I Lit a Candle

I lit a candle.
That’s all.
One match to one candle.
One light—that was all.

I told the young adults at Kairos the light of the candle reminds us Jesus is the light of the world.
The light of the candle is pushing the darkness back, I told them. So, remember, Jesus is pushing the darkness from you the same way.

So, light a candle.

Look, I said. See how much light the candle brings to this dark room.
Jesus said we are the light of the world.
So, light a candle.

“But, Mike,” they said, “my little candle won’t make that much difference.”

Sure it will. The darker the night, the brighter the candle shines.
So, light a candle.

“But, Mike, it is so dark where I am…at work, in my home…with my friends…”

I know. That’s why you need to light a candle.

Light a candle and when you do, remember.
Where you are is where He is.

So, light a candle.

Jesus Veneer

Have you ever remodeled a home? Built a home? While the idea may sound like a good one (“Hey, wouldn’t it be great if…?”), once the process is begun, most of us regret ever starting. All of these decisions! Drawer pulls, cabinet knobs, light fixtures, paint colors—there are a million options for every one of these. Your brain gets tired. And so does your checkbook.

Have you ever experienced sticker shock? Everything you want is three times more than you can afford. Trust me; words like “solid”, “pure”, “natural” all can be translated into one word—“expensive”! When you start adding up the costs, your project is multiple times over budget. So, you have to cut back.

That’s when your builder will introduce you to veneer. Veneers are thin sheets of expensive wood applied to cheaper wood to give the appearance of the beautiful wood you wanted in the first place. Now, let me emphasize. It looks like the beautiful stuff, but it’s not. It’s only veneer –a very, very thin sheet of the real stuff. It looks good for a while and of course, it’s much cheaper.

A common problem for postmodern disciples is what I will call “veneer” Christianity. We want a very thin layer of Jesus on top of the cheaper lifestyle we choose. We want the look of Jesus, but we don’t want to pay the price for the real thing. And it does look good—but like wood veneer, it scratches off easily. Following Jesus is hard. Discipleship is costly. Simply put, most of us choose the cheaper option of a Jesus veneer. But the Jesus veneer, like wood veneer, hardly stands up to the scratches and dents of life. The deeper realities of our character are soon exposed.

The solid stuff is more expensive, but it’s the only thing that lasts. Are you willing to pay the price? Sooner or later, life will scratch and dent you. Then, trust me, you are going to wish you had invested in the real thing.

Forgiveness is a Spiral

True forgiveness is hard, and it takes longer than most people realize. That’s why most people don’t actually complete the forgiveness process.  We forgive what we can in the moment and then simply refuse to think about it anymore.  We walk away from our hearts, leaving the wound open and untreated.

It doesn’t take long to begin to understand how infected an open wound in your soul can get.  Because we fail to completely forgive, we remain injured by our past.

“Why can’t we get past this?” we wonder.  “Why does this keep coming up again and again?”

Most of us have never understood the fundamentals of forgiveness. We want it to be like a set of stairs. We want to deal with it and then move on. In reality, it’s more like a spiral. We keep coming back to the same issue, but at a deeper level. We may have forgiven at one level, but now, we need to forgive at ever deepening levels. Although it feels like we’re just going around in circles, as we descend the spiral, we are making significant progress.

Jesus said we must be willing to forgive 490 times. Most of us think that’s a lot, but there are moments when we will have to forgive 490 times for the same offense.

So, as you are walking through the forgiveness process, take your time with each moment. God, in His grace, lets you deal with your deepest hurts, a little bit at a time.

Thirty Days

I have mentioned on more than one occasion about how I was invited by Christ to a deeper prayer life some years ago. I sensed a calling from Christ to follow Him deeper into prayer. What made this invitation interesting for me is that it didn’t come to me as a command, but as a desire from Christ. I wasn’t being pushed or guilted into anything— just invited.

And I wanted to go. There is a part of me that is drawn to the mystical. I love slowly studying the Bible and praying over it. I could spend most days doing nothing but praying. But you know what? I told Jesus “no.”

Why would I do that? Honesty. For once I was determined to be honest with Jesus and myself. I had made a million promises to Jesus and I hadn’t kept one – not one. It was getting embarrassing. Here was my usual “M.O.”: I would make a big pronouncement about my commitment, buy all of the books on the subject and for two weeks, I would be a committed as anyone you would have ever seen—for two weeks. Then, I would be back to my old habits.

It was getting a little embarrassing. So, for once, I was honest with Jesus.

“I would love to,” I said, “but I can’t commit to a deeper anything. I just won’t be able to do it. I will fail again, and I just can’t stand to make a big promise and not follow through again.”

I left it at that.

Then I got another invitation: “Can you do it for thirty days?”

Thirty days? I can do almost anything for thirty days. So I committed to thirty days – but no more.

After the thirty days, I committed to another 30 days. Then another. I have been following this deeper practice of prayer for over ten years, thirty days at a time. The first of next month, I will re-up again.

I know you want more from your pastor than this, but in reality, it’s all I have got. I can stay focused for about thirty days at a time.

Too many of us try to do too much at one time. We overload ourselves and fail to accomplish many of our goals – including our goals as disciples. Perhaps if we focused on shorter term goals, like thirty days, or this week, this day.

Remember, Jesus called us to follow, and He spent most of His time walking, one step at a time.

What step is He inviting you to take right now?