Do Even Harder Things

shovelThere’s a book called Do Hard Things, by Alex and Brett Harris. I’ve heard it cited by a number of hopelessly inspired teenagers who have been drawn out of their comfort zones, I’m intrigued. But I haven’t gotten a chance to read it.

So perhaps it is redundantly that I ask –

Are we really doing hard things?

A young man from our youth group preached a sermon from Acts 10 last night. I hope I’m not simply regurgitating what he said (is that illegal?), for something fell together for me in my own words as I listened, and I’ve got to get it out.

It was not ten chapters into the era of the church, the era of salvation through Christ, that the gospel went from being “just for Jews” to open to all nations. You’d think this turn of events would have been obvious from “and Judea and Samaria and to all the ends of the earth” (1:8). But to get his message across, God orchestrated an encounter between Peter and a Gentile – a centurion of the hated Italian Regiment, natch – and brought the Spirit upon him in full view of Jewish believers. After that, there could be no doubt that the gospel was for Jew and Gentile alike – anyone who would hear the Word and respond.

What’s crazy is that God had to send Peter three visions to get him into position.

Would Peter have gone with Cornelius’ messengers without the visions coming immediately beforehand?

That the visions were needed first – and evidence from his own life – implies that Peter was ready to take the Gospel to his own Jewish countrymen before the Gentiles.

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Maybe This Year?

14264163_10154519656294695_4557267216967126051_n (1).jpgThe time has come.

My Seattle Seahawks are again marching forward to war.

Every year, we go through this. We microanalyze the meaningless preseason games, discuss the September cutdowns to death, scrutinize every bit of offseason literature coming out of the city media, all in pursuit of one haunting question…do the Seahawks have a chance this year?

And every year, we Christians think about “that thing”. That breakthrough or victory or miracle or answer to prayer that we’re hoping for.

Maybe this will be the year that chronic illness finally goes into remission. The year you get out of debt. The year you get engaged. The year that gripping sin on your spouse finally gives way. Maybe you don’t know exactly what you want to see; you’re just hoping things will “get better” somehow.

Steven Furtick has a sermon called “Don’t Stop on Six”. It’s one of my favorites. The reference is to how the Israelites were commanded to march around Jericho seven times before releasing a shout, and how they would have missed the miracle had they stopped on the sixth lap. I love an inspirational sermon every once in a while, and “Don’t Stop on Six” is one of my favorites.

And yet…it makes me uneasy.

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Whaddya Mean, “Are You a Missionary?”

soldierEver since I started talking about my recent Czech mission, a number of brothers- and sisters-in-blogging have asked the same question: “Are you a missionary?”

I know what they mean: am I a long-term evangelist. Nope; the trip was only two weeks long (though I’ve returned a few times).

But what I wanted to say (without being rude – I love y’all) was, “Aren’t we all missionaries?”

(Most people, including the folks who have asked me this question, would totally agree with what I’m saying. But that doesn’t mean we can’t discuss it again!)

My church teaches variations of this theme: there’s a certain danger in treating our earthly residence as “home”. It’s the danger of mistaking our true situation. We are all behind enemy lines; none of us are home yet. It’s thinking of this earth as “home” that gets our focus off of heaven; it’s thinking of our personal comfort zone as “home” that causes us to miss opportunities to share the Gospel with those in our workplace, our school, or our street.

I’m as bad as anyone else. My focus are constantly on earthly goals, so much so that I have a hard time dreaming about anything else.

But when I consider thousands of people plunging daily into hell, well, it becomes a burr in my shoe. Hopefully more.

Because it’s actually harder to witness in America, precisely because of the fact that I live here.

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My and Paul’s Longing for a Harvest

pragueI was reading through Romans from the beginning while I was in the Czech Republic. The first thing I ran into? An apostle Paul who very much shares my mind on the desire for a harvest.

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. God, whom I serve in my spirit in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you.

I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles. – Romans 1:8-13

For all Paul’s reputation as a man of echoing words and fist-pounding exhortation, it’s a little surprising to see him opening his letters in such a tender and plaintive way.

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I’m Going Back to the Czech Republic!

church2An update and a humble request.

It was Saturday afternoon, so there was nobody else around the small, square, gray Baptist church – so incongruous from the soaring double-spired cathedral down the street – in Vysoke Myto, Czech Republic. Its pastor, my friend Zdenek, and I had just finished loading our team’s luggage into the church (a relief after three days of travel). It was 2013; we were preparing for an English camp the upcoming week.

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Hillary Can Only Persecute the Church. Trump Could Destroy Its Witness.

caricatureI’m sorry.

I don’t want this blog to become political. Every other post is about my journey to become more like Christ and share my discoveries. To that end, I solemnly swear that his will be my only Trump-related post this year.

But after last week, I had to say something.

I can’t pretend the following thoughts are my own, though the pieces were. What snapped my scattered thoughts together was an article by Erick Erickson of The Resurgent. His work was much more eloquent, but pack-a-lunch long, so if you want the cliffs’ notes from a blogger with a parallel journey, read on.

Throughout this election cycle, I’ve been disgusted by the choices laid before us. Most of you can relate. It’s the culmination of a political system designed to reward ambition and sectarianism. Yet I felt compelled, by both duty and my fellow man, to make a choice. And the refrain generally foisted upon me has been, “It’s your Christian duty to keep Hillary Clinton out of office. The church will not survive her. Vote for Donald Trump.”

Yet I seethed against this argument.

I admit, it seemed to have merit in one sense. I certainly will not vote for Hillary Clinton. I have to embolden that sentence before I get dismissed as a liberal plant. Hillary is not even in the same universe as trustworthy to be president, and her agenda, typical of the political left, carries the threat of eroding our religious freedom and heritage.

Yet my conscience fought against the idea of supporting Trump, because by doing so, I would be endorsing a track record that I do not see as any more Godly – quite the opposite, in fact. You can scroll to the bottom of this post for my concerns on Trump’s character – it goes beyond just “saying mean things”, or even the lewd revelations of last week – because I’d rather just get to my point right now.

Which was…how could I look an unbeliever in the eye, after endorsing this sort of man, and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ with any credibility?

I sat on my concerns for a long time. I stayed quiet as Trump pulled even with Hillary in the polls. The voice inside said, Don’t bother. You’ll be labeled one of those panicky rabble-rousers you’ve learned to avoid. Jesus wants you to be tranquil and gracious about things. Let it go.

And maybe I was overthinking things. Maybe I was being too young and idealistic. Maybe some of these sins were fabrications of the liberal media (doubtful). And…just maybe, that conversion that Trump allegedly experienced a few weeks ago, in the presence of several well-respected evangelical leaders, was genuine and would lead to a change in his ways.

Then, last week, three things happened.

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It’s Not the President’s Job to Lead Us Back to Christ – It’s Ours

No President has your access to the people in your life.

The 2016 election season is fast approaching. It’s like Christmas; it starts earlier every year. (Kanye’s already getting into the 2020 season. I wish I was kidding.)

And with the season comes all the trimmings: straw polls, televised debates, talk of which presidential hopefuls have and haven’t a chance…and amongst Christians, which candidate (Republican, of course) might “lead our nation back to God.”

My politically-minded brothers and sisters have the right goal at heart. We desperately need revival in America.

But it is not the job of the President of the United States to lead us back to Christ.

Recently my small group has been reading Multiply by Francis Chan. It addresses an unconscious fallacy in the church: that teaching and evangelism are primarily the work of people more gifted and talented than we are. That the job of spreading the Good News belongs mostly in the hands of pastors, deacons, and those with a television audience.

It’s a crippling lie.

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