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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Different pieces of the same puzzle

I got to do something cool yesterday. I got to meet the people my best friend works with at OMNIvision, the video and media ministry of Operation Mobilsation. I’d met a few of them when I was here in 2013, but I got to meet most of them yesterday. Such amazing people!

It reminded me again of how awesome it is that God provides opportunities for His children to use their gifts and talents to help other people. We’re not all made the same. You know that, right?

(Photo from Omnivision Facebook Stream)

(Photo from Omnivision Facebook Stream)

Today’s verses are 1 Peter 4:10-11.

God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.

God has given each one of us unique gifts and talents, but it’s up to us to choose how we’ll use them. We can use them for ourselves or to further our own agenda, or we can use our gifts to do what God would have us accomplish for Him. Maybe that means serving in your local church. Maybe that means packing up everything you own and moving to England because you can write, like my best friend did.

We’re all different, and we’re supposed to be that way. So don’t sit back and be jealous of someone who has a different gift or talent than you do. No, instead look for a way to use your gift or talent to make a difference. We’re all just different pieces of the same puzzle that God is putting together around the world.

Your talent doesn’t have to be awe-inspiring. It doesn’t have to stop people in their tracks. It’s actually better if it’s not, because then the awe-inspiring moments can be attributed to God working through you.

So what are you good at? It doesn’t have to be impressive. But if you let God use your talents for His glory, you might be able to change the world. He’ll certainly change you.