Tag Archive | #discipline

Light in the Dark

A Light Shines Best in the Darkness.-3

The above words came to me as I was praying last week about the mid-term elections. And it reminded me of Jesus’s words in Matthew 5:14-16, when He says, “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.” (NLT version)

Rather than thinking, “Yeah, that’s cool. Heard it before. Christians are supposed to be the light, uh huh,” I stopped to analyze why light shines best in the darkness. What are its properties? What are the differences between light and dark?

When I think about light in today’s terms—in the forms of lamps, candles, campfires, etc.—I come up with a sense of calm, peace, warmth, protection, contentment, thanksgiving, joy, comfort. (How many more traits can you add to this list?)

But in view of Jesus’s command, how does the Bible see “light”? Away to Biblegateway.com I went, to do a quick study on when the word “light” appears in in the Bible. Aside from when it’s used in terms of weight, here are just a few verses I found (NLT version):

In Exodus 13, we have God revealing Himself as a pillar of light to the Israelites as they escaped from Egyptian captivity. Light implies guidance.

In Psalms 119:105, David says, “Your Word is a light for my path.” Here it implies insight & illumination.

In John 1:5, John says Jesus is the light that “shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it” (can I get an amen?!).

In John 12:46, Jesus likens himself to light when he says, “I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark.” Light is salvation.

Philippians 2:15 commands us to “live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.” Light is innocence and purity.

1 Thessalonians 5:5 says, “For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night.” Light is our identity.

Ephesians 5:8 says, “[O]nce you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.” Light is the Holy Spirit.

Did you catch that last one? When we make Jesus our Lord & Savior, the Holy Spirit—God himself—comes to take up residence within us. We have His presence. His power. His love. His light shining through us to a darkened world. He is the light we should bring everywhere we go, whether it be a physical place like the grocery store, or online like social media.

Light shines best in the darkness because it stands in stark contrast to its surroundings. And it can’t help but draw people closer because of that difference, because of its love, its promise of life.

Can we say our lives look different from the world around us? Do our lives exude love and a promise of life? Or have we allowed the world to influence our behavior and dim our light? How do we stand out in the 21st century if our lives look the same as (and in some cases, worse than) our non-believing neighbors?

You’re not going to like what I suggest. Not at first, anyway. It’s extremely simple, yet if it were easy, we Christians wouldn’t have such a problem. But the truth of the matter is that deep down, we don’t want to do this.

I’m not talking about trying harder. It has nothing to do with trying harder.

If we’re going to live out our faith and be a light that attracts others to Jesus, we must start by reading the Bible.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.”

The world tries to convince us it knows better than God on how to do life. And we are caving to those lies because we spend countless hours scrolling through social media that reflects the world’s values, and watching endless hours of entertainment that reflects the world’s values, which feeds our minds with those values, which skews our thoughts about God and His ways, which causes us to doubt Him (note: instilling doubt is how Satan got Eve to eat the apple in the first place).

And when we don’t purposely make the time to spend with God and read His Word, how can we possibly think we’ll have what it takes to know His heart or fight for what He values when we’re in the trenches of daily life?

Don’t feel like praying or reading the Bible? No problem. Tell Him. He already knows about it, anyway. 🙂 Unsure what or how to pray? Again, not a problem. Pray through the Scriptures. When I was in college, the youth pastor at my home church suggested we pray through the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5-7) each morning. In those chapters, we have Jesus’s teaching about anger, adultery, divorce, revenge, loving our enemies, not judging others, generosity, the “Golden Rule,” bearing fruit, etc. I did this during my college years, and yet I still learn new things as a forty-something whenever I reread it.

Colossians 1:9-12 is also a powerful place to start: “We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10 Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better. 11 We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, 12 always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light.”

And I can’t forget to suggest Ephesians 1:16-19… “I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, 17 asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. 18 I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. 19a I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him.”

Are these not amazing words to pray over ourselves and our loved ones?!

If we’re sincere about changing our behavior and habits, God will lovingly ignite that spark in us to want to know Him better…and fan that flame that compels us to change our ways…and grow that fire into a personal testimony that encourages others in their struggles.

It’s time to shut off our TVs, put down our phones, and pick up our Bibles. Time to wear out our carpets and floorboards with prayer. Time to speak the truth in love, not anger; with compassion, but not concession.

After all, there’s a dark world full of lost souls God desperately loves, who, in turn, are desperate for a bit of Light. May we be ready and trustworthy to bring it to them.

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Joy in Discipline?

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Welcome to 2018! Have you jumped aboard the bandwagon and chosen your word for this year yet? Last year, I chose the word purposeful, because I knew I had to be just that in how I used my time to get things accomplished between all the writing-related deadlines I had on my plate. Well, I met my deadlines, but I had to look back through my posts the other day and remind myself that I’d even chosen a word for 2017! What does that tell you? 😉

As I pondered this past year, full of extreme highs and some of the lowest of lows, two words sprang to mind for 2018. Discipline and Joy.

home-office-336377_1920Discipline in writing. After a year in which my old and new WIPs (works-in-progress) saw very little forward movement, my creative juices have begun to flow again—praise the Lord—and I must shift writing back near the top of my priorities. You see, it became easy this past year, sometimes necessary, to forgo my laptop in lieu of my knitting needles or a book or allow errands to swallow my days. Now I sense some internal resistance when I come to the laptop, even though ideas have begun to blossom in my mind. Traces of fear niggle at the back of it all. (Still? Yes. Ugh.) “What if I can’t get the words out?” “There’s an expectation now. What if my next book isn’t as good as the first?” “Um…will there even be a next book?” I’m trying to quell these little doubts; to keep them, well, little. I want, instead, to cling to what the Lord has shown me over the last six months—His love, His approval, His blessings—and move forward with confidence.

sports-1050966_1280Discipline in maintaining a healthy body. I’ve been fit much of my life and have a high metabolism, but I am in my forties now, and it’s become harder and harder over the last few years to motivate myself to go for a run or workout. And, sigh, I still don’t like my vegetables. 😉 But slacking off now is the last thing I should be doing if I want to see good health into my fifties and sixties. So…discipline. To get up at 5am to squeeze in a workout. Or put on those running shoes after I take my youngest to school in the mornings. To reach for that apple instead of the pretzels (c’mon, let’s be honest: the chips and salsa). Not much fun in the process—when is it ever fun to tell yourself “no” to something?—but I’ll be thanking myself later.

macaroni-2863299_1920Discipline in keeping house…and prepping for dinner. *embarrassed chuckle* Really, who wants to vacuum and mop floors, fold clothes, dust furniture, scrub bathrooms, and all the other nit-picky stuff I can’t remember at the moment, when I’m just getting back into a writing groove and there are new projects to knit and friends to hang out with and books to read and…and…and… And am I forgetting I wanted to be a mother and housewife? Hello! These duties are part of the job I’ve wanted ever since I was a kid. (Why, then, do they become more trying and annoying each year?) And while I might not enjoy cooking day in and day out, there are things I could do to make it easier on myself…and show hubby that I love him and appreciate him going to work day in and day out, providing us with a warm house and money for food and all the extra amenities we take for granted here in America. So, I’m pulling out my dusty copy of Sink Reflections, by the Fly Lady (anybody else remember that gem?), and I plan to implement her suggestions as I had done once before, years ago, to mild success. (Don’t ask me why I stopped, if it was a success. I don’t know!)

By now you’re probably thinking I forgot about my other word for 2018: Joy.

I didn’t.

Not only do I need discipline to accomplish these different things, I want to enjoy them while I do them. I want to write with joy. Clean with joy. Grocery shop with joy. Cook with joy (gasp!). Left on my own, I’m not a joyful person (probably why I gravitate toward people, books, movies, etc., who can make me laugh), but I want to be. I should be. Between the Bible and one of my girlfriends, I’m encouraged it can be done.

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First, James 1:5 tells us “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m thinking it would work that way for joy, as well. 😉 Second, my girlfriend tells the story of how her husband has always loved to hunt elk, but she used to hate eating the game meat he would bring home. In time, she came to see how her rejection of the meals he provided for the family hurt him at his core, and she began to pray that God would help her like the food her hubby provided. Once again, in time, God answered her prayers, and today she can honestly say she enjoys eating elk meat. She’s an inspiration to me in so many ways, so I figure if God can change her tastebuds, surely He can change my attitude when it comes to the mundane tasks of life, especially cooking dinners for my family.

That’s it. Discipline & Joy. Joy in discipline. Simple…but not easy. The two don’t have a natural connection most of the time, but for me in 2018, I pray they become so interwoven that by the end of the year, I can’t see their separation. (I’ll let you know how it goes.) 🙂

Happy New Year, everyone!