When The Answer is No

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Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.

~ 1 Timothy 5:1-2

 

 

 

Listen to any Ben Stuart sermon series on dating and you will hear the point (and I agree) that:

Singleness is for Devotion (to the Lord)

and, Dating is for Evaluation (can you get along).

Unless the first person you pursue (or are pursued by) you marry; the evaluation process doesn’t always end in marriage. Leaving the process of either remaining friends or awkwardly avoiding the other person for the rest of your life. Remembering that as believers, we are first and foremost family as brothers and sisters in Christ how we respond matters.

Oftentimes, the breakup or the end of the pursuit in hope of a date can be awkward, especially when you attend the same church or have the same group of friends. You know you will see each other; it never fails no matter how big or small the church is you come walking in and the first person you see is “them.” Perhaps you put your head down and act like you didn’t see them, or try to hurry to find someone else to talk to, or just awkwardly say “Hi, how are you?…”

Lets just be honest here, the interaction shortly after a breakup can be awkward, but how we interact matters, how we respond in our hearts and to the other person matters.

So, what do we do when the answer is no?

We, Remember…

Our First Love

We remember that our first love is Christ and if singleness is for devotion to the   Lord, then the Lord is granting us an extended period of time to pursue Him. Perhaps there is more the Lord is seeking to teach us, or there more of us that He is seeking to remove in order to make us more like Him.

We must remember that until we love the Lord rightly we will never love a spouse rightly. So in our singleness we have a period of time set aside to fully pursue the Lord, to go deeper with Him; allowing us to grow and be shaped more into His Image. The end results, your future spouse will thank you for.

We are Brothers / Sisters in Christ

We remember that we are first and foremost brothers and sisters in Christ. That because of the work on the cross we have been adopted into the Family of God. This is a point I always want to put before singles, especially when they meet. As believers, members of the Family, we are brothers and sisters in Christ first, and we are to live our lives as such.

When we remember that we are brothers and sisters first, some of the awkwardness of meeting new people and remaining friends post-breakup is removed. We are able to remember they are family and as family we are commanded to love them. It is this love that the world is to behold to know we are His disciples.

Our Identity

Lastly, we remember our identity isn’t wrapped up in our relationship status, but has been purchased for us on the cross. We are sons and daughters of the Father, and have been adopted into the heavenly family. We have been created in the image of God and called to Him, our identity is found in Him.

As we remember who we are in Christ, we remember who He is. We remember that He is a sovereign God, who is loving and One who is after our ultimate joy not our current happiness. That He is a good Father who does good for His children; remembering that He has been faithful countless times for us in the past and can be trusted with our future.

Even when the answer is no, we have the unique opportunity to put the love of Christ on display for a watching world to behold. Whether we are single, dating, or married, how we interact with one another matters, because it is telling the world a lot about our God.

City of God in Our Cities

FullSizeRender-7“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. ~ Jeremiah 29:4-7


Three weeks ago I had the privilege of preaching in Visakhapatnam, India. This is a summary of my notes from that Sunday. 


All of us here today are writing a story, for ourselves personally, for our families, and as a church. From the beginning of time there is One who is writing a Greater Story, and our stories only have life and purpose when our stories line up with His. He is writing a story that ends with a new heaven and a new earth and peoples from every tongue, tribe and nation gathering around the Throne worshipping Him. And He has invited us into this story to play a part, not because He needs us, but because He loving allows us to play a part. We remember that although we are currently living here on earth, that this is not our home. There is coming a day when we will see the Lord face to face and our dwelling place will be with Him (Revelation 21).

Much like Abraham and Sarah who were called out to a place or land they did now know, we are being called out to a new city a heavenly one; so they had their gaze set on it and did not return to where they were being called out from (Hebrews 11). Our eyes are to be set on that day to be looking/ longing for that day to come.

But in the waiting, we as the Church have a purpose, to be a City of God within our cities. The Church has a purpose in our cities as part of the Greater Story.

Jeremiah 29:4-7

The Lord is speaking to those in exile from Jerusalem, who find themselves in Babylon, a place that is not their home. Much like today the Israelites find themselves not home, and they are going to be there for a while.

So what does the Church do in the waiting?

Be Planted Where You Are

Verse 5aBuild Houses and live in them

This is a long-term command, the Lord is telling them to set up roots where He has planted them. As we remember the words of Jim Elliot, “Wherever you are, be all there!” That is be committed to where the Lord has you, finding rest in the truth that it is Him who has placed us wherever we find ourselves. Whether we love the city we are currently in, or want our as soon as possible, He has placed us in our cities for a purpose.

Verse 5bPlant Gardens and eat of their produce 

Not only are we to be planted where we are, we are also to contribute to the society and the culture of our cities, wherever we find ourselves.

Be About the Cultural Mandate

Verse 6 – Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease

In Genesis 1 & 2 we see the Lord create Adam & Eve then gives them the Cultural Mandate in Genesis 2:15 –The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it.

Also connecting with the command to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:28)

The Lord continues this original command telling the exiles that as they wait for deliverance, to be home, they are to marry and have children; to fill the city with the people of God.

Adam and Eve were to fill the earth and seek to make it look like the Garden; we as the Church in our cities are to seek to fill it and be apart of the Lord’s work of restoring all things to Himself

Be About the Welfare of the City

Verse 7 – But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

Welfare = Shalom / peace

 

We as the Church are to seek the peace of our cities. All aspects of peace, that we as the Church in our cities will seek to push back evil. To where we see injustices we will push back for the greater good of the City. That we as the Church in our cities would stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. That we carry out the Great Commission in our cities by brining the Gospel to those we work with and shop with and ride the bus with that all may know Him, the author of peace.

Ultimately the Church is called to be Salt and Light in our Cities so that the watching world will take notice and praise God for it (Matthew 5:13-16).

He has called to Himself making us His own, and is preparing a Heavenly City for us; while we wait for that day He has placed us as a light on top of a light stand in the midst of cities, so that all may see and give Him glory!

While we wait, we must be about the Greater Story that He was called us to, to be a City of God within our cities!

India 2016 Recap

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Praise the Lord, all nations!

Extol him, all peoples For great is his steadfast love toward us,and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.

Praise the Lord!

~ Psalm 117

There are trips that are easy to put into words and there are trips that a week and a half later you are still seeking to fully process them. The trip we took to India falls into the later category. If we were to sum in up in one phrase it would be God is Faithful. He is faithful to use His people; He is faithful to equip and prepare His people; and He is faithful to sovereignly control all things in the midst of chaos.

The trip consisted two different parts, while a group of ten loved on two hundred-sixty children through a VBS, Richard Brindley and I were loving on and teaching one hundred and twenty Village Pastors.

Vision Natives Training Conference: The Church and its Leadership

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“And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.”

~ 1 Thessalonians 5:14

While in India, Richard and I had the humbling task of training one hundred and twenty pastors from surrounding villages, some who came from the city and some who came from 400km away. We were asked to teach on the subject of The Church and Its Leadership, where we would over four days pour into these pastors on what the scriptures says about the Church, how it is to be set up, what are the qualifications of leaders as well as how do we raise up leaders from within our bodies in a biblical way.

Through it all the Lord remained faithful to use us to encourage those He has called to the task of ministry for the sake of the Gospel in their villages. These men, as we begin to converse with them, we would see that they were tired, and here to be reminded of their calling and find encouragement. These men came in weary, tired and the Lord ministered to them greatly, through worship, His Word and prayer. Was a humbling experience to be allowed to be a small part of what the Lord is doing in and around the world. To be able to open up His Word to speak to His People as He offers rest, encouragement and strength so they can carry on with their calling.

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Vacation Bible School

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“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

~ Matthew 5:16

While Richard and I were speaking at the Pastor’s Conference, ten members of the group spent the week pouring into the lives of about 260 children; many of whom had no personal relationship with the Lord. Only around ten of the children were known to be believers in Christ; while of the eighteen teachers working at this school, ten are professing Christians. Many of the teachers and children are practicing Hindus, living without the hope and love of Christ. The team could feel the weight of the situation, and the glorious opportunity to shine Light in the midst of darkness. With this in mind the team sought to impact the lives of not only the children and teachers, but anyone they encountered in hopes of leaving behind an understanding of Christ’s unconditional love. Twice a day for five days, they would meet with the children and center every lesson on how each child was created to be special and the one, true God saw them, knew them, and loved them deeply.

Seeing the pictures and videos, and hearing the stories each evening made their success clear– this team did a phenomenal job. Each member sought new ways to engage, entertain, and ensure that the biblical truths of the gospel would be remembered. Watching the team transition from being shocked the first day at the amount of children and scheduling issues, to passionately loving the children to the point of tears on the final day, showed commitment and dedication to serving others in order to serve the Lord.

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Small Taste of the VBS (Video)

Taj Mahal

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“He is not here, for He has risen, as He said. Come and see the place where He lay. Then go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead…”

~ Matthew 28:6-7a

On our final Saturday in India, we all hopped on a train from New Delhi to Arga, a two-hour trip, to see the Taj Mahal. Let me tell you, nothing about this 7th wonder of the world was disappointing; completely worth the hectic travel circumstances we all endured. The Taj Mahal is a wonder that many in the world will not have the opportunity to behold. However, as we stared in awe, we marveled at the fact that the tomb was built-in 1632 (pre-power tools). This beautiful tomb was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan for his favorite wife. As I was struck by the beauty and looked in astonishment at the details, I kept remembering that this is just a tomb. This particular tomb is still full, but there is a tomb that perhaps to the human eye is not as glorious, but is infinitely more astounding than the Taj Mahal. King Jesus’ tomb is empty, but because He is risen, we have the privilege of being welcomed in and adopted into the Holy Family. A love story unlike any other. One leader built a home for his favorite wife to wither away as he eventually would do the same. Another King came as a servant, willingly went to the cross, died, and rose again in order to prepare a place for us to not just die and become ashes, but instead enter into eternity as His bride, the Church.


“The overriding reason why we should take other people’s cultures seriously is because God has taken ours seriously!”

~ John Scott


Resting in His Faithfulness

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Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

~ 1 Corinthians 12:4-7

You, me, your co-worker, my neighbor, the lady at the supermarket, we all have them; special gifts that make us come alive. Those gifts and desires that we long for opportunities to use them. They are part of who we are, and come naturally to us, and that is because we have been created this way. All of us have special gifts and talents the Lord has specifically designed us with; the reason we have these longings is because He created us to express them and use them, to serve the Church, and to honor Him.

Over the past ten days I have been reminded that much like everything else in our lives we can completely rest in His Faithfulness regarding our gifts and talents. We can trust Him, because if He has created us with these specific talents and longings, He will provide us opportunities to express them. David writes in Psalm 139 that God, formed our inward parts, knitted us together, and that every day we would live He wrote out for us before there was anything in creation. This is an intensely personal God being extremely active in creating us.

If He has hardwired us with these desires and talents, we can trust Him for the opportunities to use them. We don’t have to stress over when will we get to express them, we don’t have to wonder will the opportunities come, they will because He was written them out for us before the foundations of the world (Ephesians 2:10; Psalm 139:16). We simply have to be faithful and obedient in our pursuit of Him. When we are faithful in our pursuit of Him and faithful in our exercising of our gifts, He is faithful to provide those opportunities.

Since He is the One gifting us, shaping us, and writing out our days we can trust Him with our gifts and talents for opportunities to use them. I spent the past ten days with a team in East India using our gifts and talents the Lord has granted us for kingdom work. There were several on the team that a month ago this opportunity wasn’t even on the radar, but yet the Lord opened the door, provided the means, and made much of Himself to strengthen His Church. Our role was to walk in obedience and faithfulness by putting in the appropriate preparation time, and then to trust Him.

As we are in pursuit of Him and seeking to honor Him with our lives, giftings, and talents, let us remember that He is the one writing our stories. Because He is the One writing, we may be given opportunities that we don’t expect; He may lead us to places we never could have even thought of, and He can be trusted in those moments. For He has prepared these moments for us to make much of His Name and to bring us ultimate joy.


He has wired us with special gifts and talents that we may worship Him in the use of them.


What to Say

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

~ Revelation 21:3-4

This morning as I laid in bed trying to wake, scrolling through Twitter, waiting for the snooze to go off and I began seeing the hashtag #PhilandoCastille, as I began to put together the story I cried out, “Lord not again,” not a day after #AltonSterling. Now tonight as I sit at my computer reading the reports of a sniper shooting in Dallas, my home, I find myself mourning and at a lost of words.

Honestly I have been trying to find words all day to say. This morning as I read the news, I probably began and deleted who knows how many tweets, trying to process all that is going on. Trying to understand all that is going on, praying for those directly affected and those indirectly affected. Praying for those close friends who are in bi-racial relationships and those who have so lovingly showed the Gospel to the world and have adopted from multiple races, wondering how the tension in America is and will affect them. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t understand it all, as a Mexican American who is considered a Caucasian, and  grew up in a city that was 90%+ Caucasian, race was never really an issue. But hear me on this, I am trying to understand and I am trying to grasp all that is going on.

I don’t understand it all, but here is what I know:

  • There is a great racial tension in America that hasn’t died and isn’t going away; it must be addressed.
  • There is a large population of people who are hurting and have scars going back centuries, and to combat the #BlackLivesMatter with #AllLivesMatter is simply unloving and evil.
  • That as I read comments online and responses on social media to men and women I would consider leaders in the Church, who are African-American, there is a great racial tension in the Church today as well.
  • That the Church is to display the Glory of God in our cities.
  • A divided church cannot display the Glory of God in our Cities and to our neighbors.
  • That we are called to love, and loving those around us means sitting and listening, without telling them why they are wrong to feel how they do.
  • I know that men who were created in the image of God have lost their lives this week, and that should break our hearts.
  • That as I write this, five families have lost men who were sons, fathers, brothers, and husbands, and that those families will never be the same.
  • There is a large part of the population that will go to bed tonight and wake up tomorrow living in fear, pain, anger and hurt.
  • That we are called to mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15).
  • That our response to the command that we are to love has nothing to do with “others” and what they have done or their response to us, and has everything to do with the simple question of, will we be obedient?
  • That the current conditions of the world daily remind us that we are living in a Genesis 3 world and things are not how they were created to be.
  • That there is coming a day when the Lord will come back and make everything right.

I don’t know a lot, but I am seeking to learn. To my brothers and sisters who are hurting and walking in fear, I want to say I am sorry you are walking through this and that I love you and am praying; where I don’t fully understand please help me. I really want to understand because I love you.

Come Quickly Lord! Maranatha! 

The Greater Story

FullSizeRender-4And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

~ Genesis 1:28

 

Its simple to do, the alarm goes off in the morning maybe you hit snooze, or maybe you jump out of bed and begin your day of work, errands, meetings and before you know it the day is over and you’re back in bed wondering if you accomplished anything at all. Asking if tomorrow will be the same busy pace as today; if this is what you will do with the rest of your life? Will the bills be paid this month? Will my co-worker annoy me again tomorrow? Is this all there is?

What about the future? Will I work here forever? In 5 years or 10 years, where will I be? In the same city? Same Job? Will I be married? Have Kids? Will I be retired? These questions and many more run through our brains, keeping our focus simply on ourself, and on trying to write and finish our stories.

But, there is a Greater Story being written, one that is being written across the course of history, since the creation of the world, and we have been invited in to play a part. From the Garden in Genesis One and Two and the First Commission of, “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it;” that is to Edenize the rest of the world to look like to Garden; that all of creation may be brought to the footstool of Christ in worship. Through the Fall of Man in Genesis 3, and into God’s glorious working of redemption as He establishes His dwelling, dominion, and dynasty over and with all creation across the pages of the Bible. To today and into the future, God is writing a story, one that is more glorious than anything we could write ourselves and we have been invited in.

To see the Greater Story we simply have to look around, to take our eyes off self and our small stories. Only then are we able to see the Greater Story and how our stories play a part in it.

Earlier this month I traveled to Guatemala and was reminded yet again that the Lord is doing a great work in and around the world, and we have been invited into the story to be active participates not simply spectators. Seeing the Greater Story play out and actively participating along with others left me encouraged.

Encouraged by:

  1. Gospel: The Gospel crosses boundaries of language, cultures, and all barriers and simply does work. The power of the Gospel is going forth in lives that have been forever changed by it, and into lives of others never leaving them the same.
  2. Students: Seeing former students the Lord allowed me to opportunity to pour into over the years, take time away after the school year to go and participate in the Story.
  3. Missionaries: Being around and serving alongside those who have stepped out in obedience into the Lord’s Greater Story, left me greatly encouraged. As I had conversations with them and many shared how they don’t know where they will be in a few months but currently the Lord has them in Guatemala and that they trust if the Lord shuts that door He will open another for them to walk though.
  4. Creation: Guatemala is beautiful, to stare in awe and remember there is a Creator God that spoke all of this into being and who holds it all in His hands.
  5.  Changed Lives: To hear the stories of lives that have been changed by the Gospel and to see how they are now participating in the Greater Story.
  6. Love: Love of God’s people. Love for friends to come to know Him. The love and joy that only comes from the Father impacting and filling the lives of those around us.
  7. Friendship: This trip created friends amongst those who were strangers at the beginning of the week. Centered on the Gospel not only are friends but family. Brothers and sisters in Christ who have been called to be active participates in the Greater Story.

There is a Greater Story being written, and we have been invited in to be active participates for the Glory of God and joy of His people. The people of Guatemala helped remind me of this. We are all writing a story, and our story only has purpose and fulfillment when it is part of the Greater Story, let us look up and see.


“The church has become the theater of the gospel, and in this theater, there are no passive spectators, only engaged participants, acting out what is in Christ.” 

~ Kevin Vanhoozer 

Why We Go


John Piper begins his book on missions, Let the Nations Be Glad, with the quote: 
 “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the Church. Worship is. Missions exist because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate not man.” 

His point being that and God alone is worthy the be worshipped, therefore we go. We go because there are people across the street and around the world that God is worthy to be worshipped by. There are people in the States in cities we know on a map, and people in the fields in cities around the world that He is worthy to be worshipped by. Many are worshipping idols of self or false gods that will never satisfy. Therefore we go. We go because He is worthy to be worshipped by the self-consumed american, the one in a field who has never heard His Name, and the one chasing another god. We Go! 

The call to go isn’t one for just for “special Christians” but for all. We all have been commanded by our Lord to go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). All nations includes the one next door that we may not get along with and the one around the world who is hostile to Americans and Christians, therefore we all have a part in the call to go. 

Is it sometimes uncomfortable or dangerous? Yes, but remember that our Lord alone is WORTHY, He is Worthy to receive the praise and worship of all peoples. So we go! We all do our part. And in answering the call we seek opportunities where we are at to make disciples and be about obedience. 

Some can’t go around the world, but all can go next door and in our communities. Some in obedience answer to call to go around the world when the opportunity presents itself, but it takes the Church for this to happen. Therefore some answer the opportunity in obedience by sending and helping those who are going. 

Piper goes on to say: “So worship is the fuel and goal of missions.” 
Having our hearts captivated by the beauty of the Lord we go, so others may be captivated as well and give Him the worship He alone is worthy of. 

“Every Chriatian is either a missionary or an imposter” ~ Charles Spurgeon