How Far Will You Go?

Disciple-Making-SandWhen people commit to reaching others in remote places of the world, they go through extensive training to to learn the language and culture. That makes sense. Otherwise, how are they actually going to impact others’ lives?

Jesus said, “You will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). We all reach people somewhere, whether it’s close or far away, friends or enemies. We’re to “go, therefore, and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19). Even people who don’t believe Jesus’ words make disciples…just not the way He intended. We all influence others.

How much effort are we willing to give? It makes sense for foreign missionaries to learn the languages of the people they reach. Shouldn’t the same be true for wherever and whomever you serve and reach? If you’re truly committed to people, shouldn’t you learn their language and culture?

Instead, we often don’t want to be bothered. Keeping things comfortable for ourselves is so much easier than investing in other people’s lives, especially if they’re not like us. We can just give money to the person who is really passionate and well-trained for reaching “those people,” right? I mean, if someone is living in this society, in my community, and even comes to my church, he or she is pretty much like me, right? Why would I need to listen, grow, or change in order to impact his or her life?

Discipleship requires action and effort: “Go”!

“Go” isn’t just about location. It’s about setting yourself aside, as well as your expectations for God to just bring people across your path. He’ll certainly do that, too, but you have to pay attention to the path you’re on. You have to follow Him, and I can say with certainty that He will put you on some paths that are inconvenient and uncomfortable at times.

I don’t know what language you need to learn today, but I know God wants to teach you something you didn’t know. It might be right in front of you. Open your mind and heart today.

Always be ready to “Go”!

Lesson from Nature: Interruptions as Reminders


I was surprised to see trees in the middle of the road. I laughed at the signs, directing drivers to go around. I assume very few would run right into the tree. Perhaps they just wanted to make sure everyone knows which side of the tree to go around. Wouldn’t it have been easier to take out the tree when they made the road? But then I thought,

…if only we allowed more interruptions to be reminders.

We don’t have to clear everything out of our lives just because it’s convenient. We can get so determined to get from point A to point B that we want as straight a line as possible. But when we focus on the horizon, we don’t take the time to notice what’s around us. Slowing down to avoid bumps, debris, or even trees in the road helps us notice what would otherwise be a blur. It certainly might be easier to create a straight line, but what would we miss along the way? How might we “zone out” and reach our destination without experiencing the journey.

We easily become results-oriented. We consider what we need to do, then attack it (or sometimes, we avoid it). Accomplishment is revered as a strength. The farther we get, the more kudos we get from others and the better we feel about ourselves. But what are we missing in the process? Just because we feel good about something doesn’t mean it’s something good.

God isn’t content with good enough. He has the best in store for us…if we’ll trust Him along the journey. He’ll give us moments when we speed down the road, perhaps even faster than we want at that time. He’ll give us seasons in which we feel stuck but learn patience and perseverance. Then, there are the times the road seems to be straight but has a little swerve in it. As we avoid the tree, we notice something beside the road: a glimpse of beauty, a warning sign, or a hidden trail.

Pay attention. It’s our journey, but His road.

I know, Lord, that a man’s way of life is not his own; no one who walks determines his own steps.

(Jeremiah 10:23)


Life On Demand

now“On Demand”

I Googled it.

  • movies on demand
  • tv on demand
  • printing on demand
  • certification on demand
  • gaming on demand
  • video on demand

I could have searched further, but I knew I’d find some things I really didn’t want to think about being “on demand.”

Wait. I’m skipping a biggie. Social media. Yes, it definitely fits into the on demand category.

I’ll confess there are some things that I like for their convenience. I like being able to purchase an ebook and have it quickly delivered to my Kindle. I like dvr-ing shows so I can watch them when I want without commercials. I like being able to Google something and get a quick answer, although I’m pretty careful with this one, because contrary to popular belief, everything on the internet is not as factual as you might like it to be. (Shocking, right?) But while we’re on the subject, being able to find something that supports what we want to believe is just another sign of our “on demand” culture.

We want what we want when we want it.

Or, do we?

While we like the convenience of some things, we need to draw the line between convenience and on demand. Is there really anything that we should demand? Maybe I’m overthinking this one, but if we get used to using the word demand, and we get used to the convenience that demand gives us, won’t we begin to think we deserve anything we want to be on demand? It’s a slippery slope.

Convenience isn’t a bad thing, but we shouldn’t demand it.

What are you demanding? It might not be anything I’ve mentioned. Maybe you demand your spouse or children respond or behave a certain way. Maybe you demand a level of respect, recognition, or pay at work. Maybe you demand a level of involvement or organization.

In case no one has told you recently…you are not the center of the universe. What you want isn’t what you deserve.

Life isn’t on demand. It’s on faith. How well are you living it? What do you need to stop demanding and start accepting?

Freely Drink

imagesSo Ruth went to the fields and gathered the grain that the workers cutting the grain had left behind. It just so happened that the field belonged to Boaz, from Elimelech’s family. Soon Boaz came from Bethlehem and greeted his workers, “The Lord be with you!”

And the workers answered, “May the Lord bless you!”

Then Boaz asked his servant in charge of the workers, “Whose girl is that?”

The servant answered, “She is the young Moabite woman who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. She said, ‘Please let me follow the workers cutting grain and gather what they leave behind.’ She came and has remained here, from morning until just now. She has stopped only a few moments to rest in the shelter.”

Then Boaz said to Ruth, “Listen, my daughter. Don’t go to gather grain for yourself in another field. Don’t even leave this field at all, but continue following closely behind my women workers. Watch to see into which fields they go to cut grain and follow them. I have warned the young men not to bother you. When you are thirsty, you may go and drink from the water jugs that the young men have filled.” Ruth 2:3-9

We experience favor in the oddest places at times. At least we see them as odd. It makes perfect sense to God, because he sees all the connections among the people and situations in our lives. He knows the kind of day you’re having and whether you need to pour into someone or feel someone pouring into you in order to experience his presence.

We can get into a “serve us” mentality instead of a service mentality. We can get self-focused and think we should get things our way. But the opposite can also happen. We can give so much we set aside our need to be filled. It might look better, but it’s still self-focused. We think we can rely on ourselves to meet everyone else’s needs. We believe we’re doing a great thing to deflect the focus to someone else, excusing what we’re doing isn’t much and doesn’t need attention. We don’t know how to take compliments. We don’t want others to serve us because we don’t want to inconvenience them.

The truth is we can rob someone of the opportunity to do God’s work by rejecting her service. We can miss the opportunity to acknowledge God’s glory and provision when we don’t accept compliments and gratitude and reflect him in the process.

Live It. Watch for the opportunity to serve – and be served – today. Acknowledge God’s goodness.

Shopping for God

target-corporate-officesWe don’t get to pick and choose what we believe about God.

Well, in reality, we can and we often do. But it doesn’t mean we’re right. We can sincerely believe…and be sincerely wrong!

We often approach faith as a shopping trip to Target. We have lots of options surrounding us with every turn. Need healing? Browse the pharmacy and healthcare aisles. Need structure and organization? Visit the office and school supplies. Want to pass the time? Books and movies abound. Or maybe you just want to put some decor on what you already have. Take your pick of extensive color schemes to fill whatever wall and room space you have.

It doesn’t matter how intentional you are when you start shopping, you’ll likely find things that weren’t on your list that you either decide to take home or, at the very least, stop to examine and consider for a time. Some things scream for your attention, and they’re usually found in the special displays and checkout aisles. And that sign that declares, SALE…well, how can you refuse? You don’t actually need a single thing from those sale bins, but after all, they’re only a dollar, so can’t you find a way to use them somehow?

Not to mention, you can do all this shopping with a comforting Starbucks drink to sustain you.

Do you approach your faith with such an expectation of comfort, choice, and convenience?

God meets you where you are, but you have to look and listen for him. Your expectations and preferences don’t change him. But when you fully yield to him instead of expecting him to yield to you, he changes you in ways that fill you beyond what you can fit into your shopping cart.

Faith isn’t about shopping. It’s about searching.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Friendship

pbjSome things just make the other thing better, and that’s how I feel about many of my friends. I wouldn’t be the person I am without some fantastic friends in my life. As I walked alongside one of my very best friends one day, I was overwhelmed with the blessing of her in my life. I thought about several others, too, who just make me better.

Neither of us is perfect…or even close to it. We both have faults, and we’re fully aware of them. It’s not that we don’t care about them; it’s that we care deeply. We’re not going to get paralyzed by them; we’re going to help the other one walk despite the limps along the way. We don’t become a crutch for each other; we become temporary support.

We’re like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. In my family, we disagree about the “proper” ratio of peanut butter and jelly on the perfect pb and j sandwich. The truth is…there’s no perfect pb and j sandwich. Each combination is a little different either because of the sandwich maker, the availability of ingredients, or the specific situation in which it’s made. No two sandwiches are going to be exactly the same, but it’s okay. Each one can still taste scrumptious.

But here are some essentials that make pb and j sandwiches (and friendships) work.

  • Just the peanut butter isn’t enough. Just the jelly isn’t enough. Both are necessary.
  • Once the two are combined, you can’t completely separate them. They hold onto each other.
  • Sometimes the stickiness oozes out and is annoying, yet the source of the stickiness is also the source of sweetness.
  • The very things that hold the peanut butter and jelly together, the bread, can ruin the whole sandwich when it’s stale, moldy, crumbly, and so on.

My friends make me better. I’m not as good on my own. Friendships aren’t always easy. When we walk alongside each other through the messes of life, we get…messy. But as we get through the mess together, we end up rubbing off on each other in indelible ways.

Not all friendships are delicious combinations. Some are toxic. And to be honest, we sometimes even look for friendships with some toxic ingredients. It doesn’t make sense; if someone asked us what we wanted in friendships, we wouldn’t list some of the qualities we actually end up choosing. We choose unwisely at times. We want to approval more than accountability, or we want what looks and feels good more than we want was actually is good, or we want convenience and comfort over what will challenge and grow us.

Look at the patterns of friendships in your life. What issues have you had to deal with repeatedly? Perhaps God is trying to teach you a lesson, and you refuse to learn it. Look at the weaving of friendships throughout your life and especially where you are right now. In what ways have you gotten comfortable and even perhaps stale? If you’re not growing, it’s not because God doesn’t want you to grow. Listen to his prompts to move on.

And most important, what is holding your friendships together? If it’s God’s provision, he’ll keep it as fresh as he wants it to be as long as he wants it to be, but if your friendship isn’t held together by God’s provision, it’s likely time to make a new sandwich.

Jesus Is Hospitable

Whoever accepts you also accepts me, and whoever accepts me also accepts the One who sent me. Whoever meets a prophet and accepts him will receive the reward of a prophet. And whoever accepts a good person because that person is good will receive the reward of a good person. Those who give one of these little ones a cup of cold water because they are my followers will truly get their reward. (Matthew 10:40-42)

Jesus explains to the disciples the rewards of welcoming others, the call to hospitality. A cup of cold water, in Jesus day, would have been a rare treat. Women gathered water from the village well every morning, but it took a very short time in the hot sun to warm the cool, refreshing water. In order to offer a guest cool water, someone would most likely have to run to the well and return home quickly.

In these verses, Jesus addresses who is worthy of such inconvenient yet generous hospitality. “Little ones” might refer to children but likely extends to a much wider circle of anyone from a less-appreciated strata of society, such the poor, sinful, and overlooked. Hospitality doesn’t play favorites.

Hospitality isn’t something that simply happens in your house. It’s an attitude of your heart. It’s how you greet people, how you invest in relationships, and how you sacrifice what you have for who you know and who you don’t. Hospitality isn’t something you can check on your list, rationalizing you’ve done “enough.” Constantly ask yourself, “How can I do more?”

“Hospitality is the practice by which the church stands or falls.” (Arthur Sutherland)