January 2014: TIME2SHINE!

Pastor Terry Inman

01-12-14

 

Harbor Light it’s our time to shine! Not that we haven’t, as a church branded as a beacon of hope we have been and continue to be a light in a dark place.  However I am sensing a rising passion to more effectively rescue, recover, rebuild and release people in our community. 

So today I want to revisit our purpose and passion to guide people through life’s storms into safe harbor. That shelter is life in Jesus Christ! 

Mary and I just returned from a few days of rest and quite reflection in our cozy cabin in Paradise Valley near Pray, Montana. Our majestic view takes in the Rocky Mountain peaks of the Absaroka Range bordering the eastern boundary of Yellowstone National Park.  

From our windows we look across fertile ranch land divided by the half frozen Yellowstone River and flanked by snow covered Alps. 

As I was preparing this message, a young buck and his harem distracted me. I couldn’t resist the photo opt. They found refuge from the falling snow right in our front yard. 

Every evening the lights of ranch homes sprinkling the foothills just across the vale are a comfort when dusk turns to dark. Light is attractive! 

Jesus used a similar scene of serenity for a visual backdrop as he taught from an outdoors lakeside retreat.  A large group of his followers and seekers were gathered on the slops near the Sea of Galilee. Across the water on the distant west bank white limestone houses reflected the setting sun. As day tuned night oil lamps shined through village windows. 

Here Jesus gave an assignment while pointing out the illuminated mid-eastern villages. "You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill." Matthew 5.14 (Message) 

I love the way the message translation interprets this familiar scripture. You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world! That’s a vivid mission statement. We are here to shine! 

God intends for us to be colorful people. I loved watching my granddaughter Blakeley play with her first Christmas kaleidoscope. She was so fascinated by the tiny fragments of colorful glass. The slightest rotation of the cylinder created new designs with new squeals of delight. 

Rainbows, prisms and diamonds reflect eye-catching color as they reflect light. It’s light that makes color. Without light everything is jet black! 

We are all shaped in unique ways to reflect Jesus the Light of the World. The Apostle Peter put it this way. "As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold (many faceted, many faces) of the grace of God."  1 Pet. 4.10 (NKJV) 

Now you can understand how controversial it was for the first followers of Jesus to go public with their new faith. We may get ridicule but they were often rejected by family, persecuted and in many cases, even martyred! 

But Jesus says, shining happens in public. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill.

The church in America is holding on the best-kept secret in the universe! 

We must reject the Satan inspired lie pervasive in our culture that its no longer acceptable to have conversations about faith in Jesus Christ. We can and must let our light shine brightly. It can be done without being blatant or blinding. It’s not our job to convert anyone, its only our responsibility to let Jesus shine though our lives and our lips. 

Peter who at one time cowardly denied Christ later wrote. “In your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." 1 Pet. 3.15 (NIV) 

Jesus continues his thoughts on light. “If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine!”

This is about how far I got in my notes when my cell phone rang Thursday afternoon. It was my life-long friend Les a Real Estate Broker now living about ten miles up the Paradise Valley from our cabin. He was inviting me to join him for a dip in the therapy pool at the historic Chico Hot Springs. 

The hot mineral water in the pool comes right out of the ground fresh year around. It can be snowing with freezing temperatures and the pool will be full of people singing its warm medicinal praises. 

I really debated all the way to the pool. I knew I needed to finish preparing my message but I thought it would be a good man to man re-connect.

As I was driving I sensed the Lord preparing me for something more than a therapeutic soaking. This was the thought that came to me. “You’re going there to shine”. So I said OK Lord you provide the opportunity and I will try to be ready. I was about to get into some spiritual hot water! 

Les and I were in the pool maybe ten or fifteen minutes when his new neighbor showed up. Jim was a very successful investor and developer who had just finished building a huge mountain villa for his retirement. 

He left the rat race in New York to develop one of largest investment and development enterprises in Arizona. After some brief introductions we started talking about the economy. He had a lot to say about the vulnerability of our nation’s economy. 

I asked him if he had heard of a best seller called the “Harbinger” written by a New York based Messianic Rabbi by the name of Jonathan Chan. The book outlines nine harbingers or indicators outlined in the Old Testament that proceeded the fall of the nation of Israeli. 

He parallels them what has been occurring here in the US sense 9/11. He spoke like an ancient pleading prophet at the President’s inaugural prayer breakfast last January. 

Jim said, “Yes, I read it”. It is pretty interesting He quotes a lot of scripture for his theories and I’m no stranger to the scriptures, my parents were Italian Pentecostals, we had the bible read to us every day.” 

That was my first big clue that it was time to shine. He went on to tell me his parents were very loving people but he just couldn’t hang in there with all their all their religious rules. He admitted to being a bit rebellious.   

At seventeen Jim told his mom he had decided to be an atheist. With all the evil in the world he just could not believe there was a God. She said, I’m sorry honey that you feel that way but answer this question for me. You see that flower over there? Can you make one like it? 

Jim left the faith of his family but sense then has been on a spiritual quest. He has investigated many religions and philosophies but never really doubted there was an intelligent design to the universe. 

We talked for two hours about health, politics, and family but faith kept coming back into the conversation. In the middle of all his incredible business success alcoholism destroyed his marriage. Re-marriage was a disaster for both of them. He finally reached his bottom, detoxed and stopped drinking on his own and has been sober for several years. It’s a long an incredible story but he and his first wife are now back together. 

At the moment they are struggling with a very angry and rebellious teenage daughter who is into the dark counter culture. She has the colorful hair, piercings, costumes and extreme tattoos that go with it.  

Before we left the pool the Lord gave me a word of hope for him. I told him I would keep him and his family on my prayer list. He was very open and grateful. My friend Les was thrilled with the encounter and will be following up in the days and weeks to come. Jim is on his way home. 

Jesus wants us to remove the bucket and be ready to take a stand for light! Mary gave me some great ideas on how to do that. 

1. Realize your reason for being alive is to rescue people for eternity.

2. Smile—it’s the lowest basic dignity you can offer others: “ It says,

“I see that you exist, you’re another human being worth acknowledging.”

3. Keep the Holy Spirit’s conversation going. He is the communicator! 

4. Put busyness in perspective--you are NEVER too busy to rescue a human being from hell. Church activities can keep us from being light. 

5. If they complain about a headache, tiredness, an illness, ask if you can offer a discreet non-religious prayer for them. Pray for their felt needs!

6. Don’t try to keep God’s Holy Spirit under a bucket. It offends Him that we want to “dumb him down” outside the safe setting of Church. 

7. Risk ridicule and rejection, but don’t bring it on by your insensitivity or bullishness.  Be as wise as a serpent, as harmless as a dove.

8. If your contact leads to friendship, don’t jump ahead of the Holy Spirit’s leading.  He leads—He doesn’t push. Now that’s some good stuff! 

Jesus continued his mountainside conversation on light with this advice.  "Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven." Matt. 5.16 (MSG) 

You may be more familiar with the New International Version of Jesus statement… “let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Matt.5.16 (NIV) 

The expression “good deeds or works” certainly includes acts of kindness and compassion, but more generally describes an attractive lifestyle. It’s almost like Jesus was saying let God shine though you, live a life of light!   

The Apostle Paul was totally transformed by a dramatic encounter with Christ who was shrouded in dazzling light. Paul had to literally be blinded to his radical religious way of life to really see the pure light of Christ. 

To the church he writes, “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life.”  Phil. 2.14 

It’s our time to shine. I love looking up into the night big sky of Montana. It’s so crisp and clear. Galaxies of brilliant stars sparkle in the darkness. On a cloudless night the pitch black atmosphere really illuminates the heavenly bodies. The darker it gets in our community the more we shine! 

We are not the light, Jesus is! He said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8.12 (NIV) John the Baptist knew he was not the light but a light-bearer. "He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light." John 1.8 (NIV) A witness gives credible evidence to the light. 

Jesus fully intended for his followers then and now to be his light-bearers.

Jesus said, “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” 1 John 1.7 (NIV) 

It our “TIME2SHINE”!  This year we have set some new goals to encourage and equip Harbor Light with simple strategies, tools and training to be a greater light and influence with our families, friends and workplace. 

Last year we introduced a common language for discipleship. It simply serves as a reminder of what it means to stay tuned up as a follower of Jesus. UP is our relationship with God. IN is our relationship with those close to us. OUT is our witness to our world. 

To better encourage the OUT of discipleship, this year we will revitalize the Prayer-Care-Share model of life-style witness. Briefly Jesus sent out his disciples to first pray or bless the unreached, the he told them to care about them, show hospitality, meet their felt needs, and pray for supernatural intervention in their lives. Then when they and the Holy Spirit are ready we share the reason for our hope. 

This year beginning in the middle of March thru Easter we are going to do an all-church campaign during the Lenten season we are calling, “40 days of love and light.”  Through personal and corporate prayer, six weeks of equipping messages, weekly home-groups, outreach opportunities and personal online resources we are going brighten our light. 

We are asking the Holy Spirit to help us better fulfill Jesus’ assignment.

“You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill! " Harbor Light it’s our TIME2SHINE!