Let the light in
I recall one of the most curious sites I've ever seen. It was at the church I was a youth pastor at and before a big event I headed up with over 250 amazing volunteers. So many details needed to be accomplished for the event to live up to it's name, "Night to Shine". I was trusting that God was going to fill all the details that were beyond the scope of my sight. I knew that none of these efforts would be worth it if God wasn't the reason for every task, every moment, every news cast that was going to cover that evening of 100 young people with special needs getting a night of fun, dancing, limo's, and celebration.
My fear was that the spiritual realm would seek to steal this night of joy for a group of people that had so many nights of pain and isolation. I remember asking for God to give me some kind of a sign (silly and child like, I know) to assure me that he was present. As I entered one of the main entrances to the church, there it was, a sight I will never forget as it still gives me goosebumps.
Near the entrance to the Church was a snake, frozen, coiled, and in a hissing position as it faced the sun! It was as if the light brought it's end and there it was frozen in time for me to see! It was one of the most bizarre moments and yet so profound to me today, for a number of reasons.
27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. Philippians 1:27-28
The symbolism of that snake and efforts that were being undertaken by the Church are nothing new, but is a reality that isn't taken into consideration for a community of faith to accomplish what matters most. The words of Paul from prison were to those he loved and desired to encourage as a people who were not frightened, paralyzed, or complacent to a life "partly" about the gospel. He sought to rally their spirits, regain their strength, and bring unity at a critical time as the Church was emerging into the Gentile world. From his own darkened cell, I like to think that Paul was preaching to let the light in and not be afraid of what seeks to oppose them.
Francis Chan shares in his latest critique on the church in "Until Unity" that; "When the Church becomes unified, then the mission becomes clear" . I echo these words as the church sits in a state of paralysis, lost in some ways to it's purpose, leaderless, hurt, and marginalized because it has not sought to live in public or in private "a manner worthy...". Though I am as fallen as all men, I am redeemed and seek to live up to Pauls charge with the Holy Spirit filling in the gaps for my shortcomings and limited view.
I also desire to be like Paul to bring light into places where darkness coils and retreats from the glory of Gods power and work. Isn't it amazing that we are part of this process as his people, as his Church? Or have we lost this in some way? Have we settled for a mind of scarcity, or the big lie that God cannot break us free from a cycle of mediocrity and heartache? This is not to be so, if we can live into the life we are called and build this on the foundation of not personalities, promises, or phobias, but on the Gospel, then we will encounter the marvelous light of God's hand, protection, restoration, and mercy. May it be so!
Keep Looking Up!