19th Oct, 2010

Captivated and Cultivating

I keep discovering something new, thinking I’ve learned something and that I’ve arrived at a truth, only to find that what I thought I knew is only a layer upon which to build new captivating thoughts.

Let the wise listen and add to their learning,
and let the discerning get guidance- Proverbs 1:5

Even the wise need to add to their learning, and it is the wise who know this.

I am a missionary, and even my understanding of what that means continues to grow. It’s a great picture of how we can keep learning. Interestingly enough, the word in the Hebrew for learning in Proverbs 1:5 can be interpreted as “captivated.” How I love to be captivated by the ever increasing revelation of my Daddy, God, the Father. And how He longs for me to know Him more. Ephesians 1:17-19; 3:14-21.

One example of an increased understanding involves what I do now. I am a missionary, currently working with Youth With A Mission. When I was a young Christian in a Southern Baptist Church, missionaries were professionals, paid by a big fund created by giving my the thousands of Southern Baptist churches, and they studied for years to go into some difficult place like the Congo, lived in a mud hut, and tried to get the “natives” to pray to receive Jesus. They might be there the rest of their lives. Or, at least most of their lives and then they’d come back to the United States to retire.

Then, in college, I discovered missionaries who raised money to do what they did. And missionaries who raised money to tell others how to be missionaries. And people who went on mission trips for short periods, doing things like building houses, giving away bibles, and teaching people English. Often mission trips were as much about helping those who were sent learn about God as it was helping people in developing nations learn about God.

With regard to being a “fundraising” missionary, I didn’t have a clue how I could ever raise money. That was not what I’d been taught. I needed to work hard and earn my own way in this world. And I didn’t have a wealthy family. But it was good for those who could do it. Besides, I was supposed to get my degree, get a good job, get married, get promoted a bunch, own a home, cars, and have kids. As long as I was going to church and trying to keep a quiet time (basically pray a little and read my bible), all would be good with Jesus.

As my life began to unravel chasing the American dream, God awakened me to the reality that there must be more than a house, two or more cars, becoming an officer in a business, and vacation. I also knew that being a missionary was a part of following Jesus. I just still didn’t really know what a missionary was (I’m still not sure I do now). I just knew that going to the nations was more than a good idea, it was a part of Jesus’ commission to His followers, and it would remove me from areas of my life in which I was struggling.

In the past four years I’ve been around the world with my wife and three kids. It has been an amazing journey. We’ve shared the gospel of salvation with thousands, literally. And we’ve seen hundreds pray to receive Christ. We’ve given away bibles, food, shoes, medicine, money, time, effort, and a lot more. We’ve put roofs on churches, homes, schools, and shanties. We’ve preached Jesus in four continents and touched many lives. And, God has touched our lives. But, as always, there is more.

During that four years I have learned that Jesus preached the gospel of the Kingdom. It was a gospel that was like yeast, where a small amount of yeast, mixed into a large amount of dough, can transform the entire loaf of bread being baked. And when you put the yeast in, you can’t even tell it is there, except for the resulting rising. In the same way, we who carry the Kingdom in our hearts should fill our world – in every aspect of it – and raise the level of hope, joy, love, and grace. We don’t necessarily have to be noticed – we just have to live Kingdom, through Christ in us, our hope of glory – and God will be glorified and transformation will occur.

I see a Kingdom where Kingdom citizens (those who believe in Jesus) are salt and light in this world. We aren’t meant to light up places that are already full of light (just sitting around with believers in a church or hanging out with others who think like us); instead, we should take Jesus and His reign and rule into the darkest places of the world where light is most needed. There, even if our light seems dim to us, our light will shine brightly.

And, in the midst of all this, I see we are called to cultivate our culture through the light of Jesus’ love, with an evermore captivated heart for the King of all kings. I no longer want to separate the church or “church professions” from the secular world. Rather, I hope to see more and more lovers of Jesus going into every sphere of society with Kingdom in their hearts, transforming communities, neighborhoods, businesses, medicine, government, education, the arts, and more!

What are you passionate about? What dreams and desires has God placed in your heart? What are you good at? Cultivate it, be captivated by Love, and advance the Kingdom of God against the dark places of this world – the gates of hell – and see God use you to finish His great work!

And pray for me that I will do the same.

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