1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
2 Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
Scriptures such as Psalm 19 tell us that the God of the universe has set within His creation living pictures of Himself and His perfect plan. I don’t know that David had the same images in mind when he wrote Psalm 19, but I have no doubt that the Lord, in fact, declares His works in creation. It takes little effort to see it.
The Bible has several references to the Lord as Light. Jesus Himself declared, “I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.” (John 12:46) In the heavens, what can be said of our sun is not unlike that of the Son. It gives light to the earth. It is constant. It is so radiant, so bright we can not look upon it with the naked eye—even as the Son of God in heaven is so radiant, so righteous and holy that we are unable look upon Him from this world in our natural (fallen) state. A few of the disciples had a glimpse of that radiance while Jesus was still ministering on earth. “…Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up on a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him.” (Matthew 17:1-3)
The world is only in darkness when it turns away from the sun. What a good picture of mankind. Christ is always there, always giving light and life. It is mankind who turns away into darkness. But even here the love of our God provides. In a world that is turned from the sun, there is another light, a “…lesser light…” (Genesis 1:16) set in the heavens for those in darkness. The moon has no light of its own. It merely reflects the light of the sun onto a darkened world. The true light (the sun) is still there, unmoved, but God has ordained another body–the moon–to reflect the true light while the sun is out of view. That is a picture of how the Lord has ordained Christian believers to reflect Christ’s True Light onto a darkened world. Jesus told His disciples, “You are the light of the world…Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:14, 16)
When we look at the moon, we see evidence that the sun still shines even though we can not see it. When the world looks at a Christian, should they not see the evidence that Jesus is the True Light even though they can not see Him? In order for the moon to provide light to the earth, it has to remain in sight of the sun. It can not follow the earth into darkness. Likewise, Christians must remain in The Light (of Christ), or they lose the ability to fulfill their God-given purpose. It is no less important for fellow believers to see the Light of Christ in each other. When one Christian can distinguish the Light of a brother or sister in Christ amidst the darkness of the world, that believer is encouraged to also remain in orbit, as it were.
Reflecting the light of Christ takes two forms. First, as shown in the fifth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, it involves acting Christ-like (“that they may see your good works…”). Secondly, reflecting the Light is also associated with the Word of God. This essay began with Psalm 19:1-2. It is appropriate to conclude with verses from Psalm 119. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path…” (vs. 105) “The unfolding of your words gives light…” (vs. 130). Christians reflect the light of Christ by shining His Word, the Scriptures, on those living in darkness. It is the light of the gospel. As the Apostle Paul put it, “For God, who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”
Creation itself points us to the wonder and glory of the Creator. The heavens do declare.
[Scripture references are quoted in whole or part from the New International Version or the New American Standard Bible.]
[I ran across this old, very short story of mine the other day and thought I’d post it here.]
Whatever happens next I will not be able to control. That was the first thought that entered my mind when I glimpsed the gun. Strange how your mind sharpens during conflict at the same time your body refuses to budge. I stood still and watched. At least I seem to remember not moving, not changing my position at all. My mind was clicking, though. I knew that at some point my body would have to catch up. —
It had started as such a nice day. I came down to breakfast wearing a new tie. I kissed my wife and wiped a smear of grape jelly from my son’s chin. The coffee was hot, the bacon was crisp.
“No rain today, I think,” my wife said. “Will you be home early? I picked up some steaks. We could grill out. First time this spring.”
“I’ll do my best, babe. You know how things go sometimes,” I said.
“Well, call me. I can always stick them in the broiler,” she said.
I drove into the city with the April sun full in the windshield, a back light to the dirt streaks left by neglected wiper blades. Seemed like a typical day. I greeted my co-workers and snagged the coffee cup from my desk as I made my way to the nearly empty pot in the corner of the room. I had a lot of paperwork. It kept me inside all morning. Things were pretty quiet for a Friday.
By noon it was surprisingly warm. The windows didn’t open, and the air conditioning hadn’t been turned on yet in the old building. Air conditioning wasn’t such a big issue when I was younger. That’s what the older guys say. “When I was a kid,” it usually goes, “we didn’t have air conditioning in school, in our cars, nothing. Don’t know how we survived.” Surviving—applies to other things besides air conditioning. —
I didn’t move, but my eyes were taking everything in–two guys with guns, four people in the store, one clerk behind the counter. And me.
They hadn’t made a move yet. They didn’t know I saw the guns. Well, I only saw the skinny guy’s gun, but I could tell the fat guy had one, too. They were waiting for something, maybe courage. The clerk was oblivious, sacking up bread and cold cuts for the old lady in front of me as I stood there holding my charcoal lighter fluid and beer. I wasn’t sure if I should get his attention or not. Who knew how he would react? We didn’t need a panic at the moment. —
Lunch had been a panic. I had driven across town and stopped near one of my favorite delis. There were patrol cars parked on the street, lots of them. I spent half an hour talking to a couple of the police officers about a dead guy. The story was he shot some lady and then turned the gun on himself. I never got to go in the deli. That’s the job, though–one thing after another. I bounced around all over the city, probably made five stops that afternoon. Each one seemed to be in a shabbier neighborhood than the last. It was late afternoon when I finally was able to pull away and head home. I only had to stop and get the lighter fluid to ignite the charcoal for the grill. —
Ignite. That’s what was getting ready to happen. The only thing lacking was a spark. The skinny guy looked nervous. His eyes never stopped jerking back and forth. The heavy guy hung back. He almost looked sleepy. But the sweat rolling down into his eyes gave the lie to his expression.
Two ways you can deal with fire, stomp it out or smother it. That’s after it ignites. How do you keep it from starting in the first place? You have to remove the fuel, or the oxygen or the heat, right? Boy Scout stuff. My body was catching up with my brain.
The little old lady nearly bumped into me as she turned and passed by, cradling her bag like a fullback breaking through a tackle. I smiled at the clerk as I stepped up. “Hi, how are ya?” I said a little too loudly. “You know I have to say, I travel all over selling security systems to stores like this, and I’m impressed. Your security cameras are top of the line. Tied right into the police station, I bet.” The clerk half smiled and half frowned at me. I caught the skinny guy’s reaction out of the corner of my eye. His eyes bounced like ricocheting pin balls now, taking in every corner of the ceiling. The fat guy woke up and started backing toward the door. Skinny followed him out. I walked to the plate glass window and took down the license plate number as they jumped into the back seat of a waiting car.
“What the heck you talking about, Mike?” I heard the clerk ask me. “You ain’t a cop anymore?”
“Still a cop, Sammie,” I said over my shoulder as the men drove off. “Hang on to my stuff a minute, will ya? I have to make a call.”
The first thing he saw when he opened his eyes was the sole of a cowboy boot on the floor inches from his face. As he pushed himself up, a wave of nausea swept through him, sending him back down. His head hurt. He put his left hand to his temple and recoiled at the resulting stab of pain when he touched the throbbing wet spot. He tried once more to get up, slowly this time, and had managed a sitting position when the smell hit him. It was a foul mixture of earthy metal and body waste. He knew immediately what that meant and struggled to focus, to be alert, defensive. It was then that he noticed the knife in his hand, a butcher knife—a bloody butcher knife. He struggled to his feet and backed away from the man attached to the cowboy boot…
Read the new Matt West novella BY DEVIOUS MEANS
I put this story up in four parts a while back. Because of that, the last part shows first–not a good thing if you intend to read it from the beginning. So, I am re-posting the entire story here from the beginning. If you have already read it, thanks. If you haven’t, you might want to take a few minutes to find out about–
Charlie and Pete straddled a pair of wood crates and listened to old Buck spin his yarn. They might have been hearing it for the first time the way they hung on every word. Truth is they knew it well enough they likely could tell it themselves. That was how good Buck was at his storytelling. He would lean forward in that big old catalpa rocking chair–the one he carved out of a huge catalpa tree that fell on him in a lightning storm back when he was driving a mule team for the Blackjack Mining Company. Trapped him under for two days until a flash flood washed him out–the way he tells it. He went back the next day with an ax, cut that tree up and hauled it home. Most of it ended up lumber for his pump house, but after he retired from the railroad in ’32, he turned the rest of it into a rocking chair. Carved the rockers in the shape of railroad rails, but bent up, of course. It had been sitting there at the Frisco depot for four years, Buck in it most of the time, and him telling tales to any soul who’d sit still long enough, which was mostly young ones like Pete Reilly and Charlie Wicks.
Every time Buck would lean forward to convey a critical part, the boys would lean forward to catch it. As he talked, Buck’s snowy eyebrows arched and frowned, wriggling like caterpillars marching across his forehead.
“Them raiders used to come across that Missouri border in packs looking to rob and pillage folks on this side of the line, on account of how they disagreed on the subject of slavery,” said Buck.
“But that was before you were born,” said Charlie, contributing to the story.
“‘Course it was. That was back in the ’50’s. I was born in ’61, the same year Kansas got her statehood. Anyhow, most of them border raids was up north of here. That’s where Parson Mull come from, up around Baldwin City, I believe it was.”
“He’s the one hid his fortune around here somewhere,” said Pete as the rumble of the Frisco locomotive drew his eyes down the track.
Buck nodded and leaned in. “Parson came down after the first big payloads of lead and zinc was struck just south of here. When the mines started bustin’ out everywhere is when the town sprung up. It was plenty wild hereabouts in them days, let me tell you.”
The noise of the arriving steam engine halted conversation as the Frisco squealed and hissed to a smoky stop at the platform. Buck leaned back and set the heavy rockers in motion. He watched the people make their way out of the cars and across the platform, eyeing the scene with a kind of alert resignation. As the platform cleared and the train settled into an idle state, he pulled the pillow from behind him and fluffed it. It was square and blue with gold braid around the edges, a gift from President Harding back when he came through on the train after a visit to Hutchinson in ’23–the way he tells it.
“And Mull got rich in the mines,” Charlie said to prime Buck into taking up the story again.
Buck stopped rocking and pointed to the big house on the hill above the station. “And he built that house yonder.”
“Your house,” said Pete.
“Well, I come by it later. At the time, I was working mule lifts and had a shack down by Short Creek. Mull, he made his money buying land and selling claims. He figured out early that striking deals held a lot more profit than swinging a pick forty feet down a hole.”
“But he was scared of raiders,” Charlie said, coaxing like.
Buck waved his hand in the air, the one that was missing part of a finger. “‘Course, there wasn’t any raiders anymore. That mostly ended when Quantrill’s bushwhackers disbanded and the war was won. That was years before the mining boom. It didn’t commence until about Eighteen and Seventy-eight. But Mull had lost one fortune to border ruffians, and he was bound and determined not to lose another.”
When it comes right down to it, the age-old question of the glass is less about pessimism and optimism and more about worldview.
Innovation comes from structure. Thinking outside the box is one thing. Thinking that there is no box is quite another. Don’t underestimate the importance of knowing the conventions before deciding to be unconventional. And then by all means InNoVaTE.