Faith, Hope, and Love

I was reading the Scriptures the other day and ran across this verse… again. It struck me in a new light.

1 Thess. 1:3

We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Paul is writing to the church in Thessalonica. This verse is part of the introduction or salutation of the letter. Here, Paul is reminiscing with them about the good works that God has done in and through them as a church.

I think there is something that we can learn today from this verse:

I’ve been in kind of a weird place here recently in my life. I’ve recently stepped away from a leadership position in a church so that I can better hear God’s leading. This time has had its good times and it’s not so good times as well. God has revealed new things about Himself and my purpose as His follower, but I’ve also experienced quite a bit of doubts and frustrations. Through new realizations there have been new questions that have arrived.

My mind is constantly taken back to the end of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Where Jesus basically said, if you want to know God- seek Him and He will reveal Himself to you. I’ve blogged about this in the past:  https://guitarchrsbll.wordpress.com/2010/05/31/the-narrow-gate/.

I feel like God is constantly reminding me to remember Him and remember the hope that I have inside- the faith that will drive me.

So, to today’s verse

This brings be back to the verse I gave at the beginning of this blog. There, Paul is reminded of all the great things that God had done through the Church in Thessalonica, and he wants to remind them of this as well.

He says three individual things about the driving Force that they have inside of them, that I would like to bring to you attention.

1) Christian good work is produced through Faith.

As a follower of Christ, I am called to good works. These good works are not my own, because they do not come from me. They are produced by faith. Faith is what not only affects my life, but it affects the lives of others.

I believe that the Bible teaches us to live, not for ourselves, but for the glory of God and to love others more than ourselves.

If you are anything like me, loving others- including God- more than myself is a hard task. “Myself” is what wants to lead. My inward desires are in complete opposition to the good work that God calls me to. That is why I desperately need faith, because faith is what produces good work.

2) Christian labor (mission) is prompted by Love.

So, faith produces good work, but what makes us even want to do good works? I believe John gives us this answer. In 1 John 4:8, it says, “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.”

Love is what prompts us to do good works, because God is love. John tells us that whoever lives in love lives in God, and God lives in them.

I don’t know about you, but I want to live in God!

Later in 1 John, it tells us that God displayed His love for us in a special way- Jesus on the cross. So, for Christian labor (mission) to happen it must happen because of love. It must happen because Love first met us and showed us what true love is; then we are able to pursue labor (mission).

3) Christian endurance is inspired through Hope in the Lord- Christ.

I get tired from time to time, and it is in those times that I seem to lose sight of the purpose of everything. But it is also in those times that I am inspired to get back up again and continue. The thing that inspires me, and probably many of you, is Hope.

Hope picks us up again, hope endures, and hope is what keeps us going. Let me explain this concept with a story:

When I was a kid, I got made fun of a lot. I felt that I couldn’t amount to much of anything. Now, if you’ve ever studied psychology, you’ll notice that most people around the world feel this way. But you’ll also notice that many of those people actually give up on life- they take their life.

They give up on life, because they’ve lost all hope that things will get better. They’ve decided that things will never change and therefore, they have no reason to go on.

I almost reached this place when I was a kid. I almost lost all hope. I almost gave up.

But it was Hope that pulled me through. It was hope that picked me back up again. It is hope that continues to drive me.

Paul is telling us that it is hope that produces endurance!

Wrapping this all up…

Let me wrap all of this up for you. Paul is teaching us that there is more to this world, than what we can see, taste, and touch. He is telling us that there is something that is so much more important. But the cool thing about all of this is we already know this!

We already know that “some things just can’t be explained.” Love is an example: What causes us to love someone? Is it simply an emotion/feeling or is it something more?

Poets and musicians alike tell us that it is love that holds the world together and love that unifies all living things.

If this is true, then 1 John 4 teaches us that it is God that holds all things together. It is God that unifies.

A closing thought

I want to end by leaving you with one more thing to think on. In the 1 Thess. verse there is one major thing that stands out; and that is that we are not in control, or we are not the source of faith, hope, and love. Faith, hope, and love are given by an outside source and we are but mere recipients of their fruit.

This give me Hope in this time. When my unending questions find no answer, I am still able to continue because of the Hope that is inside me drives me forward. I trust that God has a plan for my future, and for yours, not because I see it coming, but because I have hope!

7 Practices of Missional Churches

 

Before I get started, I want to give the basic definition of the word missional that I will be using in this blog. Missional simply means every member of a local church body living as missionaries in their geography. The members of a missional church understand that they are no longer part of their geography, even though they may live there. They view their surroundings through a biblical lense of Chist-like values. They are able to distinguish what parts of their surrounding geography needs Christ and are able to discover a practical way to meet that need in a culturally relevant way.

The church has many practices, sacraments, and traditions, but not all of which are missional in nature. In this blog post, I hope to share with you 7 common practices of the misional church.

1) Target Driven

When most contemporary churches think of “target driven,” they usually associate the idea with reaching a specific group of people- boomers, busters, millennials, or postmoderns to name a few. However, that is not the idea that missional church embraces. This idea is that local congregations are positioned in specific geographies for the specific purpose of every man, woman, and child within that geography having the opportunity to see, hear, and understand the gospel of Jesus Christ. Instead of the churches in a geography thinking inwardly about themselves, they begin with an outward approach that embraces the idea that “the church in a geography exists for that geography.” Thus, the concept of “circles of accountability” are embraced by missional churches. This is the idea of the specific churches in any given locality taking ownership of their surrounding geography in such a way that they engage mission within it by using all of their God given energy and resources.

2) Interdependant Leadership

The overarching metaphor for the Church in the New Testament is that of a body. There are other metaphors for the Church, but the concept of a body seems to be the most prevalent. This body already has a head- Jesus Christ. Since the position of head is already taken, it is important that all followers of Jesus take their place in the body in an interdependent manner.

Leadership is more properly associated with function that with the individual themselves. Ephesians 4 notes the leadership functions that should be operating in the church to see it come to full maturity (apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher). The people fulfilling these functions work together in a place to empower people to engage the mission in the given geography.

3) Measurable Values

The Church is a spiritual enterprise, not an organization of members. Therefore, it must be led and populated by spiritually maturing people. If the goal of a congregation is to mobilize people for mission, then it is extremely important that these same people be maturing in their faith. Mobilizing spiritually stagnant people will NOT produce much missional progress. A congregation should be committed to measuring and nurturing some “outcomes” of spiritual maturity so that the heart of people is formed more into the likeness of Christ, and therefore, by default, formed more into the mission of Christ for their geography and the world.

These basic “outcomes” of spiritual maturity are:

  1. A deepening intimacy with God through Jesus Christ.
  2. An understanding of personal stories of salvation, with the culturally relevant ability to share that story with others.
  3. The identification and use of the Holy Spirit’s gift’s to the believer.
  4. Living in life with others in a way that bears the fingerprints of God, through biblical community and accountability.

4) Laterally Postured

In missional churches, the emphasis is not on the building of earthly empires, but on the expansion of God’s Kingdom over a geography. So, while God will grow local congregations larger, He will also initiate the multiplication of many new congregations as well. One look at the book of Acts reminds us that church planting is not a principle to be learned, but an assumption of an activity that is already taking place. As the gospel is proclaimed and demonstrated in an area, there will be people that need to be formed into local communities of faith, so that they can grow spiritually and engage their individual activity in the mission of God.

5) People Empowerment

The Apostle Paul’s treatment of the nature and purpose of the Church, in his letter to the Ephesians, gives the reader a very clear understanding of the job of church leadership- the empowerment or equipping of people. In Ephesians 4, Paul tells the church to understand that whatever God is going to do in their given geography, and the world, He wants to accomplish through all of His people, not just a select few. We are all part of Christ’s body and it is God’s desire that all of His people be mobilized in His mission to reconcile the world.

6) Partnerships with other Churches

The way that the local congregation at Antioch related to the congregation is Jerusalem should be the normal expression of a mission church (Acts 11-15). Unity, according to Paul in Ephesians 4, is not something that we must work to create between congregations, but rather is what we are to preserve! The idea is that unity already exists between congregations who embrace Jesus as Lord, and therefore, must move from just saying that they are unified to acting like it as well. The missional church works alongside other churches to fulfill the mission no matter any small differences, as long as Christ is the unifying factor.

7) Intentionally Focused Somewhere else in the World

Telescopes make what is far away and general seem very close-up and specific. That is what missional churches do in their desire to impact the world- they distribute their resources, abilities, and personnel to work toward mission in a specific global geography. Rather than the old paradigm of giving a few extra dollars into as many places as possible and thus dissolving the impact, the missional church engages in meaningful, specific, long term joint ventures in global regions to serve in mission in that geography as well as their own locality.

Conclusion

Please feel free to push back on any of the previous practices. To learn more about the missional church check out http://www.theinfinityalliance.com and http://www.Acts29network.org .

The Christian Bubble: Part 2

In this blog, I want to continue the discussion of the Church bubble that occurs in many Christian’s lives. In Dan Kimball’s book They Like Jesus But Not The Church, he explains how new believers enter the Church passionate for the lost, but soon become stagnate and loose interest in mobilizing their faith for the sake of seeing new people come to know Christ. Dan outlines 4 phases that research has proven and he has seen through years of experience- I intend to sum up these phases for you.

Phase 1: We become Christians

Can you remember back to when you first placed your faith in Jesus and understood the grace of God? Do you remember what it was like to share your new experience with your non-Christian friends? Most likely, your sharing was natural, since you were friends not strangers.

In this first phase, we are excited to share our new found faith and what God has done for us to everyone around us. We are unashamed of the Gospel because it has just changed our lives. We are passionate about Jesus, because we have just met Him. And we most-likely have the largest circle of non-Christian friends at this point, because we have just accepted Christ.

Statistics show that within the first year of someone becoming a Christian, they tell approx 20 people, from among their family and friends, about their faith and even invite them to church.

Phase 2: We become part of church life

As we get involved in church, we make Christian friends and participate in church activities with them. If we came from backgrounds where substance abuse or partying is the norm, we cease going into environments where we could get pulled into harmful patters again, thought we might still hang out with our non-Christian friends in healthy environments or social settings. But in any case, we tend to slowly lose touch with non-Christian friends and become more immersed in Christian activity with our new Christian friends.

The longer we are Christian, the fewer number of friends we have who are not Christians. Even though Christians often work alongside non-Christians or have non-Christian neighbors or sit next to nonbelieving students in class, we generally tend no to actually befriend them, or pray regularly for them, or get involved in their lives so they trust us and we can be the salt and light of Jesus to them.

A question for you: Who did you go to the movies with this past Friday? or Who did you go to Carowinds with last? or Who do you talk to the most via Facebook, text, or email?

I’m willing to bet that you went with some Christians from the same church or you spend most of your time with people from church.

The flip-side: Don’t get me wrong! I understand that we need other Christian friendships- we need friends that will hold us accountable to what we say we believe and how help hold us up in our faith, but we must maintain Christian community in the midst of being on mission for Christ!

Phase 3: We become part of the Christian bubble

In phase 3 things change alot! As we have slowly withdrawn from ongoing relationships with those outside the church and focus relationships inside the church, something happens- we loose touch with non-Christians. We forget what it was like to not believe or not know of Christ! Once, it was more natural and even exciting to share life with people at work or at school, with relatives, or with neighbors. But slowly we begin to see evangelism as something the church does, primarily through events. We get more excited about going overseas to the “mission field”  than about the mission field that we live in every day!

We start to see evangelism as inviting people to “come to church,” where the pastor will do the evangelizing and explain Christianity, instead of spending time with people and “being the church” to them. (Just a note: spending time with people, sharing the Bible with them, will inevitably cause you to study the Bible harder, which will cause you to grow in your faith!)

Dan continues to point out that during this phase “we tend to stop praying daily for those who don’t know Jesus and instead start praying for our church’s latest building project or latest program. We rarely ever hang out with anyone who doesn’t believe the same as we do, then it happens- we start buying little Christian bumper stickers or metal fish symbols for our cars, we wear our Christian T-shirts, watch our Christian TV shows, listen to our Christian Radio stations, and make trips to our favorite amusement parks to indulge in the special Christian day they have each year featuring our favorite Christian bands. we find ourselves regularly using Christian words and phrases and cliches, such as backsliding, prayer warrior, fellowship, quiet time, traveling mercies, and praise reports.”

In this phase the transformation is complete; we have successfully become citizens of the bubble.

Phase 4: We become Jonah

After several years as citizens of the bubble, we begin to complain and point out the terrible things happening in the culture. Like Jonah, who ran away when God told him to go to the wicked city of Ninevah, we don’t want anything to do with those who aren’t following God as we are. Like Jonah, we even have a secret sense of delight thinking about how God will one day punish all those sinners in our towns and cities. We then start to complain, just like Jonah did, about not having shade over our head and being uncomfortable; we complain about how well the church is providing what we want and grow numb to the fact that people all around us need the love and grace of Jesus.

Then it happens- we become completely content living in our little Christian subculture as citizens of the bubble, but we don’t even know it because everyone in our social circle is also in the bubble…

Conclusion

It’s a sad, sad story the previous paragraphs. As I sit here reading and writing my heart is grieved because of the knowledge that we have created something so counter Christ. When I realized that I was a citizen of this bubble that Dan talks about, I was broken. How could this have happened!? How could I have wondered so far down the wrong path!? I felt lost. I felt convicted. I felt the heart of Christ…

I can’t help but think of Jesus prayer for his disciples: “My prayer is not that You take them out of the world but that You protect them from the evil one.” (John 17:15) Jesus didn’t pray that we be isolated from those outside the Church, He didn’t pray that we be happy and content living inside the Church listening to our favorite worship band on our iPod, but Jesus seemed concerned that His followers  not isolate themselves from the world around them. He was concerned that we understand that evil is real and that we should be aware of the schemes of evil (2 Cor. 2:11).

So, are you consumed with the “Christian Bubble?” Can you honestly say that you have people outside of you belief system that you are trying to befriend? Do you view mission as an event of the church, or the calling each and every member of the church?

I hope that these two blogs challenge you in a new way, to look at yourself and see how much “churchiness” may be hindering your love for non-Christians.

 

The Christian Bubble: Part 1

I grew up in the American Church system. I knew all of the churchy words and things to say to make myself look “righteous,” but little did I know that no one is righteous according to Scripture. I slowly learned that all of my good deeds inside of the church was making absolutely no impact on the lost world around me. I noticed that I, along with hundreds of other people just like me, were actually building something that was starting to look an awfully like a social club full of fat, selfish club members.

I wanted to share this concept with you, in hopes that it will challenge you to scrutinize your Christian walk. I believe that many times, we Christians, separate ourselves so much from the world that we are no longer capable of sharing Jesus with anyone- kind of like salt that has lost its flavor. But on the other hand, I believe that we have taken Christ’s message to an extreme in many cases, causing the call to be “not of the world” to the extreme of not even being part of it either!

So, to challenge you, I am giving you a short excerpt from Dan Kimball’s book, “They Like Jesus, but not the Church.” If these next few blogs interest you, I strongly suggest you get a copy of this book and read it. I read this book over a six month span, looking at my own life and the calling that Jesus placed on His Church. I noticed some inconsistencies in myself that needed confession and change, therefore, I share this with you in hopes that God would do the same in your life. I hope you enjoy!

“Have you ever noticed that once you begin thinking about buying a particular model of car, suddenly you start seeing it all over the place? It had been out all along, but you hadn’t noticed it before. This is what happened to me. As I began looking around, all I saw was Christian paraphernalia. People carrying Christian end-times novels with them everywhere, more than the Bible itself usually. People putting chrome fish emblems on their cars. While driving on the highway, I was a minivan that had two larger parent Christian fish emblems and two smaller children fish emblems on it. I wondered what that looks like to people who have no idea what the fish symbol means. They must think, “That family must be seriously into aquatic life.” Why are we compelled to put those on our cars in the first place? You can see all types of bumper stickers on Christian’s cars warning people, “In case of rapture, this car will be unmanned.” Maybe you have seen the rather funny rebuttal bumper sticker: “In case you get raptured, can I have you car?” I can’t blame them for saying that! We have created so many little Christian products and trinkets that you just look so bizarre from an outside perspective. The more I looked around, the weirder it all looked.

Then I began noticing what most of us talk about. Generally it’s the latest Christian band or concert or what’s happening at church. As I recognized that we really only socialize with our Christian friends, I also recognized that overall, we are complacent about those outside the church. We aren’t thinking about their eternal destiny. We aren’t concerned about whether they’re experiencing the abundant life Jesus offers. We are more concerned about whether there will be good snow on our church skiing trip than about the spiritual status of our neighbors and the people we work with every day. I became aware that I didn’t hear much concern about those who don’t know Jesus yet. We are all about making church better for ourselves and making our lives more comfortable in the Christian bubble we have created. I didn’t hear much about being a voice for the voiceless or being concerned with social justice, the poor, AIDS in Africa, and other pressing needs. (I am thankful that since then the church does seem to be awakening to the AIDS epidemic and other global issues of social justice, but we still have a long way to go.) As I was awakening to the subculture I had been sucked into and was a part of, I heard and saw Christian buzzwords and phrases that suddenly sounded so incredibly corny, phrases such as “food, fellowship, and fun.” And most disturbing was that when we do talk about the non-Christian world, we tend to point fingers and complain about the “horrible things going on in culture.”

I didn’t hear too much heartbreak for people outside the church among church leaders either. Church leaders are mainly dealing with complaints about last week’s sermon or complaints that the music wasn’t good enough, along with threats that people might go to another church where these things are better. When church leaders feel pressure from this kind of complaining, naturally the focus becomes having better programs, music, and activities to keep the people in their churches. Pastors face subtle pressure from Christian parents to have good youth programs to make sure that their kids stay away from the bad non-Christian kids and have the opportunity to meet other Christians. The whole thing feeds itself, isolating us from the outside world. It feels like we’re building this social, spiritual, and consumeristic infrastructure, and Christians are only demanding more of it, building a stronger and thicker bubble around us, protecting us from the outside while we create this very strange Christian subculture inside. But it had happened to me so slowly that I hadn’t even noticed it.”

Writers Bio:

This is an excerpt from the book “They Like Jesus But Not the Church,” Written by pastor Dan Kimball. Dan is the author of several books, including “The Emerging Church” and “Emerging Worship.” Dan is a pastor at Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, California.

Bibliography:

Dan Kimball, They Like Jesus but not the Church, Zondervan, Grand Rapids: MI, 2007.

Pgs. 40-42

Free Your Mind

The above clip is from the 1999 movie “The Matrix.” This is one of my favorite movies of all time. Many people do not know this, but the films original storyboard was based on a loose interpretation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I think this film has tons of spiritual implications, but we will only discuss one of them today.

Question:

Do you ever hope that there is more to this life?

I do, all the time! I hope that God exists; I hope that God’s plans are sovereign; I hope that God’s plans are good; I hope that my life has a distinct plan; etc. The list goes on.

I wonder a lot about the future- what it will look like, how I will look, etc. I believe that we learn from our pasts, but our futures shape our hearts. What I mean is this: we learn from our past. We learn what to do, what not to do, what we are good at, and what we are not good at. But the future is where our hope lies. We long to know what’s next, who will be there with us, and how long it will take to get there. I believe that it is in those longings, we become who we were meant to be. I believe that it is in those longings God reveals Himself.

Faith

In Hebrews chapters 10 and 11, the significance of faith is revealed to us. Chapter 11 verses 1-2 gives us the definition: “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. Through their faith, the people of old earned a good reputation.” NLT

The author, then, continues by leaving us an extensive list of the OT patriarchs and the example of their faith.

Back to the clip

In the clip, Morpheus told Neo that he would have to free his mind in order to leap from one building to the next. As we saw from the clip, Neo didn’t make the jump, but fell to the street.

I can’t help but wonder if this concept is what the Bible is hinting at in its discussion of faith. The “people of old” apparently had great faith and because of that great faith they were able to accomplish some amazing tasks, such as: be taken into heaven without death, start a new nation, have a child when the womb is barren, lead hundreds of people out of the captivity of Egypt, split the Red Sea, and to destroy a city with only marching and horns.

As seen in Hebrews, faith grants God’s people the ability to accomplish amazing tasks.

But there’s a down side to it: No faith=no action. I believe that the author of Hebrews intentionally leaves out the countless stories of people who didn’t have faith for a reason- that reason being they don’t add too much to the grand story of the Bible. I mean, who wants to read about a bunch of people who did the average thing? Who wants to follow in the footsteps of the person who did only mediocre? I know I don’t!

The society we live in tells us that things can only be accomplished by measurable statistics or scientific norms. I can’t seem to give in so easily to this idea. I can’t do so, because my life has been filled with the opposite of the norm.

I have experienced countless moments of doubt on the behalf of others. I have been told time and time again that I “can’t do that.” But every time, God has made a way through. If statistics are always correct then I am the abnormality. If the statistics were correct in my life, I should be a lot farther down the social ladder than I am. To put it another way, my nurturing should have produced different.

I believe that this is because of faith. Faith is what drives my longings for the future. Faith is what gives me hope for the future. Faith is what gives my life purpose in the present. Faith is what gives me strength to carry on in the hard times. And, I am where I am here and now, because I have faith in someone who is not seen and that someOne has given me the strength to do the impossible.

But as you noticed from the clip, “no one makes the first jump.” My faith has been rocked on more than a couple of times. I’ve stepped out into the unknown with the hopes that God would provide and ended up at a dead-end; only to turn back around and go right back to where I didn’t want to go. Those moments have left me with questions, but not doubt.

Questions prevent us from doing stupid things, doubt cripples us from doing anything. I’ve acquired quite a few questions along the way, but so far I haven’t been crippled.

Final Thought

Faith is freeing your mind to the things unseen. Believing that the impossible is possible through means that are outside of yourself.

When you find that place of faith, you’ll be able to leap the largest gap, fight the strongest villain, and find the purest of loves.

Like a fire shut up in my bones…

“There’s a cry in my heart,

For Your glory to fall,

For Your presence to fill up my senses.

There’s a yearning again,

A thirst for discipline,

A longing for things that are deeper.

Can you take me beyond?

Could you carry me through?

If I opened my heart,

Could I go there with You?

For I’ve been there before,

Yet I know there’s still more.

Oh Lord I need to know You.”

I love the song “There’s a cry in my heart.” It’s recently become one of my favorite songs.

I love this song because it speaks directly to the longings in my heart. It’s as if there is a fire burning deep within me that pushes me forward to things unseen.

Do you remember the story of Jeremiah?

Jeremiah is often called the “weeping prophet.” He’s called this because God called him to a task that seemed impossible and many times he was left weeping because the people were unresponsive to the message he had to proclaim.

There’s a part of his story that is heart breaking, yet leaves you with a strange desire for the same thing. In this part of his story, Jeremiah is pleading with God about the call that has been given him. He cry’s out to God in anger saying, “Whenever I speak, I cry out, I shout, ‘Violence and destruction!’” Jeremiah was given the job of calling the God’s people to repentance and the people didn’t want to repent, therefore Jeremiah was frustrated.

But the next line is what catches my heart: Jeremiah says, “If I say, ‘I will not mention Him or speak anymore of His name,’ there is in my heart a burning fire shut up in my bones, I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot!

God gave Jeremiah a burning passion down deep in his heart, and he couldn’t hold it in!

I feel that God has given me a similar burning down deep in my bones. I feel it constant. I wish I could be rid of it, but it’s divinely inspired. And it drives me forward.

I grow weary at times, because I feel as if I have to hold it in, but I cannot!

Is it the Spirit or am I going nuts?

Have you ever had the strange desire to proclaim Christ at the top of your lungs in public places? I have…

This has happened several times at random coffee shops and book stores that I have been at. The desire always follows some amazing revelation from the Word.

I can remember a time that I was at a local coffee shop in town, and I had been preparing for a lesson that I was to teach my students later that day. I can remember reading some verses and having the overwhelming feeling that I was supposed to stand and proclaim Christ to the four people sitting around me.

I know this sounds a little crazy. If I were to stand up and start reading from the Word or preaching something on my heart, I would probably get kicked out and not asked to return by the management. Or worse, people could think I’m crazy!

Like I said, I know this sounds a little strange, but I can’t help but wonder if it’s the Spirit inside of me trying to burst out? I can’t help but wonder if this is this kind of like that burning fire that Jeremiah said was shut up in his bones?

I can relate to Jeremiah’s frustration in growing weary of holding it in. As I sit quietly, my spirit aches and my heart breaks with the knowledge that those around me may very well go to Hell not hearing the message God has for them.

Conclusion

If I’ve said this many times, I’m going to say it again, “I’m not sure what the future holds, but I have to find out!” If this burning in my bones is God, then the only appropriate response is a reckless abandonment of the present for a passionate pursuit of the future. Whatever God has in store will be exciting, and if it is God’s, it will bring His name the glory!

Reckless Abandonment

Standing atop a rock deep in the woods. The sounds of birds chirping in the distance. A light breeze blowing across my face. I stand there, arms spread wide and red cape (Mom’s new red towel) flapping in the wind. “I am Superman!” I cry out. I close my eyes, lean forward, and jump!

Then it happens… the most amazing thing happens… Reckless abandonment happens…

Today

Today marks the first day of my reckless abandonment.

As I sit here and write, my mind is reminded of the disciples decision to leave their nets and follow Jesus. I understand that my decision to step out on faith is quit different in subject, but I’m not too certain it is any different in the realm of  faith. I’m not stepping away from a great paying job, with great benefits, a 401k, and prestige. But I am stepping into the unknown, learning to trust God is a new situation.

Matthew 4:18-20

One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew—throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed him.”

I’ve imagined what it was like for the disciples to walk away from the fishing boat to pursue another kind of fishing. I’d imagine their hearts were filled with excitement, curiosity, and even a little nervousness.

Context

Now I understand that it was every little boys dream in ancient cultures to follow a Rabbi. For them it was kinda like getting a full ride to a five-star college. They would have been extremely excited to get this opportunity. So dropping their nets may or may not have been a very hard thing to do.

I can relate to their initial excitement and nervousness, as I recall similar feelings when I left for school in 2005. In light of $30,000 of students loans I knew I would receive, I knew that God was calling me to something extraordinary- something I’d never experienced until that point. I would be the first in my immediate family to go to college!

Everything worked out in the end, God provided a substantial amount of money to pay off most of the loans; and God let me meet my beautiful wife there. But, He also taught me something in the process- following Him may not always makes sense at the time, but it’s always worth while!

Today those feelings have returned as I step out into the unknown in reckless pursuit of what God has been doing in my heart.

I’m sure the disciples had no idea what to expect following this new Rabbi. I’m sure they had no idea the things they would learn along the way. I’m also sure they had no idea the trials they would face, as  they traded their old fishing equipment for a new kind of spiritual fishing equipment.

Clarification

A cool think to notice in this story is that the disciples didn’t change from being fishermen; the only thing that changed was what they were fishing for. Jesus said, “Follow me and I’ll show you how to be fishers of men.”

I know that I may be stretching the significance of this passage a little, but understand what I’m trying to say. The disciples left one calling in life for a new one that Jesus placed before them. They left one occupation that had proven results, an occupation they were comfortable with, an occupation they knew, to chase a new destination that was somewhat unknown.

I wonder what was going through their heads when Jesus asked them to be fishers of men: “I wonder what this fishing for men thing is like? It sounds a little crazy, don’t you think? I wonder if I can even do it? I’m curious, I’m going for it!”

Reckless Abandon

When I began this blog today, I started with a story of little boy tying to fly. That little boy was me. I tried to fly a lot- even though I never seemed to master it.

I feel kind of like I just stepped off that rock in the woods again. I’m flying for a brief moment- waiting for the ground to arrive back under my feet- only to land again, being changed by the experience.

When I think about my life in association with that of the original disciples, I can’t help but wonder the difference.

From the outside looking in, people may have said, “They are crazy! Why would they give up a great position like that?” But let’s think about the significance of the situation: If they didn’t go when asked, they would have  not only been disobedient, but they would have missed out on the opportunity of a lifetime! The opportunity to experience God’s new work first hand. The experience of seeing Jesus do the impossible.

Now, I’ve seen Jesus do the impossible in my life before; and let me add that it was awesome! But seeing Jesus do one miracle isn’t enough for me, I want to continue seeing Jesus do the amazing. I’d imagine that’s the same way the disciples felt during the course of those three years before Christ’s death. It didn’t matter what came their way, or what they would have to sacrifice along the way, all that mattered was seeing Jesus in action!

This is how I honestly feel- I want to see Jesus the impossible again!

I want to run with my eyes closed, I want to jump without knowing where I land, I want to recklessly abandon the known for the unknown- because I want to see Jesus do amazing things!

Conclusion

Pretending to fly was an invigorating experience as a kind. It was in those times that we felt most alive. It was because of those experiences that we felt the most changed.

We felt so alive because we stepped out on faith, knowing that God would see us safely home at the end of the day. We felt the most changed from those experiences because we saw God do just that- see us safely home!

God is a big God and calls us to big tasks. I’m grateful for the opportunity to see God do the impossible. I’m excited to get to experience His love in a new way. And I trust that my landing will be soft and I will be changed for it.