Your light can only shine in one of two directions

I live in an old house, and sometimes we have power outages. Not because of a storm or anything. Sometimes the power just goes out. That’s why we keep a stash of candles readily available in case the power goes out at night time, because until you’ve lived in the country, you don’t know pitch black.

On one hand, it’s incredible because you can see every star in the sky. On the other hand, it’s disconcerting because you can’t see that hand in front of your face–or the skunk in your driveway that’s feeling threatened by you because you’re out watching stars. You get the picture.

In a dark room, it’s incredible the amount of light a single candle can put out. It’s incredible how far light can travel. So just imagine being in a completely pitch black room with a candle burning. How would you react if somebody put a basket over that candle to block the light? Would that relieve you? Probably not.

DSC_1667Today’s verses are Matthew 5:14-16.

You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.

Jesus compared His followers to candles shining in the darkness. Bright, burning flames that shine and are visible for miles and miles, all pointing to God. There are a couple of different ways to take this set of verses, and mainly the one I hear most frequently is for living a Christ-like life. And that’s so true. But I think there’s more to being the light of the world than WWJD. God made us each individuals, specifically gifted and specially designed to do something awesome for God.

Jesus wanted His followers to shine for God. That meant taking their talents and gifts and using them for God’s glory. Not hiding them out of fear of rejection.

In my experience, most people think that following God and having fun can’t happen at the same time. There’s this idea that if God wants you to do it, you should be miserable, that following God should be a lifelong sacrifice that requires you to never have fun and never enjoy life. And that couldn’t be farther from the truth!

God created us to have specific talents and abilities, and that means He wants us to use those talents and abilities. Why else would we have them? Otherwise what’s the point? You have a special talent or skill and you hide it in a basket so nobody can see it? What sense does that make?

But a word of caution. Jesus didn’t say to use our gifts so that we could become rich and famous. No, we’re to use our gifts to bring glory and honor to God. That means if you have a gift, don’t forget Who gave it to you.

So does that make famous people bad or wrong because they used their gifts to obtain wealth? Not at all! There’s nothing wrong with being compensated for something you’ve achieved, but as a Christ-follower, the spotlight shouldn’t be your goal–shining the spotlight on God should be your goal.

The light you shine with your gifts and talents can only go one of two directions–either pointing people toward God or pointing people toward yourself.

Jesus wanted God to get the glory for His life, and we should want the same thing. We should want our accomplishments and our talents to reflect God’s creativity and His grace and love and power, and everything we do should point to Him in a way that other people want to know Him.

So don’t hold back. Do your best. Shine as bright as you can and be loud about it. But remember Who gets the credit.

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Do your loved ones know how much they matter?

I usually avoid a lot of current events when I’m putting a devotional together in the mornings before work. Mostly, news I hear about is so depressing it’s just not worth bringing up, but something happened this week that I just couldn’t stop thinking about.

Robin Williams died.

I know of many actors who have passed away. Many comedians who graced the stage and made people laugh, dramatists who made people cry, artists who brought the fantastic to life. But I really think this is the first time an actor who I really liked has died–not of old age, not of natural causes, but apparently by taking his own life.

I can’t even tell you how many Robin Williams movies I’ve seen. I own lots of them. The man just made me laugh. And it’s heartbreaking to think that someone who brought so many people so much joy couldn’t find enough meaning in his own life to keep living it.

Today’s verses are Matthew 5:14-16.

You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.

I know it’s probably understood. I know it’s probably something that everyone has already thought of. But when was the last time you went out of your way to tell someone important to you what they mean to you?

I’m not talking about strangers on the street. I’m talking about people in your family. People in your home. People you go to church with. People you live life with.

Do they know what you feel?

Don’t just assume they know. Obviously, I can’t speak for Robin Williams or for anyone else who has taken his or her life. But I can speak from experience when it comes to feeling alone and isolated, like I can’t do anything right, like I’ve failed. I know what depression feels like.

And when somebody is so deep in depression that they would consider taking their own life, they need to know they matter. It’s not just love. It’s not just respect. It’s purpose.

We can have all the love and respect and success in the world, but it won’t give us purpose. God is the only one who can accomplish that. Sometimes God communicates purpose through Scripture. Sometimes He does it through the Holy Spirit. Other times, He does it through His children–us–who are called to love others.

So how are we doing on that one? Not with strangers on the street even. I mean in our own families.

Do you think someone you love is depressed? Do you suspect someone you care about is on the edge? Don’t assume they know how you feel.

When you’ve convinced yourself that you’re alone and isolated, you don’t know anything for sure. When you’ve talked yourself into believing that you can’t do anything right, a pat on the back isn’t enough.

Maybe you think it’s overkill. Maybe you don’t think they need it.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather annoy them than take the chance that they convince themselves the world would be better off without them.

It’s their choice. That decision is up to them. It’s between them and God, just like the condition of their heart is between them and God. But don’t leave it like that. Don’t just leave them alone to sort things out by themselves. People lost in depression think they want to be alone, but they don’t really. They don’t really know what they want.

It’s my experience that people lost in depression just need to know that they matter. And they need to hear more than just words. They need to remember that they’ve made a difference, and they need to see that the world really is a brighter place because they’re in it.

And I don’t know how to accomplish that. I think it’s different for every person. But it has to start somewhere. It has to start with someone. And it might as well be us, Christ-followers.

God didn’t give us His Light so we could use it to beat people up. He gave it to us so we could push back the darkness and the lies of our enemy and help the world see how much God treasures us and what God gave up so that we could have a purpose.

Wherever you go, wherever you are, whatever you do, keep your eyes open and recognize that our broken world is full of broken, hurting people who just need to know they aren’t alone. And remember that without Christ, we’d be right there with them.