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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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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Deeper than Dreams

What do you really want? Really. What is it that burns deep inside your soul? Deeper than your dreams, deeper than anything else?

I’m a big believer in following the dreams God has given you. But when determining the direction of our life and the next steps we should take, sometimes I think we tend to only focus on the dreams, and not go deeper.

What if we went deeper?

What is it that drives you? What’s more important to you than anything else in the world? What values do you hold above all others? That’s what’s going to help you find where God is taking you. I have a lot of dreams. And I believe that they’ve been given to me by God. But I’m realizing that if I only focus on the dreams and only seek to fulfill them, I could get really lost. Overvaluing one dream. Undervaluing another. But when I step back and go deeper, I find direction. When I go to the most fundamental, foundational passions that God has given me, that’s when the pieces of the puzzle start coming together.

And the cool thing is that the pieces come together in ways I never imagined or dreamed! That one dream that I thought was super important and was going to look a certain way changes and become less “important” and takes on a different form. And that other dream that I wasn’t sure about at all starts taking shape.

What do you really want? What’s the deepest passion that God has given you? Find it, and follow it. Be ready for your dreams to take different shapes or change levels of importance. They might look different. But that’s the cool part. You’ll find God working in your life and orchestrating it all. It’ll be scary. But you’ll find purpose, satisfaction, and peace in life.

Go deeper than your dreams.

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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Do I Get a Storybook Ending?

happily ever afterThe past couple of weeks, we’ve learning some neat lessons from Disney’s Tangled and discovering how principles from Tangled apply to our own lives’ stories. But what about the ending? I mean, Tangled has a pretty good ending (spoiler alert!). Eugene rescues Rapunzel, Rapunzel saves Eugene, they get married, and they live happily ever after. How much better can it get, right? But what about each of our stories? Do we get a storybook ending?

When I first started thinking about writing this post, my answer to that question was “no.” I had this idea to write about how our stories probably won’t end like a storybook but how we just need to trust in God no matter how the story ends. It was going to be a great post, except for one thing. My premiss was all wrong! We do get a “happily ever after” ending!

Think back for a minute to my last post. In that post, we talked about how each of our stories are just a part of God’s bigger, greater story. And we know that His story has a good ending. So if our stories are a part of that, then our stories also have a good ending. And think about when our story does end. I guess you could say our story ends when our life here on earth ends. So what’s the ending? The ending is going home! And living happily ever after! Literally! How cool is that?

I know it’s easy for me to get so caught up in what’s going on in my story right now that I forget the ending. I forget what I’m living for. I’m not living for ease and comfort. I’m not living for myself. I’m living for Christ and to further His kingdom! My story has a good ending! Regardless of the struggles we have here on earth, regardless of the attacks by Satan, we know how the story ends. The battle is already won! Christ is the victor! We spend eternity with our Father!

So don’t be jealous of those storybook endings like that of Tangled. Just keep your life in the right perspective. Remember what you have to look forward to. Live today with confidence in tomorrow!

HappilyEverAfter

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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.

tangled

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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When Will My Life Begin?

Today’s post is a little different. I’m going to be using a Disney princess song to examine something that we all face and relate to. Believe it or not, Disney movies can be pretty deep and provide some interesting insights into life! Even though I’m using a Disney princess song, we’re going to go deep. This post comes straight from my heart. I pray it encourages, inspires, and challenges you.

Recently, I’ve been giving a whole lot of thought to my “life plan.” What is next year going to look like for me? How about the next five years? Ten years? I’ve also had chances to talk with some of my friends about their thoughts on what their future will look like. This all got me thinking about life and making the “transition” from young person to adult


Tangled-Look-out-the-window

While the song “When Will My Life Begin”, sung by Rapunzel in Disney’s Tangled, may at first appear to be just another classic song sung by a classic Disney princess, there’s much thought-provoking material to be found in it. The song describes how Rapunzel looks at her life, how it’s always the same, never going anywhere, and she wonders when will things change, when will her life will really begin.

Honestly, I think this is a question that many of us young people ask ourselves. Especially for those of us who are soon to graduate from high school or college. We look at where we are. We look at the opportunities we have, the relationships we’ve built. We wonder what kind of transition will take place, and when it will happen. “When am I going to do something different from what I’ve been doing all of my life?” “When am I going to ‘move on’ in my life?” “When will my life begin?”

The first reprise of “When Will My Life Begin” says this:

I’ve got my mother’s love
I shouldn’t ask for more
I’ve got so many things
I should be thankful for
Yes, I have everything- except, I guess, a door

We think that in order for life to begin, there has to be a transition, an opportunity where we move from one part of life to the next. But I have an idea, one that I think will encourage and inspire my peers, including myself. What if we shouldn’t be waiting for life to begin? What if it’s already begun?

In the second reprise of the song, Rapunzel sings this:

Look at the world – so close, and I’m halfway to it!
Look at it all – so big – do I even dare?
Look at me – there at last! – I just have to do it
Should I?
No.
Here I go…

These lines suggest not yet having “arrived.” Analyzing this song in the context of the movie is a whole different topic, but what about its application to us? Looking at how it applies to our lives, I’d suggest a slightly different perspective. 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. And if we’re right where God wants us, then why are we moving? What is there to “arrive at?” In fact, we have arrived! Because we are where God wants us to be.

I think we have a tendency to think that the future is when life will really start, when we’ll do great things. But the future is always a day away! We shouldn’t life our lives waiting for our life to begin. It’s already started! Instead, live your life in the center of God’s will. Live it doing what He’s called you to now. Sure, there will probably be changes later down the road, but that shouldn’t change who you are or how you view what you’re doing now. Don’t wait to start your life or to do big things. Do what God calls you to, regardless of how you perceive the size or the importance or the relevance. It matters to Him, and that’s all that should matter to us.

That’s really comforting. While we may look at where we are in life and wonder how it’s supposed to work, we can be confident in our heavenly Father, knowing we’re following His plan and that His plan is perfect. You don’t have to ask when your life will begin! Don’t wait for it to begin, because your life has already begun! You’re living a life for Christ!