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The Miracle of Pentecost

A devotional for Pentecost Sunday

“Don’t be drunk with wine because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  (Ephesians 5:18-20)

The miracle of Pentecost was not the sound of the mighty rushing wind filling the room where the disciples were gathered waiting for the “promise of the Father.” It was not the tongues of fire that settled on each one. Nor, was it their ability to speak the gospel in the languages of all the people who were visiting Jerusalem for Shavuot, the annual Feast of Harvest. Although all of these were indeed miraculous. The history-changing miracle was God’s timing. At that moment in history, God was preparing the world to receive the gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven. His Kingdom was coming on earth as it was in heaven. The message of God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness was about to burst upon humanity. He was beginning the fulfillment of the great commission Jesus’ gave his disciples after his resurrection and before his ascension back into the presence of the Father. It is the reason he told his followers to wait in Jerusalem for the promise of the Father before taking the message of Christ to the “ends of the earth.” 

The miracle of Pentecost was that God himself, the Holy Spirit, came and to reside in each person. Joel’s prophecy became a reality. “Then, after doing all those things, I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions.” (Joel 2:28) This moment in history was not just a miracle for those in the upper room that day in Jerusalem, but rather a benchmark in the history of mankind, announcing the beginning of a miraculous new potential, a new chapter in the history of salvation, a new power enabling the church to continue Jesus’ ministry of reconciling the world to himself. It revealed the way Jesus planned to keep the promise he made to his disciples, “… I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20 NLT)

Now, every day is Pentecost! Every conversation and encounter are pregnant with Kingdom potential. Every believer can be a minister of reconciliation. Every friendship can be discipleship! Every journey can become a mission trip. With the coming of the Spirit these possibilities have become reality!

Has the day of Pentecost fully come for you? (Acts 2:1). Jesus told his first disciples to wait and to expect. We may be waiting, but are we expecting? 

Do we believe what Jesus told his disciples? “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8 NLT) If we don’t, we should, because on that day every follower of Jesus became fluent in the gospel and by the end of the day, around three thousand had joined the new community.

Prayer: Holy Spirit, Spirit of Truth, take control of my heart. Fill me with the Father’s love for the world and the Son’s willingness to surrender and obey. Let the radiance of your presence shine through me revealing the message of the gospel everywhere I go and to everyone I meet. May I have that Pentecostal awareness as I meet the people you have chosen to send my way. “May the God of hope fill you (me) with all joy and peace in believing, that you (I) may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13 NKJV)

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Security

Lectio Divina: John 10:27-30 (NIV)

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.

What does it take for us to feel safe? A healthy 401K? A state-of-the-art security system in our home? Strong, twelve-letter passwords for our on-line accounts? The latest safety features on our vehicles? Carrying a concealed weapon everywhere we go? 

We seem to be obsessed with security these days. The global home security system market size in 2021 stood at $51,900 Million and will reach $106,300 Million by 2030. With an average of 46,000 car-crash deaths in the United States, it’s understandable why more and more drivers want safety features such as Forward-collision warning, Automated Emergency Braking, Rear View cameras, and Blind-Spot Warning. We want to feel safe and will do or pay whatever is necessary.

While these things may help us avoid financial loss and accidental crashes, they do not make us “feel” safe. Despite spending millions on security features for our vehicles, security systems for our businesses and homes, and firearms for personal protection, we are as insecure as ever. Our insecurity has a profound impact on our mental health. Psychologists tell us insecurities feed mental health issues like depression and anxiety and are major contributors to eating disorders and addictions. 

I do not propose this as a cure-all for every mental health issue, but embracing the truth of today’s Lectio Divina provides a foundation for living with confidence and hope amid the daily torrential downpour of fear and anxiety. Jesus declares, “My sheep are secure!” “No one can steal them from me!” “They are safe!”

Hearing these words is not enough. We must receive and believe them! They reveal God’s character. He’s the “Good Shepherd” who knows and loves his sheep. (John 10:11) If one is missing, he searches until he finds it. (Luke 15:1-7) He gives his life for his sheep. (John 15:10). Jesus said there is no greater love than this. (John 15:13). 

David knew first-hand how faithful the Lord God is. He experienced God’s protection repeatedly as he fled from Saul’s insanity. His words in Psalm 108 speak of this assurance: “For great is your love, higher than the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies.” 

When Jesus left his disciples and returned to the Father, he not only gave them the “Great Commission” but also gave them the greatest promise, the promise of his presence, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20b) Jesus’ word to his followers was not the first time God made such a promise. The Lord God said to Joshua, “Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9). What he promised to them, he promises to us. Despite the danger or fear we might feel at this moment, we can know that God loves us, and God is with us. He is our security!

Prayer: Abba Father, I am reminded today that you love me and have given me your Spirit, who remains in me, guiding me, and strengthening me. Forgive me for not relying on you for my security and safety. Help me rest in your presence, rely on your promise, and trust your providence. Regardless of how insecure the circumstance appears, you will never leave me alone, and you are “… able to save completely those who come to you through Jesus Christ, because you always intercede for them.” (Adapted from Hebrews 7:25)

Speaking the Truth In Love

Lectio Divina: Ephesians 4:15-16

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows, and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Ever heard the phrase, “It’s not what you say, but how you say it.”? That maxim comes from Albert Mehrabian’s research based on the 7%-38%-55% rule that suggests only 7% of all communication is done through verbal communication. Most of our communication is nonverbal: the tonality of our voice, our body language, and facial expressions. 

As followers of Christ, how we communicate the truth matters. 

When Paul wrote the words: “speaking the truth in love,” the Ephesian church was struggling. The Apostle spent more time in this church than any other church he started. (Acts 19:8-10) The city’s history was full of political conflicts, wars, economic instability, and religious and cultural diversity. The Ephesian church struggled to create cohesive unity amid great diversity. A challenge today’s church also faces. The key to church growth is “speaking the truth in love.” 

Regarding relationships in the Body of Christ, truth must come from the heart. When truth is spoken in and out of love, a bond is created between those who speak and those who hear the truth. What we say matters, but how we say it reflects the value we place on our relationships. Being right never outweighs loving right. Love is the atmosphere where truth flourishes. It’s the environment where relationships grow, mature, and thrive.

  • Jesus said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35) 
  • Simon Peter said, “You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart.” (1 Peter 1:22) “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8) 
  • Paul’s advice to the Galatians expresses this same truth: “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently.” (Galatians 6:1) To the Roman church, he said, “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them.” (Romans 12:9 NLT)
  • The Apostle John wrote, “Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.” (1 John 3:18 NLT)

Prayer: Father, I confess my lack of love in the way I speak the truth. Forgive me for wanting to be right more than I want to be kind. Remind me that truth never tramples on relationships and that how I communicate is as important as what I communicate. Let your love for people motivate me to speak the truth with compassion, mercy, and tenderness. May my conversations always be full of grace and always be seasoned with love, so that the truth I speak never contradicts the truth I live.

Who am I pleasing?

Lectio Divina: Hebrews 11:6 (NLT)

And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.

Are you a people-pleaser? People-pleasers are known for doing whatever it takes to make other people happy. Although putting the needs of others ahead of your own may appear altruistic and spiritual, it isn’t biblical, nor is it wise. People-pleasing is not always God-pleasing!

While being kind and helpful is a good thing, when motivated by a desire to be validated or liked, it is detrimental to our mental health and leaves us feeling emotionally depleted, stressed, and anxious. People-pleasers can also have trouble advocating for themselves, which can lead to a harmful pattern of self-neglect.

The Bible does not tell us to please people. It tells us to please God. 

God’s word tells us to think of others, to be kind, and to have a sacrificial love for our neighbor. However, this does not mean we are to think less of ourselves. In fact, it means the opposite. Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:33) We are to love others with the same compassion and self-care we give ourselves. 

It is true. Paul told the Philippians to “… Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.” However, he prefaced this by saying, “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others.” (Philippians 2:3) The motivation for helping others is the key! We serve others not to please them, but to please God. “As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more.” (1 Thessalonians 4:1) 

How do we please God? What pleases God? 

In Mark 3:17, the Bible tells us that immediately after John baptized Jesus, “… a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’” God is pleased with his Son! When our life “is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3) God makes the same declaration over us. He is pleased when, by faith, we are in his Son, when we are one in and with Christ Jesus. (John 17:22-23). Without this, it is impossible to please God. 

Prayer: Father, forgive me for trying to please people, for allowing my need for approval and my desire for affirmation to control my actions and motivate my service. Others may not see it, but you do. You search my heart and know me and yet accept and forgive me. I’m so thankful I don’t have to please you to gain your approval because Jesus did that on a cross. Your Son brings you pleasure and in Him I enjoy that same pleasure. I am approved, accepted, and validated in Jesus! (Ephesians 1:3-11) Let this be the only motivation for all that I do and say.

“May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14) 

“And whether I eat or drink or whatever I do, let me do it for your glory.”(Adapted from 1 Corinthians 10:31)

Hospitality

Genesis 18:1-5

The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.

He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant.”

“Very well,” they answered, “do as you say.”

 “Am I interruptible?” Am I open to the interruptions God sends my way every day? 

In preparation to enter overseas missionary work, an older, more experienced missionary told us to get ready for a “ministry of interruptions” when we arrive in Ecuador. I’ve since learned this is true regardless of where we are serving. Interruptions are God’s way of getting our attention, drawing us into the center of his will, and opening doors of opportunity we do not see.

God wants us to be kind and hospitable to the strangers in our midst. The writer of Hebrews reminds us, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2)

In the story from Genesis 18, Abraham addressed three strangers as “Lord.” Do we consider preparing a meal for a stranger or offering cold water to someone in need as a way of serving Christ? According to Jesus, when the Son of Man sits in judgment, separating the sheep and goat, he will say, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did, or did not do, for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did, or did not do, for me.”(Adapted from Matthew 25:40) 

The reason for our lack of hospitality varies with each of us. For some, it’s because of an obsession with checking off our “to-do-list.” For others, it’s our need to finish a project or task that’s overdue. Regardless of the reason, we need to hear these words of Jesus, “And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.” (Matthew 10:42) God’s plan for our lives is to bless others, to be his feet and hands in a world where hurt, pain, suffering, and loneliness is a daily experience for many.  Our priority is “getting things done.” God’s priority is “getting people done.”

Perhaps the most powerful example of hospitality is what Jesus did at the last supper with his disciples. With everything on his mind facing the hurt of Judas’ betrayal and the horror of the crucifixion, he took time to wash each disciple’s feet. When he finished, he said, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:14)

Prayer: Father, thank you for sending interruptions to my well-planned day. Thank you for sending “angels in unawares” to give me opportunities to learn and grow as a follower of Jesus. Slow me down and through the ministry of interruptions, teach me how to love strangers as you love them. Show me how to give a cup of cold water with joy, put my agenda on hold, and give your agenda priority. Make me willing to take time and wash someone’s feet today.

“Coming Forth as Gold”

Lectio Divina: Job 23:10

But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.

There was a time when your favorite gold necklace was part of a bunch of other metals congealed together in a rock. When gold is mined, it is barely discernible. It is, in fact, what experts call an ore. Before being shaped into jewelry or coins, the gold ore must go through a trial by fire at a refinery. Through a process called refining, it is re-liquified in a furnace and then heaped with generous amounts of soda ash and borax. This effectively separates the gold from impurities and other metal traces. There are a range of interesting scientific and technological ways gold can be refined. Whatever the method, what remains after the process is a metal that glitters like the sun.

Job knew the testing he was experiencing in his life would refine him like gold. Despite all his goodness and morality, Job needed refining and testing. God knew Job was “blameless and upright” and “he feared God and shunned evil.” (Job 1:1) But he wanted more for him and through the crucible of suffering and loss “the Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part.” (Job 42:12)

However, blessing Job was not the purpose God had for all that suffering. God’s goal for Job, as it is for us, was to draw Job into an intimate relationship with himself. 

Listen to Job’s testimony: “My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you.” (Job 24:5) Job thought he knew a lot about God, and he did. Job had heard of the Lord God, but now he could see him. Although he knew about God, now he knew him intimately.

Knowing God and knowing him better is the purpose behind every circumstance divine providence brings into our lives. James suggested we should “consider it all joy” when we experience them. (James 1:4). This is the “gold” God is working to refine in us.

I remember the times in my life when I questioned why other pastors and missionaries did not go through what I was experiencing. It didn’t seem fair. What I could not see then that I can see more clearly now is God was more interested in my holiness than my happiness. Everything God brought into my life was by design, a design I did not appreciate until later. Job understood this and said, “When he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.”

Father: When I feel life has been unfair to me or my struggles are greater than I can bear, show me a glimpse of what you are doing. Remind me that your love does not always look like comfort. Your love does not always give me blessings or success. Open my eyes to see what you see in me… precious gold being refined and purified by your love. Teach me that “Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Corinthians 4:17)

Surviving and Thriving Under Pressure!

Today, perhaps more than ever before, we feel under pressure.  The pandemic has left us feeling like a titanic weight is crushing us.  How do we survive? More important, how can we thrive under pressure?

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the United States government developed and deployed nuclear powered submarines.  The USS Thresher was one of these early vessels. Designed with steel bulkheads and heavy steel armor the Thresher could dive deep, and withstand the tremendous pressure of the ocean.

Unfortunately, on a test run in 1963, the Thresher’s nuclear engine failed, and it was unable to return to the surface. The submarine sank deeper and deeper into the ocean, and the pressure became so intense that the steel bulkheads buckled, crushing the Thresher with 129 people inside.

The Navy searched for the Thresher with a much stronger research craft, shaped like a steel ball, and lowered it into the ocean on a cable. When the Navy located the Thresher, at a depth of 8,400 feet, one and a half miles down, it was crushed like an egg shell. This was not a surprise to the search team, because the pressure at that depth is an amazing 3,600 pounds per square inch.

What was surprising to the searchers was the fish they saw at that depth. These fish did not have inches of steel to protect them. They appeared to have normal skin, a fraction of an inch thick. How were these fish able to survive under all that pressure? Why were they not crushed by the weight of the water? They had a secret. Their secret was equal pressure inside and outside. This equal pressurization made it possible for them to survive at great depths, and under great pressure.

When the pressure is on, the Holy Spirit is the “Great Equalizer!  One biblical writer put it this way, “The One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)   Every believer has God’s Spirit living in them, empowering them, at the moment they trust Christ, and because of His presence we become “more than conquerors through Him that loves us.”  (Romans 8:37)

For those of us who follow Jesus, the Holy Spirit’s power within us makes it possible for us to withstand the pressures of life in this world, and gives us the ability, despite difficult circumstances, to be vibrant witnesses for Christ. Without the presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and lives, we would have no hope, and would easily be crushed by the pressures of the world.

God wants more than just survival however.  He wants us to THRIVE under pressure.  Through the pressure of trials and adversity He brings about a transformation in our lives.  In short, we become more and more like His Son. (Romans 8:29)

Think about how the potter shapes clay on a potter’s wheel.   As the wheel spins, he uses his hands to exert pressure both inside and out.  It is the balance of this pressure that actually brings the clay into the exact shape and design the potter has in mind, and gives it the strength to go through the tempering fire. God never wastes an experience in our lives, but uses each one brings us closer to the divine design He has for us.

Sickness, loss of a job, death of a loved one, or any crisis can bring just the right pressure needed to shape us into the person He wants us to be. It is easy to allow the hurt of shattered dreams,  the pain of betrayal or the loss of something or someone precious to make us think all is lost.  The truth is, God’s story is larger than ours, and His eternal purpose greater than our temporary loss. (Romans 8:31-36)

We survive and thrive by remembering there’s bigger picture, a larger story, and God is not finished yet. These temporary setbacks are working out a greater plan, a plan we may to fully see right now.  But one day we will! (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

I pray your are both surviving and thriving under pressure!

Larry Doyle

The Joy of Easter

I love Easter and I love the springtime, don’t you? It is a time of Joy.  I would like to share with you a few thoughts about joy today, and what it means to have “the joy of the Lord” in your life.

There is a verse a Scripture found in Hebrews 12:2. This verse gives great insight into the type of joy that transcends every experience known to man, and totally blows away every other definition of joy.  In the preceding  (12:1), the writer describes the Christian life as a race, and challenges his readers to run that race with endurance.  Then he gives us the secret to successfully running the race. He says,

“ . . . Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (ESV)

Did you catch that reference to joy? “. . . who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross . . .”

What a thought! In the face of horrible suffering and shame, Jesus saw great joy! This blows me away! What exactly is the joy Jesus saw beyond the brutality and horror of death by crucifixion?

I believe Jesus saw joy in at least three things. He could see the joy of His Father’s Kingdom coming on earth as it is in heaven. He could see the joy of reconciling the world back to God though His sacrifice on the cross. In addition, He could see the joy of presenting you and presenting me before His Father, blameless and without a single fault.

Listen to what Jesus said to His disciples earlier in John 15:11. He said, “These things have I spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”

Let’s ask ourselves two questions related to joy. Do you have His joy in you – the “joy of the Lord?” If you have His joy, how full is that joy? On a scale of 1 to 10, how full is your “joy tank?”

We should remember two biblical truths about joy.  First, Jesus is the source of true and lasting joy. According to His prayer in John 17, He prayed that our joy might be full. He wants us to have joy, but He wants us to have the best and most complete joy possible (to the fullest). Second, it is possible to loose that joy! The reality is, there are things, circumstances and people who, if we are not careful, will steal our joy and keep us from experiencing the fullness of joy in Christ.

King David knew exactly what it meant to loose this joy. After his sin with Bathsheba, and after murdering her husband, Uriah, the prophet of God confronted him with his sin. David learned the only way to restore His joy was by confessing His sin and returning to God in repentance.  After his prayer for forgiveness and cleansing, he cried out to God (Psalm 51:12), “Restore unto me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.” (NLT)

If your answer to the question about the fullness of the joy in your life is not as positive as you would like it to be, or if your joy tank is not as full as it needs to be, then follow King David’s example. Repent and return to God. Let Him restore to you the joy of His salvation!

What about you?  Do you have His joy?  How full is your joy today?

 

 

What Really Matters?

Priorities!  How do you set your priorities?  What comes first in your life?  Of all the things that you do, what matters the most?  Determining our priorities can be an illusive and difficult task, especially for people like me who are not wired to think like that.

I think most people do things without really thinking about their priorities.  It is not that we do not have them rather we have not identified or defined them.  We must remember, just because we have not identified them does not mean they do not control our lives!  They do!  Every single decision we make is determined by our priorities – even down to the color of socks we put on in the morning, to the make and model of car we purchase.

Priorities stem out of our values.  Sometimes values are called precepts or controlling principles.  Regardless of what you call them, they represent your core beliefs.  These convictions and core beliefs are the convictions you hold based on your experiences.

These values are the deeply engrained drivers behind all behavior.  These includes decisions we make, money we spend, risks we take, problems we solve, and goals we set.  These priorities control our lives!

In the journey of life, when values are poorly identified, it is easy to be distracted or detoured with a secondary or unimportant issue.  Here is the key.  Without clearly defined values, our priorities remain unclear; and without clear values life can easily spin out of control.

It is important to ask this simple question.  What really matters to us?

As we strive for success in our job or career, our greatest fear should not be the fear of failure, but of succeeding at something that does not matter!

We must be certain our priorities are in line with God’s plan and purpose for our lives.  Jesus taught His disciples about priorities in Matthew 6:33.  He said, “seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”  Shortly after saying this, Jesus warned them they could not serve two masters because they will hate one and cling (love) the other.  “You cannot serve God and money (mammon)”

What reveals our priorities?  I believe two things tell us what we value the most – our checkbook and our calendar!  Our checkbook reveals what is important because we see where we spend our money.  Our calendar reveals what we value in terms of how we spend our time.

Jesus told a parable about a rich farmer who had an exceptionally good year.  He was in a dilemma about what to do with the excess harvest.  His decision was to tear down the existing barns and build bigger ones.  Jesus called this man a fool.  He was foolish not because of his great vision for the future, but for his misplaced priorities!  He could not see beyond the temporal things in his life.

Jesus summarized the parable saying, “A person is a fool to store up earthly wealthy but not have a rich relationship with God.”  In the same passage he also said,

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also!  (Matthew 6:19-21)

The Apostle Paul, the great missionary of the early church, said, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

What are your priorities today?  What is shaping and driving your life today?  I hope you will take a good long look at your priorities.

Like A Splinter in Your Mind

In the movie, The Matrix, the character Morpheus said to Neo, “You are here because you know something.  What you know, you can’t explain, but you feel it.  You’ve felt it your entire life.  There is something wrong with the world, but you don’t know what it is.  But it’s there, like a splinter in your mind.”

Most pastors know there is something wrong, or I should say, missing, in the way we are “doing church”, and more importantly, the way most of our church members are living as Christ’s followers.  We cannot explain it, or put our finger on it, but it is there, “like a splinter in our mind.” Instinctively we want to get it out, and we are willing to trying anything to relieve the pain.  However, we cannot seem to find it!

The “splinters” in my own mind have  to do with how to be missional every day.  For me it is about learning to be intentional in seeing myself as being on mission; it’s about bringing the presence of the living Christ into my world; and most importantly, about connecting and building relationships with individuals in the world God has placed me.

Getting rid of this splinter is so difficult because of the church culture we have inherited and are now passing on to the next generation.  I call it the consumer-driven, self-indulgent church culture, a culture that enslaves us and effectively keeps us from being fully empowered agents of the Kingdom of God.  Sadly “belonging to a church” has become more about what is in it for my family, and me than it is about serving our communities.  Folks today look for the church with the best youth program, the best children’s ministries, the best preaching, music, etc.

Church leaders have attempted to work around the splinter, and ease our consciences by leading our members to become involved in “missional” events at our church, volunteering at the local homeless shelter, or even going on a “mission trip” to a third-world country.   However, being missional is not about what we do, it is about who we are!

Getting the splinter out requires changing our lifestyles, our buying habits, and our preferences so we free up both our time, and our budgets, to allow us to give, serve and live, and be on mission 24/7.

The bottom line is this; everyone who becomes a follower of Jesus, is a missionary! His call to “Follow Me” defines who we are.  Our culture, and sometimes our brand of denominationalism, however, teaches us something different.

If we ever hope to see our churches realize their true potential, we must focus on helping our members discover how to live their lives as missionaries!  What our churches need today is not more members, rather more missionaries.

It is not so much that the church has a mission but that God’s mission has a church.

This is the “splinter” in our mind.  This is the greatest “blind spot” of the church today.  This is what we must get out!  When we do, we will recover Christ’s original purpose Jesus has for His church.

Let me encourage you to ask God to examine your heart about your responsibility to influence your family, friends, neighborhood, school, and work place with the Gospel.  Ask yourself how you are doing in the area of your witness to the people in your sphere of influence.  Let me invite you to be a missionary 24/7, and to consider every area of your life a holy calling from God – your mission field.

Only as church members like yourself embrace God’s missionary calling in your life, will the church begin to impact and transform the world as we are called to do in the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20

NOTE:  This article can be heard in audio on Mission Magazine Radio.