Category Archives: Confessions of a Missionary

Getting Back on the Bike

picture taken from http://www.mikevaughan.co.uk

This week I have revisited some “confessions of a missionary” that emphasized areas of my life that needed lots of work spiritually. Thankfully the Lord gives the grace and strength to arise when we have fallen, but we must have the tenacity to try again through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The successful Christian life isn’t about never falling (because we always will)….

It’s about how many times you get up after you fall.

The thing about spiritual growth is it’s incredibly hard work, that takes lots of self-discipline. Some would say this is sinful because we are under grace instead of works in Christ. However even under grace there is a responsibility on our part.

Last week I shared a devotional that explained God gives illustrations of obedience being God’s Wil for the Christian life.

  1. We are called by God to become “doer’s of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22)
  2. Christ illustrated this with the parable of the wise men where he says “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock” (Matthew 7:24) (emphasis added)
  3. And finally James states very clearly “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17)

Yes this obedience is done in the power of the Holy Spirit instead of our own strength. But that doesn’t change the fact that we are called to obedience

To put this in simple terms, there is a greater blessing from God to those who faithfully obey. Our Salvation has nothing to do with obedience (obviously), but our closeness to God has everything to do with obedience!

The application of that truth is this

Our obedience doesn’t have to be perfect……

but it does have to be consistent.

What keeps us down when we fall is a belief that everything has to be done perfectly without any weakness. As human beings with sin-natures we cannot accomplish this, so we eventually just throw up our hands and give up. But perfection isn’t the goal, faithfulness is! God gets greater glory from that child who keeps getting up spiritually than the one who tries to be perfect.

Most of us had the same experience riding a bike

We were incredibly scared so our parent (usually dad) ran behind us holding onto the bike so it we couldn’t fall. Of course they eventually DO let go (without telling us) and we coast along on our own. But immediately after realizing they have let go, we fall! The parent will give some tender attention to us, and then say “now get back on the bike.”

Because that’s how you learn how to ride a bike, getting back on!

Riding a bike is a process, just ask any child who is learning to do it. They are covered with bruises, scrapes, and cuts from falling down. But they keep getting back on!

Why?

Because the joy of riding is stronger than the pain of falling.

We all fall friends and sometimes hear a voice saying “stay down!”

Please don’t listen to it. Get up, dust yourself off, and get back on the bike.

The joy is worth the pain.

Rising When I Fall (Micah 7:8)

This week I have been writing a series of “confessions” that deal with weaknesses in my life. I don’t share those for self-pity or attention, but to highlight the fact that we are all in need of God’s help. At times people may view missionaries as “super Christians” who never struggle, which is very far from the truth.

Of course owning our weaknesses is only part of the victory…..

We must claim the victory over them through the Holy Spirit.

The book of Micah is quite sad because it describes a time in Israel when injustice ruled the land. The Jews had wandered from the Lord, and He responded by withdrawing protection. Now the people were allowed to consume and destroy one another.

In the midst of that sorrow over injustice Micah writes these words:

Mic. 7:7   Therefore I will look unto the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me.

In this time of overwhelming injustice and sin Micah focused his eyes upon the character of God. This refers to a repentance (turning back to the Lord) and prayer that God would restore the justice they needed. He also submitted to the time and plan of God by waiting for the Lord to do the work.

Micah continues to speaking directly to those who mocked him (were celebrating their sin) telling them not to rejoice. He then shares my favorite phrase in this passage.

when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD shall be a light unto me. (emphasis added)

Micah told them he had fallen (sinned, and experienced the punishment of God). But because of his repentance, he would also be restored.

The beautiful message of that phrase is WE WILL FALL…..

But through Christ, we can get back up!

Micah makes clear his confidence is that God once the time of judgement had ended, would restore him to a place of strength.

Micah 7:9 I will bear the indignation of the LORD, because I have sinned against him, until he plead my cause, and execute judgment for me: he will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold his righteousness.

The application for us today is don’t expect the Christian life to be perfect. We all fall daily spiritually (at least I do!) but the cross of Christ has paid the price for not only our past sins, but present, and future as well! So EVERY TIME I fall, God through His grace will lift me up!

The problem is Satan doesn’t want us to rise. He wants us to wallow in the shame and guilt of our sins, believing the Lord cannot use us. Or perhaps we never attempt anything else for God since we failed that time. So when we fall a big part of us may say “stay down!”

But we must rise

I will apply this thought tomorrow, but today be encouraged friends God gives grace for every time you fall

Yes, Missionaries Stare at Screens

I fondly remember the summer of 2020 when the Lord led me to make reading of physical books a commitment. This came from an understanding I spent far too much time staring at screens between my laptop, phone, and kindle. With the Lords help, the evenings were always reserved for reading which led to spiritual, as well as mental growth.

In December 2020 I took a picture of all the books I’d been able to read (along with a few by kindle that I didn’t have a physical copy of).

That picture used to give me joy……

but now it makes me very sad

Since that time I began to slowly fall back into entertainment by screens using Netflix, or news in the evenings instead of reading. I told myself “just ten minutes of this, and then I will read my book”. But as you can imagine, it ended up lasting a lot longer. Books such as “Digital Minimalism” make it very clear social media, or streaming sites are created to keep our attention. The apps especially make it very easy (too easy!) to swallow up all of our free time.

In a deeper sense this isn’t really about social media and streaming though

It’s a question of how we will invest our free time.

I usually come home from visitation about 6:00 in the evening pretty tired. In that moment I have an incredibly important decision to make.

  1. Do I read a book while cooking?
  2. Or do I watch something?
  3. In the end this comes down to education, or entertainment?

Sadly in my tired state I choose entertainment most of the time.

“But wait!” you might say, “it isn’t a sin to be entertained!”

No it isn’t……

but every time I choose entertainment over education at night, I develop a habit of choosing it at other times.

James Clear in his book “Atomic Habits” says our choices “are like votes for who we would like to become.”

So if I vote for entertainment every night at 6:00, guess what I will vote for when I do have energy.

Recently I was at the doctors office (had taken a member there) and brought a book, and notebook to pass the time. As the minutes passed I spent some time working on sermons in the notebook and decided to reward myself with fifteen minutes of social media. But because my brain was focused accustomed to indulging in it every night, it was incredibly hard to just spend 15 minutes on it. The book was never opened 😦

The answer to staring at screens is simple but not easy…….

Defend your free time with everything you have!

This means making a book THE FIRST OPTION in EVERY SITUATION! I currently rely heavily on my kindle because it doesn’t allow me to go online (I have a basic reader) but don’t use the phone app since it is too much of a distraction. The funny thing is if I make myself reach for the book first, I will enjoy it immensely! But reaching for it first is very difficult.

In my backpack I always have a physical bible, a kindle, and preferably a physical book. In my right-hand pocked I always have my phone. In moments of what I reach to makes all the difference in the world.

Yes, Missionaries Get Distracted

A few weeks ago I shared a devotional at prayer meeting from the book of Proverbs entitled “do it now” (you can find a version of it here). The more I studied for that devotional, the more it convicted my own heart. Through it the Lord showed me that one of the greatest sins in my life is “randomness.”

Randomness is not the absence of activity……

it is activity without structure.

The funny thing about randomness is the people are actually quite busy! Unfortunately, they spend most of the day doing THE WRONG THINGS! The secondary (unimportant) tasks will be accomplished, while the harder (more important) jobs are left undone.

At the core of randomness is a continually distracted mind (and life).

In other words, there is no plan

As someone who struggles with randomness, I desperately need structure:

  1. A to-do list for that day
  2. A schedule that focuses on accomplishing those tasks
  3. A clear vision or purpose that includes future goals
  4. A rythm of healthy habits that help accomplish those goals
  5. And most importantly…..WRITE IT DOWN!!!

Structures incredibly important because it gives you a target to shoot at

Randomness tries to shoot at every target that pops into your head. This is good initially, but our short-term memory is known to focus on things only for a brief period of time. So the target of randomness keeps moving!

It’s far better to have one specific target, take aim, and hit the bullseye for each goal.

The greatest lie randomness ever tells us is that planning is “a waste of time.” Again, it is true a random life will be very busy. But we must ask ourselves, “is it effective?”

As someone who has spent too many days running around like a chicken with my head cut off dear friend, let me answer that with a resounding “no!”.

Yes structure is hard work and takes lots of time.

But it’s the difference between an arrow hitting the target, or laying in the grass nearby.

Yes, Missionaries Get Lazy

A few Saturdays ago a friend was in town, so he stopped by to visit me. As I walked out of the house he took one look at me and said, “boy you have gotten fat!” He actually continued to talk about how fat I had gotten, and made me promise to lose weight by the time he came to visit again.

My first response to his statement was surprise with some frustration….

but my second response shame

because He was right, I HAD gotten fat!

The truth is I’d known I was heavy for a while (combination of treats from my Christmas barrel, and lack of exercise). But I kept on making excuses about it (I’ll start training tomorrow). The Lord knew I needed someone to confront me about being overweight, which is why He sent my friend.

So last Sunday I began working on getting more exercise

  1. By walking to places locally instead of driving
  2. Starting strength training through an app
  3. And getting started on longer training walks

While starting this exercise program I started to ask myself “how did I get fat?”

In the past people always told me I had the OPPOSITE problem of being TOO SKINNY! When I came home for two-weeks of Christmas in 2018 my mom and dad were shocked at how much weight I lost (it comes from being in a tropical climate, and walking). I can remember friends expressing concern about how skinny I was in 2019, at which time I wore a small shirt!

So did I become fat?

It’s easy……….

I GOT LAZY!!!

It probably began with unhealthy habits that didn’t involve activity developed during 2020 (I stayed at home). After a while that added some weight to my body, and got me out of shape. Shortly afterward the walking done during ministry and visitation that used to be so easy now resulted in being out of breath, and exhausted. So I began to pull back on the activity (it hurt after all) and became even more overweight.

The Lord used last week to remind me that laziness of all kinds creeps into our lives slowly (never overnight). We don’t realize its a problem until the day that short walk fills our lungs and legs with pain. And because laziness didn’t come overnight, it cannot be conquered overnight.

Monday evening I was a bit discouraged while going through the core training with my exercise app

  1. I couldn’t do the exercises properly
  2. EVERYTHING HURT
  3. And I couldn’t do it as long as I was supposed to!

The Lord then reminded me it wasn’t about being pretty or perfect….it was about doing the work

In the same way, we conquer laziness but focusing not on results, but simply showing up

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