Don’t settle for the false heaven of a “successful ministry.” Because real success is faithfulness. Big church or small church, growing church or declining church, well-known church or obscure church—all churches are epic successes full of the eternal, invincible quality of the kingdom of God when they treasure Jesus’ gospel and follow him. Jesus did not give the keys of the kingdom with the ability to bind and loose on both sides of the veil only to those who’d reached a certain attendance benchmark. So do well, pursue excellence, and stay faithful. God will give you what you ought to have according to his wisdom and riches.
You are what you love! Interesting thought, isn’t it? It’s one that has been causing me to think quite a bit about the way we teach and disciple others. Notice that it’s not what we think, but what we love that forms us. It’s not that our mind is not important, but there is more to us than just the intellect. And thus, this is why James K. A. Smith has written extensively about what shapes us as humans.
So what do you love? The answer might not be so obvious. Naturally, for those of us who follow Christ, we would tend to say “Jesus.” But what we really love can be see from our actions. It’s not just what we say we love, but what we do that displays where our affections lie. And not only do our actions display what we love, but they also reinforce what we love. Our “cultural practices,” writes Smith, can be dangerous “when we fail to realize that these aren’t just things we do but things that do something to us.”
We must realize that what we do daily changes us. “Our deepest existential hungers,” according to Smith, “are being trained and habituated (“automated”) without our realizing it.” And the tragedy is that what our culture trains us to hunger and thirst for will never satisfy. So what do we do? We change our habits. “You can’t just think your way to new hungers,” writes Smith. It requires changing what you do which in turn, recreates new desires and new loves.
So you want to be conformed to the image of God? According to Smith, it’s more than just thinking God’s thoughts after Him. It is also desiring what He desires. But to learn to desire what God desires must be bigger than just an intellectual exercise. It must also involve the body and imagination. And for Smith, it is worship that accomplishes this. “Christian worship doesn’t just teach us how to think,” writes Smith, “it teaches us how to love, and it does so by inviting us into the biblical story and implanting that story in our bones.”
It is our gathering to worship in which God calls us, communes with us, listens to us in prayers of worship and confession, and then sends us out to live in obedience to His word that we are shaped and then led to love Him. It is in worship that we are led to see the beauty of who God is and what He has done along with His desires for His creation. And as this captures us, it moves us. Thus, the importance of the act of worship both weekly with a local church and privately each day.
Smith shares a quote by Antoine de Saint-Exupery which seems to capture much of what he is writing about and hopefully of what I have tried to briefly mention above. Antoine writes…
If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.
Jesus calls us to follow Him. By His grace, mercy, and love, Jesus comes to us and for our good and His glory, wants us to pursue Him. I can’t overemphasize here how graceful and loving an act it is for Jesus to ask us to follow Him. It is what we, as people who have become rebellious against Him, need most. Meaning in life cannot be found apart from God. So how wonderful it is that Jesus is sent to us to rescue us from ourselves. To follow Christ is to find what it means to be truly human.
So what happens when we follow Christ? Where does Jesus lead us? No doubt we become like Him in character, but I want us to think about another aspect of where following Christ leads. To do so, consider the story of Jesus calling His first disciples in Matthew 4…
While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Jesus told these first disciples that if they follow Him, they will become fishers of men. They will, like Him, be about seeking and saving that which is lost. I love what Douglas John Hall said about following a crucified Messiah. He wrote:
Discipleship of the crucified Christ is characterized by a faith that drives its adherents into the world with a relentlessness and a daring they could not manage on the basis of human volition alone.
In other words, following Christ is going to compel you to go into the world. It’s going to push you to go to where those who hurt.
So as you go deeper in your walk with Christ, you are going to go deeper into the world. You are going to have your eyes opened to see those around you as Jesus sees them. And you are going to offer to them the call of Jesus to follow Him because only in doing so, will our mission, purpose, peace, fulfillment, and meaning of life come together.
Don’t waste your life! At times, this sounds like a lot of pressure to me. That may sound funny, but it’s true. You see, I really don’t want to waste my life. I want it to count. And by the way, I think everyone wants to live a life of purpose. The reality is that I think we are just as much afraid of succeeding at the wrong things as we are of failure.
So what do we do to live lives that count? How do we not waste our life? Once again, when I think about these questions, I freak out a bit. I read and hear of people doing extraordinary things for the Kingdom and when I compare myself to them, it seems I have wasted so much of my life. And so as a result, I put a lot of pressure on myself. The question of my life becomes “Am I doing enough?”
Now I don’t think we should avoid ever reflecting on how we live. I just wonder if we sometimes put undo pressure on ourselves as we compare our lives with others. Many times I think my life is pretty mundane. And most likely you do too. So what does it mean not to waste your life if you are just a “normal” person with a “normal” job?
I’m a bottom line guy. I do like details (well, sort of), but when it comes to some things, I try not to get too lost in them. Therefore, for me, the bottom line of not wasting your life is this: SERVING OTHERS! Regardless of your job or where you live, serve those around you.
Nothing you do is too insignificant for the contribution of the Kingdom. The so-called mundane tasks in life can result in service to others. But we must pay attention. Going to get groceries? Could be an opportunity to serve. Filling up your car with gas? Could be an opportunity to serve. Doing laundry or dishes? Definitely an opportunity to serve.
As we become engrossed in the story of God, and as it rewrites our own story, we become open to serving anywhere and anyhow. Sometimes this means that we just be a good neighbor. Other times it might mean we need to pack up our bags and take the gospel to those who don’t have access to it. Or it might mean giving money to someone so they can go. Regardless of what it might be, we serve. And nothing should be considered small for “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).
The hero of mythology descends from the sky, gaining fame and glory through courage, violence, and power. He then dies, His grave becoming a sight of hero worship. Christ defies this cycle. He emerges from the tomb, remaking the world with resurrection power, ascending to heaven because of His humility, His servant leadership. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, the world would never be the same. Those who bow their knee at the foot of the cross admitting the absurdity of their own efforts to be godlike, who confess the chaos and sin within them, now enter into a new way of being–one not driven by striving, agenda, or applause. For these followers of Jesus would be taught to follow this new way of living…service!
(taken from Facing Leviathan by Mark Sayers, location 2235 in Kindle)
Orlando. No longer in our thoughts will it be held as just the city where the most “magical place on earth” dwells. As of last week, it has now become a place where one of the most horrific acts of violence and terrorism has occurred. And this tragic event will forever be etched into our memories.
What happened in Orlando was horrendous. Words cannot describe the pain that is still being felt today by the families and friends of those killed and wounded. We should pray for them and the churches around the Orlando area seeking to be present in the midst of the pain.
The tragedy in Orlando has reminded everyone of how broken our world really is. Newscasters, politicians, and even late night talk show hosts have continued to convey the seriousness of this beastly act of terrorism. Everyone is outraged. Things are truly messed up in our world.
But as tragic as the Orlando event is, it is not the only thing that has occurred this past week that shows how broken our world is. In California, a Stanford swimmer, Brock Turner, was given only a six-month jail sentence for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman. Many are outraged by just a slap on the hand, but what makes it worse is the letter Brock’s dad wrote to Judge Aaron Persky before his son’s sentencing.
In the letter, Dan A. Turner, Brock’s dad, said that since his son was found guilty of sexual assault, he isn’t eating much and is full of worry and anxiety. It’s “a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life,” he argued.
“20 minutes of action!” For the dad, it was just a small mistake. Should it cost his son his future? How could a dad see such a crime as just a few minutes of “action.” Part of the answer could be related to what is known as “rape culture” It is predominately found on college campuses in which date rape becomes something that can be deemed as acceptable. The fact that we have something called “rape culture” is heart breaking. And with the rise of pornography and attitudes of self-entitlement, things look bleak. Our world is broken!
We are broken over the hate crime that occurred in Orlando and we want justice to be served. But I find it a bit funny that in other areas of our culture we are not as concerned about justice being handed out. For me, this is a true sign of our brokenness and our need of a Savior. Thanks be to God that we have one in Him!
We should pray for ALL PEOPLE! No doubt, this is easier said than done, yet we must do so. Consider the words of Paul written to Timothy…
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. (1 Timothy 2:1-6)
As we read these words from Paul, we do well to notice a few things…
First, notice that Paul writes “First of all.” This means “of first importance.” If you are familiar with 1 Timothy, you know that Paul is writing to Timothy to encourage him to deal with the false teachers that have arisen among the church in Ephesus. And the place to start is by returning the times of which they gather together into times of prayer.
Second, Paul wrote that we should pray for ALL PEOPLE. And when he says all people, he means ALL PEOPLE. Did you notice that Paul mentioned authority figures such as kings? It might be tempting for persecuted believers to omit praying for the leaders responsible for their persecution, but Paul puts them first on the list.
Third, Paul specified that the church should pray for peace so that they may live a life honoring to God. In a world of hostility, a life of peace does much to show the goodness of God as believers trust in Him. Paul wanted the church in Ephesus to live lives that demonstrate hope in the midst of potential crises of the day.
And fourth, Paul wanted to make it clear that the reason he was encouraging prayer for all people was because there is only one God for all people who wants all people to be saved. And it is this one God who has given himself as the ransom in which all are to be saved. “It is the fact that Christ died for all men,” writes J.N.D. Kelly, “without any kind of favoritism, that makes it obligatory for Christians to pray for all without distinction.”
So do we PRAY FOR ALL? In a world full of chaos, violence, and terrorism, do we realize that God died for all and therefore, we must pray for even those who seem to us the least likely to deserve God’s grace?
I admit this is hard to do. And yet it is something that I believe if we practice, it will change not only our hearts, but the hearts of those we pray for. Therefore, will you pray for ALL PEOPLE?
In my lifelong study of the Bible I have looked for an overarching theme, a summary statement of what the whole sprawling book is about. I have settled on this: “God gets his family back.” From the first book to the last the Bible tells of wayward children and the tortuous lengths to which God will go to bring them home. Indeed, the entire biblical drama ends with a huge family reunion in the book of Revelation.
(taken from Vanishing Grace by Philip Yancey, p. 51)