On Mission

Seeking to Be a Disciple and Make Disciples

Archive for the month “July, 2013”

Why Do We Exist?

I have the blessing of working with churches that are seeking to be on mission with God, and there are four questions which are important to always keep before us. They should be asked by all followers of Jesus and Christian communities who want to join God in His work here.

I was assisting a group of elders and ministers from a congregation and they had gathered college professors and leaders in order to gain insight on the value of two new ministries they planned to launch. They did not want to start both at the same time and were asking advice on which would be the most beneficial for their church. One quiet, reflective college professor boldly stated, “Before you answer which ministry to begin, I think your need to ask yourself whether your church has a reason to exist!” Needless to say, most were confused and a bit shocked – they simply did not understand. The way he worded the statement almost sounded as if the college professor believed this particular church should close its doors. Perhaps that was the point he was trying to make, but I don’t think so. Most did not understand the statement and went on to more “productive and practical discussions.” As I think back to this encounter, I see that the statement might have not been well worded and most certainly was not well received; however, it did point the group to the right question.

As a follower of Jesus, the first question we must ask is why do we exist? Why are we here? What is our purpose? Generally, when Christians are asked, “what is your goal in life” the typical answer is “I want to make it to heaven!” I have answered the question in the same way, but that now seems to be incredibly short-sighted. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly want to be in heaven with Jesus and the rest of you! However, I don’t think that should be my ultimate goal or even the answer to the question of why I exist. God’s word seems to make it clear that our reason for existence is to glorify God. Paul keeps repeating this clearly in Ephesians, “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:11, 12 ESV). Jesus tells you who you are in Him. You are the salt and the light of the world and are to let your good works be seen by men “so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16 ESV).

This life of being salt and light is not just something to hold on until we can make it to heaven. If I am merely waiting for that, why not just “beam me up, Scotty” after I put my faith in Jesus and was united with him in baptism? What is the reason for my existence between the beginning of my faith and the return of Jesus to take me to be with Him? The answer is found in what some call The Great Interchange. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV). Jesus became what we are, in order that we might become what His is.” Our desire is to be more like Jesus today than we were yesterday. As Paul compared our life in Christ with that of Moses being in the presence of God he declared, “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NIV). As we grow in our understanding of God’s call in our life, we realize that our reason for existence means giving glory to God and being transformed into the image of His Son. This also becomes our motivation for ministry, to see Christ formed in the life of others. Paul shared his heart for the churches in Galatia, “My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you…” (Galatians 4:19, NIV). The words resonate with truth, “until Christ is formed in you.” So, we are to glorify God, become like Jesus and help others do the same.

I mentioned that there are four questions we should constantly address as children of God and as communities of faith. Perhaps you are curious about the other three questions. Churches should ask themselves: 1) Why do we exist? 2) What values (core beliefs) are driving us? 3) Where do we envision God leading us? and 4) What steps do we need to take in order to join God in this journey? The last three questions are for another discussion; however, before we move on too quickly, it is imperative that we wrestle with the answer to the first question. Do you know why you are here?

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Which Superhero is Your Favorite?

I have to be honest, I am not sure that I get the whole superhero fad. I know I am probably alone in my confusion, but I just don’t get all of the Superman, Iron Man, Thor, Avenger movies. I do remember as a child donning a towel as a cape and jumping off the foot-high ledge of our fireplace. My superhero growing up was Daniel Boone. My sister knew that to really “get to me” all she would have to say was “Daniel Boone is a sissy, yes a real sissy” to the tune of the theme song of the Daniel Boone show. I don’t know why I liked him so much, perhaps it was the cool coon skinned hat he wore. Or perhaps it was the fact that he was “blazing new trails.” Daniel Boone had no cool superpowers. I guess I just like ordinary people who do extraordinary things. I look up to the real person, who through their faithfulness and persistence, accomplish what others think impossible.

Using that definition, I have a couple of new “superheroes.” They are officially my “in-laws,” although I really never use that term to describe them. To me they are friends and coworkers in the kingdom. Doug and Sandy Holcomb just returned from spending 17 years in Cuernavaca, Mexico as missionaries. They returned to be with their physical family, yet they left behind a large spiritual family in Mexico. Before working in Mexico, they spent six years in The Philippines. After their kids were grown and out of the house they went through the Sunset School of Preaching and formed a team for Manila. Again, they returned to be with family as grandchildren were beginning to be born. However, they could not stay away from the pull of people of a different culture who needed Jesus. They faithfully worked in Cuernavaca providing stability while other missionaries came and left; they loved on people through their gracious hospitality; they became masters of ministering to people in a small group setting, sharing the word and committing needs to prayer; they mentored young marriages and families. They leave a large part of their heart with our Mexican brothers and sister. I don’t know many people who do not have a great love and respect for Doug and Sandy. No, I take that back, I don’t know of anyone that has not seen the love of Jesus in them after spending just a few minutes with the Holcombs.

So, I may not really get the whole superhero thing, but I do see the world-wide impact of the steadfast life of a servant. I see the powerful sermon preached through the lives of a loving couple sharing Jesus with others. Perhaps it is too much to call them “my new superheroes.” I think I will just call them friends. Thank you Doug and Sandy for your wonderful example!

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