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Calculus, Halloween, and Marriage Problems

By Dustin Walker

I want you to do a quick mental exercise. I’d like you to imagine the following situations. As you do I want you to pay attention to the setting where your mind takes you. 

  • Families walking around trick-or-treating on Halloween
  • A student sitting at a table working on calculus homework
  • A college-aged guy talking about what next steps to take in education and career
  • A wife sharing about problems in her marriage

So where did your mind take you in each scenario? 

Your neighborhood? A kitchen table? A local coffee shop? With your community group?  

These aren’t made up scenarios. They’ve actually happened. But not in Murfreesboro. I’ve encountered each of these scenarios while on short-term mission trips.

Mission is Ordinary: No Cape Required

We often glamorize mission, especially international mission, perhaps rightly so. But then we feel intimidated and tell ourselves we aren’t extraordinary enough to participate in it ourselves.

One objection you may have is that only super-Christians take international mission trips. And let’s face it you’re no super hero. You don’t even own a cape.

But the reason I use the scenarios above is to make you realize how normal some things can actually be while on a short-term mission trip.

Last year on Halloween I happened to be in Ayacucho, Peru where hundreds of families came to the town square to trick or treat. The very next night I sat with our missionary partner’s daughter at a kitchen table while I helped her review for a calculus exam. The other two situations mentioned above occurred in South Asia. 

I use these scenarios to highlight how the call to mission is a call to give God the ordinary to do something extraordinary. Meeting people, encouraging others, sharing the gospel, and listening to people sharing their struggles should actually be the norm. As I read scripture it seems that God tends to use small, weak, and normal things to show how big, incredible, and strong he is.

You are Equipped... and are being equipped... for Mission

Another objection is believing you are under-equipped.

Your faith in Christ equips you for mission. In 2 Peter 1:3, the apostle reminds his readers that they have been given “all things that pertain to life and godliness.” Knowing the forgiveness and grace of God in Christ is the foundation of your equipped-ness to pass along to others. 

On the other hand you’ll definitely need to know some things. You’ll have a role on the team and be expected to contribute as a part of that team (Rom. 12:3-8). This means you’ll have some preparation to do and that’s where you’ll be more equipped. This will help you prepare for language and cultural barriers in addition to gaining biblical knowledge and experience in sharing your faith with others.

But What About Days Off and Money?

Yes. Time and money are realities. You cannot leave the country for a week or two without also asking off from work. Not only does it cost to go on a short-term trip it also means you are taken away from the job through which your income flows.

I cannot argue this. Plane tickets are costly and your vacation time is probably limited.

Yet, I would tell you that every time I speak with someone who has gone on a short-term trip they were glad they did. In fact, people normally tell me how they want to do it again. I can also say with confidence that God can sufficiently provide for you in many ways (Phil 4:19).

So what about you? Are you interested in being part of one of our short-term mission trips in 2018? If so, I hope to see you at our upcoming Mission Meeting on Sunday, November 12.  

My prayer is that you submit your ordinary-ness and give it to the Lord as you join one of our teams in 2018.

Posted by Dustin Walker with

Stop Comparing—Get Your Joy Back

By Elisha Lawrence

I have some pretty embarrassing stories from my childhood that I can laugh about now, but I wasn’t laughing when I was 11. I loved sports growing up, but I wasn’t a natural. Unlike Allen Iverson, I needed practice. I went to a basketball skills competition in the fifth grade.

At the beginning of the day, all the kids signed in and we went through all these drills. Each drill you got a certain number of points and the kids with the most points were the winners. At the end of the day, all the kids sat in the court together as the winners were announced. There I was with my friends when the guy announcing the winners got to second place in the elementary girls division. He announced, “Second place for elementary girls…Elisha Lawrence.”

The dudes adding the points up thought my name was Elisha, the girl’s name, not Elisha the male prophet from the Bible. As you can imagine, it was a rough day. Not only did I get placed in the girl’s division, but I got second in the girl’s division. That’s what made it a really rough day! There was a girl that was better than me. You better believe I started practicing more after that.

I don’t do a lot of basketball skills competitions as an adult. But since I became a Christian, I somehow end up in all kinds of competitions and I often get second place.

I can be enjoying my time with God and the things he is showing me, but then someone shares an insight I didn’t find. I can be sharing my faith and feeling the pleasure of knowing I’ve walked by faith, but then I hear that a friend led two people to Christ. I can be trying to counsel other guys and help them grow, but then I hear about someone boldly challenging someone to make a big decision. I go from feeling great because I’ve obeyed the Lord to feeling like a failure and like I am not doing enough.

Rather than rejoicing in the gifts that God has given me, I focus on the gifts that others have. Rather than rejoicing in others gifts, I end up envying them. I can’t preach like Trevor, I can’t lovingly confront like Jeremy, I can’t provide wise counsel like Whitney, I can’t work it on the dance floor like Dustin.

Teddy Roosevelt once said that “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Ain’t that the truth. There are times when I am walking with God and I’m obeying Him as best I know how. I am fighting sin in my life. And yet, because I am so worried about how I measure up against other Christians, I am robbed of the joy of fellowship with the Lord.

Paul warned the Corinthian church of a group of false teachers saying, “…But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding” (2 Cor. 10:12). After pointing out the foolishness of comparison with others, Paul adds that he “will boast only with regard to the area of influence God assigned to” him. (2 Cor. 10:13b) Paul understood that every person is designed by God and that each person has an “area of influence” that God assigns. Each Christian has a gift “empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it with Christ” (1 Cor. 12:11-12). There are several truths that I forget when I compare myself with other believers.

  • The Spirit gives every believer a gift
  • He is the one who gives to each one as He decides
  • All these gifts are meant to build up a local church together

The best sports teams are the ones that have coaches and players that understand their roles. The Chicago Bulls won three consecutive NBA championships two separate times from 1990-1998. And of course, they had Michael Jordan, the best player of all time. But he couldn’t have done that by himself. He had another top 50 player of all time in Scottie Pippen. He had a hall-of-fame coach in Phil Jackson. In each championship run, there were great rebounders like Dennis Rodman and Horace Grant. There were solid point guards like BJ Armstrong and Ron Harper. And there were great three-point shooters like Jud Buechler and Steve Kerr.

The Bulls were able to accomplish such an amazing feat because they had players willing to fit into specific roles that made the team better. Would the Bulls have been able to accomplish this if Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman decided they should shoot the ball more than Michael Jordan? Or if Michael Jordan shot every time and refused to pass the ball to others? Of course not!

In the same way, each believer is meant to be part of a local church where they serve as one body. A body needs every part. Eyes can’t be jealous of ears. Hands can’t be fighting with feet. The body won’t work. Comparison among Christians makes little sense. There are things that every Christian should be doing: reading Scripture, praying, sharing the gospel, being vulnerable with other believers, fighting sin, etc. But that doesn’t mean that every believer’s life will look the same or should look the same.

My biggest struggle is accepting the gift that God has given me and serving Him while not having envy of others wanting their gifts instead of mine. It’s hard for me to focus my energy on building up the church with what I do have rather than beating myself up that I am not doing it like one of my brothers or sisters in Christ. Instead of experiencing the joy of a body working together to build everyone up, I’m robbed of that joy.

I compare myself with others because I want to see if my life matters. I’m still trying to work my way out of second place. I forget what the gospel story says about me. Jesus doesn’t love me because I can preach great sermons. Jesus doesn’t love me based on the size of my community group. Jesus doesn’t love me based on how many people see me as a spiritual giant. I’m accepted by God based on Jesus resume, not mine. Walking with the Lord and serving Him now are about obedience.

It doesn’t matter if I am the most powerful teacher or counselor. It matters if I am obeying the Lord by the power of His Spirit working in me. If we all focus on obeying the Lord together, then we can be the church that God desires. God has designed the church to be more like a basketball team than a skills competition. That person you are comparing with is on your team. If God uses them, you’re winning…because He is winning. When my greatest delight is God being glorified, I won’t be jealous of another’s success. I’m with Teddy Roosevelt on this one. I want my joy back.

I want to rejoice that people are being blessed by our church, and other churches. I want to rejoice in other’s victories because all of our small victories are actually the Lord’s victories. And when Christ returns, there won’t be a party for me, but for Him. My hope is that Christ will win and that means every Christian wins. And that’s something to be excited about. 

Posted by Elisha Lawrence with

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