(This week I’ve included the original song ”I Will Love you” for you to enjoy. I appreciate your support and help in telling others about this blog)

The news lately has been dominated by an attempted assassination of some United States Congressmen, the abuse of an American student by a foreign government that eventually led to his death, near-boiling political rancor within our nation, and more.

It’s not hard to see the ugliness present in life right now.

However, in the midst of these dark events, I also saw pictures of friends holding precious newborn babies, breathtaking landscapes posted by people touring faraway lands, and a video of a man singing an original song that was both simple and inspirational.

There is beauty all around us. God provides it, yet we have to choose what we allow into our minds and souls. A practical component of worshiping God is making the choice to focus on His beauty and the evidence of that beauty in this world above the ugliness that so often pervades our lives.

Paul reminded us of this in His letter to the Church at Philippi:

“ Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)

Stephen was a remarkable man who faithfully served God in the very early days of the Christian Church after Jesus rose and ascended to the Father. The beauty of God’s presence in Him profoundly affected the church and the world around him. He was described as “a man full of God’s grace and power [who] performed great wonders and signs among the people” (Acts 6:8).  Falsely accused of a heresy and other crimes by religious leaders of his day, he maintained and proclaimed his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ even as vicious taunts came his way. In fact, the biblical account stated, “All [the religious leaders] who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.” (Acts 6:15).

After Stephen powerfully presented the good news of Jesus Christ to the religious leaders, they couldn’t contain their poisonous anger and demanded his immediate death by stoning.  As the rocks that were mercilessly thrown at him drove him towards his physical death, Stephen maintained his focus on the beautiful vision of Jesus Christ that God provided. Stephen left this world into Jesus’ presence speaking words that reflected the beauty of Christ that he beheld:  “God, do not hold this sin against them.”

Most people today know Stephen as the first Christian martyr. But that title does not adequately describe this man, who should also be known as a man who allowed God’s beauty to flow in and through him, even in the midst of horrendous ugliness.

Life has more than its share of dark events that threaten to rob us of hope and joy.  Even as we sometimes have to face the sad and ugly realities of this life, the Good News is that we are not alone! Our God has given us His very presence and an eternal hope that have the power to help us overcome the darkness we face. The Bible makes it clear that there is a bright and beautiful eternity for all who say yes to Jesus Christ.  Focusing on His presence, beauty, and promises is key to prevailing through the darkness of life.

As you traverse through difficulties in life remember to focus on God in the person of Jesus Christ.  Choosing to see and love Him in the midst of the shadows of life brings us into the same light and power that Stephen knew in his darkest hour.

“I will bless the LORD who guides me; even at night my heart instructs me. I know the LORD is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.”
 Psalm 16:7

God bless you!

Chris Atkins