In light of all the recent events and tragedies, I’ve been asked numerous times for my thoughts on them. I refer them to 2 Timothy 3 and Matthew 24. It’s no surprise to God, and it shouldn’t be a surprise to us that all of this is going on. Some of the things those two chapters tell us are that in the last days, people will be greedy, they will consider nothing sacred they will be unloving and unforgiving, they will easily be offended, there will be earthquakes, sin will be rampant, and the love of many will grow cold.
Those two chapters paint a perfect picture of where we are right now. I highly encourage you to go back and read them. I prefer reading them in the New Living Translation. The point is this: we, as Christians, can be shocked and offended that all of this is going on or we can get an urgency to be about the Father’s business. We can choose to fight what God said would happen (which is what I see many doing) or we can understand what’s going on and do something about it.
In Matthew 24, right after it describes today’s world, it then tells us that the Gospel will be preached throughout the world so that all nations would hear it. That’s what I think we need to be doing instead of getting into arguments. Our mission has not changed since the Great Commission was given. It’s just become more critical and more urgent. Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “Let us be concerned for one another, to help one another to show love and to do good. Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more, since you see that the Day of the Lord is coming nearer” (GNT).
Now, more than ever, the world needs to see us showing what love is. They need to see us doing good and meeting together. Let’s not be afraid and upset over where the world has gone, but rather let it be an encouraging sign to us that we are almost home. Let’s show love to those whom we disagree with by doing good to them and for them. In doing so, we open up doors to communicate the Gospel so that the whole world will hear and have the opportunity to be saved. That is what our final mission is.
I like to ask people, “What’s the difference between a dream and a goal?” A lot of people struggle with this question at first because it’s hard to articulate on the spot. But think about it for a second. They’re very similar with one exception. A goal is something you have a plan for in order to accomplish it. Dreams are usually large goals without a plan. The problem is most of us think we have set goals when really all we have done is created a bunch of dreams without a plan to accomplish them.
The people I know who are goal oriented aren’t easily swayed into doing things that don’t align with their goals. They know exactly what they need to do in order to accomplish them and they are pretty disciplined. Dreamers aren’t as disciplined. They live with their heads in the clouds and are easily knocked off course by distractions. Unfortunately that’s the way many of us live our lives and it bleeds into our faith as well. We’re living for Christ without a purpose, and that’s dangerous.
One night on a roof in Egypt, the head of middle east missions for a large denomination asked me, “What’s your goal as a Christian?” I had never thought of that. I answered almost asking a question, “To get to Heaven?” He said, “We’ve found your answer is not enough to live a spiritually successful life. You’ve got to have other goals if you’re going to impact this world.” That question and answer haunted me for months. Our goal can’t be to just get to Heaven. We’ll live spiritually unfulfilled lives if it is.
In I Corinthians 9:24, Paul mentions that in a race, everyone runs, but only one wins. He then tells us to run to win. Verse 26 says, “Therefore I do not run without a definite goal” (AMP). Not only are we to run to win the ultimate prize, we are to run with purpose. We are to run with goals. To keep from being easily distracted by all this world has to offer, and to keep our head out of the clouds, we need to have spiritual goals. There’s no other way for us to have the impact on this world that we’re called to have.
Throwback Thursday is a new feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
A few years ago I had my nephew read the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30. After he read it, we went to dinner to discuss it. He explained to me how the king had given servants silver and asked them to invest it while he was gone. When he came back for his money, one servant made ten times the original, another made five times and a third just buried it in the ground. The king was happy with the first two, but furious with the third.
After he explained it to me, I pulled out a hundred dollar bill and set it on the table. His eyes lit up. I slid it across the table to him and told him to invest it for me. I told I wanted him to think of a ministry he wanted to support with the profits. He quickly named a missionary in Kenya who had made an impact on him. I then told him I was going to come and ask for the money back and that we’d give whatever he had left to that missionary. Three months later, he ended turning that $100 into nearly $500. Not bad for a 12 year old.
It got me to thinking about what am I doing with the talents God has given me. Am I using them? Am I growing them? Have I invested them so I can show a profit from what He gave me? Yes, the story with my nephew is about money, but I’m talking about gifts God has enabled me with. Each of us has been given certain gifts and talents. Not one of us is talentless. Sure, some have more talent and gifts than others, but that doesn’t give us the right to bury ours in the sand.
In Romans 12:6-8, Paul tells us that no matter what gift God has given you, you should use it well. And in I Corinthians 12:7, he says that a spiritual gift has been given to each one of us so we can help each other. That means that God has given you a gift and He wants you to take a risk with the gift He has given you by using it. There’s a saying in business that says, “No risk. No reward.” Don’t be afraid to take a risk today with your gift. You might fail or you might succeed. You’ll never know until you try
What I love about having been to Israel is that when I read the Bible, I can picture each place in my mind. There are two sites celebrated as the place where Jesus was crucified. One of them is in a magnificent church and the other out in the open. I got to visit both places on this last trip, and both were incredible in their own way. Personally, I enjoyed the one outside better for a number of reasons, but I was a little offended at first by what I saw.
We were sitting on the property of the Garden Tomb, and they read Matthew 27:33. It says, “And they went out to a place called Golgotha (which means ‘Place of the Skull’)” (NLT). They pointed to a hill just about 50 yards away, and asked if we could see it. They showed us pictures of about 50 years ago and another from over 100 years ago. You can see how it looked like the Place of the Skull. But when I looked at the base of what could be Golgotha, there was a busy bus station. I couldn’t believe such a holy place was being disrespected.
That’s when it hit me that a bus station at the foot of the cross was the most appropriate way to honor it. One of Jesus’ final instructions before His ascension was from Mark 16:15. Jesus said, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.” The buses that I saw there were a representation of the Great Commission. Those busses carry people all over the place the same way we are to carry the Gospel. Our message is summed up by what happened at the Place of the Skull.
Where Jesus’ mission was fulfilled, ours began. Where He said, “It is finished,” He was handing the baton to us. That place of death became the birthplace of eternal life. We are the bus drivers of His message. We carry His spirit within us to be witnesses in all the world. Wherever we go, whomever we meet, we are to transport His message of hope and love. We can turn this world upside down at He disciples did, but we have to be willing to get on the bus and go.
When most people think of feet, “beautiful” is not a word that comes to their mind. In the Middle East, feet are used to convey negative emotions rather than positive ones. The Bible discusses feet in that context over and over. In Genesis, it implies that we will bruise the enemies head with our heel. Jesus told the disciples to shake the dust off their feet when people wouldn’t receive the Good News. It was a really big deal that Jesus washed feet. By holding them up to wash them, He was teaching the disciples to be lowly servant leaders.
In light of all that, it is significant that in Isaiah 52, God called feet beautiful. If you think that doesn’t compute with us, imagine the significance to that culture. Verse seven says, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger who brings good news, the good news of peace and salvation, the news that the God of Israel reigns!” (NLT). God took what was once used to insult someone and showed how it could be used positively.
We all know that the Great Commission is to go into all the world, to carry the good news of salvation to every tribe, tongue, and people. God sees it as a beautiful thing when we obey His command and share our faith. You were never meant to keep it inside of you or to yourself. Your feet were meant to help you carry the Gospel to the ends of the earth. I like how Bob Goff says that if you don’t know where to go, grab a globe, spin it, and put your finger down. You’ve already been called to go. God will bless you when you follow His command.
If you want these “beautiful feet”, then go into the world spreading the Gospel. I understand that some of us can’t physically go, but there are still a couple of ways to have beautiful feet. We can all pray for those who go and live apart from family and friends, and give up the comforts of a familiar place called home. The other is that each of us can support those who go. No gift is too small for those who live and serve on the mission field. The money you sow into their ministry will yield a harvest of souls that you will be a part of. Each of us can have beautiful feet in God’s sight.
For me, one of the greatest things about taking a trip to Israel is being able to put a picture with a story. For a lot of people, it’s the ability to walk where Jesus walked. There is something about being here that makes the Bible come to life. You get a new appreciation for the stories you have read your whole life. You see the caves of En Gedi that David hid in while running from Saul. The Kidron Valley is deeper than you have imagined. The terrain that Jesus and others had to walk through is formidable. I’d like to share one of my take aways with you.
First, there is a strong, vibrant Christian community of Arabs here. I know most people think all Arabs are Muslims, but that’s not the case. We went to two church services with Arab Christians and felt God’s presence strongly. Not only are there Arab Christians, but there are Arabs who don’t hate Israel or Israelis. These pastors we met reminded us of Romans 1:16 that says, “For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile” (NLT).
These men and women are not ashamed of Jesus, and preach His name to Muslims around the Middle East. They know their lives are in danger every time they preach the Good News, but they do it anyway. They know that God loves Arabs and Muslims and He wants them to find the truth. One of the ways they do that is to remind Muslims that the Quran says that not only was Jesus a prophet, but that He’s the Word of God. If He is the Word of God, then they need to see what He teaches and how it’s opposite of what they’re taught.
We have to remember that Jesus didn’t just die for the Jews and the Americans, He did for everyone. John 3:16 says that whosoever “believes in Him would not perish, but have everlasting life.” We can’t be picky with whom we share the Good News with. God’s desire is that none would perish. It’s up to us to reach who we can, how we can. As the verse above said, the Good News was for the Jew first and also the Gentile. We can’t be afraid or ashamed of this Good News.