Plugged-In to Shine

bf746174-8526-410e-b2bf-1b583dd2277f-1I love having my Christmas tree up! There’s something about the Christmas tree with all the ornaments, garland, and lights that just make any place feel a little more like a home. It seems to warm the place up and make it more inviting. But when the lights aren’t plugged in, the tree sits there almost lifeless. The lights are on the tree, but since they aren’t plugged in, the tree isn’t the same. It’s not as inviting. BUT the lights (when plugged in) give the tree its life. It’s almost as if the lights only have purpose when plugged into the power source.

The more I thought about the lights on the tree, the more I started to see this in my relationship with Christ. I know that sounds a little farfetched, but here’s the analogy:

When we (as lights) are not plugged into Jesus (our power source), we sit in a world of darkness (the tree when the lights aren’t plugged in) forgetting our purpose.

BUT when we (as lights) are plugged into Jesus (our power source), we sit in a world of darkness bringing light (the tree when the lights are plugged in) remembering our purpose.

Now I know all of that is a mouth full, but read it again. And again. And again.

I so desperately want you to see this picture, so let me break this down.

Jesus is the Light

The first thing about these statements is whether or not the lights are plugged into a power source. The lights are giving off life and have purpose to the tree when the lights are actually plugged into the power source. Without the power source, there is the absence of light. I’m sure someone with more of an electrical background could help communicate this better, but basically there’s some kind of current running between the outlet and the lights. I know that’s not super descriptive, but I do know the power source is the ultimate light.

In the same way, Jesus is our power source. In John 8:12 Jesus declares this when He says, “I am the light of the world.” There is no greater light than Jesus. In fact, in Isaiah 60:19-20 we are told twice, “the Lord will be your everlasting light.” This is an incredible truth that we can hold onto. God is not EVER going to run out of energy. He’s never going to burn out. He does not tire. He is an everlasting light.

The awesome thing about John 8:12 though, is that it doesn’t stop with Jesus declaring He is the light; but it continues on with Jesus offering us His light.

Jesus’ Light Calls Us Out of Darkness

I think we can all agree the world is a dark place. We are at the end of the year, and some reflecting back through their year can think through all the horrific events that have occurred. It’s been a dark year. Or maybe the year hasn’t been dark, but you can just see the corruption of the world all around and it’s dark. But our hearts and bodies long for light. We don’t want to be in darkness, we want to be in the light. So after Jesus declares He is the light, he doesn’t say, “Na Na Na Na Boo Boo, you can’t have it,” but rather, “Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Jesus provides a way out of darkness by following His light.

What’s this darkness?

For clarification, I’m not just talking about dark, pitch black, middle of the night kind of darkness; but rather I’m talking about the darkness of sin that rules over our hearts. God’s Word teaches our darkness is due to that fact that we were dead in sin, following the ways of the world because of the disobedience we were born into. This sin came in Genesis 3, when man disobeyed God. Ever since, that one act of disobedience has forever separated us from God. There was no way out. We couldn’t ever invent a time machine to erase that mistake. We couldn’t do enough good things to remove our sins. We couldn’t do it ourselves. The only thing our sin did was create darkness and separation from God, which ultimately is death.

Yet, we see in John 8:12 a gracious and loving Savior, someone who doesn’t want us to be separated, someone who doesn’t want us to be in darkness. We see Jesus offering a way out. He’s providing a light. Being full of mercy, Jesus let’s us know His light is the way we are no longer in darkness AND it’s the way we have life. He wants us to be alive in the light. 1 Peter 2:9 proclaims that we are called “out of darkness into his marvelous light,” but whether or not you accept the light is up to you.

You can choose to stay in the darkness of death, or you can choose to accept the light of life.

Going back to my Christmas tree for just a second, without the power source, the lights are useless. But when they are plugged in, the tree lights up and there is life to the tree. But if I go and unplug my lights from the power source, it doesn’t take but maybe a millisecond for the lights to go out.

So what about this idea with our spiritual lives?

I don’t believe you can lose your salvation, so if you’ve accepted the light I honestly believe you can’t lose that; but I also believe you need to stay plugged in. Similar to the lights on my Christmas tree, when you’re not plugged in, the light grows dull and darkness starts to grow.

Stay Plugged-In to Jesus’ Light

Jesus didn’t use Christmas tree lights to explain the importance of staying plugged into the power source, but rather he uses a vine and branches. Jesus tells us in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” What Jesus says here is we are connected to Him like branches are connected to vines. When we are that connected to Him, we will bare fruit. If we aren’t connected to Him, we can’t do anything. Don’t run to quick past that because I think so often we fall into the lie that we can do it all on our own. Jesus literally tells us we can’t.

Unfortunately the part of living in a dark world that is unavoidable is brokenness. It’s everywhere. It’s not just the culture or the bad things you hear being reported through news and social media, but the brokenness is in us. Think about how many of us try to be perfect. We think we have it all together. We try and do it all on our own because asking for help is seen as a weakness. Or what about the lack of being accepted we feel, so we try really hard to be accepted by others so we do more things to get that attention or acceptance? How about seeking control? We are tired of things spinning out, so whatever we can control must be controlled because we can do it all. Or even the idea you can erase your darkness. You start thinking if you do one more good thing maybe that would eliminate that sin.

Newsflash: You can’t. You cannot do it all. You cannot save yourself. You can never be good enough. You will never be perfect. BUT JESUS IS!

When we abide in him, when we are plugged into Him; that’s when we are able to go about the broken and dark world and not let it overcome us.

What does this practically look like?

04b4bdc3-1f6e-4081-8226-c853c14d1534Read your bible. It’s that simple. Psalm 119:105 makes it even more clear to us that “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” We have God’s Word right at our fingertips. It’s readily available to show us the direction we should go in every season of our lives–single, married, kids, empty-nesters, etc. It’s all in there. God literally addresses everything. He lights the way before us so we don’t ever have to step into darkness because He is the light. Open it and read it. Stay plugged into Him. He can’t and won’t leave you. When you have Him as your light, He’s there with you at all times. Will you talk to Him? Will you let Him speak into your life? Will you hear what He has to say through the reading of His word? Will you be bold enough to share the light of His word to others?

Shine the Light

When I’m hanging my Christmas lights up on the tree, I plug the lights into the outlet. But when I run out of lights on one strand, I just plug another strand of lights into the lights that are plugged into the outlet. And you know what, the power continues to run to those lights as well. The light spreads, creating more light.

Y’all here’s the great news–Jesus is the light that calls us out of darkness and when we accept His gift of life, we become light. We radiate wherever we go. We cannot hide the light, but we shine the light we have received to others. When Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:14-16 says He calls us “the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others.” We can’t hide the light we have received, but we shine the light.

 

If you have never been to a candlelight service, let me encourage you to go to one today. If you’re in Evansville, my church (NorthWoods) has one tonight at 7pm and I would love for you to come join! This whole concept of us shining our lights to a dark world is demonstrated. During the service, all the lights go out in the sanctuary. It’s dark. But then the pastor lights one candle. This represents Jesus as THE light of the world. The pastor will walk over to someone in the congregation and lights their candle, and that person shares the light with someone else and within minutes, everyone in the sanctuary has a lit candle. Everyone shares the light with those around them. It’s a beautiful picture of Jesus being the light of the world and us sharing His light to those around us.

Looking back at Matthew 5, pay attention to what Jesus says. He calls all of us who have received the light to be a light to the world. He says we can’t hide, yet so many of us hide. We don’t want people to know we have the light of life. This would be like if you received the candlelight in the service and didn’t share it. You would basically be saying, I have this awesome light, but you can’t; but just so you know, that’s the opposite of what Jesus says. Yet so many of us live in that hiding phase. We want the life of the light, but we don’t want to shine the light. You cannot have the life, the freedom from darkness, without having a light. And if you have the light of life, Jesus tells us to let our lights shine before others.

This idea of letting light shine is not only towards pastors or leaders in your churches, but everyone who has received the light. Paul writes in Acts 13:47, “For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’” This commandment is for anyone who has received salvation. If you have received the light, you are to shine it. Don’t be afraid to share the light. You’re plugged into the great source of light. He is the one who shines. He does it all. All you have to do is be obedient to faithfully shine His light.

What Now?

I don’t know the status of your heart, only God knows that. But I want to challenge you to think about these questions and actually do something with them. Don’t let this be another blog you read, but actually let God do a work in you. The new year is about to start and it would be awesome to start that shift in your heart now to be plugged-in to the light and let it shine.

  • Do you believe Jesus is the light?
  • If not, what’s holding you back?
  • If you believe Jesus is the light, have you accepted Him to be light of you life? to be Lord and Savior?
  • Are you allowing Jesus’ light to expose any areas of darkness (sin) in your life?
  • Have you sought forgiveness for your sin?
  • How plugged in are you to God’s Word?
  • Are you listening to God? Are you willing to listen?
  • Are you letting His light direct your path?
  • Who are you shining His light?

“for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light” -Ephesians 5:8

 

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Happy Thanksgiving Every Day

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Thankfulness is one of those things that shouldn’t just be one day a year! Don’t get me wrong, I love that we pick one day a year to gather the people we love the most to tell each other what we are thankful for, but imagine what life would be like if we shared what we are thankful for each day.

If your thanksgiving is anything like the ones I participate in, hearing what everyone is thankful for is so encouraging to me. I spend Thanksgiving Lunch with one of my mentors, and at the end of everyone sharing what they’re thankful for, she looks at each person at the table and explains why she is thankful for that person. This is radically encouraging to me, yet it’s so simple. Again, imagine what it would be like if we celebrated thanksgiving each day.

Scripture reminds us to be thankful each day in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 where Paul tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Did you catch that? It’s the will of God for us to give thanks. I don’t know about you, but I want to walk in the will of the Lord. But let’s be honest, there are times where it is challenging to find something we are thankful for. Some of you, maybe even today are struggling to find something you’re thankful for. Paul reminds believers since we’ve “received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” Paul tells us that we have something to be thankful for–receiving Christ. Even if every circumstance has been challenging this year, remember that you have received Christ. Christ willingly gave up his luxurious life to come dwell in this broken. Thankfully (did you catch that), He didn’t come to be OF the world, but to SAVE the world from their sins, my sins, YOUR sins. If you believe this in your heart and declare Him as Savior and Lord, then you have a reason to be thankful! In fact, your thankfulness is abounding. There is no limit to all that you could possibly be thankful for.

Now here’s the thing, when we gather together and share all that we are thankful for, we actually are remembering all that God has graciously blessed us with; even if that’s a roof over your head and food in your belly. But we also remember what God has done. See remembrance and thankfulness go hand and hand. When we remember what God has done, we become thankful. In those moments, we are reminded of our human limitations and how much we need an infinite God who is limitless! Which is why Jesus is capable of living the perfect life, to die the death you and I deserve, and graciously gives us life.

That is something to remember and be thankful for!

This idea of remembering and being thankful is not a new concept. When the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, Moses told them to remember how God saved them from their old life in slavery; which led to a heart posture of thankfulness and turned into worship. Another example of this is when Jesus came, He told us to remember His sacrifice through the Lord’s supper; but then even while He called the disciples to remember, He told them to give thanks!

My challenge to you today as you’re eating your turkey, or spending time on your phones shopping; to remember, to be thankful, and then to worship.

We have an abundance to be thankful for, so let’s celebrate everyday and not just today! Let’s have a Happy Thanksgiving every day!!

Walk in Love

I can still hear my principal from Castle High School saying, “If you are wearing a Castle shirt of any kind, you are a representation of a Castle Knight wherever you are. Be a good representative of us.”

Who or what do you represent?

My answers consist of my school, my church, my family, my friends in some sense; but most importantly, I represent Christ.

Back in November, our school put on a Veterans Day Program for our Veterans and community. It’s a school led program, so some students greet Veterans, play in the band, or sing in the choir; and the majority of our students sit with their homeroom classes. Now remember, I teach 8th graders (13-14 year olds) so it’s extremely important to go over rules and expectations especially for a community event like this. I found myself saying things to my homeroom like, “Be on your best behavior”, “We want to honor our Veterans”, or “Your behavior during this event represents me as your teacher, but also the school–don’t forget that.” Long story short, my kids were great!

Fast forward a few weeks, and the students who were awesome during the program are now doing the complete opposite. I remember talking to a couple of different students in the hall to just see what was going on with them. I told them I knew they could be awesome because I just saw it at the program. I hear them out, but then I remind them regardless of where they are–whether it’s as fancy as an official program or as mundane as walking in the hallways–they represent me, their teacher.

Then it hit me.

I. Represent. Christ.

I am no different than this kid I’m talking to in the hallway.

Quite the wake-up call if you ask me.

See I think it’s easy for us to be good representatives when we’ve just been reminded of the expectation, but what if a few days pass, or weeks pass? I know I forget, what about you?

The idea of representing Christ is so easily forgotten. It’s typical for me to go to church on Sunday and feel convicted to not gossip anymore, but as soon as the final “Amen” has been said, I’m back to talking about people in a way that’s not building up the kingdom.

In the middle of the church service (or in the midst of the “Veterans Day Program” for my students), it’s easy to represent Christ, especially when He’s at the forefront of my mind. But when the program has come to a close and reality sets in; just like my students forgot, I forget I still am representing Christ whether I’m at church or walking down the halls of my school.

We all represent something and we all imitate something.

Remember what my high school principal said? He said, “If you are wearing a Castle shirt of any kind, you are a representation of a Castle Knight wherever you are. Be a good representative of us.”

The same is true for believers, but it’s not just a shirt we get to throw into the laundry basket at the end of the day. Bur rather when we come to Christ, we are always representing who He is to the world around us.

In 3 John verse 11, it says, “Behold, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not see God.”

Change the shirt from a “Castle” shirt to a “God” shirt. You are wearing Him. Displaying His goodness wherever you go. God is good, and through the power of the Holy Spirit living inside of you, you can be good–whether you’re in church or walking down a hallway. But when we aren’t clothing ourselves in the goodness of God, we are representing evil, or the world.

I was talking to one of my friends about this, and she shared with me a quote (not sure where it’s from), but check this out: You are a visible representation of an invisible God.

I love that. We are called to represent Christ wherever and whenever. We don’t take the shirt off, it’s there. When we came to know Jesus as our Savior and Lord, we chose to take off our old self and put on a new self in Christ (Ephesians 4:22-24).

Even right now, as I’m writing this, it’s easy for me to remember I represent Christ. But how can I represent Him daily, whether I’m at church or at school? I imitate Him. What did Jesus do when He was here living on Earth?

Paul says in Ephesians 5:1-2, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.”

We see Jesus walking in love and giving himself up for others (that’s me and that’s you).

So right now, if you proclaim Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior, you are wearing God’s goodness and the way you can demonstrate that to the world around you is doing what Jesus did–walk in love and give yourself up for others.

For me, when the final “Amen” is said at church, I don’t want to be gossiping, but rather I want to walk in love. I should filter everything I say and do through the lens of Jesus’ love. I can ask myself questions like: Is this conversation walking in love? Is doing (fill in the blank) walking in love? Am I thinking more about myself or others? Who is being lifted up: God or myself?

As much as I don’t want to admit it, I am just like my middle school students. They forget who they represent and so do I. But just like I’m there to remind my students who they represent, God is there for me. He takes me into the hallway (AKA my quiet time), and says, “Rachel, what’s going on? Remember whatever you’re doing or even saying, you’re representing me?

If a camera recorded your actions/words just for a day, what kind of a representation would be found? One that’s imitating what is good, or one that’s imitating what is evil?