The Better Thing

“Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” A few months ago, I was discussing dating with a friend of mine. I was telling him I only date Christians, of which there are few where I’m currently serving. So he asked me how I was going to get married. It’s not the first time I’ve been asked that. It probably won’t be the last. And my answer is: I probably won’t get married as long as I live here. It’s not impossible; it just isn’t likely. It’s something I have to forego as long as I live overseas.

It’s not the only sacrifice that has been made to live overseas. I have friends with business degrees who could be making a lot more money who have become English teachers. I have friends with children who live 10,000 miles away from their families.

So why do it? Why give up comforts and salaries and even time with family? Like Mary, we’ve chosen the better thing. God’s kingdom work over comfort. A people who might otherwise not hear about Jesus over riches. Not to say that staying put isn’t challenging or valid. It isn’t just missionaries who give up things to follow Jesus. We all must. We’re all called to come and die.

What comfort do we have in all this, in living a life marked by sacrifice? Our comforts are three-fold. 1) Jesus says the better thing will not be taken away from us (Luke 10:42). It is an imperishable thing (1 Peter 1:4) because it’s Jesus Himself. 2) God is enough for us. We don’t need those things because God alone satisfies (Philippians 4:19). 3) Jesus says He will return to us ten-fold what we’ve given up for Him (Mark 10:29-30).

What might He be calling you to give up? To sacrifice for His name. Maybe He’s calling you out of your comfort zone or to give something up. Maybe He is calling you overseas. Whatever it is, choose to obey Him. Choose the better thing. It won’t be taken from you.

Who is in Your Sphere?

We are continuing our series in looking at practical ways we can be missional wherever the Lord has called us. Last time we talked about the importance of fighting our fear. We can always tell ourselves 10,000 good reasons why not to share the Gospel, but it is that 1 perfect reason to share that we cannot overlook. This week, we will look at another practical step in being missional: sharing with our sphere.

God has placed you in a specific place and a specific time for a purpose. While the ultimate purpose is to honor and glorify Him in that place and time, one vital way we do this is by proclaiming His Gospel of Good News to those who are around us. While this may seem quite self-explanatory, it is something very often neglected, overlooked and refused by Christians every day. Let’s consider why we neglect, overlook and refuse to share the Gospel with those right around us and try to also think through how we can overcome these temptations.

The first reason we tend to forget the people in our sphere is neglect. This means that while God has placed people around us for us to share with, we have become busy or distracted with other things, people or spiritual activities that we have neglected those God has put around us. This can often happen to leaders in Churches who are so focused on 1 area of ministry, (maybe working with young adults), that they have accidentally neglected those God has put into their lives, (co-workers who do not fit into their young adult target).

The easiest way to battle this is to slow down and see each person within your sphere as a person who needs Jesus. This often means spending less time thinking about your area of ministry and more time considering how you can share with the people right around you. While it is good to have a ministry and be actively involved in what God has called you to do, don’t let that get in the way of everyday chances to share the Gospel with people God has placed in your sphere.

The second problem is to overlook the people right in front of you. This typically happens because we see some of the people around us and either think they are so sinful they could never be saved, that they must be uninterested in faith and Jesus or that they are already such a good person they have no need of the Gospel, (all 3 of these are totally unbiblical). The issue here isn’t so much of neglect, but of prejudging a person.

To battle this, you have to remember that God saves people from all kinds of different backgrounds and different sin struggles. God saves both the prostitute from her blatant sinfulness and the Pharisee from his religious sinfulness. To overlook someone in your sphere is to pass judgment on them which we as Christians are never meant to do. Be willing to share with that guy who seems like a super atheist. Ask if you can pray for the partyier in the office. Be willing to invite that perfect person to small group to help them understand moral law following will never save.

But the third reason we don’t share with our sphere I think is the biggest and it is that we just flat out refuse to. This may be out of fear, (see the previous blog post), or judgment or envy. But the truth is that typically there is someone in your life right now you can think of that you should share the Gospel with and you have just refused to do it.

Whatever the reason for your refusal, you need to repent and be willing to go and tell them who Jesus is and what He has done. Use tact and be respectful, but don’t allow tact to be the reason you keep from sharing the single most important truth in this universe with them. Be willing to alter the relationship. Be willing to be that guy or girl who shares their faith. Be willing to suffer if it come to that. But don’t dishonor God by refusing to tell of all He has done. Doing so not only dishonors the Lord but is a disservice to those in your sphere.

God has called you to share with the people He has placed in front of you. You know who they are. Just ask God to give you the strength, courage and boldness to tell them about the Cross of Christ. Through God’s strength we can share with the people right around us who are typically the most difficult to share with! Don’t neglect, overlook or refuse to share with them anymore because you may be the one whom God has planned to get the Gospel to their heart.

Fight our Fear

We are continuing our series in looking at practical ways we can be missional wherever the Lord has called us. Last week we talked about the importance of remembering our first love. There are so many counterfeit loves all around us vying for our affections. For us to be missional, we must not forget that our first and greatest love is God Himself. This week, we will look at another practical step in being missional: fighting our fear.

I personally believe fear and doubt are the two biggest hindrances to people being truly missional. Why? Because when we are living in our fears and doubts we usually end up always doing the safe, cautious thing because we are worried about what would happen if we lived a truly missional life. If I gave more than 10% would I have enough left for my future? If I moved overseas would I ever find a spouse? If I really turn the other cheek each time won’t people just walk all over me?

God has called us to live outside ourselves and trust Him to provide, but doing so can be a scary thing because it is outside our control. When things are outside our control, we tend to fear and often try to find the safest route within our control rather than trusting the Lord to provide.

Please note that I am not saying to live flippantly or haphazardly and then expect the Lord to bless. Spending all of your income on some hobby then expecting the Lord to provide for you financially is selfish and wicked. Instead, what I am saying is that when we are living outside of our comfort zone for God’s glory, (using more than we can afford to give to missions or Christian social work), then I truly believe God will provide for us.

But that leads to the second reason why fear and doubt keeps us from being missional. They keep us paralyzed, waiting for answers that might never come. When we are scared of the future or the unknown, we often wait for some kind of “sign” from the Lord to direct us to what is next. So instead of getting busy being missional right where God has us, we sit around and wait for God’s big sign to us about what to do next.

Instead of getting busy serving in your church, you are paralyzed by the fact that you are getting older and are still unmarried. Instead of using your time to serve the community, you are paralyzed about what to do 5 years down the road. Instead of going overseas to serve as a missionary, you are paralyzed because some great job opportunity may come along while you are gone.

While we all wish God would use the clouds to lay out our next steps, the truth is that doing so would be unhelpful to your ultimate goal: a closer walk with God. Hebrews tells us that faith is “the assurance of things HOPED for and the conviction of things NOT SEEN.” Having God spell out every step for you would actually be a hindrance to your faith. God wants us to rely on Him for each murky step forward we take.

Fears and doubts can cause us to play it safe and to be paralyzed waiting for answers. But they also keep us from being truly missional. So what can we do to fight our fears? I think the first thing is to realize you don’t need to face your fears head on. Our culture tells us that in order to conquer our fears we have to face them head on and show them we aren’t afraid. And this approach does work for a time until a new fear comes and then the cycle repeats endlessly. Sounds exhausting right?

Instead of trying to face our fears through our strength, why not stop trying to face your fears and trust in Him who is able to overcome any and all obstacles? Instead of us, in our weaknesses, trying to stand up to an army of fears, why don’t we go get our Heavenly Father who has already told us that He fights for us? The best way to fight your fears is to humbly trust in the Lord’s provision. Don’t worry about giving beyond your means, trust the Lord to provide. Don’t worry about marriage. Get busy serving Him and trust the Lord to provide. I have found that the Lord is truly faithful when we stop playing it safe and instead trust Him to provide for us. Trust Him with your fears and ask for the strength not to face your fears head on, but to humbly submit to Him and follow His lead.

Secondly, in order not to be paralyzed by our fears, I think we need to get busy. That doesn’t mean get busy playing video games or vegging out on Youtube. It means get busy serving Him. So many people are paralyzed about what is next when God has you right here and right now for a purpose. Jesus tells us in Matthew 6 to focus on today because “tomorrow has enough worries for itself.” Get busy serving in whatever place God has you now and I truly believe God will start to reveal those next steps.

If you want to live a missional lifestyle, your fears and doubts will continue to try and get you to play it safe and keep your from moving forward on mission. Stop trying to do things in your own strength. Rely on His strength to provide for you. Go out of your comfort zone knowing Jesus came out of His to save us. Get busy serving instead of waiting for the whole path. Your faith will grow as you serve and depend on God for that next step. The battle with our fears and doubts is ever before us but the victory has already been won by Christ. Thus, may we all be missional today knowing we are no longer a slave to our fears.

Can’t Forget our First Love

We are continuing our series in looking at practical ways we can be missional wherever the Lord has called us. Last week we talked about the importance of saying the tough stuff with love. We live in a world that is increasingly anti-Christian in it’s way of thinking about things pertaining to life. We need to speak into these difficult areas according to the Gospel but do so in a loving way. This week, we will look at another practical step in being missional: remembering our first love.

As Christians, our first love is and must be God. I think all Christians would agree. The issue is whether or not we are practically living this out and not falling in love with all the other things this world offers. The love of the world basically means loving gifts from the Lord and seeking these gifts rather than loving and seeking the Lord Himself. To be a missionary, we must not fall in love with the world around us.

The Bible repeatedly warns us about the dangers of falling in love with the world. Throughout the Old Testament the Lord continually warns the people not to intermarry with the surrounding cultures and religions lest they led the Israelites astray. Jesus warned his disciples that the world hated him and thus would hate them to. Paul repeatedly spoke about how love with the world was enmity with God, not to be conformed to this world and also to keep ourselves unstained by the world.

So how do we reject what the world offers and remember God, our first love? I believe there are 2 main ways we do this. First, we look away from the world. The world offers us plenty of things to place our identity or find our fulfillment in. Love, family, friends, career, pleasure, comfort, money, fame, social standing, freedom and self-praise are just a few things that the world tells us to seek. While most of these things aren’t bad, (some are even great gifts from the Lord), the world desires to convince us that if we spend our life seeking these things, we will be fulfilled.

Sadly, many Christians have started on mission only to see their mission derailed by seeking after one of these things. A young adult wants to serve overseas but fears they may not find a spouse if they do. A high school student wants to pursue being a pastor but also wants enough money to do as he pleases. A woman desires to dress modestly but loves the praise she gets when she doesn’t.

The temptation to sin by chasing what the world tells us to is all around us. Thus, in order to remain on mission, we need to reject what the world tells us. It means not buying into what mainstream media tells us is “in” or “cool”. We may need to turn off our television or movies if we cannot seem to let go of what the world is selling. It may mean we find a new groups of friends who push us towards God and not towards dating that guy or girl with little to no relationship with the Lord. It may mean we move overseas instead of taking that big promotion.

Whatever worldly temptation you struggle with, (because we are all different and are tempted differently), you must find a way to combat it by first rejecting the lie that it will fulfill your deepest longing. But merely rejecting the temptation is not enough. You must fill that longing with what can truly satisfy and that is our second way to to reject the love of the world; we must look to God.

As we turn from our worldly temptations and desires, we must turn towards God otherwise we will just move on to another worldly temptation and desire. Simply moving from seeking the praise of man to seeking your fulfillment in your family and friends is not an upgrade. If we truly want to reject the love of the world, we must look to God.

Why? Because God is the true source of love and is what our heart is longing for the most. Turning towards God means that we reject the world’s standard of morality or popularity and hold fast to what the Lord tells us is right. Christians, it’s important we understand that we will never be cool. We will never be the most popular and we were never called to be. Instead, our calling is found in our Creator and the mission of proclaiming His Name to the nations that He has set before us.

What worldly loves have you allowed to sneak into your mission? What areas are you feeling tempted to just give up and act like the world around you? Whatever worldly temptation you are facing, God is able to provide a way out. You must reject finding your purpose and identity in the loves the world offers and instead turn your eyes to the true, deep, everlasting love of Jesus Christ. This is what it takes to stay on mission in a world that desperately wants us off mission. Remember Jesus Christ, your first love.

Say the tough stuff with love

We are continuing our series in looking at practical ways we can be missional wherever the Lord has called us. Last week we talked about the importance to making the Gospel the center of our mission work. While social work is important and necessary to a Christian’s mission, our most vital purpose or mission is to herald the Good News of Jesus Christ. This week, we will look at another practical step in being missional: saying the tough stuff with love.

The world we live in today is not exactly living in line with the Gospel message. While western countries continue to push individualized approaches to moralism, more conservative Middles Eastern and Asian countries continue to follow centuries old traditions in spite of some of the people in society they may marginalize. As a Christian, we must be wise and discerning with how to navigate this tricky climate we currently live in. I believe the key for Christians is to speak the truth with love. There are 3 very important words I want us to consider about this point.

The first word is speak. With the predominant culture in both the West and the East not aligning itself with Scripture, (again we shouldn’t expect it to as culture is a man-made attempt to create what only God can do), we are left with issues that we simply cannot agree with the culture around us. What are we to do? Most Christians find it easier to keep quiet about these hot button issues and maybe share their feelings in a group of like-minded people.

But as Christians we are called to speak to a sinful and hell-bound culture as those who are trying to warn and save some from perishing. If we only speak about the ills of culture and society to our Christian friends, how are we warning those around us to flee from the coming wrath? Look at some of the famous stories of prophets in the Old Testament called to speak to the sinful cultures for the purpose of pointing them to God, (Jonah, Elijah, etc…). We cannot keep quiet when the culture around us is going deeper and darker into sin. As missionaries, we must be willing to speak.

Speaking, however, is not enough. We must speak the truth. As Christians, we believe the Bible is God’s eternal and perfect Word for us. Thus, we believe that what the Bible says is truth that spans all times, all countries and all cultures. The Bible is our standard of truth no matter where we live. It is objective truth and thus the idea of subjective truth must be rejected if we are to lean on the truth of God’s Word.

Today there are many issues our world wants to subjectivize. From abortion, homosexual rights and transgender issues to greed, selfish ambition and debauchery, we are surrounded by a world that wants to do what it pleases instead of doing what pleases the Lord. We cannot allow ourselves to drift away from God’s Word in order to present a more palatable Gospel to those around us. God’s Word is clear on these hot button issues, and because God’s Word is eternally true, we must follow what the Lord has commanded and not what is fashionable or popular in the culture around us. Christians, we are to be missionaries who know the truth of God’s Word and speak it.

We must speak even when it is hard. We must speak the truth of the Bible even when it disagrees with the culture around us. But we must do both of these in love. If we merely speak truth but no love, we end up with a message that sounds judgmental, arrogant and uncaring. The Bible goes as far to say that we are similar to a clanging gong when our speech lacks love, (1 Cor. 13).

This means that we must check our motives before spouting off what we think. It means we are cautious before we post things on social media, (even if non-Christians aren’t being careful). It means that we prayerfully and humbly consider who and how we are speaking the truth. Just because we are speaking the truth in love doesn’t mean we are watering down the truth. I meet many Christians whose idea of love is a watered down message from the Bible or a complete vacating from it. Instead, we are to still speak an unchangeable, eternal truth but to do so in a way the desires God’s glory and the good of those we are speaking to.

As missionaries in a world that is at best indifferent and at worst hostile to our work and God’s Word, we must be willing to speak the truth in love. All three elements are what missionaries are called to incorporate into our lives. Anything less is selfish and a disservice to the perishing world around us. Christians, let us be a missional people who are willing to speak the truth in love.

Herald Good News

Last time we covered the first practical way in which we can live out our missionary calling wherever the Lord has called us. We all must be able to share our story, our testimony, about what God has done for and in us. The second practical way we can be missional is to herald the Good News of the Gospel to those around us.

In order to herald Good News, we first need to understand what is Good News. The Good News that is heralded by Christians is the greatest news this world has ever known, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We must never forget that as Christians are true mission is not some political objective or social movement. Our true mission is to make the name of Jesus Christ known throughout the world.

I feel that this is one of the biggest reasons we see so many people calling themselves Christian today yet not on any kind of mission is because they have forgotten what the true mission of a Christian is. Social change is important and something all Christians need to be a part of, (William Wilberforce is a great example of a Christian who stood up for social change), but it is not our ultimate mission. If we forget to proclaim the Gospel in the midst of our social movements, then what is there to distinguish us from non-Christians? We must never forget, our mission is to share the Gospel of Christ because it is exactly what people need the most!

For us to be able to properly share the Gospel of Jesus with others, we ourselves must better understand the Gospel. Think about it. If you have heard a story from a friend 1 time and try to retell it, how well do you do? I know that I don’t do a very good job. But if I have heard that same story from my friend 50 times, (like that crazy family member who shares the same story every family reunion), I can easily retell it to others.

If we want to be missional and desire to share the Gospel with others, we need to really know what we are sharing. Read the 4 Gospels then go read them again. Read the Bible then go read it again. There is nothing in the Word of God that you can ever check off as truly understood and mastered. We must become experts on the Gospel message and this only comes from continual study and meditation on God’s Word.

Now that we know sharing the Gospel is at the core of our Christian mission, (not merely social change or political objectives), and we understand that to share the Gospel we must truly know and understand the Gospel, the final step is to actually go and share. This is the step where many bold Christians give in because this means we need to tell others about Jesus, His Word and His plan.

There are two practical ways in which we can share the Gospel of Jesus with those around us, and I believe both are necessary in order for our sharing to be fruitful. The first way is to use your words. This might sound self-explanatory but I have met so many Christians who have told me that they only show Jesus to others by their actions and never actually use their mouth to proclaim the beauty of the Gospel. Christians, we are called to speak the truth of the Gospel to those around us.

This may seem scary because we are worried someone might have some super anti-Christian argument against the Gospel that we are unable to answer. That is why it is wise to have some sort of relationship with the person you desire to share the Gospel with. Even if they disagree, they will most likely at least be willing to hear you out because of the relationship you share. You also must remember that it is likely that the person you are sharing with has a number of misconceptions about Christians and what we believe. Hopefully your sharing can fix some of those misconceptions and help your friend or family member understand there is more to our faith than mere superstition and blind hope.

The second way to practically share the Gospel with those around you is to live it. Once people know that you are a Christian, they will keep an eye on you to see what makes you different from them. If you just live like a non-Christian would, (in a variety of open sinful habits or behaviors), then a non-Christian will probably assume there is nothing real special about Christianity because you are no different than them. This is why in Matthew 5 Jesus calls us to live counter-cultural lives. Our actions must be different than those around us to show them that there is transformative power in the Gospel.

But we must be careful that as we try to live counter-culturally we don’t forget to also add in vulnerability. Living counter-culturally without any vulnerability can make others around us feel that we are either hiding something, (like hypocrites who preach but only practice for the praise of others), or that we must have everything together and thus they could never become a Christian because they have too many issues.

When we live a life that is both counter-cultural and real about our weaknesses, we are sharing the Gospel with those around us because Jesus came to give us a better culture, (a heavenly one), and to pay for our weaknesses. Using both our lives and our words allows others to better experience the Gospel of Jesus.

This is the mission we are called to as Christians. Our entire hope and faith hinges on the Gospel and what Christ did for us. Thus, for us to fulfill the great command of Matthew 28:19-20 we must make our life’s mission not merely about social change, living a moral life or religious duty but instead about proclaiming the truth of what Christ has done in both word and deed.

Share Your Story

While we know we are all missionaries, that term “missionary” can be a hard one to grasp. While I know wherever I go I am to be an ambassador of Christ, and while I know as I go I must continue to be a disciple and have an ever growing seriousness about knowing God, I can get hung up on the practical outworking of what it actually means to be missional. Over the next few weeks, we will consider a number of practical elements to being a missionary of Christ wherever He may lead us to go.

The first practical element of being a missionary is being able to share your story, or testimony as it is often called in the Church. This is the most basic and foundational thing we should be able to do as missionaries for a number of reasons.

First, we all have a story. None of us were born Christians. We may have had a Christian family or upbringing, but at some point, we received the gift of salvation just like everyone else. Thus all of us have a story of how exactly that happened. Your story typically will have elements such as what your life was like before you knew Christ, how you first were introduced to Christ, some turning point at which you finally came to Christ and what your life has been like since then. Your story may add or subtract one of these steps, but this is a good blueprint to fill in with your details when trying to share your story of how you came to Christ with others.

Second, stories are simple for us to share and for others to hear. The great thing about us sharing our story of how we came to Christ is that we know the details, the emotions and the circumstances better than anyone else. You are literally an expert on your story. When we are trying to share something we don’t really know much about, we can feel insecure about sharing and thus don’t share. But when we are sharing our story, we should be emboldened by the fact that we know these events and we alone are most qualified to share them.

Now sometimes sharing our story can be difficult because we are sharing personal details about our life which many of us have a hard time sharing with others. This is why I believe it is wise to write out your story first. Having it written down helps you feel like you have all the details you want to share as well as allows you to reference it later to remember details you may have forgotten. You can also practice your story with some Christian friends or family before going out and sharing it with non-Christians. They can provide feedback that can help you feel more comfortable and confident to share in the future.

The other reason why sharing your story is great is because it is also an easy way to start a spiritual conversation. If you were to invite someone to Church or pull out a Bible and start discussing it, you would find that most people would either run for the hills or feel super uncomfortable. This is mainly because of so many misconceptions non-Christians have about the Bible, Church and Christians. But if you were to talk with a non-Christian friend or family member about your story, about the personal details and circumstances that led you to the place where you became a Christ follower, most people would be able to relax and willing to at least hear you out.

This leads to the third reason why sharing your story is so important. Because there is power in hearing from someone you know about their personal experience. We love word of mouth. Whether we are trying to choose a great restaurant or where to travel to, we typically trust the advise and opinions of someone we know versus a stranger. This is true in spiritual matters as well. Taking your friends to Church can be helpful, but they don’t know the Pastor so any teachings or personal details he shares will most likely have little meaning.

But if you were to share some of the highs and lows on your journey to knowing Christ, that will undoubtedly have a great impact on your non-Christian friend as they know you and to some extent trust your word of mouth account. There truly is great power in sharing the personal details of our life with others.

That is why this is such a simple, yet impactful way for you to be the missionary you were called to be. You know your story. You just have to be willing to take the time to write it down, practice it and then in the strength and boldness of the Lord, share it with others. The non-Christians around you are curious about how you, (someone similar or very different than them), became a Christian while they have not. So tell them how and why it happened, all the while giving glory to God for what He has done and is doing in your life.

Being a Missionary means being a Disciple

We are all called to missions. The problem is that when we hear the command from Jesus in Matthew 28:19-20 to “Go” we sometimes aren’t sure where we are to go or how exactly we are to start the process of going. We have already covered that the where we are to go to be a missionary could be anywhere: to a distant land or just around your town. The key to where we go is following the Lord’s leading on our lives instead of making excuses for not going because of our own selfish desire to go elsewhere.

The other issue people tend to struggle with when dealing with how to be a missionary is how to actually get started living this missional lifestyle. How do I switch from just living life how I see fit to a person who is truly being a missionary of God? Many people find this question overwhelming and thus their desire to become a missionary often ends here. But the first step to becoming a missionary is one that all Christians should be familiar with but one that often gets overlooked as we continue to mature as a Christian. This is the step of being a disciple.

What is the first thing you think of when you think of a disciple? Many will think of the 12 apostles or the idea of being a student. Or that when we first become a Christian we may go through some sort of discipleship training program by an older Christian to help us grow in some of the basic elements of the Christian walk. But I feel that once many of us have passed this introductory course, we spend the rest of our lives busy making disciples while neglecting to also be a disciple. Matthew 28:19-20 does indeed tell us to “Go and make disciples…” but I think we are misunderstanding the Christian walk if we think being a disciple is only for new Christians.

So what does it mean to be a disciple? A few years ago I found a great definition I’d like to share: “A disciple is a person who has a growing seriousness about knowing God.” I love this definition because it doesn’t allow us as Christians to at some point graduate from being a disciple. Instead, it shows us that while we are making disciples we are also called to be lifelong disciples. If you find that your life doesn’t seem as missional as you would like it to be, you need to first consider whether or not you are still being a disciple.

According to the definition, there are two important components to being a disciple. The first is this idea of a “growing seriousness.” As a Christian, we should be ever-growing in our affection, knowledge and dependence on our Lord. Christian’s don’t get to plateau, take a day off or feel like they have finally arrived at some sort of spiritual peak. We are to be an ever-growing people. Yes sometimes this growing is a sprint, or a walk or even a crawl, but our growing never stops because the goal and desire of our growth is to better know Christ Himself.

But just growing and maturing doesn’t necessarily prove that we are a disciple. While these things are important, the true mark of a disciple is that our seriousness is growing. What does it mean to have a growing seriousness? It means that we move on from only learning basic doctrines of the faith to more difficult ideas and theology, (1 Cor. 3:2, Heb. 5:12). We like the basic doctrines of our faith because although basic, they are truly amazing and vital to our lives. Thus we often stay away from some of the more controversial or hard to understand ideas. A growing seriousness is willing to take those next steps and try to learn what may be difficult or uncomfortable if it means knowing more of God.

For some of us, it’s time to take those next steps in our faith. It might mean getting serious about a sin struggle we’ve condoned as a “little” sin for years. It might mean enrolling in a seminary course, online class or Church Sunday School to learn more about a Biblical topic we don’t really understand. It might mean changing up how we read the Bible so we force ourselves to go deeper into God’s Word regularly. Whatever it takes, if we want to be a disciple, (which we all should desire), we must find a way to grow in our seriousness.

It is also important we understand what we are trying to grow our seriousness in. Growing more serious about something doesn’t necessarily make us a disciple. The goal or purpose of our growing seriousness is “knowing God.” If we make our growing seriousness just about religious activities, (attending Church, reading my Bible, prayer), we will continually find ourselves stuck in the cycle of desire, inability, regret, resolution and inability over and over again. Our goal of our growing seriousness cannot be a duty but it must be God Himself.

Notice that the goal also is not just knowing more about God, but actually knowing God. Having a personal, thriving, ever-growing relationship with the maker of the Universe. Nowadays we know more about people than at any other time in history, (just check on Facebook or Google for information about every area of someone’s life), yet I would say we also seem to truly know less people than ever before. We have settled for a superficial knowledge about others rather than a personal, growing relationship with them. Sadly we have done the same with God.

We know facts about God, (He is all-powerful, gracious, Creator, etc…), but sadly we don’t really know Him. As if God is some person we learn about in history class rather than our ever-present, Heavenly Father. So if our desire is to be a disciple, we must have a desire to know God personally.

How can this be done? Just like we get to know people we care about, (our spouse, family, friends, etc…), we need to consider God as someone who is right here with us, (because He is!). Talk with Him, (prayer), like you would talk with someone you want to get to know. Don’t just use prayer time as a chance for you to ask God to fix all your issues but instead use it as a time to deepen and grow your relationship with Him, (this is why listening is such a vital component to prayer). Read God’s Word, (Bible). God has written a letter to your personally about Himself. God’s Word is not merely a manual for how to live life but it is a place where we get to actually see and experience who God is. Open your Bible to seek to know God instead of just finding some pithy saying or self-help for this week’s difficulties.

Being a disciple is certainly not only for those who are new to the faith. It is something we all need to be doing if we call Christ Lord of our life. It isn’t overly difficult to be a disciple, but it also isn’t easy, (this is why the gate is narrow and the road is hard in Matthew 7), because fostering a relationship has all sorts of distractions and potential hardships. But the blessing is that we are fostering a relationship with our perfect, loving, Heavenly Father who has given us all the tools we need to be in relationship with Him. This is what it takes to be a disciple and one of the first things we must do if we desire to live a missional lifestyle. My hope and prayer is that these are things we are all hungry and thirsty for, (knowing God, being a disciple, being missional, etc…). That we would be a people known for our growing seriousness about knowing God.

We are all Missionaries, but are your being Missional?

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How many times have you heard a sermon or read a blog where the author says something like “It doesn’t matter if you go around the world or around your block, we are all missionaries.”? I feel this phrase is used quite frequently and rightly so as the Bible does indeed tell us that we are to “Go, therefore and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19) as well as that we are to be “witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). That last verse does indeed show that no matter where you are called to go, you are called to go as a witness of what Christ has done.

The only problem I have with the idea that “we are all missionaries” is that sadly some people just use it is a crutch or excuse for them not to do something God is laying on their heart. So instead of following a calling from God to go overseas and serve for a year, someone may comfort their lack of following God’s call with the idea that they can still be a missionary in their current town.

The issue I want us to consider is am I really following God’s call to mission work, whether HE is calling me across the ocean, across the State or across the block? Or am I merely using this idea of being a missionary wherever I go to instead reject God’s leading and just do whatever and go wherever my heart desires?

To help you discern where you are at, I thought I’d briefly share how I went from someone who refused to go on a short term mission trip to someone who is currently serving overseas full time and has been for over 8 years. Basically how the Lord showed me I was making excuses when HE was calling me somewhere else.

When I was in college, my college pastor asked if I’d be willing to go overseas for about 10 days and share the Gospel. I told him no because it was too long of a time and just too far away. To make myself feel better about rejecting his offer, I told myself that I can be a missionary where I am at right now and don’t need to worry about going overseas. My hometown needed a lot of mission work anyways so if anything I was doing God a favor by staying in town.

But God wouldn’t let me get away that easy. As I prepared for graduation I discovered I would be able to graduate a semester early and thus started to look for opportunities to travel the world, (missions wasn’t on my radar at this point). But after searching for job opportunities in countries I wanted to visit, I was left with nothing. A friend recommended I check out our Church’s mission offerings as they might have something that fit my requirements. I went on to check and found one mission opportunity that met all of my requirements. It just happened to be in that same country my college pastor had asked me to visit with him a few years before!

At this point I could clearly see the Lord’s hand in leading me to where I now have been serving for over 8 years. But it took years and the right opportunity for me to actually stop and listen to God’s leading. My plan was to go and travel a bit then come back home and start chasing the American dream. Instead, God would ship me overseas and totally change all my plans to instead align with HIS plans for my life.

I meet so many people who, once they hear that I am an overseas missionary, say things like “Man that’s so awesome. I wish I could do that but….” Insert whatever excuse you are currently using or have thought why you can’t serve abroad. “But I have too much debt.” “But I am not good at learning languages.” “But I couldn’t be away from my family, friends or pets for that long.” “But I just got a great new job or new promotion so God is obviously leading me in this direction.”

These people comfort themselves by reminding themselves that “we are all missionaries.” Yet they fail to actually live out what that means in their daily walk. They are so busy chasing the American dream or whatever hobby or dream they have that they have completely neglected God’s call to mission work.

This isn’t meant to guilt any of you into coming overseas for mission work as guilt is a terrible motivator. Instead, it’s a challenge to all of us: Am I being a missionary? God has called you somewhere to be HIS voice and HIS hands. Are you in the right place? Are you avoiding overseas work because it seems too scary? Or are you too busy chasing your dreams to be a missionary right where you are at?

In the following weeks and months my hope is to better flesh out what it means to be a missionary no matter where you live, but as we do that please check your heart and prayerfully consider this first element of being a missionary: Following the Lord’s call on my life. If we miss this first element of what it means to be a missionary, we will most likely fail at all the others. Where is the Lord leading you to be a missionary? Answering this question truthfully can change your life. I hope it does!

Living a life of Purpose Part 1

What am I doing here?  What’s the purpose of my life?  These are common questions we all face at sometime in our lives.  Those of us who are a little more contemplative may face these at a younger age but at some point we all are faced with these questions.

The reason we face these questions is because a life with no purpose doesn’t seem like much of a life at all.  An apple tree that doesn’t create apples can’t really be called an apple tree.  Same for the orange tree.  As human beings, we have a desire to matter, to make a difference or at least to have some greater purpose than just living to die.

So in order for us to life a life of purpose, I think we need to understand 3 important truths.  First, what is the purpose of our life?  Second, how do we live out that purpose?  And finally third, what is the result when we live out that purpose?  Today, we will look at the first part.

Much has been written, discussed and debated about the purpose of life for all of mankind’s existence.  Various philosophies and religions have tried to point to a way of living.  Others have tried to argue that we are just meant to live for our own personal self-fulfillment.  While still others see no purpose because, being created by random chance and years of evolution, we are simply a cosmic accident left to live, reproduce and die.

Probably the most popular view of the purpose of life these days, (thanks to the advent of postmodernism), is the idea that there isn’t one singular purpose but rather each person has in themselves the ability to discover an infinite amount of purposes.

While each of these views of the purpose of life have varying degrees of popularity throughout the world, they all neglect to answer the root of the question.  You see our purpose is explicitly tied to our creation.  Just as an apple tree finds it’s purpose in growing apples because it was created to do so, humans can only find their purpose based on why they were created.

While many don’t like the idea that humans were created, when faced with the facts, we are left to see that God did create us.  We are not just random chance combined over millions of years.  Each one of us was created, (for those struggling with this idea, please see some of the former blog posts in regards to God’s truth of creation).  So if God created us, what purpose did He create us for?

One of my favorite quotes about our purpose comes from the Westminster Shorter Catechism:  “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”  The Bible also repeats this idea in verses like Philippians 4:4, (Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.”), Psalm 144:15, (“Blessed are the people to whom such blessings fall! Blessed are the people whose God is the Lord!”), and 1 Corinthians 6:20, (“for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”) to name a few.

You see, our purpose is to be connected to God.  Sin has created a rift between our connection to God and has stolen our true purpose from us, instead trying to sell us novelty purposes of self-fulfillment and random chance.  Jesus tells us in John 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches.  Whoever abides in me and I in him, he is it that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”  Just as a branch from an apple tree that has broken off is useless, so we too, when not connected with our Lord and Savior life a live that is useless and purposeless.

We bring glory to God when we bear fruit, (John 15:8), and thus live out the purpose for which God created us for.  Next time we will look more at what it means to bear fruit, but for this week my hope and challenge for us all is that we would understand our true purpose in life.  It isn’t to get as much comfort and pleasure as possible.  It isn’t to live a smooth life.  It isn’t to chase health, wealth and happiness.  Each of these counterfeit purposes will only delay the realization that we aren’t living the life we were created to live.

Instead, may we all understand that our purpose is to know God, depend on Him, glorify Him and enjoy Him.  Only when we chase these true life desires can we live a life of purpose.  May we all desire to live out our purpose by staying connected to Jesus and desiring an ever growing and deepening dependence upon Him!