Are You a Light? Or a Reflection? And Which is Better?

Years ago, Barry McGuire (if you remember him, you’re a hippy! Or you used to be.) taught about the difference between the sun and the moon.

Some people are like the sun: they are a source of light, of revelation. Others are like the moon: they have no light in themselves, but all they do is reflect the light of others. Be a light, not a reflection. Be a voice, not an echo. (see Matthew 5:14)

Sounds good doesn’t it? And the message is good: have light in yourselves. Sounds good. It reminds me of Jesus’ words, “Have salt in yourselves.” (Mark 9:50) and it reminds me of Paul’s words (1 Corinthians 3:2) and the author if Hebrews (Hebrews 5:12) to learn to feed ourselves on solid food.

Recently, I encountered this photo of the moon. And as I admired the beauty that God hid there, he whispered to me, “Look how much is revealed in the reflected light,” and I understood that I had (yes, again!) over-simplified things.

And (yes, again!) he schooled me: without reflected light, we’d never be able to see. The only thing we see directly is when we look at the sun, or directly stare at a light source (and even most manmade light sources use reflected light heavily). When I look at your face, I don’t see the glow of light coming from your face, I see reflected light, from some irrelevant source, bouncing into my eyes, onto my retinas, and showing me what you look like and, if I know you, who you are.

Really, that’s a whole lot of our goal: to reflect Jesus, isn’t it? So maybe being a competent reflector is not such a bad idea. Specifically, he pointed out to me how much more detail we see here in the reflected light of the moon than we ever would staring directly into the sun: often people see Jesus better reflected off of a real human being than trying to look directly at him.

But beyond that, I still believe that “Be a light yourself!” is a valuable exhortation, but for other reasons: unless someone nearby is a source of light, many people would still be wandering in the dark. If you’re with people who don’t have a whole lot of direct revelation, then it would be awfully easy to wander off the path and they’d never even see the edge of the cliff. 

Of course, even better is to hang out with a bunch of people who each have light in themselves, lighting things up for each other, for those around them. That way, the path is very well lit with no shadows, and each of us can see both people and the challenges of our environment clearly. 

Learning How to Learn

I spent several decades as a studious, analytical, intellectual Bible teacher before God, in His mercy, jumped me.

I haven’t left the analytical skills behind, idle, as much as I have downgraded their importance, as Jesus Himself taught (in Mark 12:24), “Jesus answered and said to them, “Are you not therefore mistaken, because you do not know the Scriptures nor the power of God?”

Jesus speaks to professional analysts of the Book and says that the first reason that they are mistaken is because they don’t *know* the Book. I observe that He sees a difference between studying and analyzing the Book and *knowing* the Book.

But the second source of their error (and, frankly, mine) was a lack of experiential knowledge (εδω) of the power (yep, it’s δύναμις) of God.

It seems like He is saying that their knowledge is getting in the way of knowing the truth. It seems like he’s inviting them to move from studying (the knowledge of the mind, a function of the soul) to an experiential knowledge of both revelation and power (which may, in fact, be a knowledge in my spirit, as it relates to His spirit).

So, if I want to share this new knowledge, how do I do that? Specifically, how do I share knowledge without focusing on the mind (which is what all my schooling ever focused on)? How do I help others to experience the experiential life with God that I myself have stumbled into after decades as a “study the book!” Christian (and to which I shall *never* return!)?

Well for one thing, I’m trying to display my knowledge far less than I used to, and far less than I am trying to say, “Hey, look at this! What do you think of it?” The reality [off the record] is that people learn much better when they discover the truth, often by talking about it, and they can’t talk about it with me unless I listen. When I come at someone with “This is the way it is!” (as analytical statements generally come across), then the common reaction is not to receive what I say, but rather to put up arguments against it.

For another thing, I’m finding that I learn so *much* more my own self when I stop thinking of myself as the expert, when I only listen to people who have more degrees than I have. In the past couple of decades, I’ve run into people who don’t have advanced degrees (some who haven’t even graduated junior high school yet) whose experience of God puts my “knowledge” to shame. I admit, I listen most closely to the people whose experience lines up with their statements, and best of all, to people who have taken the time to know me. But I learn more by listening than I do by talking about what I already know.

We could talk about why it all works this way, but it boils down to Jesus evaluation: “Are you not therefore mistaken, because you do not know the Scriptures nor the power of God?” And I’ve had to answer, “Yes” every time: Yes, I am mistaken, and yes, that’s why.

I’m learning. :)

The Enemy's Distractions

Nehemiah, Chapter 6 starts out this way: 

“When Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies heard that I had rebuilt the wall and that there were no more breaks in it—even though I hadn’t yet installed the gates— Sanballat and Geshem sent this message: “Come and meet with us at Kephirim in the valley of Ono.”

I knew they were scheming to hurt me so I sent messengers back with this: “I’m doing a great work; I can’t come down. Why should the work come to a standstill just so I can come down to see you?”

Four times they sent this message and four times I gave them my answer.

In this season, one of the enemy’s attacks against the people of God, particularly the people of God who are building the Kingdom, is like these Yahoos were trying: to lure them away from the work to come spend time with me instead.

That temptation may come from strangers; on public forums like this one, that’s not particularly rare. But it may also come from friends who have themselves been sidetracked. I have seen these kind of temptations to stray show up as lonely widows needing a man’s perspective, or handsome young men suddenly paying attention to a woman (or a man). They can also come in the guise of recognition from important, influential or famous people or organizations. An invitation to review an article before publication may be more about drawing you off of your focus than about getting your opinion.

In conversation with a brother this evening, Father showed me that this is one of the biggest things motivating the people coming “alongside” us to “fix” us, or to “correct” us or “show us the error of our ways.” Their goal – the goal of the demonic that’s nudging them, that is, not the people’s goal! – is to draw Kingdom people away from Kingdom work. Suck ‘em dry if they can, but get them off the work of discovering the Kingdom and sharing those discoveries.

I’ve also seen this attack come in the guise of a business opportunity, a job offer, or a promotion.

There are several dangers here. The first is the one that Nehemiah was concerned about: that they will separate us from the people of God, from our community, and there they will suck us dry of fervor, of passion, of purpose. In other words, they’ll kill us.

The second is that the work that we’ve been doing – assuming that we’re actually doing Kingdom work and not just building our own kingdom – will go undone. In some ways, that’s just as valuable to them: “Do whatever you have to do, but stop them from building the Kingdom!”

Guard yourselves, friends. Resist them. Resist them repeatedly. Nehemiah had to chase them off four times. Don’t be surprised if you get more than one round of people trying to distract you, to draw you off of the task that Father has assigned you to.

You’re doing good work, work that nobody else can do like you can. Why should that work come to a standstill just so you can go meet with somebody?

It shouldn’t.

Don’t fall for it.