Shine: When the World is Dark, Be a Glowing Alternative

A Different Approach

“Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.” (Philippians 2:14-16 NIV)

Do you ever grumble? Argue? Does it do any good? We live in a society characterized by grumbling and arguing. We run into it everywhere we go! Whether it’s on social media or in conversation, people are ready to do either or both.

The Wrong Kind of Spiral

It seems that every topic in our culture creates polarity and division. People loudly complain that they’ve been offended. Debate almost always seems to get personal rather than productive; and small-minded, selfish people grumble about everything, hoping to pull happier people into their discontent. There’s an old saying: “Misery loves company.” Look around and you’ll see how true that is. Unhappy people love to create a spiral of discontent that draws in everything around them.

Most miserable people want to pull others down rather than lift them up. From ugly comments about leaders to self-serving political media, from the promoting of racial division to “religious” extremism that calls for the deaths of its opponents, the grumbling and arguing in our world are spiraling towards something worse. Everywhere you look, there are warped and crooked people driving events towards more bad news.

Perhaps followers of Jesus are supposed to stand apart from the ugliness, to offer encouragement rather than criticism. What if more people spread love rather than hate, gave forgiveness rather than criticism, and offered contentment instead of contention? Paul says that God’s children are meant to shine as lights in the darkening sky.

(Hmm, that’s very similar to what Jesus said in Matthew 5:16: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Amazing, considering Paul never followed Jesus or listened to his teachings before the crucifixion…) But both challenges call us to the same action.

Onward, Through the Fog

A child in Elizabethan London was looking out the window in the gloomy dusk, watching a worker far down the street come towards them, lighting the new gas streetlights one by one as he came towards their house through the foggy night. The closer he came in the distance, the illumination provided larger circles of light in the foggy night The child exclaimed, “Mummy, come quick! Look! There’s a man outside punching holes in the darkness!” As I look around this world, it sometimes seems to me that it is darker than I remember, that the night is hastening. Perhaps it is time for all of us to shine, and to punch some holes in the darkness.

shine

The world will not gravitate naturally towards unity. It never has before, and it won’t start now. Selfish men, motivated by a carnal spirit and spurred on by the grumblers and the haters, will always point their generation down a warped and crooked road.

Paul says that the only way to bring light to the darkness, the only alternative to living in a twisted reality is to “hold firmly to the Word of Life”. If Christians don’t do it, who will? Become familiar with the Word of Life. Let your light shine in the gathering gloom. Serve others. Reach out to the marginalized. Live without bigotry. Do what Jesus told us to do: love one another. Get out there and punch some holes in the darkness. Shine.

Punching Holes

The London night was damp and cold as dusk began to fall;
Mollie, looking out her window, couldn’t see at all.
She sat there in the living room and quietly watched the gathering gloom,
While twilight bathed the Promenade and turned the world from light to shade.

But magically, and suddenly, a light appeared that she could see,
A sudden glow way down the street that shone with radiance soft and sweet.
And then another spot of light, just nearer now, and glowing bright–
A halo in the cold and damp atop the gas-lit street-side lamp.

One by one the lamps were lit. The night gave way a little bit,
While Mollie, looking through the glass, was wondering how this came to pass.
And then she saw him as he came, the street-lamp man who lit each flame,
Stopping on the avenue where she could see the Park less…
She called out, “Mummy! Quick, come see! The fog is all along the street,
But there’s a man outside who’s punching holes into the darkness!”

And as we sit here in our rooms, while we can see a gathering gloom,
Perhaps it’s time for each of us to climb up on our poles,
To light at least one flickering flame–this world would never be the same,
If we just took the time to shine. Go out and punch some holes.

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For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Provoke Somebody Daily, But at Least Do it the Right Way!

When we say, “Don’t provoke me”, it is usually another way of saying, “Don’t make me mad!” The dictionary says provoke means “stimulate or give rise to (a reaction or emotion, typically a strong or unwelcome one) in someone.” In this verse from Hebrews, the author offers us a different take on how to provoke one another. Instead of the word meaning antagonizing or harassing someone, he says we should think about this:

A New Way to Provoke

“And let us consider one another to provoke [each other] unto love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.“ (Hebrews 10:24-25, NKJV)

provoke for good

Why don’t we break this verse down and see if it provokes a reaction: “Let US consider one another…” The Christian walk is not supposed to be done in a vacuum. Almost everything about following Christ is designed to happen in community: when we start following Jesus we become children of God with new brothers and sisters; we are part of God’s family, and are the Body of Christ.

When Jesus described us as the light of the world, he didn’t say we are a candle set upon the hill; he said we are a CITY (a group of lights) set upon the hill—and he said we were set there for a purpose. “Even so let your light shine before men; that they may see your GOOD WORKS, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

Provoke How, Exactly?

Are we Christians known as a group for doing good works? Or for other, lesser things? What good are YOU doing out there in the world? Paul’s letters resound with the significance of being prepared for “every good work”. He mentions it at least 10 times, and sees it as the natural result of praying, of fellowship, and of being in the Word. And here the writer of Hebrews says that believers are supposed to provoke one another to love and to good works. (He evidently uses “provoke” in a different way than it has been applied in many of our churches, unfortunately…)

So it probably means that we should ask ourselves two questions: 1) Who in my life motivates me to do good works? Do my friends and associates inspire me to do good? Are you surrounded with people who encourage you to be intentional about demonstrating the love of God?

And 2) Who am I provoking to do good works? Are you encouraging and exhorting your friends and family to do good? If you’re not, then the writer of Hebrews says that you are missing out. I exhort you, therefore, brothers and sisters, to go out there and do good today! You really have no excuse and you ought to sit down and think of something good you can go do. There! Consider yourself provoked.

Inverse Provocation

People can provoke you by the things they do and say;
In fact I bet someone provokes you every single day!
Well, here’s a thing you never thought for provocation:
It’s also very useful to provoke our inspiration!
Do some good; encourage others to do some good as well,
And if we do, good works will spread. How far? Why, who can tell?
So, go and push someone: If we provoke them like we should,
Instead of spreading evil, we may end up spreading good.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread