Lighthouses and Fireflies

I came across a Facebook post today by Christine Caine that I could not help but elaborate on. She said,

“Darkness can only prevail in the absence of light … 
let’s not avoid the very place we were called to illuminate! GO into all the world.”

There is a mindset that has crept into the church that I believe reflects an unbalanced view of light and darkness – and the role of the 21st century church in reaching the culture in which she finds herself. Let me give you two examples:

(1) Several years ago, I was on a mini-missions trip to New York, and while were working with one particular ministry in the city, we stayed at the headquarters of another internationally known missions organization in New Jersey. In the smaller city where we lodged, we noticed that all the shops and stores and other businesses closed their doors early every night, before dark, and that most of them were protected by bars and gates. We were advised by the ministry leaders not to leave the premises after dark for our own safety. Further, we were also told that at a certain time (not that late by most standards), the doors would lock and we would be locked out for the night.

We were saddened to discover that fear had so gripped the hearts of the ministry leaders that they were no longer effective in reaching the community to which they had been called.

One night, as we were coming in, a young woman was leaving, armed with a Bible and a basket of small gift bags, filled with personal items and small Bibles. She was headed out alone, to minister to the prostitutes who worked the streets at night, knowing that she would have to remain out the entire night until the ministry doors were unlocked the next morning. This was something she did a few nights a week, and she did so under the protection of only God Himself because of the burden He had laid on her heart for these women. She refused to cower to the fear and chose rather to walk boldly into the darkness with the message of hope and restoration.

(2) Years later, when I first started working with a homeless ministry in Austin called Church Under the Bridge, a pastor’s wife said something to me that broke my heart. She said, “I think it is so great what you guys are doing down there. You are reaching people that we will never be able to reach because they just won’t come here.” Everything in me wanted to scream, “YES, YOU CAN! You can GO TO THEM!”

In our passion for holiness and to live a righteous life, we cannot and must not become so isolated that we have no relevant message for the world in which we live. It is easy to adopt a religious spirit and be so consumed with not being “of the world” that we forget that we are placed in the world for a reason.

We need look no further than to Jesus Himself for an example of what our lives should be patterned after. He walked among “sinners” associating in personal and intimate settings with the very people the religious culture of the day avoided. He ate with them. He spent time in their homes. His conversations with them were not filled with, “You must get saved or you are going to hell!” but rather with undeniable truth that gently but firmly exposed their hearts – not to embarrass them or bring them shame, but to bring them to restored fellowship with His Father. The woman at the well responded in one way; the rich young ruler responded in another.

A light shining in a dark place naturally attracts people to it. Those things that want to remain hidden will try to avoid the light, so what do we do? Do we keep standing here shining, hoping that someday the nature of the darkness will change and it will mysteriously be drawn toward the light? No, we grab a lantern and go illuminate that area as well. The great commission is not to build huge ministry empires and wait for people to wander in. No. It is to go into all the world and make disciples. Go out and compel them to come in. Show them you have something inside worth coming in for – and I’m not talking about a show. I’m talking about the life-altering, demon-chasing, healing, delivering, restoring power of the presence of the Almighty. Music and lights and tv cameras and all that are fine as long as God Himself is still a welcome participant. At the end of the day, the entertainment value of your finely polished, orchestrated service won’t hold a candle to ten minutes of face time with Him on a park bench if it has no substantive presence of God all up in it.

Your impact on the world around you doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as getting dressed and going shopping. I once was making a purchase at a crafts store when the cashier asked if she could give me a hug. Caught off guard but sensing the importance of the moment, I agreed, and as she stepped out from behind the register, she burst into tears. As we embraced, she thanked me for wearing the shirt I had on, which had a message on it about faith. The words were exactly what she needed at a time in her life when her faith was being tested in a huge way.

When it comes to being a light in a dark place, you may feel more like a firefly than a lighthouse. But shine brightly, dear firefly, because your little lantern is reminding someone of home and leading them there. So, should we be afraid to go out and be a light in a dark place, or should we be afraid not to? Having an illuminating impact may be as simple as learning to control our speech (a reflection of a thankful heart). Can it really be that easy? Consider this …

“Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 
so that you may become blameless and pure, 
‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.‘ 
Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 
as you hold firmly to the word of life.”
Philippians 2:14-16

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One Response to Lighthouses and Fireflies

  1. Wendy Richmond says:

    This is some of your finest work! Loved this piece. Thanks for sharing.