Is “Sexy Christianity” Really Sexy?

If you’re a believer and you’re reading this on your Macbook Air, throw a hand in the air.

You’re probably a sexy Christian.

Well, hold on. I meant that you probably subscribe to this sect of Christianity that’s called “sexy Christianity.” Maybe that was the wrong way to put it, but as we are made in God’s image and he is the perfection of beauty (Psalm 50:2, ESV), it might be accurate nonetheless.

If you’re a trend-follower on social media, there’s a chance you’ve seen this post. It’s been making the rounds from internet town to internet town, but I want to take another look. And again, for emphasis: This is just another look. It’s not a stern rebuking or a tongue-lashing worthy of a band of picketers against unity; I simply want to dive into the world of sexy Christianity and poke around a little bit.

Macbook Air or not, I probably found you in the midst of poking around. You’re a part of this sexy Christianity, which is described as follows by the author, Kyle Donn:

My generation of believers loves the idea of radical Christianity. It’s edgy, compromises everything, it’s dangerously transparent, and it’s simple. Phrases like “I just want Jesus” are its slogan – its very breath. Verses are tattooed on our backs, and Greek words are penned into our wrists and biceps. Our sweatshop-free clothes are ripped and dirty. Our coffee is fair-trade. Our books are doctrine-heavy and well worn. And maybe we’ll even have a drink or a cigar here and there over a deep theological conversation. Today, most of us have made our pilgrimage to an African orphanage or held the hand of the dying somewhere in the third-world. We are not like our parents – who worry themselves that our bold-faith is going to leave us homeless and maybe dead.

Do you see yourself in that? Despite my lack of excitement for tattoos or TOMS shoes, I know two things: This is me… and there’s a good chance it’s you as well.

That’s okay.

We’re all world changers. The brands we love and causes we stand for drive us to action because God’s love compels us. We would likely rather die than see another child go waterless in Uganda. That’s okay. We come in different shapes, shoes, and sizes, with different causes, creeds, and capacities. And Kyle is right, “When a believer is more interested in the idea of loving Jesus than actually loving Jesus, then that is not Christianity.” But sexy Christianity isn’t sexy, just like antiquated Christianity isn’t antiquated. Christianity is Jesus. It’s the rock. And yes, this may be a simple, tattoo-worthy message, but it’s the truth. Christianity isn’t defined by who we are, but who God is. When we start moving the compass needle off of ourselves and onto Jesus, this no longer becomes a heart issue. His next sentence says:

And we ought to wage a war of wrath upon it – mortifying, dismembering, and crucifying it, and then putting it in a tomb where it belongs.

The belief that sexy Christianity needs to be dismembered is only a lack of understanding. Again, sexy Christianity is just plain normal Christianity. The second we begin to iterate and denominate who is doing what and wearing what, unity evaporates. God is not sitting in some massive courtroom, gavel in hand, waiting to tell the hipster that he’s less adored than the man in the blank sweatshirt. Clothes don’t matter! God’s favor doesn’t fall solely on the man in the blank sweatshirt just because he wears nondescript clothes and doesn’t tell anybody about it. Jesus says, “Come!”

Come if you’re wearing skinny jeans. Come if you’re wearing no jeans. Come if you love Starbucks or fair-trade or your own brew. Come if you like brewing beer. You are who you are and God has called you to dance down to the water and take a drink.

Radical Christianity isn’t going out of style, because it isn’t radical, it’s normal. Radical might be a buzzword (and that will die), but it only exists because we struggled to quantify it when this mold of living rolled onto the scene. Just like generations past had their own way of doing things, so do we. This Christianity thing has been around for thousands of years and we are just the latest manifestation of Jesus’ love to the world.

You are who you are.

You are living in a world that is unlike 50 years ago, or 500 years ago for that matter. You were created at this very time for a very specific purpose (Esther 4:14). You will glorify God more while on this earth than at any other time in human history. This Jesus you love and His Christianity thereafter is not going out of style, and neither are you. Sure, we’ll change with our surroundings–––I’ve said “y’all” more times during my time in Florida than I ever did in the north–––but we’ve come to expect the evolution of our hearts and minds.

Take me, for example. I wasn’t a very great person for awhile, but slowly, Jesus let the temporal crumble. I was a man who couldn’t name the Gospels, for crying out loud! And now look: I founded this very outlet and later its’ sister. I walk with a massive group of college students on a weekly basis… and I hated churchy college gatherings! Hashtag, redeemer. Hashtag, blessed. If you’re an instagramming, homosexual-loving, bring-the-fire type of Christian, know this:

“Be yourself. Above all, let who you are, what you are, what you believe, shine through every sentence you write, every piece you finish.”

That’s a quote from author John Jakes, and besides the literal authorial meaning, isn’t that what we’re going for? To be who you are, fully in Christ, letting God shine through all of it? Yes. Yes, that’s what we’re called to be.

God doesn’t want cookie-cutter lovers with no heart and soul. He wants you. Every piece of you, every flaw. So run to him. Take your cultural relevance with you, because you’ll need it. Just like bikers reach bikers best and you reach those in your circle best, God will you use in any condition. All you have to do is run.

When Life Throws You A Curveball…

Things are going as expected.

In the ocean of life, it’s smooth sailing. All of the sudden, a rogue wave comes along and threatens to wreck your ride. What do you do? Do you let the wave dictate where you’re going, or do you forge, headlong into the thick of it?

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.

(Hebrews 11:1)

Our responses to the curveballs of life are signified by our faith and trust in the author of our universe.

When life throws you a curveball…

I’m not going on the Quarterlife #48States Road Trip. Despite months of planning and preparation, the trip is over before it begins. Why, though? To answer that question, let’s sprint back over to Hebrews 11, which I referenced above. It’s one of my favorite and most revered chapters of The Bible.

The author of Hebrews mightily tells stories of faith in Chapter 11. In fact, he says “It was by faith” sixteen times before going on to say: “How much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets.”

What. Boundless. Faith.

33 By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. 

(Hebrews 11:33-34)

Their faith harnessed the power of a God that can move mountains.

A History Lesson

I’m reminded of my own story. Which begins with my mother.

In 1978, my sister was born into this world. She was supposed to be the only Schmidt child, due to internal complications. Roughly eight years later, my mother prayed, harnessing the power of a God that can move mountains. She said, “If you are who you say you are, give me a son for my husband.”

In the fall of 1987, my brother was born into this world at one-million-to-one odds. 364 days later, she got double for her trouble. That’s me.

What. Boundless. Faith.

At 2,000,000-to-1 odds, I stand on this earth as a result of a laboring of prayer. To put that in perspective, if you repeated this outcome 1,999,999 more times, I wouldn’t be here. Only the finger of God could have made life when there was no possible outcome for life. Ask my mom, though. Seemingly insurmountable odds were nothing for an insurmountable God.

When life throws you a curveball…

…it’s the perfect time for a home run.

Verse 40 says, “For God had something better in mind for us.”

Often, we settle for mere fractions of our God-vision. Or, we seek to implement his will ahead of time. To this, I exhort you: God’s vision for your life is exclusively yours and the author of time is always on time. Never early, never late.

It is for that reason that I can’t take the #48States journey in 2013.  And that is tough to say because I desperately wanted to take this trip. Still do, in fact. But I am unwilling to sacrifice God’s good for God’s great. And the companies that have partnered with Quarterlife have been great throughout this entire process. I am truly floored when I think of their willingness to fund such an amazing opportunity.

In the end, though, it’s about doing what we’re called to do. In this season, I must press the pause button because God has something better in mind. It’s called We Drop Love.

wedroplove-large

We Drop Love is God’s home run. We Drop Love is all about loving people–––whoever they are, wherever they’re at. It’s about dropping bombs of love, no agenda attached. It’s about an giant, audacious goal: to find 500 different ways to love people on a national journey next summer.

And so we wait. But waiting is good. Waiting always gives us the opportunity to become further aligned with God’s will.

While we wait for next summer, I am asking you to join us on the journey. You can follow us on Facebook and Twitter to join the conversation and keep updated. Ask us questions. Suggest things. But above all else, let’s get moving. Together, we’ll forget the hatred and forget the judgment. You’ve seen the news lately–––there’s enough of it already–––but we as a generation can change things.

If we do, We Drop Love might be the biggest curveball yet.

Battling God-Complexes and Idea Makers

I’m reading a book on collaboration and watching myself get so annoyed as I’m reading it that everyone can have good ideas. Artists want to be special, and I want to be special; and they are special, I guess, in the same way that everybody is special.

I think I need to deal with my own reticence to take ideas from other people who I don’t automatically respect. Some of this is actually because I’m sometimes in the wrong room, and I’ve talked my way into rooms that really aren’t a good fit. It’s been interesting in the last year to gather a group of people, or at least individual connections with people, who are much more compatible for me to work with. So for them to have ideas is fine, because I know them, and I get them, and I trust them. But when there’s both an authoritive hierarchy in the room as well as a professional etiquette of rules of engagement, it weirds me out. I don’t feel like I understand the rules, and I don’t know whether or not I have the right to speak. So I ignore everything and just talk, breaking rules, and damaging credibility in the process.

I get annoyed when I watch people who understand the politics of ideas better than I do succeed with ideas that are close but not as good as the best idea on the table because they know how to get them approved faster. And I don’t mean a formal approval. I mean presenting it in such a way that the room has an “ah-ha” moment over an idea that’s essentially second best.

Which bothers me.

Now when I read magazines that talk about all these hugely imaginative public art projects – things like New York’s new high line park system where it’s a completely new way of doing it. And then I think back…in some room, was an inventive genius a partner with a political mouthpiece to get the city to pay for that? Or was that a politician’s idea who pitched that? Was there an even better idea that was run over in the process? And I always feel like the one with the better idea, getting run over.

Back to my first point: I think that’s just ego on my part. And most artists – this is true of me – want to have a little bit of a god-complex. We want complete control and the reverence that comes with being a deity. And the role as creator and caretaker. I’m using Biblical language on purpose, because I think that’s where it comes from.

What God is to this planet, we want to be to this project. And because we’re not omniscient, and all powerful, and infinitely just, and infinitely merciful, that causes problems. Big problems.

An Observed Suffering: The Newtown Heartache

This morning my heart aches even a little more than yesterday for the parents suffering the loss of their child. For the families at the loss of their adult children. For the teachers. Even for the family of Adam Lanza, who along with his mother, killed himself.

A sweet friend put it this way: yesterday, they faced the nightmare head on. They got the phone call. They identified the children’s dead bodies. They mourned. When they awoke this morning–––had they even slept at all–––they were forced to face it once more, but this time with reality hitting a little harder. It was not just a malicious and vile nightmare their unrelenting brains conjured up. It was reality. It happened. Their child was gone and the world kept spinning. Lives kept going. Jesus never came back to rescue them from a crude, dark world. Not yet.

Twenty children gone.

Nine adults gone.

The murderer and his mother gone.

All three are unthinkable, evil tragedies.

 

We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize. . . but one who in every respect has been tested as we are.
Hebrews 4:15

Mass murder, torturing slavery, and brutal evil are all reasons Jesus came to us the way He did. What kind of Savior is necessary for the comfort of a broken heart from brutal loss?

This world needed a Savior who has tasted sheer horror and brutal torture. One that has been through what the families in Newtown are going through. One that has been through what the world has and will be going through. We never needed a majestic prince with locks of gold nor a comedian to help alleviate stress by bringing laughter. Not a preacher. Not a doctor. Not a genius. This evil world needed what no mere man could be.

The world needed a suffering Sovereign. Not just a sufferer, nor just a Sovereign. For the suffering man would not be strong enough to save, nor the sovereign man be weak enough to sympathize. This man, the suffering Sovereign, came to Newtown, Connecticut.

He planned to be crushed.

He was ready to be wounded.

Despised and rejected.

Submissive like a lamb to the slaughter.

Endured anguish.

Then poured out death.

Isaiah 53

The God-flesh, Jesus Christ, is the One drawing near to the broken in Newtown. No one else can love like He can (Luke 7:48). No one else can heal like He can (Mark 1:41). No one else can sympathize like He can (Isaiah 53:4). No one else can redeem like He can (Luke 12:8).

As a people being made into a likeness of Him, may we be quick to pour out those characteristics such that we have the Spirit of the living Messiah working these mysteries inside of us. We must work out what He is working in us. Salt of the earth, light of the world. This is the very reason the Messiah had to rise and become alive again after his murder. Not only to defeat death at its very core, but so that He may still be living and active with His Spirit right here on planet earth.

We are the ambassadors. May God make us tender vessels of the suffering Sovereign.

[alert style=”success”] Sound Off: How do you wrestle with what happened in Newtown? How does the existence of our suffering Sovereign help today? Let us know in the comments below. [/alert]

Do I Have A Choice?

We serve an awesome, mysterious God. We serve an infinite God, who can never be fully understood by our human, finite minds. There is no end to the depth of knowledge and understanding to be gained by our striving to know Him more, but there is joy and meaning to be discovered in our attempts to grow closer to Him. It is a journey which has raised many debates, and one such debate is the sovereignty (power) of God and man’s free will.

Man’s free will has been a question which has been discussed for centuries. Do people have a choice, or does God determine what people will do? It is an argument which divides Christians, splits churches, and has caused many to question the power and goodness of God. Within the debate, there are two lines of thinking which I would like to discuss; Libertarian and Compatibilist.

 

LIBERTARIAN

The Libertarian view would argue that man has the completely free opportunity to choose or reject God. That God does not intervene in a person’s decision, but that He creates, and then steps back and allows mankind to live life freely. They would point to examples in the Bible where people seem to make choices of their own free will (such as the Pharisees rejecting God’s purpose;  Luke 7:30), and ask why God would determine for people to act against Him.

The Libertarian view would say that the Bible makes it clear that God will hold people accountable for the choices they make in life. They would argue that there are consequences for our choices, and that the only way God could be a good, just, fair Judge is if people are free to make those choices completely on their own.

 

COMPATIBILIST

The Compatibilist would say that man has a choice, but that it is directly intertwined with what God has determined. That God is all-powerful, and that there is nothing He does not control. They would say that there are examples in the Bible of both free will and God’s determinism (such as Philippians 2:12b-13, which says to “work out your salvation,” [free will] “for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.” [divine determinism]).

Like the Libertarian, the Compatibilist would agree that God will hold people accountable for the choices they make.  However, they would say that it is only by God’s intervention that anyone would choose to do good.

 

AS FOR ME

I would say that I fall more into the Compatibilist camp. However, I am humbled by the mystery and awe of how God works. Does man have a choice?… Yes. Does God’s sovereign will reign supreme, and His plan already encompass our every choice, even before we are born?… Yes. So, is it free will or determinism?… Yes.

God created us with a choice, and for a choice; with the ability to make a choice, and for the purpose of making the choice He’s determined. It is a beautiful tension in which I live, knowing that, as Deuteronomy 29:29 says, “The secret things belong to the Lord…” Knowing that Jesus says in John 15:16, “You did not choose me, but I chose you…”, AND in John 7:17, “if anyone CHOOSES to do God’s will…” It is not an “either/or”, but a “both/and.” Like Ephesians 2:8 tells us that we are saved by faith, but not of ourselves, for it is a gift from God.

So, I will choose God because I have no choice.  I will place my faith in Him, for there is nothing else I can do.  And, I will live in the tension, wonder, and mystery of choosing God because He first chose us (Ephesians 1:4).

[alert style=”info”] Sound Off: What do you believe? Are you a libertarian or compatiblist? Both? Let us know in the comments below. [/alert]

Playing The Odds: Forever In Love With Hope

There’s a Powerball drawing tonight. It’s jackpot currently stands at a cool $550 million (up from $500 million at publishing time, just a few short hours ago).

All across America, people young and old, rich and poor, are buying tickets by the handful for a chance at winning the big prize. It’s a phenomenon that happened last spring and it will likely happen more often, too.

Ed. note: This is not a piece on whether lottery playing is “bad” or “good”. We talked about that during a roundtable discussion last spring (my separate thoughts here).

Why do we do it? Why does our culture subject itself to the pouring in of our pennies for the shot at a purse with astronomical odds?

 

We are forever in love with hope.

This isn’t some fourth grade, check-yes-or-no kind of love. This is an unadulterated, give me liberty or give me death kind of love.

We love hope.

“Because we’re in a recession, people love to have a rescue fantasy,” human behavior expert Dr. Wendy Walsh told CNN. “We have the Cinderella complex — there’s a fairy godmother who’s going to come in and save us.”

The fantasy is in full swing, despite the fact that the odds are bad–––really bad. It’s dreamers dreaming, only to come crashing down off of the high of hope later tonight–––at least until the next drawing.

As I wrote about last spring, the poorest households in our country spend an estimated nine percent of income on lottery tickets. Each play is a 1-in-175.2 million chance at opportunity to eschew their poverty or paycheck-to-paycheck life. It’s heartbreaking.

 

We need to be forever in love with the one true hope.

Forget the fairy godmother. She won’t save you.

We must begin to rely on Jesus for everything. All things. We serve Jehovah Jireh… literally translated as “The Lord Provides.” This takes faith and hope and love and it’s not without sacrifice. Look at Genesis 22, verse 2:

“Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.”

Despite facing the prospect of sacrificing his only son, Abraham completely trusted God. When Isaac asked about the sacrifice, he answered, “The Lord will provide.” Consider the emotion in that statement. Your son asks about the missing sacrifice and you know the answer. To me, that’s heartbreaking, and I’m not even a father. But Abraham carried on, raising the knife to kill his son before the Lord intervened, providing a ram to be sacrificed instead.

12 “Don’t lay a hand on the boy!” the angel said. “Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son.”

13 Then Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in a thicket. So he took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering in place of his son. 14 Abraham named the place Yahweh-Yireh (which means “the Lord will provide”). To this day, people still use that name as a proverb: “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

We will never have a need that our eternal God does not know about. Not one. He is our covering. Can you feel the hope there?

As you heavily guard your numbers tonight or praise God for what you have, remember that. It’s a hope much stronger than any winning lottery ticket can ever provide. If that doesn’t work, heed the words of one of our generation’s greatest literary scholars, the Notorious B.I.G.:

“Mo money. Mo problems.”

[alert style=”success”] Sound Off: Do you have trouble translating worldly hope into hope that springs eternal? Are you playing tonight’s lottery? Let us know in the comments below. [/alert]

Election 2012: The Reason I Am Disappointed, Yet Faithful

We are now twelve hours into the aftermath of Barack Obama’s clinching of the 2012 Presidential Election and I feel like most of us are still in a haze (not that kind of haze, Colorado). Some are angry, some are joyful. Some are disappointed. I am in that camp… but I am also faithful. Here’s why:

 

Mitt Romney is a genuinely good man.

Forget anything anybody ever said about Mitt Romney not caring about “the little guy” or the 47% percent that do not pay taxes. It’s not true. I genuinely believe that Mitt Romney is a patriot that has America’s best interests at heart. I campaigned for Mitt in 2008 and I got to know him (as a candidate) very well while everybody was on the McCain/Huckabee/Giuliani buses. I got to work for him multiple times while campaigning in Boca Raton and let me tell you: he cares.

Unfortunately, the Obama campaign did a great job of painting “the rich guy” as a heartless, emotionless, bag of money that was unrelatable. My biggest disappointment is not that Barack Obama is our president for another four years, but that the American people will not see the goodness of Mitt Romney.

They won’t see a country that champions small business. They won’t see a country that seeks energy independence. They won’t see a country that cracks down on Chinese trade and encourages doing business with Latin America. They won’t see a country that is the hope of the world, or the city on a hill. Therein lies the disappointment.

 

Moving forward, I am faithful

Thankfully, we don’t put our hope in the temporal.

So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.
–2 Corinthians 4:18

We put our hope beyond presidents and governors and senators with measly two, four, or six year terms–––we put our hope in Jesus. And he is undefeated. Unlike politicians of past/present/future, he has never lost.

The Master declares, “I’m A to Z. I’m The God Who Is, The God Who Was, and The God About to Arrive. I’m the Sovereign-Strong.”
–Revelation 1:8 

So we move on. We love and support. Everyone. Including President Obama.

Remind the believers to submit to the government and its officers. They should be obedient, always ready to do what is good. They must not slander anyone and must avoid quarreling. Instead, they should be gentle and show true humility to everyone.

Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other. But—“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.
–Titus 3:1-5 

What is our greatest command? Love God, love people. We can’t do that if we’re too busy bickering over a now passed election or about a leader that doesn’t believe in fiscal responsibility like we do. There is hope in the future when we have faith in a big, big God.

Instead of sharing your petty political views on Facebook (because who has ever changed their mind after reading your status, anyway?), let’s rise to our calling as Christ followers. Let’s move forward, like the very campaign slogan of our Democrat champion, and pursue an America that follows Jesus over party line.

[alert style=”info”]Sound Off: What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments below. [/alert]

Stay in Your Lane

You should know something heinous about me.

I absolutely, 100% love movies where the main characters do a lot of singing and dancing. Not necessarily musicals, but like the recent release Pitch Perfect? lOvEd It! Stomp the Yard? Watched it like 14 times when it first came out (and yet I can’t stand Glee. There’s just something very punchable about each of those kids’ faces…). The strangest thing about my little infatuation with the crooners and the steppers is that I can’t sing or dance. At all. And I don’t mean in the, “He can probably blend in with a choir or do a simple two step if he had to” kind of not being able to sing or dance. I mean the “sounds and moves like a wounded buffalo” kind of not being able to sing or dance. And you know what? That’s okay. The good Lord knew not to bless me with those talents, because if He had, I would’ve been out auditioning for every movie, reality show, and Broadway musical I could find. I would be out trying to be the next Justin Bieber (even if he is a full decade younger than me) instead of the first Cory Copeland.

It’s with that correlation in mind that I’ve learned a lesson about myself. I was given the ability to write…so I should be writing. As much as I would like to be serenading the ladies while spinning on my head (IT JUST LOOKS SO COOL!), that’s not what I was meant to do. I was meant to build stories and show truth through the written word. That’s the path God laid out for me. Do I wish I could bust out in a chorus of “Another One Bites the Dust” just like Freddie and have the whole room give me a standing ovation? You better believe it. But that’s not the lane I’m supposed to be driving in.

In our lives, there are things we want to do and things we’re supposed to do. Me? I’m supposed to be writing even though I’d love to be doing a million other things (including dance/sing/be smooth like Neo). But the purpose I have on this planet is to write—so I write.

When we find ourselves wanting to do and be a thousand other things with our lives, it’s imperative we take a moment to truly ponder and pray about what our purpose in this life is. In what capacity were we meant to be used? It can be anything. But the important thing to remember is that we were assigned a lane to stay in by the mighty Creator who designed each of us from a specific set of blueprints. He has plans for our lives and it’s our responsibility to accept that and the gifts he’s given us and make the absolute most of them. Is it easy to get distracted and want to do and try new things? Absolutely, it is. But that’s why we must commit ourselves to our purpose and “do what we do”.

Dave Chapelle said it best when guiding a fellow comic a few years back. “Stay in your lane. Do what you’re best at and become the best at that thing.” We can each apply this lesson to our own lives. Instead of being distracted by a lot of different professions and dreams, let’s each focus on our own purpose and stay in our lane. Let’s make the best out of what we’ve been given and succeed in that aspect before we go off chasing things we want to be doing instead of what we need to be doing.

We’ve each been given a purpose. It’s up to us to make the most of it.

[alert style=”info”]Cory Copeland is a freelance writer living in Little Rock, AR. You can follow him on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/Cory_Copeland and read more of his writing on his blog at www.CoryCopeland.net.[/alert]

 

When God Has Bigger Things In Mind

It was an unseasonably sunny day in April 2006. Dressed in shorts, I remember pacing around the east end of the deck that wraps around our Michigan home, nervously answering questions posed by a Palm Beach Atlantic University admissions counselor.

I was a Pepperdine rejection, unsure what to do about college. Despite early-action acceptance to Tulane, this was post-Katrina and service work to re-beautify the campus was necessary (God knows I didn’t want to do that). Other schools, like Quinnipiac, Chapman, and Loyola (to name a few) left me longing for other options.

“Why is God important to you?”

[Insert rambling/inane/incoherent response here]

In actuality, I mentioned the book of Revelation. I tied it to some factual, scientific reality–––the best I could do for a well-educated kid riding on his parents’ faith. Apparently, my response was good enough to get me in. All the while, God had bigger motives than I had been expecting because, truth be told, God didn’t want me at Pepperdine or Tulane or Michigan or any other school besides Palm Beach Atlantic University.

 

God’s bigger motives were news to me; I was clueless.

Despite my relative incredulity, God knew how he was transforming my life. He was busy placing strong men of his standard in my life to lead me and show me a better way. He was busy stripping me of all that wasn’t Him. He was preparing me to lead–––my lacrosse team, my fellow students, my coworkers, my future employees, my future wife, my future kids.

[quote]What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ[/quote]

–Philippians 3:8

Everything is a loss. It’s all rubbish–––Rubbish!–––compared to the greatness of knowing Christ. God had a plan. He had bigger things in mind.

///

When you’re new somewhere, people usually ask you how you’ve arrived.

To friends and family back home, it was simply, “Jayson is in Palm Beach.” In Palm Beach though, it wasn’t so easy–––I had to initially decode Palm Beach Atlantic University for most people–––

“Oh, you go to Florida Atlantic University?” “No.”
“Oh, you mean Palm Beach State College?” “No.”

But once we got that out of the way, the question usually returned to how I arrived at this tiny, private, Christian liberal arts university. For me, the answer was blind faith. I had never visited Palm Beach Atlantic; instead, I simply showed up in late August 2006 with a beach on my mind and a solid guy-to-girl ratio in my heart.

 

God wants us to trust him and act in blind faith.

Am I saying that college prospectives should never go on a campus visit do the Schmidt method? Of course not. That would be too smart (kidding).

What I am saying is this: if we allow ourselves to trust God completely and understand that he enables us to make decisions for our good and his glory, we can be fearless in making the right moves.

Did I know the ins-and-outs of everything that might unfold in the six years following my move? Again, of course not. But God wants us to be our very best for him, and nothing less. This requires blind faith.

You won’t ever have all of the answers. You’ll be confused, sometimes. You’ll pray for discernment and be confused even more still. You won’t know. You’ll question.

And that’s okay.

When God has bigger things in mind, we need to dive in. It’s our job to pray and walk in obedience–––and we don’t that by standing on the sidelines. If you’re struggling with that, pray to God that he would equip you with a mental blockade. One that pushes out any doubt and frees you to act.

Once there, get off the sidelines and dive head first into the future God has for you.

[alert style=”info”]Sound Off: It’s tough to trust what we can’t see. In what ways have you moved forward in blind faith? How has God worked in the background of your life, without you knowing it? Let us know in the comments below.[/alert]

Living a Missional Lifestyle

There’s something about being a part of sharing the gospel that is far more adventurous than just writing a check to some random ministry, hoping that the money gets put to something useful and not just another 52” plasma screen TV to have announcements circulating that aren’t important enough to be formally announced. There’s something about traveling to a third world country, going to the bathroom in a hole in the ground, and going out to various towns sharing the gospel, and not just writing a check to support someone as they travel. There’s something about living a missional lifestyle, and not just going to church on Sunday morning and leaving unchanged. Our churches should not just have a mission, and not just write checks, but dare to get their hands dirty and live out that mission.

Jesus laid out how to live a missional life in Matthew 28:19-20. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” 

The first thing that Jesus commands his followers to do is to go. Missional living is about going. The word go in the Greek is in the continual, which means that it sounds more like “as you are going.” It becomes a habit of everyday life. In John 20:21 Jesus is talking to His disciples and says, “Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’” The gospel was not meant for us to accept it and let it incubate inside of us, never letting it be released. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” –Acts 1:8. We have been empowered by the Holy Spirit. We are not just randomly going; the Creator of the universe is right by our side, walking with us each step of the way. Going through life is that easy part. It is that intentionality to live on mission that often presents a challenge. Everyone goes through life, but Jesus commands us in Mark 16:15 to “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” While we are going, while we are “doing life,” we are commanded to tell. If we are not constantly sharing the gospel in word and in action, are we truly following hard after Christ?

The next thing that Jesus says in Matthew 28 is to go into the entire world. Jesus hung out in cultural centers, where large groups of people were and with people who were hurting, broken and lost. The church is made of hurting, broken and lost people who are now healthy, made whole, and found in Christ. Luke 5:31, “Jesus answered them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.’” The gospel is not just about righteousness, but a healing for the sick. “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” – 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. We were all hurting, broken, and lost before we were reconnected with God through the saving grace of Jesus.

Jesus said to go and make disciples, not to go and just plant churches. People who are fully devoted followers of Christ make it a priority of discipling others. The first Christians were not called Christians, they still viewed themselves as Jews who have found the Messiah. The were called “People of the Way.” It was a lifestyle of people following hard after Christ while reproducing themselves in others. Who is your disciple? Discipling someone doesn’t have to be just dictating biblical knowledge and hoping it gets memorized. Some of the best times that I have spent with one of my mentors is when the two of us were laying under his car changing the oil talking about life.

Christ left us saying that He will always be with us, all the days of our lives. “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’” – Hebrews 13:5-6. What an awesome promise. We are never alone in the journey.

If we, as a church, stop living missionally, we become a nice country club that eventually becomes more about the kingdom and less about the King. If the King is not our priority, we will fail in every attempt of creating a missional community.