Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Shine: Make them Wonder What You've Got

The Gospel will persuade no one unless it has so convicted us that we are transformed by it.
Brennan Manning 

I'm sorry this is so long, but PLEASE read to the end--you have to see the amazing way God started off 2013 in the Luker house!

I was wide awake at 5 a.m. this morning like every morning (I am very much a morning person). Of course my first thought was "It's finally 2013". I was reflecting on the last few weeks and I began to realize I was falling into this horrible pattern.

Poor, poor me.
Why is this happening to me now?
Why am I having to go through this?

Are you noticing the pattern? There are a lot of "me"'s and "I"'s in there--way too many. I have fallen into a pattern the last few weeks of focusing entirely too much on Staci. It's not about Staci. It's about Him--it's all about Jesus.

Mission trip in the Bahamas--2007
Last night I was sitting on the couch reading my Bible when I suddenly remembered this book I had read back in high school. It's called Shine: Make them Wonder What You've Got and it was written by the Christian band Newsboys. I went back to my bookshelves and started looking for it. God must have known I really needed to read this book again because I have no other explanation as to why the desire to read it again hit me so suddenly--I don't know why I even thought of it at all. It has been over seven years since I last picked it up.

The book is about sharing the Gospel. It really pushes the message that our lives are a living testimony to the powerful message of the Gospel. If you've never read it, I encourage you to check it out--I think I may give a copy of it away on the blog soon. It's too good not to share!
When we started dating!

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

Most of the book revolves around this verse. They give an amazing perspective on what it really means. 298 pages that revolve around one verse--I promise you will get a whole new look at what it means to let your light shine.

I don't want to spoil the book for you, but I do want to share a few of my favorite quotes from what I read last night:

Because we are Christians, when people hear the name of Jesus, they see a picture of us in their minds. How we live our lives sends a message to them about who Jesus is and what the Christian faith is all about.

Convicted? I am. Have you ever heard the phrase "You may be the only Jesus they see"? I thought about this when I read this and I felt terrible. I would hate to know that the last couple of weeks I was the only Jesus someone saw. I've been way too wrapped up in me, me, me. The most important thing we can do is to bring people to Jesus. This is most often done by how people see us live our lives. Look at the quote I posted at the top of the blog. If we say we have Jesus, but we don't live any differently, what kind of message does that send? If we say we have Jesus, but our life was never changed, what do people see?

If someone were to give a description of the Gospel just from observing your life, what do you think that person would say? What message is your life proclaiming?

 This really got me. That last sentence is something I've written in the front of my Bible where I will see it everyday. The only thing my life should be proclaiming is Jesus.

There is a vital connection between what we say and what we do. Our actions either give credibility to our words-or undermine their validity. We must earn the right to be listened to.

Again, I was convicted. If I say one thing, but do another, who is going to listen to me? If someone who didn't know Jesus had encountered me recently, would they have had any desire to know more about Jesus?

That's all the quotes I am going to share because I really want you to read the book. One thing they focus on in the book is the order of the title of the book. You can't make people wonder what you've got if you don't first allow Jesus to shine through in your life.

So, here is the best part of the book. In the very back, there is a discussion section with different questions my 14 year old self had answered. I read this book 8 months after giving my life to Christ. Before the discussion questions, I wrote this message to myself:

Read these for encouragement and look back to see if you have grown. If not, you might as well be going backwards, and something is wrong! Never lose the "wow"! 
September 4, 2005

I read this at 6 a.m. this morning and I sobbed uncontrollably. My fourteen year old self STOMPED ALL OVER MY TOES this morning. Convicted again? You bet I was. BIG TIME.

I want to share some of my answers to these questions from when I was 14.

What obstacles in your life keep Christ's light from shining on you or out to others?

Pride and Independence. (For those who read my blog, sound familiar?). Humility is a tough thing, but God has provided the greatest example of humility in His son Jesus Christ. God, Himself, in the flesh was the greatest servant of all time--that's humility. Dependence on God is hard sometimes, but that really goes hand in hand with pride. We, as humans, often believe we can do it ourselves and feel threatened by the thought of letting God do it when in reality He is the only way we can do anything.

Think of some ways that you can, as St. Francis of Assisi said, "Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words."

There are so many ways, but to sum it up, be radically different. Make friends with the outcast. Comfort someone going through a hard time. Kill your enemies with kindness. But most of all, live out what you say you believe. Walk the talk. That's the greatest witness the world can see.

How can you avoid conforming to the world's view of success?

To me, the only way to avoid this is to feast on God's word DAILY! Know God's definition of success and reach for that goal with all your might. Live for eternal things and don't worry about people's opinions. God's is the only one that counts. You can only know what is pleasing to Him by diving into His word and hiding it in your heart.

What will it take for you to go through the eye of the needle and leave yourself behind?

Actually verbalizing my surrender daily. I think that we have our days where we are totally on fire for God, and then we receive a blessing and take credit for it, getting caught up in ourselves. I think a daily prayer of self surrender is needed to remind yourself of how amazing His grace really is and that for Christ to live through you, you have to put away your old self. Have an attitude of gratitude and remember who gave you the blessings in your life.

Setting your mind on eternity will, in a kind of paradox, help you to view today without being stressed about tomorrow. What can you do to focus on the important things in life, instead of merely on the urgent ones?

Always remember that the only time you are guaranteed is the present. Make the most of it. Focus on what would matter if you knew you were facing Jesus today. If you had until the end of the day, what would you do to make a difference for eternity?

Let me pause to say "wow" on that one. I wonder if I knew when I wrote this 2 days before my 15th birthday just how much I would need it 7-1/2 years later. If I only had today, what would I do to make a difference for eternity? Makes me want to scream His name everywhere I go!

Have you ever heard that country song about writing a letter to yourself and sending it back to your teenage self? I wish I could tell her Thank you. There was a reason God wanted me to dig this book out of the bookshelf. I look back at these answers and even the ones I didn't post on here (there were way too many to post them all) and I can feel just how in love I was with Jesus and how on fire I was for Him. Again I will say I am convicted. I've become complacent. I've become "ok" with where I am rather than chasing an insatiable desire to constantly grow closer to Christ.
I've been allowing things in my life to be a shadow over His light. I remember when I was in youth, one of my favorite sayings was Shine on!. It's one I wrote to myself in the message above. I wrote it on everything. It was a constant reminder to myself to cast out those shadows and let Jesus' light shine brightly through every aspect of my life. I don't want people to see me, but Him. 

I decided to throw in some pictures from my high school days--it seemed appropriate today!

The song behind the book:



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