Let YOUR light shine

In Galatians 2:20, Paul says this: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God.” Through the blood and the cross of Jesus, our very being, our identity, is intrinsically linked to God. Romans 8:16-17 puts it this way, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.” At the surface, this is incredible. And when we dig even deeper into understanding our identity in Christ, it is overwhelming and empowering. Being a Christian isn’t simply about getting right with God. God has made us a part of furthering His kingdom. He has created each of us the way we are for a purpose.

lightbulbRecently, I was thinking about Matthew 5:14-16, where Jesus talks about us being the light of the world. And I noticed something I’d never thought about before. In verse sixteen, He says, to let your light shine before men. And I got to thinking about what that really means, specifically the phrase “your light.” I believe that Jesus here is commanding us not only to bring glory to God, but He’s also implying something deeper. And that is that each of us have a different kind of light. He didn’t tell us to let God’s light shine, but rather our own light. I think this is a reference to our own identity. Each of us are special. Our identity is part of our light. The idea here is that each of us brings God glory and furthers His kingdom in our own special way. God’s work for each of us will be different. But it all matters. Think about your personality, your ideas, your passions, your dreams, your talents, and your gifts. All of that was given to you by God. All of that is your light. Jesus is telling us to let ourselves, who we are, our very identity, be what points others to God. So letting our light shine doesn’t only mean sharing the gospel. It also means honing our talents. Pursing our dreams. Developing our gifts. Embracing who God has created us to be and striving to become that in the best way we can. That is what it means to let our light shine. Because that is when God is glorified – when we use what He has given us to its fullest potential.

Now, how do we achieve this practically? I know for me this is a kind of radical concept that goes against the current of much of what I’ve believed for so long. Here are a few ways we can begin to incorporate this lifestyle into our lives. First, identify your gifts and interests. Are you gifted in biology? Or music? Or acting? Or accounting? Or pastoring? Next, identity what you’re passionate about, what your dream is – what it is that fires you up. Maybe it’s working with kids. Or maybe it’s equipping your fellow believers. Maybe it’s studying and learning more about the world around you. And then find where your gifts and your passions intersect. And then pursue that. As long as you are seeking God’s wisdom and counsel along the way and letting Him direct your thoughts, you can’t go wrong. That intersection is how you can let your light shine.

Is this easy? No. But that’s okay. Because your identity also tells you that God has empowered you to rise to the occasion, to be the person He created you to be. It might be hard, but it’ll be worth.

God created you for a purpose. He created you the way you are for a purpose. He gave you your gifts and talents for a purpose. He gave you your dreams and passions for a purpose. So use them. Puruse your dreams. Develop your gifts. Because through that, you are furthering Christ’s kingdom. Let your light shine!

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Grace

For about the past two weeks, I’ve been out of town helping plan and run a national conference with an organization I’m heavily involved in. One of the themes we focused on was grace. Our guest speaker spoke about the need to give and receive both grace and reconciliation. But grace is hard. Because it means giving something up. When we extend grace and reconciliation, we give up some of our desire for justice. We forgive. We move on. And that’s hard. When we receive grace and reconciliation, we admit we’re wrong. We are humbled. And that’s hard.

But either way, grace is good. It’s powerful. It’s life-changing.

However we can’t give and receive grace without the power of Christ working in us. Grace is a characteristic of Christ. It’s in His nature. We can only give and receive grace because Christ did it first. And now, it’s our responsibility to do the same.

Extend some grace today. Receive some grace today. It will change your life.

Just a Few Sentences…

I analyze everything. I pay close attention to what’s going on around me and have to take time to think through and process things. So when it comes to making quick decisions, I don’t typically feel very comfortable. I’ve often tended to view this aspect of my personality negatively.

About three months ago, I was having a conversation with an adult leader about streamlining some different systems and processes for an event. When we came to one of the responsibilities and how to improve it, I made a passing comment about how I wasn’t very good at that job because I need to think through things and this job required thinking on the spot. And then I just made a small comment about how I viewed this part of my personality as a disadvantage. And the leader stopped me. She said, “Matthew, don’t say that. It’s important and valuable think through things the way you do. We need that!” And she went on to explain how my perspective could actually contribute to improving this responsibility. This took me entirely by surprise and completely changed my perspective!

I took away a few big lessons from this discussion with that leader.

I realized that it’s all about perspective. I looked at this certain situation from my assumption that my personality was a disadvantage, while the leader viewed it from a different vantage point. While it’s true that sometimes that part of my personality can be negative, I shouldn’t start with that belief. I should begin with a positive perspective.

I also realized how different personalities work together. If everyone was just like me and analyzed everything deeply and took time to process everything, we’d be in deep trouble. And if no one was like me, we’d also be in deep trouble because so many details would be ignored. But when people with all of the different personalities that God has created work together, everyone contributes and adds value.

But the biggest lesson I took away from this conversation actually had nothing to do with my personality, or the issue we were discussing. From this conversation, I realized just how powerful words are, if they are spoken. That leader didn’t have to stop me and encourage me and help me see things differently. She could have easily said nothing; the conversation would have continued and neither of us would have thought anything about it. It wasn’t that I thought this “disadvantage” of mine was that big of a deal. It was a “small” opportunity to encourage, but she chose to affirm me anyway. Now I wonder how often I miss out on opportunities to affirm and encourage people, not because I’m not paying attention, but rather because I see the chance but don’t think it’s really that important. But that leader thought it was important. And it meant a whole lot to me. Those couple of sentences made a world of difference.

Now, I’m inspired to do the same for others. My words have impact, and I shouldn’t ignore that. I don’t want to waste opportunities I have to be an encourager. I want to encourage and affirm, no matter how “small” I think the opportunity is. Those words from that leader blessed me, and I want to pass that on.

We never know the impact we can have on someone because of a couple of sentences in a conversation!

Giving and Receiving

I really like analyzing people and their behavioral habits. Over the past few months, I’ve noticed something really interesting about people. As a general rule of thumb, people can be classified into two groups: givers and receivers.

Givers are the kind of people who tend to invest more in other people. They’re the ones who encourage and are more focused on other people, instead of themselves. They can often come across as independent and as the kind of person that doesn’t need any help.

Receivers are the kind of people who tend to seek encouragement instead of provide it. It’s not that receivers don’t focus on other people, but they can often interact with others with the purpose of wanting to be affirmed by others. They can often come across and “needy” and less self-sufficient.

Now, the two types of people I just described are extreme examples. But I’ve noticed that most of us fall into one of those two categories, even if we’re not as extreme as what I just described. I’ve also noticed that it’s easy to view both of these types of people and their actions incorrectly.

You see, givers are often viewed as independent. But they need encouragement just like receivers do. They might seem like they don’t need anyone’s help, but they really do. They’ve just realized how important it is to be outward-focused. And receivers can come across as needy and dependent, people who only focus on themselves. But receivers can encourage others. They’ve just realized how important it is not to drain oneself and that it’s okay to focus on yourself sometimes.

Often it is easy to get caught up in focusing on others (being a giver) that we exhaust ourselves. Or we get caught up in taking care of ourselves (being a receiver) that we stop thinking about others.

So don’t be a giver. And don’t be a receiver. Be both. Be an encourager, but don’t wear yourself out. Invest yourself in others. But also be willing to receive encouragement and help from others when they offer it. Don’t be independent. Don’t be dependent. Be interdependent. Give and receive. Don’t be one. Be both.

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

– Galatians 6:2

Chain. Image courtesy of Max Klingensmith on Flickr - http://www.flickr.com/photos/mklingo/

Image courtesy of Max Klingensmith on Flickr – http://www.flickr.com/photos/mklingo/