Hide it under a Bushel? No! I'm Gonna let it shine

Monday, November 9, 2009
I had the privilege of preaching Sunday. After several good comments and realising that the message was also one I needed to hear. I thought I might post the text here.

Facing the Fear Factor Part 4:
Hide it under a Bushel? No! I'm gonna let it shine.

I haven't' spoken with many of you about your personal fears.

I don't know if you scare easily.

I like to think that I don't get scared all that easily. Sheena likes to prove me wrong.

We used our basement entrance in our house in Parksville as our main entrance. Our basement was dark, and partially unfinished. It was the type of basement that haunts little kids. I should say that while I am far from being a a little kid, I have a very over active imagination: much like that of a little kid. So the basement freaked me out a little bit. Plus there were spiders.

And our house wasn't in the nicest neighbourhood. It was in one of those neighbourhoods of very mixed land use. Across the road was a dense forest. On one side was a light industrial yard with a shop where you could outfit a bathroom and another where you could buy a New Holland tractor to dig an outhouse if you preferred. Their yard had a floodlight on the parking lot that cast strange shadows on our yard. The floodlight however did very little to protect their property as the bathroom warehouse got broken into one night. On the other side was a neighbour. They were quiet. On the same property as our house was Sheena's dad's shop. There was no activity there at night. Another tenant was on the property, but we'd go days even a week at a time without seeing them. This is all to say that at night there was not a lot of activity in and around our property. It was very quiet. Too quiet. Oh, and there was a house of most questionable ongoings just down the street, kinda across from our one neighbour.

Plus there was often wildlife in the year. Nothing too scary, usually deer or rabbits but that doesn't mean there was only ever deer or rabbits. There could have been bears or cougars in that forest. In my imagination something like this was watching me every time I took the garbage to the curb.

This is, by the way, a hairless bear. Apparently bears in Germany are loosing their hair. (read more about it here.)

Getting back to our creepy basement in our weird house, in a creepy neighbourhood. It was often dark, as one light would never work. it blew through bulbs as fast as I could flick the switch. Sheena loved to hide down there and wait for me to come home.

She got me every time.

And of course, being a guy, I tried to act as if I wasn't scared, and that I only jumped and screamed to make her feel better--like she got me. But she always knew better.

I should say, that it never went well for me when I tried to scare her.

Lately, there are different things scarring me. I've always been one to pay attention to what is happening in our culture and society. This partly because some youth are generally pretty tuned into culture and partly because I hope that knowing what twitter is will help me seem cooler than I really am.

lately I've been having all these thoughts that revolve around wondering what king of society Makiah will grow up in. The more time I spend investigating our current culture, the more freaked out I get. It seems that instead of growing more God centered our culture is becoming less.

Here's what I mean.

Group Magazine is reporting in it's most recent issue that since 1990 "the number of American adults who say they have no connection to any religious group is growing...they now top our at 34 million, or 15% of the U.S. adult population, up from 8.2% in 1990."(1) So in 20 years that's almost doubled.

The article goes on "Ryan Cragun of the University of Tampa, one of the studies co-researchers, says, 'If current trends continue, the likely outcome is that in two decades, the Nones [nones is the name the study gives to those who claim no connection to any religious group] could account for about one-quarter of the U.S. population." (2)

Or maybe you've seen one of those buses with the Atheist ads on them that say: "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."

And science doesn't leave room for a creator, it's take evolution or leave the class.

it's nearly impossible to put up Christmas decorations without offending someone.

And have you seen what passes for entertainment lately?

All this is concerning. Perhaps a bit scary.

And I know it scares a lot of Christians.

This morning we're going to look at four common responses that Christians typically take.

In the interest of full disclosure, before you become too attached to one approach, three of them are hard to support from a Biblical perspective.

The four common approaches are the Bubble, the Stand Shout Fight, the Possum, and the "This Little Light of Mine."

First we'll look at the Bubble.

Some people try and support this method scriptural by quoting James 1:27: "Religion that God our father accepts as pure and faultless is this: ...and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

I don't know about you, but I've found that a great way to avoid being contaminated by something is to avoid contact with it. To avoid mercury poisoning I don't chew on thermometers. To avoid mutation I don't swim in toxic waste dumps. To avoid E. Coli I don't play football with raw chickens...anymore.

So it makes sense then, that to avoid being polluted by the world, a Christian might withdraw from the world and huddle with other Christians and form a community that is Christ centered, full of only Christian Values, where nothing remotely worldly enters.

We call this entering the bubble.

It's a Christian safety net of withdrawal full of only Christian versions of regular or "worldly" things.

And there is a Christian version of just about everything.

And I'm not all that against them.

It's just that the bubble, makes Christians look pretty weird. We've got our own culture and quite often non-Christians look at it and go: "If that's Christianity I'm no so sure I want that."

Besides looking quite odd, Jesus prays for Christians in John 17:15, "My prayer is not that you take them out f the world but that you protect them from the evil one."

So Jesus doesn't want us taken out of the world. I kinda think that Jesus knew that whatever he prayed for God would do, and so He doesn't pray that we would be taken out of the word, but rather that we would be left in it. If Jesus' desire for us is to remain part of the world, why would we try and remove ourselves from it?

Please don't think that I'm anti Christian community. The Bible is pretty clear that Christians need to be in community with other believers to grow strong and healthy and to stand firm in their faith. I'm very much for Christian community. I think that Christian community, not Christian communities, can have an incredible impact on the world around them. Severing connections to the world only alienates Christians from their mission field.

Then there's the Stand Shout Fight Approach

Some Christians respond to an increasingly godless society by taking up some of Paul's words as a banner. They'll be moved by 2 Timothy 1:7 "God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power." Or they'll get really excited with the likening of the world of God with a sword.

Those are powerful images.

I was in Montreal for a week on a missions trip in college. Our first night there a few of us found ourselves walking through the sketchy part of town with tow guides who lived in Montreal. Both were new to faith. One coming out of a life that saw him spend much time in areas like the one were were in. That was his neighbourhood. His life was rough. He was a tough individual but softening. He was in prison when he made a commitment to following Jesus after seeing that God's way was a better way.

The other guide came from a very different background. I don't know if she had ever been to that part of town before. She may not have even known it existed. She was nervous and uncomfortable. And in that moment was reminded that the word of God was a sword. I'll probably never forget the image of a grown woman walking past beggars, and prostitutes, and night club bouncers while swinging her Bible around making swooshing noises and saying: "take that."

I think she was swashbuckling with imaginary pirates.

I don't know what made me more uncomfortable, the neighbourhood with it's rawness and chalk outlines that were some sort of an art project, or this lady drawing a whole lot of attention and stares.

I was beginning to wonder if this most amazing poutine was worth it.

I'm not sure that the Bible is a sword in any realm but he spiritual one. In the world you're just a loonie swinging a book.

I'm so glad she didn't actually try and bop a bouncer on the head. At one point I thought she might.

And she was far from the extreme example. I'm sure we've all seen someone with a bullhorn somewhere. They're shouting at anyone within earshot.

I'll give them some kudos. They're in the world. They're out there trying something, and they're telling others about Jesus. The problem is that no one really seems to be listening.

I've never been really convinced by shouting.

Their response seems to be a bunch of "ism's" anyways. People hear them and it seems only judgemental ism or fundamentalism and it doesn't connect with people.

And when Christians take up the bullhorn and stand shout fight they miss the most important part of 2 Timothy 1:7 "for God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, or love and self-discipline."

God gave us a spirit of love.

So where is the love?

Rob Bell in his nooma video Bullhorn has this to say to the Bullhorn guy: "I don't think it's working. All the yelling and the judgment and the condemnation. I don't think it's working. I actually think it's making things worse."

He goes on to say: "that doesn't mean that I have to agree with everybody like I can't have a spine o4r something. I mean, we speak our minds and we take action against things we think are wrong, but we do it with love and with respect because Jesus said to 'love your enemies.' And when we love our enemies something powerful happens doesn't it? Something transforming, something that can't be denied."

I was part of a missions trip to Northern Ireland. As you probably know, Northern Ireland is a place know for it's tension. It's a political tension first and foremost, but religion gets pulled in. After years of two sides standing, shouting and fighting with each other, you now have a landscape with church buildings everywhere. If you go to any high point in any town there will be steeples everywhere you look. However many sit empty and abandoned, while more have a congregation of a dozen or so. When the church becomes synonymous with shouting people stop listening to the message.

Our best opportunities for witnessing, for making a difference in our culture and society, come not when we shout really, really loud, but when we love really, really loud.

And that brings me to the third response some Christians have to our society: they pull a possum.

This is otherwise known as the grand denial.

What I mean is, you look at them and you'd have no idea they were Christians.

Their form of hiding isn't by withdrawing from society, but by so embracing it that you have no idea they love Jesus.

They think they are approaching the world with an incredibly deep love. They love everyone so much that they never bring Jesus up because be can be offensive, or make people uncomfortable. As a result truth never gets discussed.

Or perhaps they are so intimidated by the world that they roll over and play dead. have you ever seen a possum playing possum? I have not, but I know someone who has. It was a high school student back in the youth group in Parksivlle. He was on a mission trip in Mexico when he came across a possum in distress. It should be said that the was no city kid. He one killed and skinned a raccoon. He knew how to handle himself in the outdoors.

So, when he came across a possum doing what possums are known to do, and thinking that the animal was in distress, he put it out of its misery.

Playing dead was not a very effective tactic of that possum.

It's not a very effective tactic for Christians either.

Sharing truth, refusing to fit in can be quiet difficult. Donald Miller in his book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years writes: "I read a book a couple years ago by Steven Pressfield called The War of Art. ...He says, resistance, a kind of feeling that comes against you when you point toward a distant horizon, is a sure sign that you are supposed to do the thing in the first place. The harder the resistance, the more important the task must be Pressfield believes." (3)

This may not be true in every circumstance, but when it comes to the challenge of being different in a world that may persecute you, it is certain true.

And so the apostle Paul urges the Church in Rome: "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." (Romans 12:2)




Loving others is not conforming to culture, it's not hitting others over the head with our Bibles, and it's not avoiding all contact with the world.

It's something else.

We need to stop hiding from the world, running to Christian bubbles, or soap boxes, or the safety of blending in.

Fear can either lead us to have one of those three responses or it can lead us to something else.

I would rather have a positive impact on our society. I would rather seek to make change in the world than to avoid it. I think fear can, and should, cause us to desire something different, not just for ourselves but for everyone.

We need to positively impact our society.

A corrupt society is nothing new. In case you thought the verses where Jesus tells us to go into the world and be salt and light only applied to a day and age free of the problems of today you need to know that depravity had been around since Genesis. Jesus said in John 3:19, "Men loved darkness because their deeds are evil."

And so we've been called to do something about it.

The "This Little Light of Mine" Approach.

Mathew 5:14-16, "You are the light of the world. a city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."

Don't let fear keep you from living your calling to be light. Don't be afraid to shine.

In Ephesians 5 Paul is instructing the church in Ephesus, and all Christians for that matter, in how they should live. They give insight into how one lives as the light of the world.

[In the interest of space the passage from Ephesians 5 will not be reprinted. Simply the reference before each comment that was made about the verse.]

In this passage Paul gives 19 ways to be light in just 21 verses.

5:1-2 -- Love Sacrificially -- This is the example of Jesus who, out of love, gave up his life for us. What can we do that loves others regardless of what it might cost us?
5:3 -- Remain pure. Light shows the impurity: it exposes. There is nothing impure in light.
5:4 -- Watch your language, words can build up or destroy. What's coming out of your mouth?
-- Be thankful.
5:5-6 -- Show discernment to avoid deception
5:7 -- Don't partner with the disobedient or the unbeliever
5:8 -- Be a light in the dark world
5:9 -- demonstrate goodness
-- demonstrate righteousness
-- demonstrate truth in a world that says "there is no truth"
5:10 -- Find out what pleases the Lord. God isn't angry he's loving. He is pleased with those who love him.
5:11 -- Expose the deeds of darkness. That what light does: it reveals, it exposes. Expose the darkness.
5:12-15 -- seek wisdom
5:16-17 -- There's foolishness then there's understanding what the Lord's will is. Seek to find out what the Lord's will is.
5:18 -- This is a bit of a different one, because God provides his Spirit. However, we can fill ourselves with the things of the Spirit. We can partake in activities that drown the Spirit out, or we can partake in activities that enable us to live with a deeper connection and awareness of the Spirit.
5:19 -- Sing publicly together, sing psalms, sing hymns, sing spiritual songs
-- Sing privately to the Lord. You don't have to wait until you're with other believers to praise God.
5:20 -- Always give thanks to God
5:21 -- Submit to one another. Be humble. Don't try and puff yourself up.

These are ways we can live as light in the world.

We can't light the world if we're detached from it. We can't light the world if we're shouting at it. We can't light the world if we never turn the light on.

Our charge is to shine a light. Some shine a candle, others become a flame. I'd like to begin wrapping things up with a quote from a book that I read recently called Becoming the Answers To Our Prayers.

"Christians blaze through this dark world and set it on fire with their love. It is contagious and spreads like wildfire. We are people who shine, who burn up the darkness of this old world with the Light that dwells within us. Maybe when we're dead and gone, people will look around and ask, "What int he world passed through here?"

"We are not just called to be candles. ... We are called to be fire.

"And when we say fire, we mean the kind of fire that purifies and cleanses, not the kind of fire that destroys. This is the gentle fire that the Scriptures speak of--the fire that melts away the impurities of precious metals. The fire that burns away the chaff and dead branches so that we may be more fully alive, as people and as a planet. The fire that consumes bushes and sinners without destroying them.

"Candles can be snuffed out by the slightest of wind or the smallest child on his or her birthday. But fire burns together. As we grow in spiritual wisdom, learning the dynamics of payer, we are consumed more and more by the One who burns with love for the whole creation. We are to be fire, to weave our lives together so the Spirit's inferno of love spreads across the earth." (4)

What is your response to the fear?

What kind of light are you shining?

I'd like to end with some encouragement coming out of our high school It's an encouragement because it reminded me that God is working in this world. It encouraged me to continue dshining my lifht. I had some students share their thoughts on being Christians in one of the toughest mission fields. One wehre they've gebun a campus ministry and daily seek to be lights on thier campus.

One student shared how he has opportunities to share about his faith as a result of becoming more known as a Chritians through the events of the ministry. Whereas some might think that persucution would follow, he has found quite the opposite: he's been able to engage his classmates with open discussion.

He wrote the following to me in an email:

"What I've noticed most about leadign the ALIVE club and speakig at the Deep End is that pope now know that I'm a Christian, and people have aked me about it multiple times, giving me way more opportunities to witness. I've realized in the past two months that if you actually wxplain your faith to someone, they almost always listen, and even if they don't believ it, they'll respect what you ahve to say. I'm now always prepared to speak to fellow students bout Christ and give my testimony."

If we remain in the wold, avoid shouting, and act alive people will listen to what we ahve to say. Our light will make a positive impact ont eh wrold. Let's be motivated to change the circumstances and not run in fear.

- - -
1. Group Magazine Nov/Dec 2009 vol 36 page 29
2. Ibid
3. Donald Miller A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned Editing My Life, (Nashville, Tn.: Thomas Nelson, 2009) page 115
4. Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Becoming The Answer To Our Prayers: Prayer for Ordinary Radicals, (Downer's Grove, Il.: InterVarsity Press, 2008) page 116.