My sweetest childhood memories are of simple things like the tire swing in the big oak out front, playing catch with my Dad, and swimming in the creek. Another of those simple things was chasing fireflies on the lawn as night fell on a summer evening. The bugs only had a small light but they were especially brilliant because of the dark backdrop of the night sky.
Some lights guide us to safety like lights on a runway or lighthouses. Lights can stir up feelings of warm security like the soft light falling out of your window at home reminding you that someone you love is waiting for you. Lights can even have healing power, like the beam of light used in laser surgical operations. When a ray of light is focused it can warm and heal or start a destroying fire. There is an indescribable value to the light of a wood fire whether outdoors or burning on your own hearth. Who doesn’t love peering into the light of a campfire on a cool evening outdoors?
The culture in which we are raising our families is morally and spiritually very dark. We live in a time when the new lows of human depravity are being graphically displayed in media. This is true all over the world and in almost every community on earth. Not even isolated rural communities are exempt.
The ways of God are ignored and the laws of God are violated by millions. Morally and spiritually, we live in a dark hour. We wrestle against the “rulers of the darkness of this age.” Spiritual light is as rare as it is beautiful. Jesus told his followers to let their light so shine that men will see their good works and glorify their Father in heaven. Paul said that those who do all things without complaining are blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom we shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life…
There is a principle, though, that warms the heart and gives hope to those who feel overwhelmed by the dark hour in which we live. One way to state the principle is like this: “The darker the night the brighter the light shines.” Even the smallest light is noticeable if it is dark enough outside. That is what I like to call that “The Firefly Effect.” It makes me hopeful.
The spring of my seventeenth year I heard that there was a preacher at Immanuel Baptist Church in Arcanum, Ohio. I got my Dad’s powder blue VW Superbeetle and drove to the service. I was hungry for truth and I wasn’t turned away empty. I don’t remember the name of the guest preacher. I do remember a number of the things he said.
One thing he said was, “The flower of youth never appears more beautiful than when it bends toward the Sun of Righteousness.”
I have remembered that all my life. I wish I remembered the name of the preacher who said it. I just did a quick search on the wonderful internet and discovered that the quote was originally the work of Matthew Henry, an English divine who lived from 1662 to 1714. So people have noticed outstanding young people throughout time.
I was interested to discover that I had remembered it exactly word-for-word even though that was nearly thirty years ago. I still remember it and it is a timeless truth. I have rarely spoken to a group of young people without reminding them of the truth.
When I was at Moody Bible Institute studying in the Graduate School, I heard a story that touched my heart. Mayor Daley once made this comment to Joe Stowell, the president of Moody, “In August, when the Moody students return to Chicago, its like the lights come on in the city.” That night, back in my room alone, I looked out over the great city all alight and considered the beauty of the analogy.
Once in conversation with Flint’s Mayor James Rutherford he made a similar comment to me about the ministry of the Character Inn. He said, “We see your organization like the crown jewel of the downtown.” Imagine that, the Firefly Effect at work in Chicago and even in downtown Flint, Michigan. Wherever on earth even the smallest light of faith exists, the deepest darkness cannot overcome it. Darkness only serve the amplify the beauty of the light.
1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light
Riverfront Character Inn and International Conference Center
August 19, 2004