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Ascension

18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms,21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.  (Ephesians 1:18-23)

As Paul prayed this for the Christians in Ephesus, I have the same prayer for you on this 40th day after the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus:

That He would bring the light of the Gospel of salvation further into your heart than you’ve ever seen it before, to lighted with His grace corners long hidden in darkness.

That His light would show you ever more clearly the hope you have in Jesus and His love.

That His light will show you ever more brilliantly that your inheritance of His glory is right now, among His people.

That His light will show you that there is no power greater than His, for those who believe in Him.

I pray that you will know that the power He gives you is the same power He used to raise Jesus from the dead, to bring Him up into heaven, to seat Him at the Right Hand of God; the power to give Jesus all authority in heaven and on earth not only now but forever and ever.

I pray that you will know that Jesus is the head over all things, and all things are under Him, not for the sake of Jesus but for the sake of His body the church, of which you are a beloved member.

Jesus has been raised from death and has ascended into heaven for you.  He rules over all things for you.  And He will bring you to heaven to complete the church and rejoice in the fullness of His bride as we worship Him and live in His love forever.

No matter what else happens to us in this life, this is what we have to look forward to – this is the promise of the Day of Ascension.

God bless us everyone!

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1 John 2:9-11

9 Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. 10 Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. 11 But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them. (NIV)

My wife and I regularly watch the CSI programs on television, and others like them.  I’m always a little curious when the investigators search through the crime scene with flashlights, even though the room lights are on.  I guess that’s so they can see things a little more clearly.  If you try that at home, looking at the carpet with a flashlight shining on it, you can see things a bit differently and a little more clearly, even in the daylight.

Somebody someday should invent a Flashdark – a device that would obscure from your vision an object you aimed it at.  So you might be out driving along the road on a nice sunny day and see that you’re coming up on some roadkill – aim the Flashdark at it and you wouldn’t see it – just a sort of black fuzzy spot instead.  Or suppose you didn’t want to see your grade on a school paper – aim the Flashdark at it and shazzam!  The grade is gone from sight.

But I think I already have a built-in Flashdark in my heart, and maybe you do, too.  I think it works like this:  I think that most of the time I like to think that I am living in the light of Jesus and His love.  I like to think that I’m getting better at it, and spending more and more time in His light.  It’s possible that you feel the same way.  And yet sometimes my heart shines its Flashdark on to something it doesn’t want to see, and makes it easy for me to ignore that thing or pretend that it’s something that it isn’t.  For instance,

My heart may shine its Flashdark on someone who is a different color than I am, or who has different abilities, or who makes more money than I do or who has less money than I do – and the Flashdark obscures the fact that this person is a beloved, redeemed, welcomed, treasured child of the heavenly Father, just like me.

My heart may shine its Flashdark on someone who has a lot of behavior problems, or is a difficult person to like, let alone love – and the Flashdark obscures also the immense, unfathomable love that God has for them just as He has for me.

My heart may shine its Flashdark on someone else’s circumstances and cause me to respond with “there but for the grace of God” – and the Flashdark obscures also the fact that the same could be – and is – true of me as well.

All this is to say to John and Jesus and the Holy Spirit, on those days when I’m relying on that Flashdark to inform me about the people that I meet and work with, Lord, take that Flashdark from my hands and replace it with a Flashlight so that I can see clearly the love, the forgiveness, and the value that you have for each one of them.  And if I’m looking at you with my Flashdark, too, I’m sorry.  Please forgive me and help me to see you in the light of the love of Christ.

1 John 2:1-11

1 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

 3 We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. 4 Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. 5 But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: 6Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. . . .

  9 Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. 10 Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. 11 But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.  (NIV)

If the greatest commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and strength and mind” and the second, “love your neighbor as yourself” is its partner, then the greatest sin is to hate and turn away from the Lord who is God and its partner is to hate your neighbor / brother / sister.  It’s not the unforgivable sin – Jesus pleads for us in the presence of the Father as our Advocate, and the Father is faithful and just and will forgive even this sin – but for us who are the children of God and walking in His light it is the sin that colors and darkens everything we do.

But I confess, my brother, that it is entirely my fault, my sin, that I do not love you as Jesus would love you.  I am not willing to give you the time of day sometimes, my sister, much less my entire life, and that is entirely my sin.  There is no sin in you that Jesus has not forgiven and no failure of yours that He does not take to the Father’s throne for overflowing mercy and grace, but there are times when I feel uncomfortable around you.  That is my darkness, not yours.  If I am to walk and live in the true light of Jesus, I must recognize my own darkness so that I can turn from it and reach out my arms of compassion to you.

And will you take me up on the offer of the compassionate embrace?  That’s your decision, one which I dare not influence in any way except to extend the invitation.  The only loving thing I can do for you is to put away my darkness and extend the hand of love, hoping that someday you will take it in yours.

God bless us everyone!

1 John 4:5-7

5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.  (NIV)

The astonishing thing about God is this:  He holds nothing back from us.  If there are things we don’t understand about Him, the darkness is in our own minds.  But He reaches out completely to us in untarnished love, yearning for full fellowship with us.

It’s hard for me to have full fellowship with God if I hold back from Him.  If I keep a secret from Him, there’s still a place where I’m afraid of Him.  If I hide a shame, there’s still a place where I don’t trust Him.  If I disguise a motive, there’s still a place where I don’t value Him.  He holds nothing back from me; He offers Himself fully and freely to me, to walk in loving fellowship with me all the time.  What keeps that from happening are the veils and walls that I put up between us, that mean that much of the time I can’t see where my own feet are landing as I try to walk with Him.  And the veils and walls are so heavy and I’ve put them up so securely that (as He knows only too well) only the blood of His Son Jesus is strong enough to dissolve the fabric and the mortar, to bring down the veils and walls and let me walk in the fellowship of true light with Him.

And the same is true for you and me, brother and sister in Christ, when we walk together with one another.  As long as I hold up a veil between us, we can’t have the fellowship of the true light of God’s love between us.  As long as I hide behind a wall between us, we can’t really walk together, side by side and heart to heart.  We can talk over the fence, I suppose, but each of us in our own separate yards and in our own separate lives going our own separate ways – that isn’t fellowship – that isn’t love – that isn’t the light that the Gospel of Jesus Christ brings us.

The blood of Jesus is powerful enough to dissolve the fabric, knock down the walls, tear up the fences, and let us reach across our dividing lines to embrace one another in love, the way He has embraced us.  The blood of Jesus is merciful enough to do all that without harming us in any way.  The blood of Jesus is grace-filled enough to do all that without leaving any speck of the residue of darkness behind.  And the blood of Jesus is wondrous enough to fill you and me with the courage to lay aside the darknesses in our lives and walk in the light of His resurrection glory.

Please, do that with me.  I reach out my hand to you in His love; will you walk with me in His light?

God bless us everyone!

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