ARE YOU IN A CAVE?

I dare say that most of us live above ground, we don’t live in caves.  Sometimes in the high heat of the day, I have wondered about finding a cave and living in it since the temperature is always significantly cooler than the ambient temperature above ground.  But, needless to say, I use air conditioning and I am not a cave dweller. 

However, I have been in a number of caves throughout my lifetime.  In fact, a dear friend grew up on a farm on which there was a huge cave, and she played in it long before anyone realized how big and complex the cave system was.  Later, Sequoyah Caverns, Valley Head, Alabama, was opened for public visits and we had multiple opportunities to see the inside of her childhood playhouse.  Unfortunately, it has recently been closed to the public once again! 

We know from early church history that believers resorted to caves and catacombs to escape from the intense persecution and to bury their dead.  In fact, the catacombs in Rome show the inscriptions made by those early Christians.  

How about you?  Have you ever been in a cave?  It is quite an experience to walk hundreds of feet down into the earth, to see the formations and underground lakes. I have not gone cave-exploring, spelunking, other than in commercial tours of well-mapped caves.  The Meramec Caverns in Stanton, Missouri are some such well-known caves. 

Meramec Caverns in Stanton MO

Each cave I have visited always includes the time when the guide tells you to hold hands and don’t move, then BLACKNESS.  Such darkness that you cannot even see your hand inches in front of your face.

It is difficult to comprehend darkness like that, until you experience it.  It reminds me of the description of one of the plagues in Egypt:

“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness to be felt.’” 

Exodus 10:21. 

Can you imagine, darkness that was so pervasive and so intense that you could feel it?   God is the Master Creator of all things.  He is sovereign.  He caused this darkness over the land of Egypt and it occurred at His command. 

The Psalmist wrote of the scope of God’s knowledge of him, of God’s love and of God’s power in Psalm 139. 

If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, And the light around me will be night,”  even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You. 

Psalm 139:11-12

In modern parlance, we might consider these verses as saying “God sees you even in pitch black darkness.  No matter where you go, God is there and He sees you.”

We often think of darkness and light as equal counterparts, the flip side of the same coin.  But that analysis is vastly mistaken, I believe.  Darkness cannot exist in the presence of light.  Thomas Kinkade, the artist known as the “Painter of Light” (thomaskinkade.com), said:

You have to expect spiritual warfare whenever you stand up for righteousness or call attention to basic values. It’s just a matter of light battling the darkness. But the light wins every time. You can’t throw enough darkness on light to put it out.

Scripture puts forth this concept in this way from the Gospel of John:

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John 1:5

Praise God, the Father Almighty, that Jesus Christ is the Light from heaven that shines in this dark old world. 

“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’”

John 8:12

It is blessed comfort to know that the darkness of the cave cannot remove us from the Father’s sight.  The darkness of our sin will not eliminate our relationship with the Father if we are found in Christ Jesus, His Son. 

Praise God, and praise His Holy Son through whom we have forgiveness of sin and life everlasting. 

Father, Your word tells us that we are never out of Your sight.  We cannot run so far or descend into the earth so deep that You cannot find us, that You cannot see us, that You cannot hold us in Your hand.  Such comfort is too marvelous for us to comprehend, but for the eyes and heart of faith.  Thank You for Your word and for your marvelous love for Your children.

BLOCKING YOUR OWN WITNESS

Work with me here – use your powers of mental image creation – use your imagination for a moment! 

Picture yourself going along a scenic highway with trees on each side of the road, wishing that you could see beyond the trees to the vista and you expected would be there.  Now, on your mental roadway you come across a sign that says “Scenic Overlook Ahead”.  Excitement wells up in your heart and you expect to see almost to China … well, not that far given the earth’s curvature, but you and confident you will see a long way?

You round the bend and see the sign with the arrow to the overlook.  You park the car in the conveniently placed space and walk to the overlook, complete with sign that headlines VIEW. 

overgrown-scenic-view-sign
Scenic Overlook of Fork Mountain on Blue Ridge Parkway

And you see … the trees and shrubs that line the road.  They have totally blocked the “scenic overlook” so that you can only wonder what you would have seen at this spot, but for the trees!   I have no idea what Fork Mountain looks like, but I am sure it is wonderful since it was worth having a sign created along with a parking area, etc.  It’s too bad that we can’t see it for the trees that have grown up and have blocked the view.

Being the die-hard fans of scenic overlooks, we continued our trek and came to another overlook along the Blue Ridge Parkway … it reads “View SHENANDOAH VALLEY”. 

overgrown-scenic-view
Overgrown Scenic Overlook of the Shenandoah Valley, along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Because we live in East Tennessee and have traveled this route often, we know intellectually that a view of the Shenandoah Valley is, in fact, on the other side of the trees.  But you could not tell it from the overlook view, that’s for sure.

Just down the road a-piece (that’s East Tennessee for a little distance), there was another overlook and, what to my wondering eyes should appear but … the mountains encircling the Shenandoah Valley!

blue-ridge-parkway-vista
Mountains encircling the Shenandoah Valley, Blue Ridge Parkway.

And then, shortly farther down the road, we saw the valley off in the distance.

shenandoah-valley-from-blue-ridge-parkway
The Shenandoah Valley in the distance, taken at an overlook that was not blocked along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Are we like the Fork Mountain overlook?  Do we have a Christian witness to tell to those we come in contact with but they cannot see our witness for all the mess that surrounds us?

Think about a church congregation on Sunday morning.  It is welcoming at the front door and there is all manner of information available to newcomers, including a nice man and woman extending a warm hand in welcome.  The new family walks in to the sanctuary and finds a place in a pew that, unbeknownst to them, “belongs” to one of the premier families in the church.  All of a sudden, tongues begin to wag about the scene that will develop when Mr. and Mrs. So and So come in and THEIR pew is taken by this visiting family.  The ushers even consider asking the visitors to move, but don’t want to upset anything, especially since Mr. and Mrs. So and So have not yet arrived.

So our visitors sit undisturbed until they overhear some church members talking:

“Did you see how tight her skirt is this morning?  I’m surprised her parents let her go out like that!  Oh, she is in foster care?  Well that is no excuse!  And, did you notice the tongue piercing that boy has? Disgraceful!  And he came to church like that!  Oh, his single mother is in the last stages of cancer?  Do you really think that forgives his unwashed and uncombed hair or his clothes that smell a bit used, shall we say!  Anyone can wash!”

“Ms. MNH told me that Ms. XYZ has been sick for weeks.  She said that the Deacons have not even visited her?  They should be ashamed of themselves, aren’t they supposed to care for people in the church?  No, I didn’t check on Ms. XYZ.  Me?  What?  Oh no, I can’t go to her house, I don’t even know where she lives!  I wouldn’t know what to say.  Besides, that’s what Deacons are for!”

“Look at Mr. ASB in the choir!  Who does he think he is!  I’ve heard him sing in the congregation and he can’t carry a tune in a barrel.  Oh, he has had voice lessons? Well I doubt that they would make any different. I think he wants to be up there to be more visible … doesn’t he have a store in the mall.  I hear it is not doing so well … perhaps he is in the choir so people go to his store!  It certainly isn’t because he can sing!  Hahaha!”

What is the impression that this visiting family would have of our imaginary congregation?  Of the individuals in our imaginary congregation?  Is this that they are honoring their Savior, by backbiting, spreading gossip, belittling other believers?

Taking it out of the imaginary … Do we hide our witness with our sins so that we, in reality, have no witness at all because it has been negated by our actions?  Is the overlook of our life free and clear of debris or is it so cluttered with our sins that people can’t see the love we have for our Lord because of the lack of love we have for our neighbors or for other believers? 

Jesus said:

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 5:16

Let your light shine … don’t let the overlook of your life become so overgrown and cluttered that it obscures your witness for your Lord.

 

Father, I pray that my light is not hidden under a bushel of my own making.  I pray that my light is not blown out by my critical nature and my narrow-minded thinking.  I pray that my witness is not undermined by sins for which I am unrepentant.  I pray that my light beams brightly for Jesus Christ through the darkness of our world.  I pray that my witness is clear and that others will be drawn to Jesus, and that I would not push them away from my Lord by any act or word carelessly spoken. I pray that You would send Your Spirit to enable me to glorify You in all things, through the power of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

 

BLUEBERRIES FOR CHRIST

I love blueberries. I like to have them on cereal, over ice cream, in muffins, in granola bars – I love blueberries.   My Beloved, on the other hand, will eat some blueberries but he is not as fanatic about them as I am . For him, a little goes a long way.

The other morning, we were preparing breakfast and I was scooping out blueberries from the freezer bag and pouring them into my granola cereal and getting my Beloved some Cheerios.

Blueberries and granola cereal.
Blueberries and granola cereal.

I asked if he wanted some blueberries and he replied “Yes, but not many.”

Being the dutiful wife that I am, I counted out eight blueberries and put them on the top of his cereal, and then asked if that was sufficient. I really thought he would want more, but he did not – eight was just right.

So, we ate our cereal and when we were down to the milk, I noticed how blue the milk was in my bowl and I assumed that the color was so deep because I had so many blueberries with my granola.Blueberry colored milk.

But, when I looked at my Beloved’s bowl, his milk was as blue as mine even though his bowl had so many less blueberries!

Blueberry milk and Cheerios.
Blueberry milk and Cheerios.

I confess that this was far from a scientific experiment.  However, a few things can be deduced from our breakfast challenge.  First, a blueberry is not a strong fruit – its skin is thin and it is small in comparison with other fruit. Its taste is mild and it probably won’t win a contest for being the most distinctive taste in the panoply of fruit flavors.

Second, the blueberry is a champion of color. Those eight little berries colored the milk the same hue of blue as did my 4 scoops of berries. [You can conduct the same experiment just by dishing out the berries in the first place … if your hands touch them, even when frozen, you will have blue marks on your fingers.]

Third, what a powerful impact those eight little berries had on the white milk. Quiet, no grand heraldry announcing that the blueberries were doing something … they just made their presence known by coloring their world.

Then I thought of Scripture and our witness to the love and power of our Lord Jesus Christ. We too are supposed to affect our world for Jesus by our word, work and witness.

Jesus said we are to be salt and light to the world. Matthew 5:13-16. Neither salt nor light leave the area around it unchanged. Both have an immediate affect on that which it touches. Light does not leave the darkness alone when it appears – light totally obliterates the darkness.   Salt is not just a flavoring. Indeed, according to the Salt Institute, there are about 14,000 uses for salt.  It has been said that the use of salt as a preservative for food was an early cornerstone of civilization. [You can read more about salt at http://www.care2.com/greenliving/47-smart-uses-for-salt.html#ixzz3jU24iqym]

In short, Jesus was telling His disciples that they should have an affect on the people with whom they come in contact. And, through the power of the Holy Spirit, this affect should be quiet, enduring and efficient no matter the circumstance.

Jesus did not include the blueberry in His command to His disciples when He said that they should be salt and light to their world and I certainly don’t want to add anything to Scripture as it is, I believe, the inerrant Word of the Living God.

But, I think that the little blueberry can be an example of what He was saying. We should not just soak up the milk, we should not just hear the Word, we should not just bask in the fellowship of our friends … we should be out in the world leaving behind the mark of Jesus Christ just as the blueberry leaves its mark when it comes in contact with your hand.

When we are in contact with our family, neighbors, fellow-shoppers, drivers, church members, club associates, whomever … whatever our interaction with others may be, there should be an impact for Jesus Christ.

  • Can people tell that we are Christians by the way we color our interactions with them?
  • We may be small, weak and not very assuming in appearance, but do we make a mark for our Lord in our society, not just on Sunday at and after services, but on a day to day basis?

So, what about you?  Have you colored your world today?  Have I?

Lord, please forgive us when we have missed opportunities to witness to others about your love and grace.  Forgive us when we fail to follow your lead in presenting the gospel message of salvation to others who may be asking about what Christ means to us.  Lord, forgive us when we have soaked up the Word, hoarding it for ourselves, without recognizing that it will increase when we spread it abroad.  Lord, help us live for You no matter where we are or who we are with.  Let us remember that You are ever present with us, to give us the words to speak as you did with Moses and the prophets.  Praise Your Holy Name.