Scott Bredenhof

The Light Now Shines

When we walk as Jesus walked, when we walk in the light; when we flee the darkness, then we are shining the true light and are pointing the world forward to the Day when light will reign supreme. As church we are not called to merely huddle together and safeguard the light until the day arrives, but rather to step out boldly into the dark world and hold the light overhead as evidence to the world that the True light is approaching and the darkness is passing away.

The world is a dark place. It is darkened by an abundance of famine, injustice, war, abuse, destruction, addiction. The list goes on. At the root of it all is the persistent and pervasive presence of sin. Sin darkens every corner of the earth, including the pews of the church and the depths of the human heart.
But God speaks light into the darkness and renews us with the hope that one day the darkness will be snuffed out for good and the light will be here to stay. The light is of course Jesus Christ himself and, more broadly, the kingdom of God of which Jesus is Lord and king.
Hope directs our eyes to the future. We look forward to that day when the light will shine in all its fullness and the darkness will be no more. But as we lift up our gaze to our future hope, we must not forget that the promised eternal light has already made its way into our present darkness. The kingdom of God is not only a future hope, but a reality for the here-and-now.
In his first letter the Apostle John makes this abundantly clear when we writes:
Yet I am writing you a new command, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.
1 JOHN 2:8
The true light is not waiting for a decisive day when it will suddenly and brilliantly pierce the black night.
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“I’m Sad”

So easily we lose the childlike simplicity of prayer; a child speaking to his/her father. We start to think more about the people around us that we can see than the God above whom we cannot. We pile up stock phrases or mumble our way to an amen as we prematurely reach for our fork. Even when we are trying it can be hard.

One night at the supper table our kids were taking turns praying before we started the meal. Moments earlier our second youngest daughter had been kicking and screaming because she didn’t get to sit beside her sister. Consequently, she didn’t feel like praying so I attempted to convince her that God still wanted to hear from her even if she was angry. Through sniffles and snobs she prayed: “Father Heaven, I’m sad. Amen.”
The essence of prayer is communication with God and that was what my daughter was doing; telling God how she felt. A significant portion of the Psalms do the same thing – the author pours out his heart and bares his soul to a God who listens. Consider the following from the pen of king David:
I am weary from my groaning;with my tears I dampen my bedand drench my couch every night.
PSALM 6:6
What is David doing in these lines? He’s letting God know how he feels. David is doing what we all do each and every day: communicating.
Prayer, when understood as communication with God, is a simple act, yet it becomes complicated by at least two factors. First, we cannot see the One to whom we are speaking.
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Guaranteed!

Paul compares our bodies to a tent – fragile and temporary. But one day we will trade in our earthly tent for a glorious dwelling. Our sin-riddled lives, worn by the years lived in a falling-apart world, will be turned in for solid, permanent lives, handmade by God. Mortality swallowed up by life.

For we know that if our earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal dwelling in the heavens, not made with hands. Indeed, we groan in this tent, desiring to put on our heavenly dwelling, since, when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. Indeed, we groan while we are in this tent, burdened as we are, because we do not want to be unclothed but clothed, so that mortality may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave us the Spirit as a down payment.
2 CORINTHIANS 5:1-5
In this passage, and its context, Paul is encouraging the believers in Corinth to live by faith, not by sight. Our bodies appear to be falling apart and life is being swallowed up by death, but we hold onto the hope that they are giving way to greater things.
Paul compares our bodies to a tent – fragile and temporary. But one day we will trade in our earthly tent for a glorious dwelling.
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The Pollution of Sin

The task of the Christian then, is to be less and less the foul odor of sin, and more and more the pleasing aroma of Christ. We are to be little pockets of the new creation in the midst of a desert of sin. Or, to put it another way, we are to be reservoirs of beauty and greenness in the middle of the smog and harsh realities of sin.

Within the city I live in, there is limited natural, green space in which to escape the cacophony and the concrete. But there is one place my family and I frequent that gives us some sense of escape. It is a small water reservoir with a dirt path on the perimeter and populated by a variety of birds and flowers. It’s a nice place, other than the the greenish, contaminated water, the beer bottles, the lost shoe, the bag of garbage, etc.
This little reservoir reminds me of how sin contaminates our world and compromises its goodness and beauty. I don’t just mean sin in a general sense, I mean my own sin. My sin makes this world an ugly place because it hurts others and is an offense to God.
That was true for Israel as well. God had promised his chosen people a land flowing with milk and honey – symbols of its flourishing. It was to be a little bit of Eden in a desert of sin. It was to be a holy land and a place where people could go and catch a glimpse of what the world was like before sin crept in and infested everything under the sun.
But Israel could not keep herself holy. The nation was rarely a light to the nations and the land was frequently defiled with immorality. Despite the prophets warnings, Israel persisted in her sin and continued polluting the land.
And then God said enough!
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Multidimensional Gospel

The gospel encompasses a wide-range of ideas and images and we should not limit ourselves to thinking about it in a one-dimensional way. The gospel is gloriously multidimensional and we give God the glory when we contemplate on the gospel as such.

When it comes to theology, we tend to take a doctrine and strip it down to its basic form, leaving out all the intricacies and complicating details. We zero in on a particular verse or repeated theme in Scripture and then we say “That’s what it is all about.” We do this so that we can fit the doctrine neatly in our minds, keep it there, and pass it on to others.
One manifestation of this tendency is seen with respect to how we define the gospel. We ask: What is the gospel? We answer: It is the forgiveness of sins. We might add that the good news is being saved from the wrath of God through the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ – sin condemns us to death, Jesus takes our sin away and satisfies the justice of God. That, we could say, is the essence of the gospel. However, while the gospel is nothing less, it is more. Forgiveness of sins is one dimension of the gospel, but not the only one.
If we insist on restricting the gospel to one-dimension, we rob it of its multifaceted glory. We see its multifaceted glory in a passage such as Colossians 1:12-14. Paul has begun his letter to the church in Colossae by giving thanks for the faith of the Christians there and for their reception of the gospel. Paul explains how he and others are praying for the Colossians, specifically for their growth in the gospel. As he then shows them how the gospel itself is the source of sanctification in the Christian life, Paul uses several different ideas to describe the gospel.
“the Father, who has qualified you”
God qualifies the believer by justifying the believer. God declares the believer to be free of sin and in right standing before him.
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