Culture

Unity in an Age of Division

Unity in an Age of Division

We can't fabricate unity; not by human means. But through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ, the unity we long for in our divided age is possible.

You Don’t Have to Be Busy to Belong

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One evening when reading our dinner devotional book, I read about the Feast of Trumpets, a once-a-year event when the Israelites were called (literally) to repentance. The trumpet would sound and they’d remember that their time was God’s gift and whether they’d spent it well or not. Nancy Guthrie writes, “God set up a yearly holiday called the Festival of Trumpets to blast the people out of their spiritual laziness.”

Sometimes I wish we’d get a trumpet blast to arouse us out of our spiritual stupors, so we’d be forced to see how we use busyness to block our ears.

Slowing Down

We need trumpet calls and wake-up calls. We need to say no to the things that lead us away from the story of God and lead us to follow a story of the suburbs. The suburbs keep us busy because we think the more we move, the more we work, the more valuable we will be. If we hope to nurture a life of faith, we’ve got to stop moving long enough to hear God’s voice.

The gospel says: come to the desolate space. Tantrum, scream, cry, face your fears of insignificance and irrelevancy there. Then find rest in a rest that is not of your own making. Find Jesus. And having found Jesus, we will be sent out, and he will ask us impossible things—not to test us but to show us (even in the food we eat) that he provides not only for our hungers but also for the hunger pains of our communities.

God will be found by us in the desolate spaces. Going to desolate places might look like recalibrating our time to fit what we say we value. It might be removing our phones from our nightstands and choosing to not document our lives on social media. It may be committing to read our Bibles even when we’re not sure if God will show up.

Our time is not our own to fill like an empty shopping cart—with whatever strikes our fancy and fits our budget. Our time (like our money) is a means to love God and serve others. Paradoxically, only as we give of our resources will we be filled. This isn’t American bootstrapperism where we muscle it out to be generous; instead it’s slowing down and acknowledging that we have a Father God who sees our needs and kindly answers them for our good and his good pleasure.

But if our schedules are packed too tight—like our closets—there will never be room to let in anything new, including God. Our daily habits, our weekly schedules, and our purchases all add up to how we spend our lives. Anything we turn to that dictates our daily habits also shapes our hearts. We hunger for good work and restorative rest, and yet we stay busy because we fear we won’t find anything in the desolate places. But what if instead of circling the suburbs or distracting ourselves, we simply stopped? What if we said no more often? What would happen if we slowed down?

We could begin to live ordinary time well.

Living Ordinary Time Well

When we live ordinary time well, we practice disciplines that increase our hunger for the right things—not the quick-fix chicken nuggets of the soul, but the nutritious meal. We pray. We read our Bibles. We give. We serve. We partake in the sacraments and dig our hands into the life of the church.

When we live ordinary time well, we choose to spend our time for God’s kingdom instead of building up the kingdom of self. When we do, we don’t have to force our days, plans, or even our memories to provide total satisfaction. In her book Simply Tuesday, Emily P. Freeman writes, “Part of living well in ordinary time is letting this day be good. Letting this day be a gift. Letting this day be filled with plenty. And if it all goes wrong and my work turns to dust? This is my kind reminder that outcomes are beyond the scope of my job description.”

When we stop moving, we realize time was never our own. Then, our days can be received as gifts.

If we slowed down and pruned our schedules, we’d begin to decenter ourselves. We’d practice sustained attention and even be bored. We could begin to imagine what finding holy in the suburbs would look like in our hearts, families, and neighborhoods. We’d give our children the tools to know how to be comfortable in their own skin without having to perform to feel loved. We’d give them (and us) a better way to live in a culture that says you have to stay busy to be seen. We’d show them a better way to belong than through joining a frenzied, success- and image-driven culture.

You Don't Have to Be Busy to Belong

The upside-down kingdom of God in the suburbs stakes this claim: you don’t have to be busy to belong. When we stop striving, we don’t have to hoard our time or treasure. God’s kingdom testifies that rest is possible, not just checking out from the rat race in your favorite version of suburban leisure, but more than that, we can experience a deep, restorative rest.

The gospel says that in Jesus we’re held, protected, loved, and valued simply because we are God’s children. But to imagine a vision larger than what our suburbs sell as success and productivity, we have to have the courage to slow down.

There we have the space to wrestle with all that our busyness hides and there, we pray, we will find God.


Taken from Finding Holy in the Suburbs by Ashley Hales. Copyright (c) 2018 by Ashley Hales. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

Ashley Hales is a writer, speaker, pastor's wife, and mother to four. She holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and after years away, she's back in the southern California suburbs helping her husband plant a church, Resurrection Orange County. She's the author of Finding Holy in the Suburbs and a contributor to Everbloom. Connect with Ashley at aahales.com.

Happiness in High Fidelity

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Vanity of vanities. What’s the point? Nothing matters. How is this possible? How can things that initially seem so enjoyable and look so good end up being so unsatisfying in the end?

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus helps us understand what lies at the root of Solomon’s unhappiness—and our own. “Don’t store up for yourselves treasures on earth,” he says, “. . . but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven. . . . For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

In other words, the reason Solomon became dissatisfied with consumption, the reason we will also find it unsatisfying, is because it cannot offer the deeper, richer, sustainable goodness that our souls seek. When we invest our hearts in temporary things, things that John describes as “passing away,” we must constantly replace them to maintain our joy. And so we’re constantly looking for newer, better, faster, and flashier and will gladly pay for them even if we don’t need them.

Happiness: Made to Break

Understanding how our hearts relate to possessions helps explain cultures marked by consumerism and driven by the belief that new is always better. Giles Slade, the author of Made to Break: Technology and Obsolescence in America, writes that part of what motivates consumers to keep purchasing is that they are in “a state of anxiety based on the belief that whatever is old is undesirable, dysfunctional, and embarrassing, compared with what is new.”

So in order to be happy, we keep consuming, keep buying, keep indulging—but the whole time, the things we gain leave us empty even as we crave them all the more. We’re not victims of planned obsolescence as much as partners in it.

In order to find lasting happiness, we must invest in things that last, we must store up “treasures in heaven.” Because what ultimately makes something good is not whether it brings us momentary pleasure but whether it brings us eternal pleasure, whether it satisfies both our bodies and our souls.

Unlike modern gadgets that become outdated on release, the technology that allows me to play my Sidney Bechet album is the same basic technology that Thomas Edison patented in 1878. To look at it, a record is nothing more than a hard, flat disk with thin concentric circles, but the circles are actually grooves with microscopic variations that the record needle “reads.” The resulting vibrations are translated into electric signals, amplified, and as if by magic, make my living room sound like a 1940s nightspot.

Spiraling Toward God

Another surprising thing about records is that while the record itself is spinning in a circle, the needle is actually moving closer and closer to the center with each spin. The circles that appear concentric are really one continuous spiral that begins at the outer edge and slowly loops toward the center.

We often think of life on this earth in a linear fashion, a road that leads straight off into eternity. Because of this, when we think about investing in heavenly treasure or things that last, we could easily assume it means forgoing anything but necessities here on earth, that we should only invest in things of an obvious religious or spiritual nature. But Solomon presents a different vision of our time on this earth—one that simultaneously complicates and clarifies the search for good things.

Having realized that seeking pleasure itself is not good, Solomon, began to understand that his problem wasn’t so much what he was pursuing as how he was pursuing it. He had been pursuing good things apart from God, the Giver of good things. But “apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?” he asks.

This leads Solomon to an equally profound thought: “For everything there is a season,” he writes, “and a time for every matter under heaven. . . .”

He has put eternity into man’s heart. . . . there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.

What Solomon realizes is that our life on earth, all the things we experience, all the work we do, all the good things we enjoy, aren’t simply a hurdle to the next life. They are designed by God to lead us to the next life. They are designed to lead us to him. Like the grooves on a record, God’s good gifts are designed to draw us closer and closer to the center, to draw us closer and closer to eternity and him.

A Broken Record

But sometimes the record is scratched. Sometimes debris gets lodged in a groove. And when this happens, a record can play on a loop, repeating the same musical phrase over and over and over again, never moving forward. This is what happens when we seek God’s good gifts as ends in themselves.

When we give ourselves to pleasure without acknowledging God as the source of it, we get locked in an earthly, worldly mindset. We begin to believe that this present moment is all that matters. And we run in circles trying to satisfy ourselves, never getting any closer to where we need to be. Never getting any closer to true goodness.

Instead of forgoing good things in this life, we need to let them do what they were designed to do: draw us toward God.

Keep Spinning

In 1 Timothy, Paul writes that “everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer” (1 Tim. 4:4). Paul is not suggesting that we can indulge in anything we want as long as we pray over it; he’s teaching how a posture of thanksgiving and submission to God’s Word puts us in a place to know God through his gifts.

From this posture, we acknowledge that all good things come down from him, that without him, we would have nothing. We submit ourselves to his plans and purposes for our lives, even if they run counter to what the world tells us will bring happiness. And we confess that he is our ultimate good.

So that by this turning, turning, turning, this always, only, ever turning toward him, we will come out right.


Excerpted from All That’s Good: Recovering the Lost Art of Discernment by Hannah Anderson (©2018). Published by Moody Publishers. Used by permission.

Hannah Anderson lives in the haunting Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. She spends her days working beside her husband in rural ministry, caring for their three children, and scratching out odd moments to write. In those in-between moments, she contributes to a variety of Christian publications and is the author of Made for More (Moody, 2014) and Humble Roots (Moody, 2016). You can connect with her at her blog sometimesalight.com and on Twitter @sometimesalight.

How to Put Out a Dumpster Fire

A dumpster fire is like porn: it’s hard to define but you know it when you see it. Fortunately, Merriam-Webster is here to help. Its lexicographers added the term to the dictionary this year, calling it “an utterly calamitous or mismanaged situation or occurrence,” or simply a “disaster.” Depending on who you follow on Twitter, you may not have needed a definition.

Dumpster fires spread like wildfire through social networks. Whether it’s your beloved sports team’s abysmal season, another campaign nightmare, or a public official’s latest gaffe, you’ve surely witnessed a dumpster fire burning across your social media feeds. This is true even of “Christian Twitter,” where it’s not uncommon to see prominent figures sparring over a blog post or deleted tweet.

If Christians want to present a winsome gospel in this cultural moment (and I hope we do), we can’t get bogged down in the dumpster fires of the day. We have to find another way to engage the public square and bring the love of Christ to our neighbors. Fortunately, the book of Proverbs is full of countercultural wisdom for putting out dumpster fires.

Stop Heaping Trash

Fires need fuel to burn, and all too often, we’re happy to provide the fuel. Everyone’s first reaction to hearing about a dumpster fire is to add their take. Our negative reactions and hot-takes might seem clever, but all they’re doing is heaping trash on an already flaming dumpster.

The only way out of a world of dumpster fires is to stop fueling them. Proverbs 26:20 says, “For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases.” No wood, no fire. No whispers, no quarrels. Sounds easy enough. But is it?

John Stonestreet, when asked about the negative tone of public discourse in a recent Q&A, said, “Our ability to not escalate our emotions even when our opponents are is going to be the only way we can really obey Jesus in a cultural moment where our views have gone from being considered wrong or outdated to being considered wrong and evil” (emphasis mine).

Our ability not to engage in the day's outrage even when others are is crucial to following Jesus in our moment. If Christians choose not to add opinions and retweets to arguments that are clearly going nowhere, the quarreling would cease, at least in our spheres of influence. But as it is now, we are too often drawn into dumpster fires and come out looking just as foolish as everyone else.

Proverbs 26:4 tells us, “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself.” The more we answer a fool (especially online), the more foolish we become, and the more foolish we make the church look.

The best way to extinguish a dumpster fire is to stop feeding it. After all, “If a wise man has an argument with a fool, the fool only rages and laughs, and there is no quiet” (Prov. 29:9). It’s only in the quiet that we can learn to read the signs of the times. It might feel good at the moment to vent your anger, but as millions of deleted tweets can testify, you’ll regret broadcasting those unguarded thoughts soon enough.

The reality is, the more we talk or type, the more we sin. There’s wisdom in keeping quiet at the right times. “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back” (Prov. 29:11). Stop heaping trash on dumpster fires. Quietly hold back whatever you feel compelled to say. Wait 24 hours and ask yourself if it’s still worth it.

Be Slow to Anger

It would be great if we learned to stop stoking dumpster fires, but the real issue is in our quick-to-anger hearts. James writes, “Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (Jas. 1:19-20). The calamity of a situation dubbed a dumpster fire beckons us to be quick to anger, quick to speak, and slow to listen—the opposite of James’ command.

Our refusal to heed the Holy Spirit’s instruction in James puts our folly on display. Proverbs 14:29 says, “Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.” Only a fool jumps into a heap of burning refuse.

But when we control our emotions and exercise self-control, we demonstrate good sense. “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense” (Prov. 19:11). Those who are slow to anger guard themselves from saying something they’ll regret, and, for Christians, they guard the witness and integrity of the church they represent.

Believer, be slow to anger. Not only does this reflect the character of God (see Ex. 34:6), but it makes good sense. What a witness it would be to have churches filled with men and women who gave measured responses and weren’t driven and tossed by the cultural winds.

But there are times when an answer is called for.

Give a Soft Answer

There are times when a response to a dumpster fire is necessary, times where conscience or faith compels a reply. In these times, believers can dampen dumpster fires with a gracious word. Proverbs 15:1 counsels, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Our words can bring peace or pain. This was highlighted by a recent Washington Post article on Kristen Waggoner, the public face of Alliance Defending Freedom, the nonprofit behind high-profile religious liberty cases like Masterpiece Cakeshop. The author doesn’t appear to share Waggoner’s views, but she can’t help but be taken by Waggoner’s joy:

“Waggoner answers all questions about her work, even on the most contentious of issues, with a smile. Her colleagues say she is always, always smiling. Her incessant pleasantness can come off as strategic, a way of dismantling those trying to paint her as cruel or intolerant. She says joy is just the mark of a person of faith.”

Wouldn’t it be great if more Christians—if you—were marked by “incessant pleasantness” instead of backbiting and infighting?

Standing Out in a World Gone Mad

In a world gone mad, Christians have an opportunity to stand out in a good way. Instead of adding fuel to the dumpster fires around us, we can douse the flames with the wisdom of Christ.

There will never be a shortage of calamities and mismanaged situations. But if we stop heaping trash on dumpster fires, start being slow to anger, and learn to give a soft answer, we can put the grace of Jesus on display and show the world that there’s a better way to have a conversation.


Grayson Pope (M.A., Christian Studies) is a husband and father of four, and the Managing Web Editor at GCD. He serves as a writer and editor with Prison Fellowship. For more of Grayson’s writing, check out his website or follow him on Twitter.

10 Ways Phones Can be Used for Our Good and God's Glory

Am I the only who feels this way? I wondered for the umpteenth time. I was in the midst of a conversation with friends lamenting their iPhones. The complaints were familiar: our smartphones make us more self-focused, short-tempered, less able to interact with real people, eager for the approval of others, unable to read and communicate in-depth. The woes are limitless.

And I don’t disagree. I too have given over too much power to my phone. It has shaped me in a number of ways I’m not proud of.

But my secret thought in that conversation and others like it is this: I like my phone. I think it’s more helpful than hurtful—even (maybe especially) in my spiritual disciplines. Am I a fool to say I think it has actually aided gospel growth in my life?

In our effort to distance ourselves from the pitfalls of these devices, are we missing what a blessing they can be?

BRAND NEW TECHNOLOGY, SAME OLD PROBLEM

Throughout history, people have sounded the alarm every time some new technology hits the scene:

  • Socrates worried writing would cause our minds to grow lazy;

  • There were cries of information overload and chaos when the printing press was invented;

  • The distribution of newspapers caused concern that people would no longer get their news directly from the pulpit;

  • Worried parents thought that teaching reading in schools would certainly wreak havoc on the minds of their children;

  • Later generations worried the advent of radio and television would wreak havoc on their children’s ability to read.[1]

Today, you can’t go on the Internet without seeing headlines bemoaning the connectivity and technology of this age, too. Those concerns are valid. Certainly, we should not consume new technology without carefully examining the ramifications.

Paul’s warning to the Ephesians is useful for us: “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15-16).

THE CAPACITY FOR GOOD AND EVIL

Just as the printing press can print the Word of God or pornography, our phones can deliver good or evil. With the Holy Spirit’s help and the accountability of a Christian community (and perhaps the implementation of some digital boundaries), we can choose to use our phones for our edification and sanctification, rather than for our destruction.

Our phones can be put to work to help us to obey this command in our current age: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Phil. 4:8).

They can help us find wisdom and gain understanding, which is a blessing (Prov. 3:13). They can help us “do good to one another and to everyone” (1 Thess. 5:15).

10 WAYS PHONES CAN BE USED FOR OUR GOOD AND GOD’S GLORY

The following are ten ways smartphones can be tools for our good and even God’s glory.

1. Hearing the Bible. Perhaps the most important way our phones can help sanctify us is by providing the Word of God through various Bible apps. While paper Bibles should not be replaced, Bible apps can provide customized daily reading plans, nourishment in a pinch, and add oomph to our quiet times. As I make my way through my Bible-in-a-Year plan, my app audibly reads along with me. In this way, not only am I reading the Word of God in my physical Bible, but I’m also hearing it as I go. This is especially helpful to me in the early morning when my mind is prone to wander.

2. Memorizing Scripture with voice memos. Storing God’s Word in our hearts (Ps. 119:11) is a sweet tool for sanctification. Using a voice memo app can greatly enhance Scripture memory. Reciting memorized portions into our phones allows us to immediately check our work against the written Word. The immediate feedback is excellent for catching mistakes and ensuring we rightly memorize Scripture.

3. Reading more books. Various apps allow us broad access to more books than in any other age. It’s normal today to travel frequently and commute long distances. That potentially wasted time can be redeemed as we listen to or read books we could not access prior to our smartphones. I am deeply indebted to Christian authors whose words have shaped me and library apps that have made wide reading affordable.

4. Growing through Christian blogs and websites. Smartphones allow us to access Christian blogs (like this one) and websites every day. Having the Internet in the palm of our hands allows us to wrestle with even deep theological issues at a moment’s notice. Whereas we would have needed to make a trip to a seminary library in the past, we can now immediately peruse a variety of sites and articles to help us gain commentary on a given Bible passage, theme, or difficulty.

5. Listening to a wide range of teachers and preachers. Many disciples find podcasts and sermons invaluable for growth and learning. Podcast topics vary widely from hearing news from a Biblical worldview to theological discussions, encouragement for moms to the history of racial issues in the church, and wisdom for Christian living. Access to a wide range of preachers and teachers from multiple theological backgrounds helps us keep growing both inside and outside our typical doctrinal bubbles.

6. Connecting with friends and family. Depending on one’s life stage or calling, texting can be a lifeline for Christian fellowship. Missionaries serving overseas, pastors or their wives reaching out to friends in their shoes in another city, or even new moms who need encouragement but don’t have time to meet or call a friend, can all benefit from receiving and sending encouraging texts. In our global, busy lifestyles, texting allows us to type out our prayers for one another. It can be a sweet and intimate way to keep in touch and build one another up.

7. Remembering names, prayer needs, and important dates. Phones can be a practical assistant, helping us practice hospitality on Sundays when we gather for corporate worship. We can immediately record the name of a newcomer to church right after we shake their hands. We can refresh our memories the following Sunday and greet them by name, making a warm and inviting impact. We can have our phones handy to record someone’s prayer request so we don’t forget it as soon as they walk away. Additionally, alarms can be set on our calendar apps to help us remember to pray for a surgery, an important test, or other need in our community.

8. Accessing special groups. While it’s no substitute for face-to-face friendship, Facebook can provide access to specific groups and ministries around the world. I’ve been able to connect with other adoptive parents, missionaries, ex-pats, and Christian women wherever I have lived around the world. These special niche relationships haven’t been available near me at certain times, and the online alternatives have been a source of strength and encouragement. Additionally, we can keep up with missionaries in various contexts through their secret online groups, which provide updates and prayer needs.

9. Understanding your community. Social media apps allow us to know what others in our communities are drawn to or hoping for. Based on others’ posts and what they’re chatting about, we can keep a finger on the pulse of what matters to those who attend our church, Bible study, or neighborhood fellowship. In this way, we can be better prepared for false teaching or false gospels when they arise, or fads that aren’t biblical. Social media allows us to be prepared in advance and contribute a gospel-centered voice to a conversation that might otherwise lack it.

10. Building one another up. Group texts are the way young adults communicate. Rarely do people call one another or use email. Texts are the best way to stay abreast of what is happening in the lives of our community members. Texts can be an excellent way to share joys and sorrows and prayer needs. They’re also a great way to coordinate group meetings, meals for people in need, and more. It’s nearly impossible to stay involved in relationships today without texting.

There is indeed a way to use our phones that will help us “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:10).

Smartphones can be a powerful tool for our growth. Let’s consider how we might put them to work for our good and God’s glory.


[1] I am indebted to this article for this historical information. http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2010/02/dont_touch_that_dial.html

Jen Oshman is a wife and mom to four daughters, and has served as a missionary for nearly two decades. She and her husband serve with Pioneers International and planted Redemption Parker, an Acts 29 church. Her passion is leading women into a deeper faith and fostering a biblical worldview. Her book, Enough About Me: Find Lasting Joy in the Age of Self, is forthcoming with Crossway in 2020. Read more of Jen’s writing on her website or follow her on Twitter.

Don't Settle for the Spotlight

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Light gets our attention. Our eyes are naturally drawn to it. The warm, illuminating effects of light beckon us to come closer. We become curious to see what the light frames for our eyes. Our interest in the light often involves our desire to become spotlighted. Many find it difficult to resist being the center of attention. Our capacity for self-exaltation is limitless. Spotlights get easier to procure every day. Social media is a prime outlet for building our platforms, brands, and personal kingdoms.

We throw our energy into shining brightly. We misapply God’s good command to let our light shine before men by projecting ourselves into the world. Often, we are oblivious to the fact that we’re drawing attention away from our father to ourselves. We deceive ourselves into believing we’re promoting him when our heart’s true desire is to live in the spotlight.

We seek the wrong light. We settle for the spotlight when we already know the Light. More than that, our father has given us his light. It’s ours to shine. We must shine his light into a dark world, so glory is given to him, not to us.

God is the Light

During his earthly ministry, Jesus said, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12). David said, “The Lord is my light” (Ps. 27:1). In Genesis 1:3 God creates light for the whole world. However, in Revelation 22:5 he says that heaven will have no need for such light because God himself will be our light.

We would happily live in darkness but for the grace of God. He exposes the darkness in us and opens our eyes to sin. He exposes our wickedness and illuminates his holiness. But he doesn’t leave us in our helpless state. In mercy, his illumination extends to our great rescue. His light guides us toward himself. He welcomes us into his family, making it possible to live as children of the light through Christ (Eph. 5:8).

His light is incomparable. When we attempt to stand in the spotlight, we desire to outshine our maker. The world is living in darkness. We once lived in darkness (Eph. 5:8). Charles Spurgeon said, “He who has been in the dark dungeon knows the way to the bread and the water.” We aren’t the light. We aren’t what people need. We point others to what they need.

We are Light-Bearers

2 Corinthians 4:6-7 teaches, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” We are the clay jars, not the treasure. We hold what we want others to behold. We hold the light.

When others look at me, and my eyes are on Christ, they will become curious to know what has my attention. They will shift their eyes from me to him. This is the goal—to make much of Christ. If people look my way for whatever reason, I want to leverage that opportunity to point them to the true light.

John the Baptist is a great example of a light bearer. He drew man’s attention to the light of Christ. “He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world” (John 1:8-9). He gladly watched his followers become followers of Christ.

Do we point all who follow us to Christ or to ourselves?

Shining the Light

As light bearers, we carry the light of Christ everywhere we go. He’s given us his light to shine into the darkness. Jesus commands, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). When God tells us to let our light shine, he doesn’t mean to shine the light on ourselves. He means to let the light that he sparked in our hearts shine. His light draws people to himself.

When we stand in the spotlight, people will be drawn to us. When we shine his light within us, people will be drawn to our father. When we shine rightly, he will get the glory, not us. When we shine rightly, our motivation and our joy will come from the advancement of his kingdom, not ours.

We must be careful, always examining our hearts to make sure that our good works are done for the glory of God and for the good of his church. The spotlight is tempting. But living in the spotlight will never satisfy us and will ultimately be disappointing to others. It is only when we shine God’s light inside of us that we will be truly satisfied.

True Light Transforms

God shines his light into our lives. This light within us is the light that we shine before others. When we stand in the spotlight, we settle for lesser glory. Worse, we tempt others to do the same. True and greater glory exists.

People may be attracted to a source of light, but they can only be changed when God gives them the light of life. He must open their eyes. He must illuminate their sinful rebellion of his rule and their necessary dependence on his grace for their redemption. He alone transforms former rebels into beloved sons and daughters. Spotlights may illuminate us, bringing us glory, but God’s light transforms us, bringing him glory.

Church, we must shine. We must radiate and reflect him and his glory. We must show others what is true. The world needs authenticity, not artificialness. We settle for a light on us when we have his light in us. The closer we get to the true light, the less we will settle for an imitation. No substitute will satisfy.

Be satisfied with his light. Be motivated to bring others to his light. Let them gaze into his glory and become transformed by it (2 Cor. 3:18). Shine for the good of the church. Shine for the sake of the lost. Shine for the glory of God. Shine on, church.


Christy Britton is a wife and homeschool mom of four biological sons. She is an orphan advocate for 127 Worldwide. She and her husband are covenant members at Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, NC. She loves reading, discipleship, Cajun food, spending time in Africa, hospitality, and LSU football. She writes for several blogs, including her own, www.beneedywell.com.