Zachary Bright

The Wonder of it All


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The Wonder of It All

kauai_wp_12_1024A few years ago, on a family vacation, I went swimming in these waters on the Na Pali Coast of Kuaui, Hawaii. Looking at this picture now is a bittersweet experience. Bitter because, with my health limitations, I will probably not swim again in deep water. But sweet too, amazingly sweet! I was actually in that ocean, with the fish, connected to all the oceans of the world! God’s good creation is all around us. I thank God for the flowers around our house that seem to keep blooming inordinately.

I’m also thankful that I lived long enough to hear the God-given musical creativity of The Violet Burning. Just to have heard some music or read some books makes living worth the challenges it also brings. And some people live their lives so creatively that I can only say “what a blessing to see”! I’m thinking of this text that we looked at in session this week: “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Phil. 4:8, NRSV). To be open and alert to the wonder of it all is an avenue into thanksgiving, the appropriate response to all of God’s good gifts. Of course, the wonder of God’s gift of the Son to be the sacrifice for our sins is overwhelming. Health, wisdom, friends, family, growth in Christ-likeness, the fruit of the Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit come to mind. At our best, ‘the attitude of gratitude’ is the spirit, in the DNA, of Divine Savior Church.

Paul exhorts believers to “…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thess. 5:18, NRSV) As we face needs and challenges in our moment of history, I am struck by the word of the Lord: “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Phil. 4:6, NRSV, emphasis added) It seems to me that placing prayer alongside thanksgiving is significant. Thanksgiving for what God has done, wonder at his works and power, thanksgiving for how he will keep his promises strengthens my faith. And the reverse is true also: lack of wonder, gratitude and thankfulness, narrows my vision and weakens my faith. So wonder, awe and gratitude is a wonderful medicine for almost anything that might ail us.

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Wisdom From A Mother

vonette-bright

With Mother’s Day a few days away I’ve been thinking about my mother. She is a compassionate and wise confidant. A compliment from her means more than some from others because she understands what I’m trying do, what the objectives are. But mostly I’m thinking about an insight that she passed on to me from Dr. Henrietta Mears. Dr. Mears, or “Teacher” as she was affectionately called, the Christian Education Director at First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood, CA., introduced both of my parents to Jesus Christ and shared a home with our family for about 10 years.

Alright, you’ve waited long enough for the insight. During one of our discussions about my struggles with Christian faith and my sense of tormented meaninglessness, my Mother passed along these words from Henrietta Mears: “Never doubt in the darkness what you’ve seen in the light”. I took this to mean at least: trust what you thought when you were rested and thinking clearly. Also: when you are going through circular thinking and struggling with doubts in the fog, wait. You’ll think clearer later.

There is a healthy questioning which is helpful to our faith. It keeps us growing and learning. Presbyterian writer Frederick Buechner has said: “Doubt is the ants in the pants of faith”.

There is also a kind of doubting that torments and stunts Christian faith, the kind that James writes of in his letter: “The double-minded man is unstable in all his ways” (1:7). I take comfort though, that people with any non-Christian world view will also struggle with doubt. C.S. Lewis commented once that “the young atheist can’t be too careful about his reading”.

In the last couple of centuries, our culture has added to the ancient pattern of human doubting a new pattern: systematic doubt. The rule is that nothing may be believed if it can be doubted. We must find what cannot be doubted and then make valid inferences from what is indubitable. However, no one in practical matters can or does follow these rules. The rules began to look arbitrary and are used selectively against Christian belief. So I say why torment ourselves; let’s break the rules!

Another way of expressing this wisdom: “Believe your beliefs and doubt your doubts”. The way we expressed it on one of our coffee house cards was: “The devil gets no space on my hard drive!” I believe that God gave me a mind and furthermore that he has given me access to the mind of Christ. So I will spend my gift for the Church and for the Kingdom of God. I will be engaged with culture and with hard questions toward that end. However, I will not do the devil’s thinking for him or get bogged down in “systematic doubt” or throw “flaming arrows” (Eph. 6:16, NRSV) at myself!

May you know joy and peace in believing,

Pastor Zac