Saturday, October 23, 2010

I See the Moon

When I was little, my parents would sing a slightly modified nursery rhyme:
I see the moon; the moon sees me;
     the moon sees somebody I’d like to see.
God bless the moon; God bless me;
     God bless the somebody I’d like to see.

It seems to me that God above
     created you for me to love.
He picked you out from all the rest
     because He knew I’d love you best.
As I started having children of my own, I’d sing this song to them, and my guess is that they will pass this on to their children.

Romantics have often gazed into the night sky and looked upon the beauty of the moon, inspired with thoughts of love. But the first time I was truly struck the moon’s radiance, was at Disney World. As the day at Disney came to a close, the customary end-of-the-day fireworks started exploding over the castle. Now the folks at Disney put on a good show, and the fireworks are part of the package, done with complete excellence. But as the lights and noise drew the attention of the crowd, the Lord spoke to me and prompted me to turn around and look in the opposite direction.

There, in the clear night sky, the full moon, without pomp or circumstance, glowed in the blackness, the same as it has done for ages. I realized in that moment that I was ruined by the contrast. The beauty in the sky, crafted by the hand of God, eclipsed the best that man had to offer. From that moment onward, fireworks lost any appeal to me so much so that the noise and smoke can become an annoying, smelly cacophony, remembering that a greater, ageless beauty exists.

The beauty of God can have that same effect on us. We are changed by the knowledge of His beauty, and as we gaze on His beauty all substitutes lose their appeal. But God is much more like the sun than the moon. The more we gaze upon Him, the more His light reveals the inferiority of all other things. His light brings out the beauty and the truth in all His creation, and our eyes are sometimes drawn to the created beauty over the Source of Beauty. How often do we choose to gaze upon the reflections of His goodness, the gifts that He freely provides, and consequently let these substitutes overshadow His love, and light, and beauty? We can even start to believe that the goodness in us is part of our make-up rather a gift from God. But if you think about it, we are a little more like the moon.

The moon has no light of its own to share with the world. It simply reflects the light of the sun, which brings life to the world. So when we spend time in the presence of God, like the moon gazing upon the sun, we start to reflect His beauty to the world. Scripture tells us: “We love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) His love fills us and is reflected back to the world as reminder that the light exists and will return, no matter how dark the present moment seems to be. Like the moon, if we allow the world to come between us and the Source of Light, we become darker, reflecting His love ever less. Yet even on the darkest night, when no light is reflected on the moon, the sun is still there, and even in our darkest moments, God is present, powerful and acting in our lives, pulling us back toward Him.

We are imperfect reflections of His light, sometimes shining in full brilliance, and other times aching for the sunlight that once warmed us. But as we look for Him, we start to see a small glimpse of His radiance, and a sliver of His light reflects from our countenance to the world that is longing to see light. The more we seek Him, the brighter we become; the more dedicated our gaze, the brighter we become. The world, in its ignorance, may think we are a light source, but we acknowledge in full humility that we are just poor reflections of His beauty, His love reflecting from us.

But the analogy breaks down when we consider the moon’s orbit and how it is compelled to repeat the ebb and flow of its phases. Unlike the moon, which cycles through the monthly phases, we are capable of embracing His presence all the time, both resting and walking in His Presence.

I don’t think I’m alone in the fact that I can let the lesser lights capture my gaze, but even in the darkest moment, when I feel oh so dark, cold and alone as a result of my infatuation with the world, I also believe that my God can be found again. That there is no place I can ever go that is beyond His hand, to pull me out of darkness and into His loving presence, and even to be warmed to the point of glowing. So I seek the Lord while He may be found, in the present moment, and with His help I am capable of loving, truly loving others, simply because I know His love for me.

The church was never meant to compel the world by force or persuasion into the Kingdom. Rather, the Kingdom comes naturally as we allow His rule to reign in our lives: our hearts, our minds and souls. No other ingredient is required.

copyright ©2010 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Map, the Guide and the Destination

copyright ©2010 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)

You may think you know this tale, but it just may lead you to a different Destination than what you expect.

Once upon a time, and this is a true story, mankind lived in a literal paradise. They had everything they needed, including creative hobbies and companionship. Food could be found in abundance, disease was non-existent, and no healthy desire was out of reach. The people even had direct access to God. That’s right, they could have a face to face encounter throughout the day. Even negative thoughts were non-existent… well, at least until this one idea crept into the head of one of the people. The concept was this: if a person knew all about what is right and wrong, then they would be as powerful as God. Essentially, if you knew everything about everything, including the way to be perfect, you could be your own god. The thought seemed like a good idea: understand right and wrong, know how to perfect yourself, be a god. The only problem was that instead of leading into a powerful life, this thought process led to death.

Now, God knew that mankind would go down this path, so He crafted a plan to lead them out of it. See, the law (e.g. – rules of right and wrong) was more than a person could follow. In fact, the further mankind got away from God’s presence, the more the idea of following the law irritated man. After all, doesn’t a god get to create his or her own rules? What makes God’s rules the ONLY right and wrong out there? At least that’s the major premise. Unfortunately, the “make your own rules” notion breaks down when the rules you make don’t reflect reality. Yep, there’s truth and then there’s fantasy.

So man got his wish and understood in his heart the difference between right and wrong. But the animosity of man towards God grew so much that man no longer knew how to even have a conversation with God. In fact, some men even claimed that God did not exist. This lie helped men feel better about themselves, and allowed them to pursue that “I’m my own man” fantasy that is so comfortable.

However, despite all this, God still loved His creation and longed to show His love in a way that man could once again understand. So with man’s insistence on knowing what’s right and wrong, God gave man a set of rules that if followed completely, would lead to salvation. With the rules all written out, there could be no confusion about what needed to be done. But man kept breaking this written set of rules (a.k.a. – “the Law”) and this just left man even further without excuse. In fact, with this written set of rules, men started turning on each other, pointing out the short-comings of each other, but over-looking the portion of the Law that declared their own guilt.

So the Map to paradise was the Law. All anyone had to do to get to heaven was follow the Map. But it proved too difficult, so God sent a Guide. He told mankind to follow the Guide and to trust the Guide. But men had a hard time trusting in the Guide. You see, mankind had become so comfortable with the Map, that even though they couldn’t always understand the Map, they preferred trying to figure it out on their own. So when the Guide would lead men down a path that didn’t match their understanding of the Map, the people would balk. In fact, they would proclaim that the Guide was an imposter.

So man wants a Map; God gives him a Map. Man says “I can do it on my own”; God says “give it a try”; Man can’t do it on his own and needs a Guide; God provides a Guide. Man doesn’t trust the Guide and keeps going back to the Map, until out of frustration they once again accept the Guide, not sure if they can even trust the Guide. Wow… what a patient Guide!

Now here’s the irony: man wanted the treasures of heaven, and God delivers it to man to spend on earth. But man is so focused on reaching his destination that he completely misses out on the fact that the Guide is the Destination! Yep. The Treasure of Heaven is a relationship with Jesus, and as we spend time with Him, we see more and more of the gifts He has given us. But we’re so focused on the “get to heaven” thing that we miss out on the reality that the Kingdom of Heaven is both here and eternal. It’s like a movie, where a woman is so into having someone coach her into getting the perfect husband, that she fails to notice the coach is actually the perfect husband.

God’s presence changes everything. It changes our outlook and it even changes the laws of nature. Miracles happen in His presence, and lives are transformed. You see, it was never about the rules of right and wrong to begin with. The rules were good and perfect, but we were never made to be perfect. We were made to be loved and to love in return. The rules brought separation from God, and greater comprehension of the rules led to an understanding of our depravity. Some men understand their depravity and try to hide it, both from themselves and others. But the redeemed recognize both their unworthy and needy state, and they put their trust in the name of the Son of God: Jesus! (meaning “Yahweh Saves!”)

So the Guide is the Destination. We can live in relationship with Him here on earth. We can see and participate in His transforming power. And we can see Him work miracles as the laws of nature even bend to His immeasurable grace.