Isn’t This What We’re Supposed To Do?

An inspiring account of faith in action from a local pastor here in Hendersonville, NC. This humble woman in Kenya has a lot to teach us all about being doers of the Word and not hearers only and allowing the light of the Gospel in our lives to draw others to Christ.

Typestry

Over the past 4 years, mission teams from our church have helped with the Houses of Hope Project building homes for widows in Kenya, Africa. On one of those first trips, our team built a house for a widow named Irene who has 9 children. As a sacrifice of thanks to our team for building her a house, she sacrificed her only chicken to feed them. Our team responded by giving her back seven-fold, delivering seven new chickens from the market the next day. God used her sacrifice to spark their generosity. She responded again before we sent another team the next year by donating a piece of her land to build a church. You can read a full account of the ways that her one chicken led to a church and so much more here. You can also read her story in the book Spiritually Shrewd? By Dr…

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The Light of the Gospel

“The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. … For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” (2 Cor. 4: 4,6) 

Fall has arrived in all its splendor here in the mountains of western North Carolina. Visitors are flooding into our sleepy little communities and navigating our winding roads to bask in the wonder of God’s creation and to capture that perfect photo for posting on social media.

Not being much of a photographer myself, I’m usually disappointed with my own photos. imageThey rarely adequately convey the breathtaking beauty of the Creator’s artistry. One trick that works well for capturing the vivid colors of autumn is positioning the camera so that the sunlight forms a backdrop for the shot. This technique greatly enhances the natural colors, as the light filters through the leaves and creates the appearance of a “tree with the lights in it”, as perfectly articulated by Annie Dillard in her Pulitzer Prize-winning work, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. This photo I took of a copse of aspens in Estes Park, Colorado a couple of years ago serves as an example.

Experts tell me that lighting is an essential key to taking good photographs. God’s Word tells me that lighting is also a vitally important key to being an effective witness for Christ.  2 Cor. 3:18 says, “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 

It grieves my heart, as I’m sure it grieves God, when I hear of seekers who have been turned away from the Christian faith by the actions of those believers who all too often serve as a barrier to God rather than a conduit. It grieves me even more when I stop to consider how often I have likely been that barrier myself.

Paul tells us in Galatians that our flesh constantly struggles against God’s Spirit for control of our hearts. When the flesh temporarily wins that battle, the light of the Gospel dims and we begin to blend into the woodwork of humanity. But when we surrender to the leading of his Spirit, God’s glory sets us apart from the crowd and draws others to the Christ who resides in our hearts, just as the autumn splendor of God’s creation is drawing so many visitors to these mountains arrayed in their annual October palette of colors and light, perfectly blended.

Never forget that people are always watching. They may not know a word of Scripture – they may not even own a Bible. But we are surrounded by people looking for light in an often dark and gloomy world. May they see that light in us that we might be the conduit Christ uses to draw them to himself.

“Then one day I was walking along Tinker Creek thinking of nothing at all and I saw the tree with the lights in it.  I saw the backyard cedar where the mourning doves roost charged and transfigured, each cell buzzing with flame. … I have since only rarely seen the tree with the lights in it.  The vision comes and goes, mostly goes, but I live for it, for the moment when the mountains open and a new light roars in spate through the crack, and the mountains slam.”Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Note: All Scripture references taken from the New International Version (NIV)

The Closeness of God

“You answer us with awesome and righteous deeds, God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth, and of the farthest seas, who formed the mountains by your power, having armed yourself with strength, who stilled the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, and the tumult of the nations. The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy.” (Psalm 65:5-8) 

I love sunsets. Any of you who follow me on Facebook probably know that by now, given the number of sunset photos I have posted through the years. From the comfort of my deck I have a front row seat to the sun setting each night over the Blue Ridge Mountains to the west of my home in Western North Carolina. That view inspired the name for this blog, Ridgetop Reflections.

imageIt amazes me just how unique each sunset appears. Quite often they take my breath away and sometimes even leave me in tears. They never fail to remind me of the closeness of God’s presence. And I don’t believe it is a coincidence that the most awe-inspiring sunsets seem to appear when I most need to be reminded just how close God actually is. Such was the case recently when this one capped off a particularly difficult week.

In the Scriptures God reminds us over and over that he is always with us. When Moses felt inadequate for the task God assigned him, God reassured him “I will be with you.” (Ex. 3:12)  When Joshua felt unworthy of replacing Moses and incapable of leading Israel into the Promised Land, God challenged him to “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified and do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)  When Jeremiah objected that he was too young to serve as God’s prophet, God declared, “Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you.” (Jer. 1:8)

The familiar words of the 23rd Psalm echo “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)  When God himself made his dwelling among us in the person of Christ, his name as foretold by Isaiah was Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14), which literally means “God with us”. (Matt. 1:23)  And through the person of the Holy Spirit, God fulfills his promise to be with usalways, to the very end of the age.” (Matt. 28:20)

When you face the inevitable trials and heartaches of this life, take time to reflect on those promises from God’s Word. Remember that the God who created us and who made his dwelling among us in the person of Christ now lives within us in the person of the Holy Spirit. Even in our darkest days, when sometimes he seems so distant, God is closer than we realize.

If you don’t currently have a sanctuary where you are able to just be still and sense his presence, I encourage you to find one and return to it often. As for me, I can’t wait to see the sunset he paints for me tonight!

“The most holy and necessary practice in our spiritual life is the presence of God. That means finding constant pleasure in his divine company, speaking humbly and lovingly with him in all seasons, at every moment, without limiting the conversation in any way.” – Brother Lawrence, The Practice of The Presence of God

Note: All Scripture references from the New International Version (NIV)