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.

Decision Time

Making decisions is just a part of life. Some decision will be bigger, some smaller. But they’re all important. Here are a few thoughts on making decisions and not regretting it later.

  1. Be practical. Take a look at the facts and be honest. Facts aren’t everything, but they provide a whole lot of insight into situations. By viewing the issue from a pragmatic perspective, you’ll be able to weigh the facts and look at the pros and cons from a balanced view.
  2. Get advice. Don’t try to make decisions on your own. Proverbs 15:22 says that “Without counsel, plans go awry, but in the multitude of counselors they are established.” Talk to others to hear their thoughts. You may not necessarily take their advice, but talking to them helps you think through the issue and also see things from perspectives that aren’t your own.
  3. Feelings do matter. Just like facts aren’t everything, neither are feelings. But it’s true that gut instincts are important to pay attention to. How do you feel about each option? What does your gut tell you?
  4. Talk to God. Ultimately, a decision isn’t really your own. It’s God’s. Read His word and talk with Him. I recently spoke with my uncle to get his advice on a decision I needed to make, and he told me that God will not hold me accountable for the results if I follow what God tells me. If you make the decision God tells you to make, you’ll have no regrets.

Once you’ve made the decision, stand confident in it. If you’ve chosen the path that God has directed you to, go forward knowing you’re doing the right thing.

Decisions are exciting and challenging at the same time. But don’t view them as obstacles; view them as part of the journey!

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Image courtesy of jev55 on Flickr – http://www.flickr.com/photos/jev55/

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A Tangled Journey – Let’s Review

While the Disney movie Tangled is not a perfect movie by a long shot (there are definitely themes I disagree with in the movie), it has provided some neat insights into life. Today’s post concludes my five-part series examining Tangled and our own lives’ stories. In this post, I want to review some of the highlights from my past posts and leave you with some key takeaways.

  1. While “When Will My Life Begin?” is a really fun song, we should view life a little differently. God has placed each of us where we are for a reason. If we are living according to His will, His plan for our lives, then we’re right where He wants us to be right now. The future is always a day away! We shouldn’t life our lives waiting for our life to begin. It’s already started! Live your life in the center of God’s will now. Live it doing what He’s called you to now.
  2. Our dreams should be bigger than just us. Flynn and Rapunzel give us great examples of this. Both of them had dreams that were all about themselves. But they realized that life was bigger than just them. And ultimately each of them were willing to sacrifice themselves for someone else. Our dreams should be the same way. God gives us dreams, and we should fulfill them will all of our heart.
  3. Everyone has a story! The reason stories like Tangled connect and resonate with us so much is because each of us has a story! But our stories are a part of a bigger, grander story – God’s story! Your story matters!
  4. We get a storybook ending! Life can be frustrating at times. But we know the end of the story! At the end, we will spend eternity with our Father That’s a “happily ever after” ending if there ever was one. Live today with confidence in tomorrow!

But here’s the really cool part – each of our stories are still in progress! Live life in the center of God’s will, and you’ll never go wrong. You’ll be writing His perfect story for your life. We can keep the end in sight, knowing what we’re living for.

Just imagine all that we get to accomplish between now and the end of the story! Think of the chapters to fill; the adventures to be had! Go, tell your story!

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Everyone Has a Story

After writing my two posts examining themes from Tangled (“When Will My Life Begin” and “What’s Your Dream?“), I started thinking about why Tangled is so neat and why it can be so powerful. And I realized something pretty obvious – it’s the story. We relate to the story, we connect with it. Why? Because each of us has a story. I have a story. You have a story. Everyone has a story.

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Isn’t that neat? God has placed each of us where we are with a purpose in mind. He’s given us a mission, a story. Our lives are stories in progress. Who’s the author? I think we have a tendency to want to write our own story, I know I do. But who started the story? God did. He’s the author of our story! He’s the one who knows each chapter, who knows the storyline, and who knows how it will end.

Viewing my life as a story excites me and helps me understand life a little better. There are ups and downs, good parts and bad parts, in every story. But every piece matters and contributes to making the story what it is. When I’m in the middle of a story, I don’t always understand why a certain scene matters, why this one thing had to happen, but it all comes together in the end. And that’s how life is! When we’re in the middle of something, we can’t always understand why it’s happening, or how it will turn out for good, but, just like a story, everything in our lives is a part of our story that God is writing. Of course, this doesn’t excuse any mistakes we make. When we make bad choices, that affects our story, potentially in a negative way.

The coolest part of this, though, is that our stories aren’t really our own. Our stories are just pieces of an even bigger, grander story – God’s story! Throughout the history (His-story!), God has been telling the story of who He is and His love. All of our stories contribute to His story.

Now it makes more sense why we connect and relate to stories like Tangled. We see our own stories and our own circumstances reflected in the characters, the situations, and the storyline. We love stories because we have stories.

But so what? Why does all of this matter? Because your story is a part of God’s story, your story matters. So tell your story! Live your story! Allow God to use you as He chooses. Let Him write your story. And hear others’ stories. Listen to them! You’ll be amazed at the incredible story God is telling through all of us!

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What’s Your Dream?

In my last post, we looked at how we shouldn’t live life waiting for it to begin, but instead how we should live our lives now. And since the Disney movie Tangled provided such a great foundation for our discussion, I’m going to use another concept from the movie in today’s post.

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The plot line of Tangled may at first just seem like a classic romance story and really “silly.” There’s this girl who has this dream. She meets up with this guy and gets him to help her fulfill her dream. They have lots of adventures and then (spoiler alert!) end up getting married and living happily ever after. But wait just a minute, it actually goes a whole lot deeper than that.

Let’s go back to the beginning of the story. Two people, each with a dream, meet through a set of odd circumstances. They both want to fulfill their own dream. Rapunzel wants to see the floating lanterns and Flynn wants to get rich and live an easy life. Rapunzel has the upper hand (or should I say hair?) in their interaction, so Flynn agrees to help her. But the reason he agrees is not because he really wants her to be happy, but because he wants the crown back so he can get on with his dream. Rapunzel isn’t interested in giving the crown back to him except as a means of bribing him to fulfill her dream. That’s how it starts.

Now lets fast-forward to the scene when Rapunzel and Eugene (not Flynn anymore) sing “I See the Light.” Take a look at some of the words in that song:

Rapunzel sings:

All those days watching from the windows
All those years outside looking in
All that time never even knowing
Just how blind I’ve been

……….

All at once everything looks different
Now that I see you

And then Eugene sings:

All those days chasing down a daydream
All those years living in a blur
All that time never truly seeing
Things, the way they were
Now she’s here shining in the starlight
Now she’s here suddenly I know
If she’s here it’s crystal clear
I’m where I’m meant to go

What did each of them realize? What they realized was that their own dream, the one they were so focused on, really didn’t matter. Why? Because they had discovered a new, better, dream. Why better? Because their dream was about someone else, not themselves. Before, Rapunzel wanted to see the floating lanterns for herself. Flynn wanted money for himself. It wasn’t about anyone else. Their dreams were self-centered. But then each of them realized that life was so much bigger than themselves, that life was about others! This is perfectly illustrated when (spoiler alert!) Rapunzel is willing to go with Mother Gothel forever as long as she can heal Eugene first. So she’s wiling to sacrifice herself for someone else. And then Eugene is willing to die to set Rapunzel free. Both of them forsook their own dream and their own comfort for someone else. Sure, in this case it happened to be a romantic story too, but that’s beside the point.

So what’s your dream? What are you living for? Is your dream about yourself, something you want? Or is it something bigger than that? Is it about others? Is it about fulfilling God’s purpose for your life? Is it about loving others? Is it about giving up what you want so that God can work through you as He chooses?

God gives us gifts, passions, and dreams for a purpose. But I think that we sometimes take those gifts, passions, and dreams and only want to use them in a certain way, the way we think is best. But I challenge you to give those gifts, passions, and dreams to God. Let Him use them as He will. It quite possibly won’t be how you expected. It might be hard for you, uncomfortable. It might mean that you must give up a dream that you had. It will definitely mean being selfless and focusing on others. But place it all in His hands. Let Him give you a dream. And then fulfill it with all of your heart! Don’t expect a story and ending like Tangled; expect the story and ending that God has planned for you, even though it might not make sense and even though you may not be able to see it yet.

What’s your dream?

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Who’s In Control?

“‘Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? … Therefore do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” … But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.[‘]” – Matthew 6:25-27, 31, 33 (NKJV)

I love this passage of Scripture! Here, Jesus states quite clearly that we are not to worry. But although we all know we’re not supposed to worry, actually not worrying is a whole other story. I want to share with you a few thoughts on worry from the perspective of God’s sovereignty, in the hopes that it will encourage you to truly not worry and trust in God.

Why do we worry? I recently realized something very interesting. Normally, when we worry, we’re worrying about something that we don’t have any control over. If we can control it, then we don’t typically worry about it. For example, I may be stuck it traffic, worrying that I won’t get home in time for something. I can’t control anything about the situation. But if I had left late, not giving me enough time, I wouldn’t be worrying. I’d probably be irritated at myself, but not worried. If we have an alternative course of action, we normally do that instead of worry. So when we have no control, we start worrying.

But what does worry communicate? If we want to be purposeful in our communication, we ought to identify what we’re communicating when we’re worrying.

To be blunt, worry communicates a lack of faith in God. You see, since we worry about things that we can’t control, in essence we’re saying that we think we should have control in that situation. But clearly we don’t. That means it’s in God’s domain. So if we’re worrying, then we’re saying that we don’t trust God enough for Him to take care of the situation and we think we should have control instead of God.

But here’s the good news. God is in control, regardless of whether or not we see it or understand what He’s doing! Remember, God sees the big picture; we don’t. We’re humans; God is perfect. God is sovereign! He holds the world in the palm of His hand. This is where faith enters. Hebrews 11:1 tells us that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” We can’t see the big picture, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. It just means we have to have faith. We must trust in God and His sovereignty.

So when you’re tempted to start worrying, remember this: you’re worrying because you’re not in control, which just means God is in control. That’s actually a really good situation to be in!