From Up High

Recently, I had the pleasure of taking a few days off from work to visit some friends of mine that live in Texas. It was my first time on an airplane in what seems like a long while. Every time I fly, I love to look out the window of the plane. From the air, all the cities, the houses, the roads appear to be so tidy. Everything has it’s proper place. It reminds me of a playset. My favorite part of flying is looking at the city lights below against the black sky. It never fails to get me feeling all whimsical and dreamy. It is a beautiful sight to gaze at the world below from so high up.

Then there is the landing. As you get closer to landing on solid ground, you begin to see that what looked so orderly and picturesque from the air is a little more messy than what you imagined. You can see the dirt, the filth and the grime. You can see the places where there is litter left on the ground, graffiti spray painted on the side of the buildings, and the paint that needs to be touched up. You begin to see broken people in a swirl of confusion and activity just trying to make it from one day to the next.

This time around, my flight taught me something about God, His love and His infinite grace. You see God has the advantage of being able to see things from up high. He sees it all and He knows it all. What you see as a mess, He sees as ordered steps, leading you to His purposes for your life, as you look to Him. From His perspective, all the parts and pieces of our lives are fitted to His plan. Even the things that we mess up, He is able to work out for our good. From His viewpoint, it is easy to see how all things are held together in Him.

But God doesn’t remain up high. This is the beauty of grace. Jesus makes the landing right into the center of our mess. He sees the dirt and the grime and is not intimidated by it. He takes us by the hand and walks us through the details. He is with us through messy times. He whispers into our ears and into our hearts messages of His hope and mercy. This is what the Gospel is all about. When the world was separated from God by wickedness and sin, Jesus took it upon Himself to enter the scene. He made a way where there was no way. He bore the load of guilt and shame, as He hung on the cross, so that we could experience freedom and life and relationship with the Father once again. Jesus made it possible for us to overcome our daily troubles and difficulties and to tap into the vantage point that comes from faith. The more we tap into faith and trust in God, the easier it becomes to see things from God’s perspective. The more we gaze on Jesus, the more evident God’s plans and purposes become in our lives, even in the face of a mess.

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On Being an Open Book

Have you ever had the experience of sharing something about yourself with someone who knew every thing you were going to say before you said it? Have you ever been approached by someone who you barely knew who told you a detail of your life that they couldn’t have known unless they heard it from someone else? Do you ever get the sense that others are paying attention to your life far more than they should? I’m just being real.

This is a big pet peeve of mine, but it shouldn’t be, because I am guilty of this too. In the age of social media, where everything is posted for everyone to see, it’s easy to keep up with what people are doing, even those whom you haven’t actually spoken to in years! Even without social media, there are always going to be those people that know the scoop and dish it to anyone within earshot. And as much as we say we don’t gossip in the church, we all do it from time to time without even realizing it. Why? Because we love a good story. My whole life I have always lived before an audience. No matter how hard I may try to conceal my business, eventually everyone finds out about it. I’m sure many of you can relate.

It’s annoying for sure but I am starting to come at this issue from a different angle. In 2 Corinthians 3:2-3 (MSG), Paul writes, “Your lives are a letter that anyone can read by just looking at you. Christ Himself wrote it- not with ink, but with God’s living Spirit; not chiseled into stone, but carved into human lives-and we publish it.” Your lives are a letter that anyone can read….I am convicted by that.

Instead of spending my time worrying about who is talking about me and what they are saying, it is time for me to realize that my life is meant to be an open book! It is true that I live for an audience of One. I live for Jesus and not for people. My goal is to fix my gaze on Him and to follow where He leads. But it is also true that there will always be people watching my life. People will monitor my decisions. People will hear about things I say and I do. I am realizing that this gives me another avenue to glorify God that I didn’t realize I had. If I make sure that my decisions and my way of relating to people is God honoring than the bystanders and the onlookers are going to see Jesus lifted up in my life. When my life is discussed in my absence, it could be my testimony that they are sharing. The story of God’s goodness in my life can be shared with more people than I could have shared it with myself.

There needs to be a balance of living free from the concern of what people think of me, but also recognizing that anything I do or say may be repeated to someone else. I have to think to myself…are those things worth repeating? As we are encouraged in Matthew 5:16, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in Heaven.” My desire is to pour out my life in such a way that all who know me will know the goodnes, love and mercy of God.

People, it’s time to let our lights shine!

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Church, Are we Making an Impact?

At the beginning of this summer, I became part of a church plant.  Already, the process has been an amazing one.  I can feel the growing pains of transition, as God is calling each of us to step out in faith and to go to deeper levels with Him.  My favorite part of this whole process is that it enables us to dream.  As a team, we get to consider what we want our church culture to really look like.  What values will we stand for?  What will be our mission and our vision?  It’s an incredible honor to be here for the formative stages, to think that later on I’ll be able to say I was there when it all began.

As I have begun to think about all of this, I have considered how my concept of church has changed overtime, especially where it concerns impact.  I used to think that serving in ministry, being in church three or more times a week and filling up my calendar with church related functions and events meant I was making an impact.  Surely, I was doing my part if I was at church every time the doors were open.  But more and more I am realizing that staying within the four walls of the church was actually preventing me from making a bigger impact and seeing more people latch unto the message of the Gospel and begin walking in relationship with Jesus Christ.

Now don’t misunderstand me.  I do believe that having a church you attend and that being connected to a local body of believers is important.  We need to be able to lean and to rely on one another for support and encouragement.  Church gives us a local gathering place where we can worship God as a community and where we can pray and strategize about how we can see the Great Commission fulfilled in our neighborhoods.  I love church and I still serve in ministry.

But make no mistake about it, the people we are striving to reach are outside of the church.

The broken.  The used.  The depressed.  The prisoners in bondage.  The needy.  The desperate.  The hungry.  The anxious.  The ones looking for a way out.  The ones looking for freedom.  The ones looking for hope.  They reside beyond the perimeters of our neat and tidy church buildings.  While a few of them may trickle in here and there for the occasional Sunday service, the majority of them we will never meet unless we take time out of our busy church calendar and go and meet them where they are at.

I took an evangelism course a few years ago that rocked me to my core.  My evangelism professor walked us through the Bible and explained that we are all called to do the work of evangelism.  This challenged me.  Prior to this, I really believed that while some might be called to do evangelism, I was not.  I wasn’t good at it.  It made my heart race and my palms sweat to even think about sharing the Gospel with a total stranger.  I was more comfortable serving the youth group.  I was more comfortable in a prayer meeting.  I was more comfortable going to a worship night.  I thought let’s leave the evangelism stuff to the people who actually enjoy that sort of thing.  That class changed everything for me.  It finally hit me, what is my purpose?  Is it not to actually take part in the Great Commission?  Is it not to see the blind see and prisoners set free (Luke 4:18-19)?  Is it not the same mission as my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10)?  Have the requirements for being a disciple changed?  Was it only for the 11 disciples that Jesus said, “Go and make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19)?” Where is the verse that tells us that fulfilling the Great Commission is only a commandment to the select few?  If we are to be imitators of Christ, shouldn’t we follow Jesus in His singular mission and purpose, to draw the lost and broken back into relationship with the Father?

I believe that the majority of the church believes the same things that I used to believe.  I am going to really step on some toes here, but I think that there is something fundamentally wrong with sitting in a pew every Sunday and never taking the truths of Gospel to the world outside of our churches.  I think there is something fundamentally wrong with standing on a platform week after week after week and yet never sitting down with an unbeliever to share the message of hope that we so frequently proclaim.  I have heard many say that the platform is their ministry, the Bible study is their ministry, the small group is their ministry.  I have heard many say that they are not called to the lost and that there ministry is to other believers. There are reasons why hundreds will gather for a worship night, but only 5 or 10 will show up for a prayer and evangelism outing.  I have been guility of this myself and to be honest it is an easy trap to fall into, but I am hard pressed to find Biblical support for this point of view.  These things may be your ministry, but they are not your mission field.

Church it is not up to our Pastors to reach our neighborhoods and our communities.  It’s up to us.  What kind of impact can we possibly be having if we are unwilling to even share the Gospel with our neighbors?  I am speaking as much to myself, as I am to anyone else.  My challenge to you is this: If you find yourself only surrounded by other Christians, change up your routine.  Find areas to get involved that will put you around people who need hope!  Be intentional about forming relationships with people who don’t look like you, act like you or believe like you.  Get to know them, hear their stories, build trust and share the hope, joy, light and love of Christ with them.  

I am no expert at this.  I have learned over time how to earn an A+ as a church kid.  It’s a role I know how to play well.  But I am just in the beginning stages of learning what it looks like to actually  take the Gospel to the streets, to the people that need it the most.  But I am ready to take on the adventure.  I cannot and will not continue to do church as usual any longer.  I’ll end with this:

But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in Him?  And how can they believe in Him if they have never heard about Him?  And how can they hear about Him unless someone tells them?  And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent?  That is why the scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news.” (Romans 10:14-15)

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