What Does it Mean to Be Salt and Light in a Broken World? Part Two

Light:

Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. Then He separated the light from the darkness. (Genesis 1:3-4 NLT)

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. (Harry Dixon Loes)

I was born in northern Indiana, about sixty miles south of Chicago, where the summers are blazing hot and the winters are brutally cold. At this time of year, in the autumn, the days get a little shorter, the angle of the light begins to shift against the trees, and the smell of school supplies is in the air. Pencils, and paper, and crayons and glue, and new jackets, and shoes that haven’t been scuffed just yet.

Abraham Lincoln was born in Kentucky, but from the age of seven, he lived in Spencer County, Indiana.* When I reach back into my early childhood, at the very bud of my academic career, one of the earliest memories I have is being taught about young and honest Abe, growing up in a one-room log cabin in the wild and woolly Indiana forest.

It wasn’t so much the politician, or the orator, or the beard, or the stovepipe hat that fired my imagination, although each of those things was impressive indeed. It was the picture that I had in my little girl’s mind of a long and lanky boy, sitting near a fire next to a wooden table, studying into a dark night, lit only by the stutter of the stub of a tallow candle, in a cabin buried in snow as deep as a man stands. The dim light from that little nub of a candle just stuck in my mind, because I’ve always been a reader. I can’t remember a time when I couldn’t read. I pictured young Abe, serious and studious, straining to see words on worn pages, lit only by the flame of a single candle. How much he wanted to read, and how much he yearned to learn and educate himself!

Now, of course, I am no longer young, and the little girl who loved to read has become the grandma, teaching her first granddaughter that the letter A says,  A – like in Apple; not in the flickering light of a precious candle, but in the icy blue glow of an ipad. (Made by a company named Apple, of which Abe never dreamed.)

Here’s the thing…it wasn’t about the light that shone from that candle, that sat on a table, in a tiny cabin in the wide, wild wood that fired Abe Lincoln’s mind, and soul and spirit. Rather, it was the light that lived inside of him, and shone out of him, that ultimately illuminated a nation.

And it’s that same light, that has been passed from generation to generation, like the flame of a candle passed from hand-to-hand and wick-to-wick at a midnight service on Christmas Eve, that has shone in the hearts of men and women throughout the ages, who have been called by the purpose of God to reflect His light to a lost and broken world.

Jesus said, Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16 KJV)

 

* Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial, www.nps.gov/libo/index.htm

What Does it Mean to Be Salt and Light in a Broken World? Part One

Salt:

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. (Colossians 4:6 KJV)

How do you season your speech? Are your words sweet, like honey, or spicy, like Tabasco? If you had to take them back, how would they taste? Would you be able to eat your own words, or would they be bitter to your belly?

How do we respond, when the words that we hear are as sharp and cutting as razors and when the voices all around us seem to always be raised against something, or someone, or some way of thinking or expressing who we are and what is most important to us, our families, our communities and our nations?

Vine’s Bible Dictionary of Words says that, “Being possessed of purifying, perpetuating and antiseptic qualities, ‘salt’ became emblematic of fidelity and friendship among eastern nations. To eat a person’s ‘salt’ [is] to share his hospitality…in Scripture it is an emblem of the covenant between God and His people…so when the Lord says, ‘Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another’ (Mark 9:50), in the Lord’s teaching it is also symbolic of that spiritual health and vigor essential to Christian virtue and counteractive of the corruption that is in the world.”

When the words that we hear, and even the words that we speak can cause wounds, how do we apply salt to those wounds for healing, rather than using words to cause further pain?

In the ancient world, salt was difficult to come by, necessary for life, and therefore extremely valuable. People who did their jobs well were said to be “worth their weight in salt” and people of high standing were seated “above the salt” at banquets, at the position of greatest authority.

James, the brother of Jesus, tells us that “the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, impartial and sincere” (James 3:15 ESV). The Word of God is compared to salt, to honey and to fresh-flowing, cleansing water. It is the wisdom from above, and it is the pearl of great price that is valuable beyond measure.

When we, as followers of Christ, apply the principles that we are taught by the Holy Spirit through the Word of God to every conversation and every situation that we encounter as we walk through this world day to day, and we let our speech be always with grace and seasoned with salt, then we will know how to answer every person, in every circumstance.

Regardless of the political climate that we find ourselves in – regardless of who is mayor, or governor, or senator, or president, or minister or king, the leadership of this world cannot be perfect, until the time when the King of kings and Lord of lords returns, to lift up all government upon His shoulders.

Therefore, rather than pointing fingers at each other, let us remember to point each other toward our Wonderful Counselor and the Shepherd of our Souls, Jesus Christ, so that we may, as far as it depends on us, live at peace with all people. The Sword of the Spirit is the Word of God, and our battle is not against flesh and blood, but with belief systems and attitudes that have not yet encountered the antiseptic and healing power of God’s Word, spoken by His Holy Spirit through His people, who we are, as His ambassadors on earth until He comes.

Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be salted? (Matthew 5:13a KJV)

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:20 ESV)

What Does it Mean to Age Well?

What does it mean to age well? God’s answers to this age-old question are timeless. Around 935 B.C., King Solomon wrote in chapter three of the Book of Ecclesiastes that there is a time, a season and a purpose for everything under heaven.

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest. A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up. A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance. A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to turn away. A time to search and a time to quit searching. A time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak. A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace. 

What do people really get for all of their hard work? I have seen the burden that God has placed on us all. Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-11 NLT)

Like a beautiful garden, God has planted eternity in the human heart, and it is from the depths of eternity that God sows the seeds of our lives and causes them to spring forth and bear fruit, in its own time and in its own season. There is a time to search, and a time to quit searching. There is a time to keep, and a time to throw away. A time to plant and a time to harvest. A time to heal. A time to build up. A time to rend and to mend. A time to cry, and a time to laugh; to grieve and to dance. God makes everything beautiful, according to its time. He gives us beauty for ashes and the oil of joy for mourning and in the end, He wipes away every tear from our eyes and yet, not a single tear is wasted, for God saves each of our precious tears in a bottle and records every cry in His great book. The garden in our hearts is watered by our tears, and the Eternal Gardener, apart from Whom we can do nothing, makes certain that the seed that is watered with tears does not return to us void, but brings forth an everlasting harvest, stored up forever for us, in the Vinedresser’s kingdom.

What does it mean to age well? Maybe it means to keep a vigil over our lives, to sit shiva with God over all that we’ve lost or that has been taken from us along the way. Perhaps it is to erase with a bold hand everything that the enemy of our souls would constantly use to divert our attention, and to finally believe, and speak, and declare over our lives, “It is finished!” To realize that God has removed every transgression as far from us as the east is from the west, through the atoning Blood of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and that He restores even that which He did not take away.

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven. God makes all things new, and what was once stained scarlet, He washes as white as snow. Perhaps to age well is simply, finally, to yield. To abide. To, at last, enter in to His rest and find peace, and make peace, with whatever was in the past, and to let go of worry about whatever God has designed for our future. Perhaps after all is said and done, to age well is to have earned the wisdom to trust God with all of it: with yesterday, with today, and forever, releasing our lives to the One Who has subjected the same in hope, Who quickens us through the gift of His Holy Spirit. Who abides with us forever.

Those who sow with tears shall reap with songs of joy because our Father in heaven has given us this promise. I will be your God throughout your lifetime – until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you. (Isaiah 46:4 NLT)

Even now, we cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. But when we look back at the scope of our lives, from the beginning until now we can see the hand of God moving us and shaping us, steadying us step by step along the way, and we know that when He comes, at last, we shall be like Him. He is the One Who knows and understands all of our temptations and our infirmities, and He is the One, the only One, Who will carry us, all the way home.

I pray all of God’s grace and peace over you and your families, in Jesus’ holy Name.

Amen.