Stand firm, act like men. Do all in … what?

Yesterday when reading the Bible I came across one of my favorite Bible verses. In 1 Corinthians Paul is trying to encourage the church and he says something that many men’s Bible studies have memorized.

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. (‭1 Corinthians ‭16‬:‭13‬ ESV)

This is an awesome verse. I can just see someone like William Wallace, a great warrior, standing in front of an army while waiting to be ambushed.

Face painted, looking fierce, walk back and forth in front of his army. Trying to encourage his men and give them the courage to stand through the night he starts to shout. “Be watchful,” he says, staring the men in the eyes as he passes by them in the chill night air. “Stand firm in faith,” he says, “act like men!” Then pulling out his claymore and pointing it towards the direction of the enemy army he yells “Be strong!”

You can hear the strength in his voice and all of the men shout, feeling fearless as they follow this warrior.

This is just such a great passage that really encourages men to stand apart, not to fall, and be warriors. Don’t fall into pornography, it’s a trap! Be watchful of your actions, of what your eyes wonder too. Watch what your family does and stand strong for them. Lead them. Because this is what a man is supposed to do!

And then I read the next verse and it kind of shattered this whole image of William Wallace.

Let all that you do be done in love. (‭1 Corinthians ‭16‬:‭14‬ ESV)

For some reason I just can’t see any strong warrior shouting this at the end of their battle cry. As men, we love to be strong, watchful, courageous. These are qualities we look up to in others and hope to have in ourselves.

But love? That doesn’t describe a warrior. You don’t see Navy SEALS talking about love. So why is Paul putting these statements together?

God obviously thinks that loving others is of supreme importance. Jesus tells us to love our enemie (Matthew 5:44) and tells us that loving God, and loving others, are the two greatest commandments (Matthew 22:36-40).

Then God gives us the ultimate example of love in the cross, where God did not conquer evil, but gave His only Son to die in the place of those who are rebelling against Him. Why? As John 3:16 says, Because God so loved.

Paul makes it clear that it doesn’t matter how faithful of a follower of God you are, or how awesome of a warrior you are, if you don’t have love and act out of love then you are nothing.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. (‭1 Corinthians ‭13‬:‭1-3‬ ESV)

Trying to live our daily lives interacting with so many people is tough. We get short with our spouses because, often times because of pride. We start to get frustrated or angry at our kids, neighbors, or coworkers. And yet these very people are our mission field. We are called to be Christ to them. To love them.

In every interaction, no matter how difficult it is, we are told to love them.

Be strong, Christian brother. Stay strong in faith. Be watchful and ever vigilant. Act like men, and let all that you do be done in love.

Blending in with the culture

In the previous articles in this series we talked about why we do not view where we live with the same focus and intensity as we do when we go to other countries for missions because we spend all of our time focused on making this life our home.  But why do we do that?

The reason we get so sucked into the comfort of this world is because we have adopted the philosophy and ideals of our culture. In many ways we have become part of the world.  What is it we do that sets us apart from non-believers?

Every year hundreds of billions of dollars are spent in advertising; just to tell you why having those Nike’s will make you run better, why you need the latest iPhone (or Android) or how Coca-Cola will refresh you more than any other drink.  They spend that much money because it works.  We are bombarded with those images every single day while we try to entertain ourselves with television and then we get obsessed about needing the next new thing.

But in order to get all that fancy stuff you need to make more money, which means spending more time going to school for that better degree and working overtime.  You spend all this time dwelling on these obsessions and it steals our thoughts and our time away from the family and away from our mission, the gospel.

Then we get hindered even more because we don’t want to share the gospel with those we work with because someone might get offended and we will get in trouble which means no raise this year or even loosing your job.

Welcome to the American Dream.

The American Dream is a vicious cycle that we get ourselves trapped in.  We have fun with all of the latest stuff but then it catches up to us.  I got so caught up with this trap that I had to borrow money to buy more stuff because I did not want to wait a few months to get my iPad or a second car with cash.  Now I have to work just to pay off the credit cards and loans from things I purchased in the past that I do not even use anymore because I replaced them with other things I bought with yet more borrowed money.

And then we think nothing about it because the rest of the culture is the same way.  Even the culture of the church is caught in this trap.

But while you or your church and your pastor may not think much of that lifestyle, God is offended by it.  God even goes as far as calling those who do live like society enemies of the Cross.

For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. – Phillipians 3:17-19

By focusing on the things of this world instead of God you are not just failing to do what is best, but you are being an enemy to Christ, to His mission, and to the cross.  Christ came for a mission and if you are so distracted by the things of this world that you are ignoring those around you that are dying, then you have become an enemy to that gospel.

You can’t be in the middle, there is no neutral position, we are either For Christ or against Him (Luke 11:23) and this verse in Philippians 3 makes it clear that we are really seen as the enemy of the cross.

You will, of course, deny that you are the enemy of Christ, I mean, who would admit that?  Unless you are an atheist who directly opposes God you would not consider yourself an enemy of God.

But then look at the rest of the passage.  Does that describe you?

“Their god is their stomach”… Do you care more about what you eat and drink than you do about serving Christ?  Does eating and drinking consume more of your time than you give to God?

“Their glory is in their shame” really hit me.  How many times have you bragged about something and found joy in something that, in comparison to God, you should be ashamed of?

“I got so drunk last night I don’t remember what happened.”
“She’s hot. I would sleep with her.”
“Check out this new beamer I got. Only $500 per month.”
“Last Saturday we had a Lord of the Rings marathon… It literally lasted all day”

How  many of these things that we brag about would we, or should we, be ashamed of if we thought about bragging about it to God in light of our mission?

Simon Cowell at the National Television Awards...
Simon Cowell at the National Television Awards at the Royal Albert Hall, London, October 2006. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I boasted for a while that I got to meet Simon Cowell (You know, from American Idol).  I would tell everybody that I met that I thought would be slightly interested.  “Hey there guard on the military base, did you know I got to meet Simon Cowell?  Yeah, I did! Met him in a hotel hallway, I even got my picture taken with him!”

Yeah, I was so proud of that moment…

And then God whispered to me “Why are you not this excited to tell people about me?”

None of that stuff is wrong in itself but they shouldn’t be what we are proud of or things we really find joy in.  We should be boasting in Christ because we are sinners and honestly we have nothing worthy of boasting about outside of Christ.

Next time you want to brag about something, think about bragging to God about it.  Is it something that you should be ashamed of in light of His holiness and perfection?

Then the final part of that passage I know hits me hard, and almost all of our culture as well.  “Their mind is set on earthly things.”

What is your mind set on?  Do you spend your time dwelling on things of this earth, or on God and His mission?

This ties back to the beginning of this article series.  If you are in Africa on a missions trip you are focused completely on the gospel, on your mission, on others.  When we get back home our mindset changes back to “normal” and we focus only on the things of this earth.

That shouldn’t be.  Our minds should always be on Christ and on the gospel, on our mission, nothing else matters even a tiny bit in comparison.

Am I saying that you are not allowed to have any fun on earth at all, and that our life needs to be nothing but witnessing on the streets, going to church, and living with the bums on the street and if I sit down to watch one movie I am being an enemy of God?

Well….

Find out in the next article on this series. 🙂

The Problem with Getting too Comfortable

In the previous article we discussed how we do not need to go to other countries to do missions, but that our mission field is right here, where we live and work and spend our day to day life.  But we don’t see the area we live in as our mission field.

Why is that?

Taylor Mansion
Taylor Mansion (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I think the main reason we see this as not being our mission field is because we have made this our home. We have put a lot of time and effort into making this a safe and comfortable place to live where we can sit back and relax from the stresses of life.

But our citizenship is in heaven – Phillipians 3:20

We have forgotten that the earth is not our home.  As Christians our residence is in heaven, not on earth.  Our time on earth is just a temporary stopping point where we focus on our mission before heading home.

We are citizens of heaven, not of earth, not of the U.S., not of the middle class lifestyle, but of heaven.

But instead of living for the mission we forget about it because we get comfortable and distracted in the business and entertainment of our day to day life.

When I was in the Navy I would travel for weeks or months at a time.  Being away from my home was tough.  I missed my wife and my home, but I was there for a mission.  Sure I had a little bit of fun when I could, but my main focus was to do my mission for the military while I anxiously awaited the day I could return home to the one I love.

It should be like this for us.  We should be anxiously awaiting our return home, to see Jesus, the one we love more than any other.  We should not distracting ourselves and making our lives here comfortable enough that we do not care about the mission, about Christ, or about heaven.

Peter urges us to treat this life as travelers just passing through and to avoid the lifestyle of those around us.

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh – 1 Peter 2:11

Abstain from the passions of the flesh?  That’s no fun.  God gave us these passions to enjoy ourselves with while we are here, didn’t he?  The problem with our culture is that we are all about the passions of the flesh above all else.  They become our obsession, but when we accept Christ we are told to deny ourselves and not let our flesh, our desires, or our passions become our master.

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, – 2 Corinthians 5:1-2

Our home here is supposed to be nothing more than a tent.  And by tent I do not mean we are only supposed to have structures made with fabric sides and zipper doors.  It means that what we have here is temporary, something we can throw away and lose if we are called to, not something we attach ourselves to that keep us grounded where we are.

Why are we so determined to purchase homes when they just tie us down?  Renting a place many say is throwing away money, but if you are not sure that God wants you to stay in that area then renting frees you up to just go when God calls you elsewhere.

Again, I am not saying that it is wrong to buy a house, but what I am saying is look at how our lifestyle decisions effect our ability to fulfill our mission.  It just shows where our focus and our treasure really is.

Paul even goes a step further and says that everything he gained in this world is now considered a loss, garbage even, in the mission for Christ.

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ – Phil 3:7-8

Your car, house, cell phone, computers, clothes, all of it is nothing more than garbage compared to us knowing Christ!  How do we even try to compare the importance of the mission that we have to save those who are lost with our toys and gadgets?

So why do we obsess over this garbage so much?   Why is it so hard for us to believe that we are citizens of heaven?  Why are we so determined to settle down and make our home here on earth?

We will look at that more in our next article.

Don’t be discouraged.  These articles cover some deep topics that are close to our heart, but our God is gracious and merciful.  Keep reading to the end. 🙂

A mission field forgotten

Francis Chan
Francis Chan (Photo credit: williamhartz)

While listening to Francis Chan the other day something he said really struck out at me.  He said that if you went on a missions trip to Africa, every single day you were there you would have the mission in mind.  It is what you are there for, your primary focus.  You would wake up in the morning and the first thing you would think about would be the mission.  Your life there would be consumed by it.

Then when we get back to the U.S. we relax and get back into the mentality of this being our home.  We let down our focus and the mission to us becomes nothing more than what we did that one week in Africa.

But the reality is that we have just as much of a mission here at home as we do when we go on missions trips to other cities and countries.  Perhaps even more so in some cases.

We have a culture that has been raised thinking it is a God fearing, Christ loving, Christian culture while they go about living their lives for themselves, enjoying their sin and not giving any thought to Jesus or to the gospel message. We have thousands of people filling churches in our neighborhood believing they are saved but in reality they are just in denial.

Then we have thousands more that do not know the gospel at all, or only know of some perversion of it.  They do not give any time to think that they might be a sinner, or that they are living their life in rejection of God.  These people all around us that we are in contact with every day are going to hell and they laugh at the thought without understanding how serious that truly is.

This is our mission field, masked by the fog of normal day-to-day life. It is time to see through that fog so we can work the field that surrounds us.

The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few – Matthew 9:37

In the next article we will start to see what is creating this fog over our mission field.

This is the first part of a series titled: Neglecting our Mission Field

Did God call you to that life of comfort?

I just read a really interesting article on The Traveling Team website. The basics of the article stated that there is no difference in the call of God to do missionary work or to stay and live a life of comfort.

As Christians in America we feel that we need to have a special call on our lives to server as a missionary somewhere or to go witness to people, yet we decide on our own without hearing a special call from God that we are supposed to work to make more money and just friend people so maybe they will one day be interested enough to ask us about Christ.

But is this right? When we became Christians, we dedicated our life to follow Christ. So where in that dedication to follow Christ do we see that we have the right to live for ourselves unless God calls us elsewhere? Shouldn”t we live for God unless God calls us specifically to live for ourselves?

“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” – Luke 9:23

I think we have things a little backwards in our walk with God. We need to decide if we really want to follow God, and if so then do it, to commit ourselves to Him. To deny ourselves and to follow God, even if it means being poor and going to our death in that service.

Does the shepherd have to be told that he has to protect and watch the sheep? Does the satellite engineer actually have to be told to work on the satellite after he is hired? No, when hired for a job it is assumed that you do that job unless told otherwise. You do not get hired and then sit around unless you are specifically told to do the work. Why do we know this is unacceptable in the work place but we try to fool God with this thinking?

I will finish with a quote from the original article.

This whole business of asking for special calls to missionary work does violence to the Bible. There is the command, “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” We say, “That means other people.” There is the promise, “Come unto Me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” We say, “That means me.” We must have a special divine indication that we fall under the command; we do not ask any special divine indication that we fall under the blessing. By what right do we draw this line of distinction between the obligations of Christianity and its privileges? By what right to we accept the privileges as applying to every Christian and relegate its obligations to the conscience of the few?