The Gospel in a Suitcase

Priming the Pump

You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. -Acts 1:8 NASB

This week, I again have the amazing opportunity to travel to some faraway place that I’ve never been before, meet people I’ve never met, work with folks with whom I have little in common (culturally), and likely find myself in many situations which I do not understand (let alone speak the language)…

all for the sake of the witness of Christ… the Gospel.

So, as I get closer to leaving, I’ve been making preparations such as updating my travel documents, going through the material which I’ll be teaching, and getting out my travel gear (suitcases, travel wallet, etc). In the course of these preparations, it occurred to me that many folks would call this a “mission trip.”

Now, when I say those words they bring up all sorts of ideas and images in my head…thoughts of people in need and opportunities to meet those needs in tangible ways, preaching, praying for people, seeing folks being transformed by Jesus, and all the while being transformed myself.

Yet, I think for me, the term “mission trip” is meaningless. It makes me feel like one or maybe two weeks a year, my life is filled with the things that I just mentioned, but the rest of it is just “regular life.”

Wow, really? What is regular life? I’m not sure I want to know. And I’m really not sure that any of us are called to live there.

Frankly, I don’t see this as a “mission trip” at all and furthermore I think I’ll personally abandon the term all together (I have similar feelings toward the terms sacred and secular though that’s a discussion for a different day J). In all honesty, I think I just see this as any other week.

Understand, I’m really not trying to sound super-spiritual here or whatever, I’m merely trying to say that I believe that our everyday lives should constantly be filled with responding to those in need around us, preaching, praying for people, seeing transformation in those around us and in us. We shouldn’t need to travel somewhere to see these things in action… they should be in action through us and around us at home, work, church, the store, and wherever we find ourselves.

Jesus said that we’d be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth. I think that this is a pretty “all-inclusive” mandate, geographically and culturally speaking…

So, here’s the question to ponder today…

Is the Gospel something that we store with our suitcase?

Or, are we living an everyday life of naturally supernatural transformation wherever the Lord has us?

[Being the church that LOVES] Loving the Unlovable

Priming the Pump

What is the basis of God’s love?

First of all, it’s His nature to love because He is love (1 John 4.8). So, love is not something that He has to stir up or manufacture, it springs from the core of His nature and since God is already “genetically predisposed” to love, His love needs only find an object…

…enter man…

Now. Here’s the next question…

If we accept that God loves us, then at what point in our lives did we become an object of that love?

The apostle Paul would tell us in Ephesians 2 (check out 2:1-10) that all of this exists in eternity; beforehand, in the ages to come, while we were dead walking in the course of this world, and so on…

If these things are true, then God’s love is a matter of decision and declaration. If it was “beforehand” and even while we were dead in our sins, then it’s not a response to anything we did. Actually, I’d go as far to say that it is never a response.

God never responds to us with love.

In fact, He initiates everything toward us from His love. It is the basis, the catalyst, and the springboard of His action toward us. So then we can understand when Paul writes elsewhere (Romans 8) that NOTHING can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. If He initiates it, how can we be separated from it? We don’t initiate it. It is not a response to something we’ve done. We merely come to know and believe the love which He has for us (1 John 4:16).

Ok. Last question…

If God’s love is a matter of decision and declaration and if we do nothing to catalyze or initiate it but rather just learn to believe and receive it, then who among us is undeserving of it?

See, I believe that you and I have been programmed by a “reward-based” system of love. If we perform well, we receive (what we perceive as) love from those around us. If we do not, we receive (what we perceive as) punishment. While these concepts are in full operation in the world around us, the unfortunate fact is that we transfer them into the way we relate to God. If you consider the passages that I mentioned earlier (Ephesians 2 and 1 John 4) as well as many others, you come to learn that this…

God’s economy is not reward-based. Everything that is ours in Christ Jesus is a matter of His declaration.

[Being the church that LOVES] Love much?

Priming the Pump

He who is forgiven little, loves little. Luke 7:47 NASB

Consider this…

The measure with which you demonstrate LOVE, is directly proportional to the measure with which you have received the demonstration of His LOVE.

Taking this thought one step further, the conversation that Jesus is having in Luke 7 with Simon the Pharisee would indicate that the measure with which we receive His LOVE can be directly impacted by our awareness of our need for it. Jesus makes a similar statement in Matthew 9 when the Pharisees ask why He is “cavorting” with tax collectors and sinners. Jesus says, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick… I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners (Matthew 9:12 NASB).” I personally do not believe that he was approving of the “righteousness” of the Pharisees. More likely, He was pointing out their lack of awareness regarding their own spiritual depravity.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. -Matthew 5:3 NASB

A story…

I was talking with a friend one day about a serious wound that I had suffered in my heart. I was recounting the tale and telling him of the severity of the wound and that worse, it was delivered by someone very close, a brother who was supposed to love me deeply and be for me no matter what. He should have been there, building me up and loving me. But instead, he wounded me deeply and left me by the side of the road for the birds of prey. As I told the story, this friend very plainly looked me in the eye and matter-of-factly said,

“You know, given the right circumstances and opportunity, you’d probably have done the same thing. You’re just as broken and just as prone to act out of pride and woundedness as this man.”

It hit me like a ton of bricks.

I’d been holding judgment toward my brother for what he’d done. But, my heart is just as treacherous given the right cocktail of pride, fear, and woundedness. Who was I to think I was more righteous? Who was I to think that I had a right to withhold forgiveness from a man who was only broken like every other man? Who was I to not lavish the same crazy, reckless, extravagant love that God lavishes upon me every day?

Below is an excerpt from a message that I preached in 2012 entitled “the sin problem”…

If man can produce any righteousness that is pleasing to God, Jesus died for NOTHING. God has no rating scale for sin, it is all EQUALLY VILE to Him. But, the magnitude of the sin problem IS the magnitude of the cross and the magnitude of the cross IS the magnitude of God’s goodness.

The depravity of man is ABSOLUTE, yes. But, the victory of the cross is ABSOLUTE because God as a man became sinful man’s ABSOLUTE depravity and was met there by the pure goodness of God and His furious longing for redemption which is the greatest ABSOLUTE of all. Jesus came to be in the last word on man’s sin, not to dismiss it or to call it irrelevant, but to literally BECOME SIN ITSELF and then to conquer it so that we could be free from it. He came to BE SALVATION.

He IS, peace, joy and righteousness and He invites us INTO Himself; a union through which we experience all of these wondrous mysteries transformationally; upwardly, inwardly, and outwardly.

* Selah *

In love,