“How Bright is My Light?”
When my husband and I pastored Riverside Restoration Center, a small church in the “hood”, we saw many miraculous events. One that is very special to my heart is the time God used the lighted cross on top of the church to lead a needy soul to safety. Many of the homeless would tell us how just seeing that cross gave them hope and a sense of security. On this day, that cross was actually used by God to help save an elderly woman’s life…
She was in her 70s, and had been estranged from her adult son for a number of years. This precious woman had lived in the mid-west in a senior-independent living center for some time, and had never been to California. One day she unexpectedly received a call from her son. He said that he had done well in California and wanted her to come live with him. She was ecstatic and could not wait to live with her son! When he picked her up, she expected to be taken to a home where she would be safe and have an opportunity to rebuild her relationship with him. Instead, he brought her directly to a homeless camp on the river bottoms. He was a meth-addict and only wanted his mother’s money. He kept her prisoner there at the river bottom camp. He stole her money, hit her often, and told her she would get worse if she tried to leave. At night she was able to see the cross on our church off in the distance. She would pray… she told God she knew she would be safe if she could just make it to the cross. Being on meth, her son hardly slept, but after several days he finally passed out. She began to run. She did not know where she was going – she just headed for the cross. She ran across fields; climbed up a levee and then stumbled down the road toward the cross.
When we saw this dear woman half running; half stumbling, we could see she was in trouble. We brought her onto the porch of the church office and began to minister to her. She tearfully began to pour out her story. Between sobs, she kept saying: “I knew if I could just make it to the cross, I’d be safe. I knew if I could just make it to the cross, I’d be safe.” After taking care of her basic physical needs, we were able to quickly get her on her way safely back to her home in the mid-west.
So why did I tell you this story? I told you this story for a couple of reasons: Number one, no matter how desperate your need or a loved one’s need may be, the answer is found in what Christ did for us on the cross. Number two, just like God used that cross to light that dear lady’s way to safety, God wants to use us as His “lights” in this sin darkened world. And that is what I would like to talk about for a few moments.
I firmly believe one of Satan’s greatest tools to make the Church ineffective is distraction. What better way to dim the “light” to the world than to get God’s people doing everything except God’s business? We can get so busy with “things” – even “good things” that we miss doing “God’s thing”. My friend, life happens! Every day we are presented with many choices and we are the ones who make them. We are the ones who will be held accountable for how we used the gift of time that God gives us. We ask ourselves: Do I do this? Do I do that? My question is, do I ask God what His priority is for me today? Do I ask Him to show me every opportunity to share His amazing love?
I absolutely love evangelistic outreaches. Ever since I have been a Christian I have been involved in every type of outreach one can imagine: feeding the homeless; kids’ ministries; ministries to seniors and shut ins; hospital ministries; chaplaincy work; home and foreign missions; community outreaches; Christian block ministries and the list could go on. Those are all well and good; and as Christians we should support these works as much as possible-using our gifts for His glory. But to me, being a light to the world is so much more. Being a light for Christ is a lifestyle; a daily commitment to purposely share His love. Daily, we need to present ourselves to God: “Here I am God, use me today, open my eyes to anyway that I can serve you and your children. Lord, help me to see people through your eyes. Give me your heart. Give me your wisdom and insight to be able to effectively minister to others.” Let me tell you, with a prayer like that, there is no telling where God will take you!
I pray prayers like that daily; and you would not believe some of the “God incidents” I have had the privilege of being a part of. I call my life, “Joanie’s little magic ride”, asking God to literally interrupt my day to take me where He wants me to go – to minister to who He wants me to minister to. And believe me, I am the one who gets amazingly blessed.
Many years ago, when I was a very young Christian, I caught a glimpse of how God could interrupt my life. I was visiting children on my bus ministry route and started to turn left at a stop sign. I felt the Holy Spirit urge me to go right. I argued: “There are only tweekers down that way – no kids live down there. Why would you want me to turn right?” I was in a very rough part of town and knew that it was nothing but drug houses on that dead end street. But, I turned right anyways. I then felt led to look left. There laying on the back of a beat up old car I saw a shirtless guy who was “tatted” from neck to waist. He had a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other. He did not look happy. The Lord clearly spoke to me: “Tell him I said I told you to tell him I love him.” I would like to say I joyously went right over to the man. I argued a little. “I know he’s going to cuss me out… He’s not going to want to hear what I’m going to say…” But, I obeyed, parked my car and walked over to him. He immediately barked at me: “What blankity-blank do you want.” I told him this was going to sound crazy, but “God told me to tell you that He loves you.” He immediately dropped his beer; flicked his cigarette and sat there with tears in his eyes. When he collected himself, he said, “I am on my way to prison, and I just looked up to heaven and told God if He was real, send someone to tell me that they were told by God to tell me He loves me.” Right there, as he leaned against that beat up old car, I had the privilege of leading him to the Lord.
I will hold that experience dear for as long as I live. The look of hope that entered that man’s eyes when he accepted the Lord was astounding! But that experience did not just change him, it changed me. It was from that point on that I knew God could use me in many unexpected, marvelous ways (each and every day); and if I would allow the Lord to “interrupt” my day by being open to the leading of the Holy Spirit, there is no telling what He could do through me!
Friends, many of us know that little song, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine…” It is my prayer that, that is how we will live our lives – being the light God has called us to be; being the light that leads many a desperate soul to the foot of the cross where they too will see the light!