Through the Gospels – Matthew 5

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp & put it under a basket, but on a stand, & it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works & give glory to you Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16, English Standard Version

As I was reading Matthew 5 this morning, several “light-related” thoughts came to mind.

    -The first recorded words spoken by God in Genesis are “Let there be light…” (Genesis 1:3, ESV) This creative declaration spoke into being the beginning point for the life that would soon fill the earth & the sea.
    -One of my earliest memories is being in a car driving down the Mt. Rose highway from Tahoe’s North Shore, heading down the twisty, curvy mountain road, with the destination being HOME (which in my case was & is Reno.) I can still feel the feeling of joy & anticipation that rose up in me as we made the final turn in the dark that revealed the lights of the Greater Reno/Sparks Metropolitan area… several thoughts hit all at once. “Home!” “People!” And “Life!” (I may have had worries that one day the world (or at least my city) would end while I was away & I wouldn’t know about it until we drove home…) Bottom line, I equated the LIGHTS with LIFE.
    Vincent Van Gogh, the famous Dutch painter, had at one time been a Protestant minister – he was fired by his ministerial superiors for undermining the dignity of the priesthood, a charge that stemmed from his missional attempts to meet the physical as well as spiritual needs of impoverished peoples. One of my favorite paintings is Starry Night; one of the most striking features of the painting is also one of the most subtle. The painting depicts a “Starry Night” with a sprawling village laid out beneath it. Lights, (representing LIFE) fill almost every home and building… except for the church in the lower middle of the canvas. No lights to be found. And from his experience, no LIFE.

We are the light of the world because we have the LIFE that Christ has given, represented by the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit. We are the light because Jesus was the light first (John 8:12), & we’re following in His footsteps, reflecting Him. The Matthew 5:14-16 passage declares that the light is meant to shine; a lamp isn’t lit to be covered, but to be placed where it can bring light to the dark areas. Since we are the light of the world, we are to LET our light SHINE – not hide it, minimize or cover it. To me, this is a declaration that if I live following after Jesus & loving God & people, & following Him, my light WILL shine; I would have to take specific measures to keep the light from being seen.

And that is the purpose of shining the light – so people can see. Light means, “There is LIFE here.” It draws people towards it. And worked out in our every day lives, it brings glory to God the Father.

LORD, let Your light shine in & through me today. Bring life to me & to others in Jesus Name, for Your glory.

Through the Gospels – Matthew 1

SOAP – Through the Gospels
Matthew 1

Matthew 1:1 – the book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

When I was just learning to read, one of my daily routines was going through a devotional bible reading plan called “Bible Pathways.” Their particular plan was set up in such a way that if you followed it closely (reading approximately 3 chapters/15 minutes/day), you would finish reading the entire Bible in one year. I absolutely loved finishing my reading because then I could put a check mark on the scheduled reading plan for the day. (Nothing like crossing things off a list! DONE! Still love doing that.)

That said, I hated reading the genealogies & family trees. Whenever I came across them, I would just SKIP over them to the end; the spot where the ‘boring’ & meaningless to me list of oft-unpronounceable names ran on & on. I can remember asking several people WHY this was in the Bible; it made no sense to me to have all these people listed & that I had to read over it. And it wasn’t like there was only one spot in the Bible where the genealogies were, like the “Book of Genealogies” located after Esther & before Job, so you could just kind of SKIP over them to get to the good stuff. Nope. They pop up all over the place, invisibly connecting narratives, histories, & stories like connective tissue – its there, but you don’t know the reason for it.

Matthew 1 begins with a genealogy – one that I have skipped over many, many times. Until I got frustrated & asked God a question: “Why? Why are these in the Bible? Is it to build my perseverance? To make me thankful for the end of the list? I don’t get it – but if its in there, its gotta be important. What is it?”

The answer to my prayer/question was not immediate, & it came from an unlikely source: my dad’s cousin Laurie. Cousin Laurie is our very own “Family Tree & Ancestry Expert.” For some reason unbeknownst to me, she has been passionately researching our family line for years, even crossing the Atlantic to peruse family records in Scotland. To my knowledge, she has traced our family of origin, with multiple branches, back into the 16th century. I had heard many 2nd hand stories about her searches, but never really got the straight scoop until one day she stopped by my office after church on a Sunday, & started in on a story about “our family.”

Laurie pulled out a notebook with several pieces of paper – it was obvious she’d spent a lot of time with it, & that the information on it was valuable. In a very short period of time, she showed me different branches of the family tree, complete with names, birth/death dates, & interesting vignettes. What had once been a poorly understood & mostly unknown collection of names came to life. These were people, with lifetimes of stories – & every one of them was connected to me & my own story. The actions, choices, & lives (good, bad, & ugly) of people living hundreds of years prior had somehow, someway led to me & my reality.

As I listened & observed, suddenly threads began to emerge in my mind – I could see & trace God’s hand of mercy, grace, & purpose on my family line. Generation upon generation, God had been working redemptively & faithfully. The family tree revealed a forest of purpose & intentionality. It was like a puzzle piece being placed into the 10,000-pc puzzle it originated in; somehow it fit.

And then I saw it – an answer to the prayer/question I had asked God long before. Genealogies are reminders of the importance of individual lives in the grand story of the gospel, as well as a picture of the absolute sovereignty of God to weave those threads of story into a beautiful tapestry that reveals HIS story, purpose, plan, & the Good News of Jesus Christ.

LORD – thank you for not only being a “big picture” God, but also for dealing with the small & seemingly insignificant life story threads… that You make something beautiful from it. Remind me of the significance of my actions, choices, & the way I invest my life today. Fill me with awareness of where You are at work in & around me, & show me how to cooperate with Your Spirit in that work.