When I was growing up, it appeared (through the eyes of a child) that one of the biggest controversies within the church was that, well, there were different churches – different denominations. In a small town, it seemed to me that you were either Lutheran or Catholic. But, if you were Missouri Synod Lutheran (LCMS) in the 1970’s, there were some BIG differences, with hushed whisperings as the American Lutheran Church (ALC) separated from the Lutheran Church of America (LCA) and a child simply wondered why they couldn’t just reorder their abbreviations and join forces again. Truth be told, my history of these divisions is sketchy at best, and I probably don’t even have the right acronyms. But, growing up as a pastor’s kid provided a different viewing arena for the changes occurring and the angst that naturally followed. Couple that with the deep history and legacy of “growing up Lutheran”…grandparents, uncles, my father – all pastors within the Lutheran church, and needless to say, the belief system runs deep. So, then, imagine the concern and discussion when I was going to marry “outside” the faith – to someone who was <gasp> Christian Missionary & Alliance. Never mind the fact that he was a Christian…there were areas of division, difference, crucial issues to be worked through.
As I look back to the early years of our marriage, I see it as a point in my life where my faith began to transition. It was a time when I needed to venture out from what I had learned through book knowledge and legacy, and seek for myself what I believed, what I would cling to in times of joy and sorrow. I remember having heated (and tearful) discussions with Brad over semantics, details in Luther’s Catechism, pros and cons of infant baptism, passages from Scripture…we agreed. We disagreed. But, through it all, I came to realize that all the years of foundation my parents and extended family had poured out upon me were simply that – foundational. I needed to come to the realization myself that Jesus Christ was my Lord and Savior – I needed to make him the Lord of my life.
The years that have followed continue to further define and refine my own personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I have developed absolutes in areas where Scripture is clear. I cling to the adage “you’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything” and that “something” is the Bible. I hold it up as TRUTH and a living, breathing document that speaks to all areas of our life. Through the Word, Jesus has met me where I am and continues to pursue me to fully become his own. I can only try to do the same for him and I fail miserably.
So, back to the church. There is need for biblical accountability. We have to stand firm and hold true to God’s word. The church needs to continue to preach the inerrant Truth of God’s Word. The Christian church (not a building, but the community of believers) has to stop watering down the law and the gospel and stand up for the substance that matters…salvation through Jesus Christ. When are we going to stop thinking that the urgency of sharing the gospel is not immediate? When are we going to buckle down and face the complacency that has permeated much of our culture and lulled us into thinking that this is not “our job” or the Great Commission doesn’t apply to me?
Lately, it seems like we focus more on our differences than what holds and unites us together. Please don’t misunderstand – there are VITAL and CRUCIAL beliefs in the world that are CONTRARY to Scripture. We cannot overlook these differences, but reach out in love and concern for those that have been led astray. But, as of late, one bothersome controversy I’ve noticed appears to be between the two simple words of “radical” and “ordinary”. I’ve seen numerous articles recently that speak to either side. My definitions:
RADICAL: You aren’t doing God’s work if you are sitting at home, raising your children and not moving yourself to a foreign country to immerse yourself in heathens.
ORDINARY: You don’t need to leave all behind, sacrificing goods and money, to live a life of importance in the day to day. Being faithful in your day to day activities reflects God in you and that is enough.
All of a sudden, I’m seeing support and challenges, within the Christian community, about who is correct on this “debate”? There have been books written on the topic…criticism from pastors, lay leaders, parents, children…determining who is right and why the other side is so off base. Maybe I’m particularly sensitive to this topic because we’ve been thrown into the “radical” side of the see-saw. We’ve heard from many how our move to Ecuador was quick, knee-jerk, and radical. We had people say, “You didn’t need to do such a radical move to serve…you had opportunities right in front of you that you could have used.” Or, “You’re throwing away all you have built over the last twenty years to go to a country where you don’t even know the language and you really can’t have an impact.”
Friends, I am so OVER IT. When are we going to stop judging whether someone is doing mission work the right way? When are we going to stop looking at man as the measuring stick by which decisions should be made? My simplistic view is this…we need to
Live a radical life in the ordinary
When we measure things on a worldly scale, we are going to continually have sin come into play. We question Scripture – “Jesus didn’t REALLY mean for us to sell our possessions and hate our mother, right? We can’t honestly think that he is saying not to save our money and just live as if each day will have enough provision for us. That isn’t good stewardship. And, that whole ‘go and make disciples of all nations’ thing…truly that is meant for pastors and teachers and missionaries. He’s not expecting me to do that.” (Matthew 6:24; Matthew 19:21; Matthew 28:19)
Here’s my analysis. First, we need to be in the Word to know what God desires of us. I read recently how we don’t need to continually search for God’s will in our life if we are continually walking in it. He will “check” us if we are heading off course. Second, we need to be in prayer for the Holy Spirit to guide us in the way he wants us to go. We should ask for him to put opportunities in front of us and then, coupled with being in the word, we will be ready when we need to act, when we need to speak, when we need to listen. Third, we need to be with other believers who can provide godly counsel and encouragement. We are here to build each other up and support each other in furthering God’s kingdom. We should all feel a sense of urgency to tell people about Christ. We need to surround ourselves with people who are pushing for the same goal so that we can work together. Next, we need to diversify our groups and branch out – leave the comfort of our perfectly matched small group and start a new one with new people of differing viewpoints, ages, likes, dislikes. We need to build relationships with those in our family, in our community, in our workplace so we can speak into their lives and actively share the gospel as the opportunities become apparent. Finally, we need to simplify our lives so we can have time to reach out, to care, to love. If we have no time for relationships with the people around us, we will never be able to have the permission to speak into their lives with any credibility.
That, is radically living in an ordinary day. You know why? Because that is not the norm. That is living for Christ. That is doing more today than you did yesterday. We’re so busy patting ourselves on the back about it being okay to just live in the day to day and celebrate the fact that we’re making a difference in those around us. Yes! That is true. We have to do that. But, I challenge you today, are you content in this? SHOULD YOU BE content in this? We, as Christians, should be on the edge of our seat each and every day to see what opportunities are in our path. We should NEVER be content with saying that wiping noses, changing diapers, and running to the grocery store are where our skill sets end. Are they important? Absolutely. But, you may meet someone at the grocery store who is sad and lonely, and has no family. Radical living is inviting them into your home for dinner, because that is what Jesus would do. Your child may have a friend who has never been to church. Driving 10 miles out of your way each Sunday morning to pick them up and bring them with you is radical living in the ordinary. Forgoing your morning Starbucks to buy groceries for a widow down the street is radical living in the here and now. Not replacing your stove because the oven temperature is a little off but buying one for a fellow church member who has come upon hard times is being radical in the day to day life. It’s taking the little boy down the street to all the sporting activities you take your own kids EVERY SINGLE TIME because he has no father figure. These things are radical living because they are against everything the world says you should do. They are radical because they are living out the Bible, not because you should, but because you WANT to as a response to what He has done for US. It’s not doing things to BE saved but doing things BECAUSE you are saved. It’s reflecting Christ in everything you do, say, or think. That is a radical life lived out in the day to day.
We do not live as if there is a sense of urgency about sharing the gospel. We put off talking with unsaved family members because we don’t want to risk relationships. Is this thing on? Hello? We are not willing to risk being uncomfortable and changing status quo for an eternal reward of them being saved? No urgency. We trudge through life, taking kids from one activity to another, never stopping to talk with them about the things that matter because talking is difficult as we haven’t taken the time to build a relationship with them short of communicating about money and car usage. No matter that these are the future generation of disciples who have the responsibility to carry on the Great Commission after we have passed from this earth. When will we see that the need is now to stop the “busy-ness” and move to the business of working with those in our own homes which God has entrusted us with. We have no urgency.
IT IS TIME.
Start living a radical life in the ordinary today. God calls us to stand a post. He wants us to invest in his kingdom whether it be in the United States, Africa, Europe, or Ecuador. He wants us doing more today than we did yesterday to further his work. He desires for all people to come to knowledge of the truth and he has given us the unique opportunity to be a part of that. You will find, that if you are faithful to him, he will guide those steps of your daily life so that moving to Ecuador is simply the next step in serving him…not a radical leap. But, the radical part is living like you are on fire for the Lord each and every day of your life…because that separates you from being ordinary. You don’t have to stop and worry about whether or not he wants you to sell everything or stay where you are, because you are serving him, having him be the Lord of your life, and there will be no need to decide if you are living radically or ordinary. You are living for Him and that is all that matters in the first place. You can rest assured that he will lead you in the way he wants you to go when you live for him.
The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Psalm 37:23
I pray that my words, though passionate, come across as loving. If you feel convicted today, I pray you will seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance for drawing closer to Christ ask him to guide you in living more intentionally and radically for him. You, dear friend, are the only one who can search your heart and know if you are truly living for Jesus. I pray you are.
46 “Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and don’t do the things I say? 47 I will show you what someone is like who comes to Me, hears My words, and acts on them: 48 He is like a man building a house, who dug deep[h] and laid the foundation on the rock. When the flood came, the river crashed against that house and couldn’t shake it, because it was well built. 49 But the one who hears and does not act is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The river crashed against it, and immediately it collapsed. And the destruction of that house was great!” Luke 6:46-49 (Emphasis mine)
Let it begin with me.