UK Bench Challenges Christians

March Madness is in full swing as the top ranked college teams face off in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.  It’s been exciting for some and disappointing for others. It’s no mistake that many of the best teams in the tournament have a strong reserve with lots of talent on the bench.  Kentucky, Kansas, Syracuse, Louisville and others have stars on the team who are not considered starters. But when called upon, they are ready to get out there and play.

UK Basketball Bench 2013When Kentucky center Willie Cauley-Stein hurt his ankle in the first half of Friday’s Sweet 16 game against Louisville, bench players Dakari Johnson and Marcus Lee were called upon to play in one of the biggest games of the season.  Forward Alex Poythress hasn’t started a game this season, but he has scored many points and some helpful rebounds as a bench player. Although every bench player would prefer to be a starter, the rules of basketball limit each team to only five players on the court at a time.

There is no limit to how many may serve as witnesses of the Gospel.  In fact, God expects every Christian to be on mission and actively engaging lost people with the Gospel.  We’re commanded to be witnesses in our community, state, nation and around the world (Acts 1:8). Yet, we look more like bench players waiting to relieve someone who’s been hurt or has fouled out.

There is no such thing as a bench player in the Kingdom of God. Every believer has been uniquely gifted to serve (1 Corinthians 12) as a witness of Christ.  Every Christ follower is to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered” (Jude 3).  So, if you’re sitting the bench waiting for the appropriate time, it’s now!  The clock is ticking and many people still have yet to hear the Gospel.  Get out there and join God in the action and excitement of mission service as His witness, because there’s a lot more at stake than an NCAA championship.

Teacups, Lace and Role Models


All of us have had role models throughout our lives, people we have looked up to, have gone to for advice, and persons who have helped to mentor, mold and shape us in a Godly manner.  More than likely this included our parents but also there have been others such as pastors, Sunday School teachers, and older ladies and men in the church that have had a definite impact on our lives.

Recently I was invited to Salem Baptist Church in Monticello for a WMU Tea.  The fellowship hall was decorated beautifully with teapots, teacups, and lots of lace.  Some of young girls had on hats and there was lots of tasty teas and food.  As a tea drinker and a collector of teapots I felt like a little girl at a tea party.

The theme for the day was “Celebrating 125 Years of Missions with WMU!”  The celebration was a time of looking back to former church ladies that had served as role models and had influenced our spiritual lives in so many ways.  Although some of the role models had passed away, a few had actually brought their role model with them.  As each lady shared many tears were shed.

It is special to look back and remember those who were role models in our lives.  But, we must also realize that we are now the role models for those coming behind us.  What kind of role model am I?  What am I teaching those coming behind me?  We think of missionaries sharing the gospel around the world but we too may be a “missionary” to some young person right in our home or church.

Titus 2 tells us how, as women, we are to behave in a reverent, Godly manner and to teach and encourage (or be a role model) the younger women.  Who is looking at my life?  Am I the kind of role model I should be?  What am I teaching the younger women looking up to me?  As you song says, “May all who come behind us find us faithful.”

A Night with Nik Ripken

Last Frida1Snarling_Gray_Wolf-medy I had the privilege to attend an event hosted by Redemption Hill Baptist Church (RH) called God’s Leading Edge: The Front Lines of the Great Commission.  RH invited veteran missionary and author Nik Ripken to share about his experience serving God in hard places throughout the world.  He is most recently noted for writing Insanity of God and Insanity of Obedience (  Nik shared about the challenges that many believers around the world face when coming to faith in Jesus.  In fact, as Nik reminded us, the reality of persecution is normal for followers of Jesus.

He shared three biblical pictures that I want to pass on to you.  First, Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Lk 19:10).  What a glorious truth that Jesus seeks out the lost.  We did not go looking for Jesus; He came looking for us, and by His grace found us.  People don’t just make new resolutions to live better or to even become a Christian.  That’s not how it works.  Jesus comes for us; He pursues us!  He seeks us out in the midst of our despair and sinful pleasures.  He saves us from our bondage to sin and self-idolatry.  Yet, in seeking and saving us, the lost, He sends us back out into the world with the same message that transformed our lives.

So, as Nik shared, the second biblical picture is that Jesus came to send us as sheep among wolves (Matt 10:16).  The imagery is graphic.  Wolves eat sheep!  Persecution isn’t something you run toward or away from; it just is, as Nik spoke.  While physical persecution isn’t as readily noticed in the US, 70% of believers worldwide suffer for their faith.  The number one cause of persecution around the world is people coming to faith in Jesus.  Wolves don’t like sheep turning in faith to the Shepherd, nor do they like sheep sharing with others who the Shepherd is and how to embrace Him.  We certainly need to pray for our fellow sheep who are suffering this very moment for the cause of the Great Shepherd (  We also must heed Nik’s call to not waste our lives if we are among the 30% not facing persecution for our faith.  Let us leverage our lives and our freedoms for the propagation of the gospel to the ends of the earth . . . yes, even to the hard places where wolves eat sheep.

The third biblical image that Nik shared is the call to love our enemies (Matt 5:44).  It’s easy to love those who love us, but it’s altogether different to love those who hate us, who want to eat us.  In fact, if we do not love our enemies we are no different than the wolves.  Wolves love their own, but kill and eat their enemies.  This love for our enemies is most visibly expressed in our lion-hearted proclamation of the glorious gospel of our loving Lord.  You see, as sheep we are really called to be lion-like in our gospel advancement, even among, especially among, the very wolves who would seek to devour us.  May God give us love for our enemies and may He give them transformed hearts that supernaturally change them from ravenous wolves to loving sheep.

Are You a Tourist or a Missionary?

The spring and summer of each year is usually busy with activity as groups go on mission trips to share Christ.  In years past, mission trips were typically only taken during the summer when school was out.  But many more groups are exploring other times of the year for engaging in volunteer mission efforts, like fall break and Christmas vacation.  Many collegiate ministries will raise funds and travel out of state or internationally on mission trips during spring break.  And believers of all ages will spend a week or more of their summer this year on a mission trip with their church or family.  But will they be going as missionaries or tourists? 

Suitcase TravelsWe’re quick to call everyone going on the mission trip a missionary, but is that really true?  Is it possible that some individuals go on mission trip as a tourist and not a missionary?  You may be asking “what’s the difference”, so let me explain.  Yes, both are going, and perhaps to someplace new, but their purpose in going is dramatically different.  Tourists go because of the place.  However, missionaries go because of the people and their need for Christ.   Jeff Iorg, in his book, “Live Like a Missionary”, addresses this very subject, suggesting that a “missional Christian prioritizes impacting people – not going places – as his or her ultimate objective.”

Yes, God does call us to go and make disciples and many times that involves traveling to another state or country.   Yes, traveling to a new place can be exciting and fun.  But let’s not let the place motivate us more than the opportunity to be a witness for Christ.  God’s focus is always on the people who need a relationship with Him, not the place.  I’ve encountered Christ-followers who considered where they were going on their next mission trip by where they’d not yet been.  Almost as if they were checking states or countries off a map to see how many different places they could go on a mission trip.   

My prayer is that every Christ-follower would be on mission and willing to go wherever God leads.  But let the emphasis be on where He leads and not where we want to go.  There are already enough tourists traveling around.  God is calling out missionaries who will go forth and engage lost people with a boldness to share Him.

Seeking Those Who Can Do

General Dwight D. Eisenhower wrote this in 1942 during  the Second World War, “This is a long road we have to travel.  The men who can do things are going to be sought out just as surely as the sun rises in the morning.”Dis_Rel_ice_storm_clean_up_07

We have witnessed a continuous erosion of morality and ethics in our culture for several decades, and now we are seeing a growing anti-Christian sentiment in the public arena.  The church has been losing the cultural battle for some time, but this should not drive us to despair as believers in Christ.  Our mission has never been to change culture; our mission has always been to draw people to Christ and to make disciples for our Lord.  Perhaps, one of the unintended tragedies in this battle for culture is that too often the church is identified more by what we are against than what we are for.

We are surrounded by a sea of lostness and the only hope for those drowning in these dark waters is Jesus Christ.  As a believer living in this post-Christian nation, I do not want my neighbors to know what I stand against, as much as I want them to know what I am living for.  Building a moral majority is not the answer for our time.  The answer is drawing people into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ.

This road may be difficult and long, and it will require doers of faith.  We will not change lives with picket signs and votes in ballot boxes.  But, we will make a difference by boldly demonstrating the life-changing power of Christ in how we live.  This is a time for the church to seek out men and women who are willing to wade into the waters and be doers for Jesus’ sake.

Real ministry has always required those who follow Christ to roll up their sleeves and enter the muck of this world.  This is one of the reasons why ministries like disaster relief is so effective in breaking down barriers to the Gospel.  As volunteers offer help, healing, and hope to hurting people, it opens doors to share about Christ.  In these tough places of ministry, most do not care about my views on same-sex marriage, abortion, or gambling.  They need the compassion of Jesus, and to hear the hope of the Good News.  As Scripture tells us, the harvest will come for those who do not grow weary in doing for the Lord’s sake.

“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart.”  (Galatians 6:9)