul’s time. Paul was encouraging them to greet one another in an affectionate manner, and treat each other with kindness and love. The use of the word “holy” here serves to remind us that Paul intended it as an expression of Christian affection and not as an improper contact.

While we probably won’t adopt a practice of kissing per se, it would serve us well to be holy in our approach to each other, and greet each other with the kindness and love befitting a Christian community…and not just at church.

When we do that, it will be easier to be cheerful, keep our spirits up, and keep our souls in good repair. And when that happens, the love and the peace of God will be with us for sure.

Be Cheerful by Michelle Robertson

Projectors

A projector is an output device that can take images from a source and show them on a screen. Movie theaters use projectors at the rear of the theater to cast moving images on a giant wall screen in the front. Projectors are found in schools, businesses, training centers, etc.

And then there is another type of projecting. This is when someone has a grudge, grievance, anger issue, or mental instability, and projects that onto another person. It is a defense mechanism for coping with undesirable feelings and emotions. People project negative feelings onto others rather than admitting or dealing with the unwanted feelings. A husband constantly accusing his wife of cheating may be projecting his secret behavior onto her. A teenager, frustrated with his lack of accomplishment, may taunt and pick on a younger sibling rather than face his own feelings of inadequacy.

Bullying is a form of projecting. A middle school teacher and I were chatting last week and she talked about how much bullying takes place in school. She is working very hard and deliberately to have kids understand their own emotions and to take ownership of what they are processing internally, rather than project those feelings of anger and shame onto others by bullying. Sadly, many of them will grow up to be adult bullies and continue to project their unresolved issues onto others.

Bullies will probably always project. But that doesn’t mean you have to be their screen.

Luke 17 English Standard Version (ESV)

Temptations to Sin

17 And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! 2 It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.

3 Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.

If your brother or sister sins, rebuke them. Jesus never called us to be doormats. We can stand strong in the full armor of God and stand up for ourselves in his might. When the money lenders were defiling the temple, Jesus didn’t capitulate. He threw them out. Turning the other cheek here doesn’t mean offering a bully a second chance to strike…it means turning your cheek away as you walk out the door, closing it behind you on the bully.

Ephesians 6:10-20 The Message (MSG)

A Fight to the Finish

10-12 God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.

13-18 Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life.

God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.

If you have someone who continues to project their misery onto you, walk away. Bury yourself deep in God’s word, and pray for strength. Put on the full armor against evil, and stand up for yourself. Projectors need screens, so as soon as you stop being one, the show will be over and you’ll still be on your feet. God is strong, and he wants you to be strong. Take every weapon he supplies, cover yourself in prayer, and STAND FIRM. You’ve got this, because God’s got you. Thanks be to God.

Peaceful Waters by Kathy Schumacher