A person who is a bright light is noticed by the people around them. They are noticed, not in a negative way, they are noticed because they are happy most of the time, they talk nice to others, they don’t get angry, they don’t complain, and they don’t gossip. If you didn’t know better you would guess that they just got some amazing news, but they are like this most of the time, and nobody has that many unexpected jackpots in their life.
I had a defining experience in my life some years ago. At a wedding Patty and I were invited to the couple who hosted the event hired someone to walk around and take candid videos of the activities all night long. A couple of weeks after the event we got a copy of the video. It had been edited so instead of 2 hours of boring video there was about 40 minutes. I don’t think I had ever watched myself on a screen for that long before. Because it was a small group in a relatively small house I could see myself on the video most of the time in the background. As I watched myself I couldn’t believe how bored I looked, to the point of even looking grumpy. I watched as people talked to me, and I appeared to be uninterested in what they were talking about, and I was embarrassed as I watched myself be rude to people simply by being unengaged in what was going on. I didn’t remember that anything bad had happened that day to cause me to act like this. I asked Patty if I seemed “out of it” at the reception and she said no, I acted pretty much the way I always do.
I am an introvert in temperament, and my default setting is to be uninvolved in conversation, and it looked like I had shifted myself into neutral and was just acting the way I am, making little to no effort to enjoy the people who were around me. As I got to thinking about it, the worst part was Patty saying that was how I usually acted. I occasionally will make a joke saying, “I will take anybody fishing once, and a few people twice”. As I watched the video I thought, I wouldn’t invite myself to go fishing a second time. I thought to myself, “I can choose to act differently than what is easy and natural”.
I bought and read the book “Relational Intelligence”, in fact I read it several times, and as a result of the deep conviction I felt I wrote out my “Personal Social Mission Statement”, which goes like this, ” I will honor people by choosing to enjoy my time with them, and I will act in such a way that they enjoy their time with me.” I knew that it wouldn’t be an overnight transformation, but I also knew that as I reviewed my “Mission Statement”, and continually made the effort to change I would become a bright light that would attract people to my Savior.
Yesterday a young man in High School killed himself. Since then I have had numerous conversations with different people about the tragedy. The conversations that follow the expressions of sorrow and grief usually centered on “Why?”, and what could have been done to have prevented it. Over the last 40 years of pastoring I have been in many such conversations with people about tragic events and decisions loved ones have made that have been very sad and have left a ton of questions. After most of the conversations I have often wished that I could have come up with some answers, at least some words that would have helped even a little bit with the confusion that people felt. Even though they are far from profound I have landed on several guidelines that I use for myself, and pass on to others when appropriate.
– It is impossible to understand other people’s motives for doing most of what they do, especially the really radical decisions, and most guesses at what the motive was are just that, guesses, so it would probably be good not even to make a guess, they will just add to the confusion, and tend to grow with conversation about them. It is enough for me to believe that at the time they probably thought they were making the best decision for themselves, even if it wasn’t. Often I don’t know what motivates me to do certain things, but I do believe that given the right set of circumstances I could do just about anything. It appears at times that not even God knows our motives Deuteronomy 8:2 …. “testing you, to know what was in your heart”.
-Because we don’t know what the motive was it is important that we don’t blame ourselves or others for not doing more, better, or different. Blaming ourselves or others for something that we don’t understand always makes our pain, sorrow, and confusion worse, never better, which makes our recovery and healing from the tragedy much longer, and increases substantially the probability that the tragedy is going to cause our relationship with others to suffer.
– Which brings me to my last guideline; don’t assume that your grief, sorrow, sense of loss, and hurt is worse or more intense than others around you. Instead of seeking comfort, give it; instead of wanting to be understood, that is wanting others to know how much you hurt, work at understanding others , and how much they hurt; instead of seeking sympathy, give it. Those who work hard at being a proactive healer of others become healed quickly.
Christmas is a time of lights, lots of lights and lots of colors. At Jefferson Baptist Church we have a Christmas light show that plays each evening. It is amazing how colored lights can be programmed to do what they do. If you haven’t yet driven into the parking lot and watched it you are missing a special treat.
Jesus, God’s Son was born into the world as a human being just exactly like us except He had no sin. All that He did and accomplished on this earth was designed so that we could live with Him with incomprehensible joy forever. On the basis of what His goal was for being born into this world, He declared Himself to be the light of the world, so lights at Christmas time are very appropriate.
People, like myself, who call themselves followers of Jesus, servants of Jesus, are commanded by Jesus to be bright lights. When a follower of Jesus is successful at becoming a bright light he attracts people to himself, and to his Savior. So I have decided to make becoming a brighter light a goal of mine, what do I do now? Let me suggest 3 things that anyone can work at doing to increase their luminosity.
First, don’t grumble or complain about anything, ever, but instead rejoice about everything. Some, right at the start will declare that principle impossible, it isn’t, or others will declare it being phony, it isn’t. The Bible says in Philippians 4:4 “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” And in Philippians 2:14-16 it says, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world.” This doesn’t mean you don’t feel sad, or grieve, or get upset at injustice, but it does mean that you don’t blame, shame, complain, or feel sorry for yourself. I am sure it would be impossible for me to have any level of success at this kind of life behavior without a huge level of trust in Jesus Christ as King of the earth, and King of my life.
So, as I sit here in my recliner trying to figure out what to write about tonight, my mind is blank. Usually when I start writing a switch gets thrown in my brain, and words just start coming, but for some reason my brain is taking a vacation tonight, and is not doing it’s normal thing. Maybe it is rebelling, feeling like it has been called on night after night to write yet another blog, and I haven’t been near appreciative enough of my faithful, hardworking brain. Maybe I have run it dry, and there just isn’t anymore left inside of my brain, sort of like the gas tank on my car. Why am I doing this anyway, writing this stupid blog every day, it isn’t like I don’t have plenty of other things to do. It was inevitable that this kind of day happened where I hit that proverbial writers wall. I wonder if I ate a big bowl of ice cream, if the sugar would shift my brain into activity of some sort. Hang on, I will be right back, I am going to see if I can find where Patty hides it, and give it a shot. Ha, found it, out in the big chest freezer buried under a bunch of fish. I am glad she is asleep😂. It took so much effort to go out to the shop where the freezer is, and dig through all that cold, frozen fish to find this, I think I will splurge and have an extra big bowl. Do you know what is really funny? Yesterday, my blog was on self-control!
The opposite of self-control is expressed by the Apostle Paul in Romans 7:18-19, ” For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.” Sometimes that seems like my life verses, not because that is what I want or aspire to, but because it describes my behavior so well. And then Paul makes this statement about himself in 1 Corinthians 9:25-27, “Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” I have made these verses, key life verses that I quote every morning in my prayer of commitment. “I discipline my body and make it my slave”! It is amazing how a few minutes first thing in the morning of meditating on those 3 Bible verses, and asking God to help me live them makes such a huge difference in my life, so that Romans 7:18-19 is rarely a description of my day any more. Self-control is not, “by myself control”, it is “control of my flesh by means of the strength that God supplies”, it is “control of my flesh by means of the encouragement others give to me”, it is “control of my flesh by means of the prayers of others who care for me”, and it is certainly ” the control that I exercise over the pull and temptation of the devil, the world around me, and my flesh by the accountability relationships that I have with other men who are good friends.
The character trait that follows diligence is self-control, it is number 7 on the list of 26.
7. Self-control, being free from anger, and always speaking words that give grace, always.
Obviously self-control applies to more than how we talk, but I have narrowed my focus on the character trait to just that, nothing else. The reason is because James 3:2 says, “For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well.” So if I can grow to the point where I am perfectly controlling what I say to others, everything else is a piece of cake.
I begin every day with a prayer of commitment and dedication where I declare Jesus Lord of my life and make a series of behavioral commitments as an act of obedience to the Lord. One of them is, “Today I will not get angry, not even a lit bit irritated, at anybody, no matter what they do,” another commitment is “today, I will not gossip or slander anybody”, another is, “today, I will not grumble or complain about anything, no matter how bad it may be, instead I will rejoice always”, and one more, “today, I will not say a word that hurts or offends, but instead I will speak words that encourage, build up, and give grace.” After that series of commitments I pray, “Lord, Jesus, I can’t do this in my strength, would You fill me with Your Holy Spirit today, and give me the strength to keep these commitments in obedience to You.”
At the end of the day, I think through all that I can remember about conversations I had with people and try to remember anything I said that was contrary to my commitments. I confess all failures to God as sin, and make the commitment to not repeat it again tomorrow, but I often do repeat my bad speech, and I confess it again, one of these days I will get it right.,
I got up this morning at 4:20 am, as I did every morning this week in order to be at the church by 5:00 am for the start of prayer. This week we are praying from 5 am to 10 am and 5 pm to 10 pm, 10 hours each day asking God specifically to work in the heart and lives of people who are neighbors, work associates, friends, and family who are not disciples of Jesus. Every time I closed my eyes this morning I promptly fell asleep, so I stood up tp pray, but I still had a difficult time focusing, and when I prayed out loud it didn’t make much sense. I had not gotten much more than 4 hours of sleep each of the last 4 nights, and I was run out of gas so I did what any reasonably intelligent person would do, I took a nap. I went to bed at 10:30 am and woke up at 4:00 pm, and I felt wonderful. Tomorrow is the last day of the “Five Days of Prayer” and we will pray from 5 to 10 in the morning and then 5 to 7 tomorrow night and then we will conclude with a “Concert of Prayer” with mostly worship and a communion service, which are always wonderful times of experiencing God’s presence. Saturday morning I will sleep in until I wake up alert, probably around 8 am, and then it will be an amazing 3 weeks of God working and blessing, because we prayed and asked God to make it so, and He will.