Stars in the Night Sky

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“Therefore we do not lose heart…For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” 2 Corinthians 4:16, 17

“Light and momentary?” I want to ask Paul. “Do you have any idea what we’ve been through this week? It isn’t light! The past 18 years? That’s longer than a moment!”  But then I remember I’m yelling at Paul who endured thirty-nine lashes on five occasions, who was beaten with rods three times, stoned once, shipwrecked three times, spent a night and day floating in the sea, facing constant danger, persecution, sleepless nights, without food, water, or clothing – all for the gospel of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 11:24-27). He may not know the specifics of my life – or yours – but the man has known suffering and hardship and pain.

My next question then is, “Why, if we are God’s children, do we have to endure so much difficulty?” Paul never stopped serving the Lord; even in prison, he shared the gospel with the guards (Philippians 1:13). I’m trying to be faithful to God’s call to study and write and teach. You’re trying to stay faithful to what God has set before you in your family, work, church, and community. Shouldn’t that get us a pass from troubles? Yet not even God’s perfectly faithful Son was exempt from suffering.

But I think I found a clue to our struggles and sufferings. So that we may “become blameless and pure children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation in which you shine like stars in the universe” (Philippians 2:15). When are the stars the brightest? When the night sky is at its blackest. When is God’s glory most visible? When things are at their darkest. Like now –in my family, in our nation, and in the war-torn country of Afghanistan.

Friend, believe me when I say, I understand. Just because I’m a Bible teacher doesn’t mean I am exempt from the harsh things of life. In fact, I feel like it puts me constantly in satan’s crosshairs because he would love nothing more than to beat me down until I quit. But I won’t. Paul didn’t. Jesus didn’t. Because this world needs shining stars to bring light into the darkness. The world, Beloved, needs you.

Are You a Christian?

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I picked up the artificial flowers and placed them back in their container. A woman brushed past them, not realizing that she had knocked them to the ground. An employee of the store came up and thanked me, then asked, “Are you a Christian?” I was a little surprised as I answered, “Yes I am.” She turned back to her co-worker and said, “See I told you she was a Christian.” She hugged me said, “I thought so – I saw it in what you did, and then I saw it in your face.” She darted back to her task and left me standing there a little dumbfounded and very grateful that, at that moment, in even a small gesture, Jesus was evident in me. I was also very convicted of the many moments that Jesus was not so evident in me.
The Old Testament says, “When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord” (Ex. 34:29). Moses absorbed a “holy glow” from being in God’s presence. The Israelites could not help but see the effect of being with God in Moses’ face and they listened when he spoke. But Moses’ face waxed and waned between encounters with God. The glow would fade from his face after a time (2 Corin. 3: 7, 13) but he would meet again with the Lord and the radiance of his face was “recharged” (Ex 34:33-35).
Why then, if I continually bear the living Holy Spirit of God in my very being, am I inconsistent in showing Christ in my life. Some days I am “radiant” for the Lord, but other days the presence of Jesus is nowhere to be found on my face or in my behavior. You and I are image-bearers of our Savior. We may not have a physical “glow,” but we have been called to reveal Christ to the world through our demeanor, our actions, our words, and yes, sometimes even our facial expressions. I cringe when I think of the picture of Jesus others have because of me. How do we consistently show Jesus to the world? The same way Moses did – by spending time with Him – in His Word, in prayer, and in worship. The world is looking for Jesus in you and me Beloved. Let’s shine for the Lord, every day.

Who God Made Me to Be

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“In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

“Lord, I wish You had given me a beautiful voice. I would love to sing like her.”  “God why do I have to be so short?”  “If only I had so-and-so’s creative talents, I could make so many pretty things.”

I know you’ve said something similar and so have I.  We look at others who sing or play or create or have some other seeming advantage over us and wonder why we are the way we are.  Too short. Too tall.  Shy.  A little rough around the edges.  I want to be someone else – someone better.  But I’m just plain ole’ me.

I thought that way once too.  I’m rather loud and, as a former boss once said, “she doesn’t suffer from a lack of self-expression.” I was a chatterbox when I was a little girl and that never changed.  I was often told, “You need to talk less and listen more.”  But no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t change.   Oh how I longed to be like those quiet, dignified ladies who always spoke with an “inside” voice.  They didn’t burst out with laughter.  They listened patiently to others.  They didn’t always have to express their thoughts and opinions.  They were everything I was not.

A while back I had the opportunity to attend a nationally-known Christian women’s conference.  I wasn’t planning to go.  It had been a very difficult year for my family and I just didn’t have the money for such a luxury, but my dear friends pitched in and provided for my ticket, hotel and meals, plus a little spending money too.  It was an unexpected blessing.  We had snagged seats on the floor in the very front row, nothing between us and the stage but a few feet of open space.  I sat near the end of the row and had a bird’s eye view of the platform where the other speakers sat waiting their turn and listening to the person on stage.  I had a blast.  The speakers were both profoundly spiritual and hysterically funny.  I listened and I laughed.  No, I howled.  I roared with laughter.  I nearly fell in the floor a few times with my sides splitting.  I so needed this event; it fed my spirit and released a lot of tension.

Before the final speaker we all took a break (picture 14,000 women running to the bathrooms!).  I stood in the line beside a new friend I’d seen at church, but never took the time to get to know.  We shared the hotel room with two other women that weekend and we just clicked.  As we waited I told her, “I’m so glad to get to spend this time with you.  I’ve always admired your quiet, gentle spirit and I hope some of it has rubbed off on me.” She turned to me with a puzzled look and said, “I’ve always admired your bold, fun spirit, and I was hoping the same thing for me.”  We laughed and hugged, finished our business and went back to our seats.

As I was putting my purse back under my seat, I felt a hand touch my back. I stood up and turned to face the president and emcee of the conference.  She told me, “I just wanted you to know how much the speakers have enjoyed watching you having such a good time this weekend.  It really blesses them to see you respond to what they are saying.”  I thanked her and shared with her that this weekend had been a gift from my friends and she said, “Clearly God had a reason for you to be here, if nothing else to be a blessing to our team of speakers.”

I sat down in stunned silence – one of the few times I’ve ever been that quiet.  As I thought about what she said and the conversation with my friend during the break, I heard that “still, small voice” speak to my heart.  “Child, don’t you realize – your mouth and personality are not a character flaw. It’s how I made you. I gave you that big mouth because I intend to use it.  You’re going to be my voice in the world.”

Precious friend, it’s time to stop looking at who you aren’t and focus on who God created you to be.  Maybe you don’t have a soaring soprano voice, but no one can build a better stage than you.  Your gift is important in the Kingdom of God.   Perhaps you stumble and stammer as a public speaker, but you are able to build one-on-one relationships that lead to changed lives.  I have a friend who is quite short and is able to relate well with children because she can literally get down on their level.  If you wish you could create something beautiful but you keep hot-gluing your fingers together, don’t fret.  God has created you for a special purpose that is unique and specific.  Paul says that you are “God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for [you] to do” (Ephesians 2:10).  It’s an important work and something only you can fulfill.

You are exactly who you are because God created you with a unique plan and a specific purpose in mind –be thankful that you are one-of-a-kind and let your light shine for the Lord.

Holy Father, I’ll never forget Your words to me that day.  I am who I am because You made me this way, to do Your good work.  My voice, my hands, my feet, my smile, my gifts and talents – it’s all Yours.  Use me Lord.  Amen.

(If you want to learn more about your unique spirit gifts, I recommend https://gifts.churchgrowth.org/analysis/index.php as a good spiritual gifts inventory resource.)