Testing, Testing

When I was growing up outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a favorite Christmas activity was going to the John Wanamaker store in center city. My grandmother would travel by train to be with us for the holiday, and we would spend one full day of the trip at Wanamaker’s looking at the beautiful decorations, watching the magnificent pipe organ and light show in the main court, eating an elegant lunch at the Crystal Tea Room, and shopping for “special things.” One such special thing was beautiful stationary that was located in an upper-level department. As a child, I marveled that writing paper and envelopes had their own store! I have fond memories of my grandmother running her fingers over the paper and holding final selections up to the light. “What are you looking for, Grandma?” I asked. “The printer’s watermark,” she replied. “The finest linen stationary can always be proved by it’s watermark.” Pressed into the paper during the manufacturing process, each watermark identifies the paper mill’s trademark so that the maker is clearly revealed when held up to the light.

So it is with people. When you hold us up to the light of Christ, you should be able to see the watermark of our baptisms shining through our words, actions, thoughts, and deeds.

This was the subject of Paul’s cautionary letter to the Corinthians. We can tell from the very first verse that he is getting fed up with his church and is warning them that his third visit will bring his fatherly correction and discipline if they don’t shape up quickly. There is also a tone of frustration as he rebukes them for questioning his credentials when theirs are certainly in jeopardy. How dare they demand proof that Christ speaks through him when they have demonstrated that they aren’t listening anyway?

2 Corinthians 13:1-10 (Common English Bible)

 This is the third time that I’m coming to visit you. Every matter is settled on the evidence of two or three witnesses. When I was with you on my second visit, I already warned those who continued to sin. Now I’m repeating that warning to all the rest of you while I’m at a safe distance: if I come again, I won’t spare anyone. Since you are demanding proof that Christ speaks through me, Christ isn’t weak in dealing with you but shows his power among you. Certainly he was crucified because of weakness, but he lives by the power of God. Certainly we also are weak in him, but we will live together with him, because of God’s power that is directed toward you.

Examine yourselves to see if you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Don’t you understand that Jesus Christ is in you? Unless, of course, you fail the test.But I hope that you will realize that we don’t fail the test. We pray to God that you don’t do anything wrong, not because we want to appear to pass the test but so that you might do the right thing, even if we appear to fail.

We can’t do anything against the truth but only to help the truth. We are happy when we are weak but you are strong. We pray for this: that you will be made complete. 10 This is why I’m writing these things while I’m away. I’m writing so that I won’t need to act harshly when I’m with you by using the authority that the Lord gave me. He gave it to me so that I could build you up, not tear you down.

“Examine yourselves to see if you are in the faith. Test yourselves” (verse 5). This admonition to the Corinthians should not go unnoticed by us today. We are also to test ourselves against the light and see how we measure up. The effectiveness of our witness to the world is dependent on whether or not people can see Jesus in us. If saving the world was dependent on the light of Christ in us, would we turn people’s hearts toward Jesus?

Test yourself. Test your intentions, your actions, your grasp of Scripture, your service to the Lord, and the veracity of what you say versus what you do. As Paul reminds us in Romans 12:2, “Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is … what is good and pleasing and mature” (Common English Bible). Can you pass Paul’s test?

The Light of the Lord by Michelle Robertson

Walking in the Light

The summer heat has forced me to wait until sunset to walk my dog in the evening. We do our morning walk as early as we can and then wait out the 90 plus degree heat until it is safe again to go out. My yellow lab wears a 100 lb. fur coat, so this is necessary.

The other day I waited until 9pm before I got her out. It wasn’t intentional: I was writing a funeral sermon and didn’t want to stop until it was finished.

It amazed me how dark it is where I live. We don’t have streetlights in Colington, and by the time I got to the end of the driveway I regretted the fact that I had neglected to bring a flashlight or a cell phone. The other challenge before us was that our resident Canadian geese wander my cul-de-sac at will, leaving greenish black “offerings” all over the place. They are especially hard to dodge in the dark.

It doesn’t take long for darkness to overcome light, and it can sneak up on you if you aren’t prepared and haven’t been paying attention to it encroaching on your day. Or your soul.

So it is with spiritual darkness.

The Enemy can use the cover of darkness to stealthily approach any Christian life and render it blind. This is why it is always important to live our lives in the light of Christ. Christ’s light will never succumb to the darkness, but by our attitudes, behaviors, and fondness for wandering away, we certainly can find ourselves in the middle of a darkness we didn’t expect.

Our passage today speaks of the light that Christ brought to the world that was only made brighter by his death:

John 12 (Common English Bible)

Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”

29 The crowd standing there heard and said, “It’s thunder.” Others said, “An angel spoke to him.”

30 Jesus replied, “This voice wasn’t for my benefit but for yours. 31 Now is the time for judgment of this world. Now this world’s ruler will be thrown out.32 When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to me.” (33 He said this to show how he was going to die.)

Jesus set the stage for his crucifixion. Nobody understood what was about to happen, but he spoke this truth so that they would remember what it was all about after it was accomplished.

34 The crowd responded, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Human One must be lifted up? Who is this Human One?”

35 Jesus replied, “The light is with you for only a little while. Walk while you have the light so that darkness doesn’t overtake you. Those who walk in the darkness don’t know where they are going. 36 As long as you have the light, believe in the light so that you might become people whose lives are determined by the light.” After Jesus said these things, he went away and hid from them.

It is so easy for darkness to overtake us. One little flirtation, one small giving into temptation, one harsh word spoken in selfish anger, one slip backwards into a sinful behavior, and BAM, lights out.

This is why we must be watchmen on the wall, watching and waiting. The world’s ruler is constantly on the prowl looking for cracks in our armor. But we have the light of Christ within us, and it indeed is a light that no one can extinguish.

See the light? Be the light.

Morning Light by Michelle Robertson