Tag Archives: Bible

We’re applying to Wycliffe Bible Translators!

This article was originally written June 24th. See the paragraph at the end for updates since that time. Thanks so much for your prayers! God has provided above and beyond what we expected. Due to God’s provision, we are now ready to apply for Wycliffe, and the truck hasn’t even sold yet! Although we still need to sell the truck, we have already begun our application to Wycliffe. Please continue to keep us in your prayers as we take these next steps. Throughout this journey, God has taught me a lot–especially about discerning his will. When I was in college, this was something I struggled with a lot. How do I know what God’s will is for me? How do I choose what to major in? What job to take? Is God calling me into this ministry or that one? Over time, God made his will clear, but it didn’t happen the way I expected or on my timeline. This past Wednesday night at Bible study, we studied the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. I’ve read this story many times before, but in light of all that has transpired in our lives recently, one particular insight into discerning God’s will became apparent to me.

Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. And he rose and went.” (Acts 8:26-27a ESV)

Notice that at first Philip was given a very general command. God told him to head south to the desert. Philip didn’t receive instructions about the precise location he was to go to, the exact timing, who he was to meet, how to get there, or what he was supposed to do once he arrived. The Spirit simply said “Go south” and he obeyed.

And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him…Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. (Acts 8:29-35 ESV)

Once Philip obeyed God’s initial, general directions, God revealed his will in more detail. By obeying the part of God’s will that had been revealed to him, however unspecific it was initially, Philip placed himself in the exact location that he needed to be in to receive God’s more specific instructions. And, once Philip obeyed and got into the chariot, God’s will for him to share the gospel with the Ethiopian became obvious and imistakable. When I was younger, I prayed very hard for God to reveal his will to me. But, when I prayed for God’s will to be plain, I wanted to know what, when, where, why, how, and I wanted to know it all now! I assumed that in order to be following God now, I needed to know exactly what God wanted me to be doing in the future. But God works exactly the opposite! If you want to ensure that you’ll be doing what God wants in the future, then make sure you’re following his will for you right now! It doesn’t matter whether God’s will for you is specific–“Go to XYZ college, get a degree in business, take this internship, and this job”–or if its more general–“Get an education, grow in your walk with God, honor God with your finances, etc.” By following his unspecific revealed will we place ourselves in the right place for God’s more specific will to be made plain. This concept is taught more explicitly in Romans 12:1-2.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1, 2 NIV)

By transforming and renewing our minds into the image of Christ (God’s general will for all Christians), we grow in our faith and place ourselves in a spiritual position to hear and discern God’s will more clearly. Allow me to illustrate with my own experience. When I was fourteen, I felt God’s clear and unmistakable call into ministry. But despite the clarity of that calling, it was not a very detailed calling. I began preaching in small churches around my home and preparing myself for a career of ministry. In high school, I realized that I would need to get an education in order to better prepare myself for ministry, so I began looking for colleges. Over time, one particular college began to stand out, and I applied and was accepted at that school. Unfortunately, during my late high school and college years, my relationship with God grew distant, and my ability to discern his will was hindered. I selected a major (Biology and Chemistry) largely without consulting God, and made many other decisions on my own as well. On a mission trip to India during college, however, God began to reveal to me that he wanted me to serve in foreign missions, though I didn’t yet know in what capacity. I prayed for God to reveal his will to me, but when all the details weren’t clear, I decided to go ahead and make plans of my own–medical missions. As you might imagine, those weren’t God’s plans, and that would later become painfully clear after loosing my job as an analytical chemist, two days before I would have bought a home in Sherwood and began the application process to medical school. After some soul searching, prayer, and reflection on what I knew God’s general will was in my life–missions and ministry–I decided to pursue education that would place me more in line with the general portion of God’s will that had been revealed to me and leave the specifics for a later date. That step of obedience placed me exactly where I needed to be (Southern Seminary) to hear God’s next, more specific directions. I began hearing about a missions organization that I’d never heard of before–Wycliffe Bible Translators. I was intrigued by their mission, and attended several presentations they conducted on our campus. The more I learned about them, the more interested I became. Then, after hearing the testimonies of Ed and Linda Speyers and other Wycliffe missionaries, it began to sink in that this just might be the work God was preparing me for. Almost eleven years after my initial call into the ministry, I attended Total-it-Up at the Dallas campus of Wycliffe in January 2014. During that week-long conference, God unfolded his more specific will for us and it became obvious that this was where God wanted us. Finally, we had a more specific direction (though there are still many details left to be determined!), and we knew what needed to be done. But before we could move forward, we had some debt to take care of.

And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. (Acts 8:36-38 ESV)

At first, God’s will for our lives is usually vague and unspecific. Occasionally God reveals specifics up front, but that is rare. As we take steps of obedience in the portion of his will that has been revealed to us, he reveals his more specific will. Then, as we pursue that, he provides, just as he provided a body of water for Philip to baptize the Ethiopian. In the last few months, we’ve seen God do exactly that. Knowing that Wycliffe was God’s will for us, we decided to have a yard sale to pay off debt, and God blessed us with $1,800 earnings in one day! We knew we had to cut our budget down, so we began looking for a new home. God provided one at half the cost of our former rental home, and it’s less than a block from our church! When taxes came around, God blessed us through a tax debt that was over $2,000 less than we had expected! Then, just this last week, after finally deciding to sell my bike, a buyer came and bought it for $850. Do you remember how I said that once we take steps of obedience to follow Gods will he provides? The next day our rent deposit from our previous home arrived in the mail–$830! Then, a couple days later, the final payment from a roofing job I did in March (that had been delayed by the mortgage company) finally came in and I was paid on that–quite a sizable bonus check! God provided so well that we were able to pay off all that we needed in order to apply before we had even sold the truck! In sum, when we set our minds to follow God’s will and began taking concrete actions where we knew he was leading, he provided the rest. In six months, we were able to pay off over $6,000 of taxes, debt, and past due medical bills–not counting the truck!** It’s no fun to sit and wait without a clear sense of direction in your life. I’ve been in that position. I was there for eleven years, and it still don’t know all the specifics. The natural instinct is to read more into God’s will than what might be revealed to you and to make a path where there is none. But part of the way that God grows us into mature believers is through teaching us patience in those waiting periods and teaching us how to discern his will. Your holiness is God’s will for you, and that doesn’t happen overnight. But, as you offer your life as a living sacrifice and focus on transforming and renewing your mind to the image of Christ, he will make his will plain to you. And once he has made it plain, go forward in peace knowing that he will provide everything you need in his perfect timing. Updates (as of August 17th): Our application moved through more quickly than expected, and we received an official job offer from Wycliffe on August 5th! In God’s usual timing, the day after receiving our official job offer from Wycliffe, I sold my truck. Since the beginning of the year, God has enabled us to pay off about $10,000 of debt, plus our truck. We will be traveling to Orlando, FL for our first portion of training in October, and we have selected Papua New Guinea for our country of assignment (though our official invitation to PNG has not yet been finalized). We still have not figured out all the specific details of our assignment, but we know that God will reveal those things to us as we need to know them. Thank you for your prayers! Please continue to pray for us, and we hope you will begin to prayerfully consider partnering with us in our ministry in the future.IMG_1303.PNGIMG_1303-0.PNG

11 Apps every Christian should have

While these apps won’t instantly transform you into Christ-like perfection (there’s not an “app for that”), having these apps on your smartphone or tablet is a great way to transform what could otherwise be a stumblingblock to your relationship with Christ into a powerful weapon against the enemy.  I like to think of these apps as my phone’s “sword” and “shield.”  Some of these will protect you from attack by the trash in our culture, while others will help you hone your spiritual “sword” and add weapons to your armory against the devil.  Hope you like them!

1.  YouVersion Bible

Price: Free

Pros:  Installed on more than 60 million devices worldwide and with a 4.5+ out of 5.0 star rating, YouVersion is hands-down the most popular Bible app of them all.  It’s easy to use and comes with hundreds of different translations–all of them free!  Want to read the Bible in Korean?  No problem.  Prefer the original Greek or Hebrew?  Got that, too.  Or, you could be a normal human being and read any of the more popular modern translations, including the KJV, NKJV, NIV, ESV, NASB, HCSB, NLT, and so on.  Almost all the modern English translations are available for downloading for offline use, also.  By far the coolest feature on YouVersion, however, is the audio Bibles.  That’s right–as long as you have an internet (WiFi or 3g) connection, you can stream most of your favorite versions of the Bible for FREE.  So, now you have no excuse for not reading your Bible–you can listen on your way to work!  (Just watch out for those data charges from your wireless provider!)  Also, YouVersion comes with a plethora of Bible Reading plans to choose from.  YouVersion also can sync with your Blue Letter Bible (BLB) reading plans.  Available on iPhone/iPad, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, Windows 8, HP/Palm, Java, Symbian, Mobile Web, Kindle Fire, and online through any web browser.

Cons:  Not many.  But, compared to some other Bible apps, like Glo Bible and BLB, YouVersion is lacking in supplemental study materials.  It’s great for use on the go or for the audio features, but it won’t replace your study Bible or commentaries.

2.  Glo Bible

Price: Free (or $35 for the Premium version)

Pros: This is an awesome app for serious Bible study and lesson preparation.  Available for iPhone, iPad, and Mac, the free version comes with the KJV and NIV available for offline use.  Plus, Glo Bible comes with all kinds of study aids, like interactive maps, historical contextual information, photos, videos, and even some animated tours of famous Bible locations, like the first century Temple or Mosaic Tabernacle!  It’s like study Bible meets IMAX theater.  Also, your YouVersion notes will sync with Glo Bible.

Cons: Unless you purchase the in app upgrades, you’re pretty limited on what you can do with this app.  All of the “good stuff” is locked for premium users only.  For instance, you can take a tour of the tabernacle with the free version, but only the premium version grants you the high priestly privilege of peeking into the Holy of Holies.  (Yeah, I know, you’re not supposed to go in there anyways, but if you’re like me, the curiosity is just too much!)  $35 is a hefty chunk of cash for an app, and I imagine that there are few who will pay it, but–in my opinion–it’s totally worth it if you’re a teacher or really enjoy in-depth Bible study.  That $35 opens up a couple more translations (ESV, NIV 84, and The Message) as well as the NIV study notes (like a study Bible would have) and over 3500 additional media options, including more maps, more videos, and expanded virtual tours.  Your premium upgrade gives you access to the premium material on your Mac, PC, iPad, and iPhone.  Currently, the number of available translations is limited, even for premium users, but I imagine they will be posting more translations with time.  Lastly, because Glo Bible has much more content to it than does YouVersion, it’s not quite as user friendly or intuitive to navigate.

3.  Blue Letter Bible

Price: Free

Pros: BLB is another great Bible study app designed for iPhone, iPad, and online web browser use.  It comes with quite a few translations to choose from, including the KJV, NKJV, ESV, NASB, NIV, NLT, and many others, including the Greek and Hebrew.  BLB also allows you to perform a range of functions on any verse in the Bible, such as viewing it in other translations, referencing each word in the verse with its Strong’s Concordance reference number, and viewing the Treasury of Scripture Knowledge or Commentaries associated with that verse or passage.  BLB’s search function is also much better than either YouVersion or Glo Bible’s search functions, making BLB best suited for those who prefer an in-depth word-study approach to  Bible study or frequently reference commentaries.  BLB also has several daily Bible reading plans to choose from.

Cons: There isn’t much negative about the features that this app has, though some might complain for lack of features.  BLB doesn’t have the fancy media of the Glo Bible, and it doesn’t have the plethora of translations or audio versions of YouVersion, but what BLB does have–in depth word study resources–it does quite well.  This won’t be an app you use every day, but it’s great to have handy when you need it.

4.  Desiring God

Price: Free

Pros: This is, simply put, my favorite Christian app–aside from the Bible, of course–for iPhone and iPad.  Desiring God is the ministry of John Piper, one of my favorite preachers.  This app gives you access to literally thousands of sermons, articles, books, conference messages, poems, biographies, etc.  Piper has almost all, if not all, of his sermons of his available for downloading or streaming dating all the way back to 1980, and even one sermon from 1971!  In addition, Piper has posted free PDF versions of 79 of the books he has authored or co-authored.  That’s right…79 books…completely FREE.  I don’t know of any other author–Christian or not–who has done that.  When I’m driving to work or school, I’ll pull up a sermon or message from Desiring God and listen to on the way.  Piper has tons of knowledge and wisdom to impart from his many years of ministry, all there for the taking.

Cons: Frequent app crashes are the only problem with this app.

5.  Fighter Verses

Price: $2.99

Pros: This is a great app to help you memorize scripture.  It comes preloaded with several sets of verses, each set being enough to last you for a year.  Or, you can simply add in your own desired memory verses.  There’s even a set of memory verses specifically suited for children, with symbols to aid in memorization.  To help you memorize your memory verses, Fighter Verses gives you quizzes: fill in the blank, recite aloud, multiple choice, etc.

Cons: The only obvious con is the cost.  But, $3 is a small price to pay for the help in memorizing scripture to grow closer to Christ.

6.  K9 Browser

Price: Free

Pros:  Let’s face it–in today’s society, it’s difficult to avoid all the images and junk that the internet throws at you.  But, with K9 Browser you can filter out most of the junk.  It’s a great way to keep yourself or your children safe on the internet.  There are other filtered browsers that you can download, but man of the others are so limited in their functionality that they hardly even serve as web browsers.  While K9 Browser has its own search engine and will not play videos, its filtering is much more efficient than most other filters/browsers and it looks and operates almost just like Safari.

Cons:  Of course, with any internet filter or filtered browser there are sacrifices.  K9 Browser will not play videos of any kind–even those which aren’t inappropriate.  So, YouTube will not work on K9.  Also, many of the features native to Safari browser are not on K9, most notably the “open in” feature which allows files to be opened in other apps.  Lastly, since K9 is a separate browser (there is no filter “add-on” for the native Safari browser), Safari must be disabled in the Restrictions section of the Settings in order for it to serve its purpose.

7. Crossway

Price: Free

Pros: Very similar to the Desiring God app, this app is a great resource on a wide variety of topics that concern Christians.  It has blogs from various pastors or Christian writers, book reviews, music reviews, movie reviews, articles on contemporary events, and articles on various topics of interest.  The authors are mostly well published and esteemed Christian authors, such as John Piper, Russell Moore, R.C. Sproul, and others.

Cons: There are better apps (see below) for media reviews.  There is no audio component to this app (unlike Desiring God).  But, otherwise, this is a great app.

8.  PURE

Price: Free

Pros: PURE is an app to facilitate your accountability with your accountability partner.  Having an accountability partner (someone who will regularly ask you the tough questions about your walk with Christ and “keep you honest”) is invaluable in your growth in holiness.  Even the great Billy Graham has an accountability partner, because he realizes the wisdom of Proverbs 27:17–“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”  PURE helps you do that by allowing you to input your accountability questions (“Have I read my Bible daily?”  “Have I shared the gospel this week?” etc.) and then, through an on screen notification, reminding you to answer your questions every day/week/month (depending on your desired frequency).  It then generates an email to send to any email address you want.  It’s a simple and effective way to facilitate accountability.

Cons:  The biggest downside is simply that your answers must be either “Yes” or “No,” so you must phrase your questions accordingly.  However, PURE overcomes this limitation partially by allowing you the option to edit the email report before its sent, so you can add in an explanation if necessary.  Also, there’s no in-app security feature, so your personal questions are not secure if someone has access to your phone.  Of course, you can always work around that by simply using your iPhone’s built in security–just set a lock screen password in your settings.  Lastly, downloading this app won’t get you an accountability partner, of course!  🙂  You’ll still have to find one on your own.  Overall, though, it’s a great app which I plan to keep on my phone until I can find a suitable accountability partner.  lol

9.  Audible

Price: Free

Pros:  “Wait a minute, Audible isn’t a ‘Christian’ app!”  No, it’s not, but it is an app that every Christian ought to have.  Why?  Because with audiobooks there’s no longer an excuse for not reading good Christian books!  Audible makes it possible for even the busiest soccer mom to get in some reading.  Listen while you’re driving, doing dishes, mowing the yard, etc.  Just make sure you pick good books!  Audilbe allows you to change the playback speed, place “bookmarks,” and even track your book reading stats and earn badges.

Cons:  Aside from the obvious–books aren’t free–there is currently no way to search for or purchase new books in the Audible app.  The app is simply a player–you’ll have to browse for and purchase your books online, then download them into the app.  It’s a little clumsy, and I’m not sure why Audible hasn’t figured out a way of doing all of that in the app, but so far, no luck.  Still, it’s a great audiobook player.

10. FamilyLife Audio

Price: Free

Pros:  Family Life is a ministry based out of Little Rock, AR which seeks to minister to–you guessed it!–families.  (Not to be confused with “Focus on the Family” or “American Family Radio (AFR).”)  With a plethora of biblically sound teaching and advice on marriage and parenting, FamilyLife Audio is a great resource for any spouse or parent.

Cons: None that I have discovered yet.

11. Plugged-In

Price: Free

Pros: This is a must have for the movie goer.  There are other good apps for movie reviews (such as Movie Guide Lite), but the special features on the Plugged-In app make it the winner in my book.  Plugged-in not only gives you a Christian perspective on the movies you might want to watch, but also reviews music, DVDs, and video games based on their spiritual, violent, sexual, language, and other content.  It also gives you an “average user rating.”  It provides detailed explanations of the ratings in every category, including specific information on what types of language, violent, or sexual content viewers may find offensive.  You can view the video review for many of the movies or the theatrical trailer as well.  Also, if you’d like to purchase tickets, Plugged-In provides a link to the websites of nearby theaters for purchasing tickets.

Cons: Unlike Movie Guide Lite, Plugged-In does not give content ratings for each individual category (i.e., violence, sexual content, etc.) and does not provide a rating for the quality of the film.  The only ratings given are simply for “Family Friendliness” and “Average User Rating.”  Also, many users–myself included–may find Plugged-In’s reviews to be overly critical of content.  Typically, very few movies which have a high “Family Friendliness” rating also have a high “Average User Rating.”  In other words, most of the movies which get a high rating from Plugged-In are, well, a little cheesy.  But, on the other hand, Plugged-In does an excellent job of providing a full description of the movies’ content, so the user ought to be able to make an informed decision with or without reliable ratings.  Lastly, the links to view showtimes and purchase tickets are unreliable, and work through Safari.  So, that particular feature won’t work if you’ve disabled Safari to use K9 Browser.  But, you can always use another app like Fandango to purchase tickets.  Personally, I recommend downloading both Movie Guide Lite and Plugged-In so you get the best of both.

Bonus: iSingWorship

Price: Free (But each song costs $1.99)

Pros: Since this is not an app that “every Christian should have,” I’ve made it a Bonus app.  Not everyone will have use for this little app, but if you do–it’s the best at what it does.  This app allows you to lead a small group worship or worship at a small church from your iPhone or iPad.  It’s also great if you like to pretend you are your favorite Christian artist rocking out in your living room…but I wouldn’t know anything about that…  All of the songs ($2 each) on iSingWorship are formatted in such a way that allows you to customize the arrangement of each song.  Want to repeat the chorus?  Want to skip the chorus between the first and second verse?  Want to mute the drums, guitar, or vocals?  Would you prefer a scenic mountain vista, or abstract art for the background to the lyrics?  Would you like to have a soft music interlude during the invitation so the preacher can speak?  Do you want your iPad or iPhone to display the guitar chords for you to play along?  The options are (almost) unlimited.  iSingWorship allows you to customize the arrangement of an individual song, and then arrange several songs together into a playlist–perfect for Sunday morning worship or family worship at home.

Cons: The app itself is free, but each song costs $2.  Compared to the price of buying the same song on iTunes (usually $1-$1.29), $2 is a steal considering what you get in iSingWorship.  But yes, it can add up after a while.  Also, currently there are only 45 songs available, so you’re limited on your worship selection.  However, when I got the app, there were only 22 songs, so they are making progress and adding new songs all the time.  The biggest drawback, however, is that in order to display the songs on an external monitor, you’ll need a CCLI license number.  Most churches will have one of those, but if you are just wanting it for in-home use, that could be an issue.

Missionaries: God’s Navy Seals?

Last night, I attended a meeting for Wycliffe Bible Translators. It made quite an impression upon me. I have been strongly considering serving with Wycliffe for the past year or so, but unless I am sorely mistaken, that calling was confirmed last night. I met with Ed and Linda Speyers for coffee yesterday morning and talked with them about their experience with Wycliffe while serving in Suriname, South America. After my classes, there was an interest meeting for Wycliffe where Dennis Cochrane spoke about his experience translating for a primitive people group in Papua New Guinea. Dennis’ story is shocking and inspiring, so I will do my best to relate it here.

Dennis and his wife served in a remote village tribe in PNG for over 10 years. This tribe was so remote that the only language they had ever heard or spoke was their own. They literally lived in the stone age; they had no metal instruments. Even their axes were made of sharpened stones. They were an animistic people, meaning that they believed that spirits were associated with almost everything. They were particularly superstitious about these spherical shot-put sized rocks (probably debris from an ancient volcanic eruption) with iron-ore cores. Many (if not most) of the people had such a rock. They believed that spirits lived in these rocks, and in order to appease these spirits when misfortune arose they would sacrifice a pig and rub the pig’s blood over the spirit-rock. (They, of course, had never heard of the sacrifice God had made once-for-all through his Son, Jesus Christ.)

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After several years of building relationships and trust with the people, and through the miraculous providence of God, Dennis and his team finally had the privilege of translating portions of the Bible into the native language. Since the natives had no written language, this process also involved teaching the people to read their own language. This particular people was a very community-based people, meaning that they didn’t decide anything major without first convening the community and agreeing upon it. So, after months of careful deliberation and study of the newly discovered “carvings” from God (their term for “writings”), and despite the strict warnings of the spirit-people (their “priests”) that doing so would result in the wrath of the spirits, the majority of the community–over 2,000 people–simultaneously accepted Christ and ceremonially smashed their spirit-rocks.

Some time during or shortly after this mass conversion, Dennis was working with a native who had been serving as their translator. One day while they were translating a particularly profound passage of scripture, the man asked Dennis: “Did your father have God’s carvings?” Dennis replied, “Yes.” The man hesitated, sensitive to his culture’s accepted belief that embarrassing someone is one of the worst faux pas one can commit. Then, cautiously, he asked, “Did your father’s father have God’s carvings?” Again, Dennis replied that he did. The man, becoming increasingly nervous about pressing the matter further, hesitated for a few moments before asking again: “Did your father’s father’s father have God’s carvings?” “Yes.” Dennis replied, knowing what the man wanted to ask. The man didn’t dare press the question further, and Dennis didn’t offer an answer to the question he knew the man wanted to ask. Indeed, we, Dennis’ people, have had possession of God’s carvings for some 600 years. The question that was ringing loud and clear in both of their minds was this: If your people have had God’s Word for so long, why are my people just now finding out about this?

Today, there are about 2,000 languages that remain to have a translation work started. I wonder, how many people upon hearing the Good News will stare at us blankly and ask that question: “Why hasn’t someone told us this before? Our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents have perished without this saving knowledge, yet you’ve had it in your language for 600 years!?!?”

Now, as I have grown in my spiritual maturity I have come to realize that not every Christian is called to be a foreign missionary. So I will not argue that every Christian is called to translate the Bible into these remaining 2,000 languages. Nor will I argue that every Christian ought to be a foreign missionary. (Though I will admit that I find the disproportionately small number of foreign missionaries troubling.) But, I have also grown to understand that every Christian is called to be a missionary.

We often marvel at those who would leave behind their homes, family, friends, and even give their lives to fulfill God’s calling. But isn’t that exactly the level of obedience and sacrifice to which Jesus calls all of his disciples? Was Jesus only talking to career, foreign missionaries when he said: “Whoever wishes to be my disciple must take up his cross and follow me,” or “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me,” or “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it,” or “everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life?” No, these are not commands for foreign missionaries only. As a matter of fact, instead of the words “foreign missionary” in these passages, what we most often find is the word “disciple.”

The disturbing trend that I often find in churches nowadays is to label foreign missionaries as some elite class of super Christians, the “special forces” of Christianity, when in fact Jesus has called every single Christian to be so radically devoted to him that they would gladly give up their home, career, family, friends, and even their own lives to serve him. After all, if only the Christian elite who receive some special call are required to live so sacrificially, then we can dismiss the uncomfortable implications of these passages as inapplicable since we’re just “normal Christians.” But these passages aren’t speaking to some mythical, legendary Christian elite, these passages reflect the Christian norm. (At least, what the norm is supposed to be.) There is no Christian equivalent to the distinction between normal soldiers and special forces.* Instead, the only such distinction I see is that those called to be teachers and pastors must have the spiritual ability to teach. (But even this is more of a difference in spiritual gifting, not one of differing levels of expected obedience.) Save this distinction, the remainder of the qualifications for even these positions are simply that these people exemplify normal, Christian living (one wife, not a drunkard, well reputed, etc.). Every soldier in God’s army is to be special forces material, which is to say that no Christian is truly anything special! We are all expected to exemplify the same level of sold-out, radical obedience whether God calls us to share the gospel with our neighbor or to a stone-age tribe in Papua New Guinea. To use a biblical illustration, is the foot expected to be any less obedient than the hands? Every Christian is a missionary. The only difference between a foreign missionary and a Christian living in their homeland is location. They’re both missionaries. They’ve both been gifted by God with a number of spiritual gifts unique to the particular setting in which they serve. Some missionaries are disguised as teachers, some as doctors. Others are disguised as lunch ladies and janitors. Some are disguised as mechanics, some as lawyers, and some as pilots. Some are not disguised at all but, instead, serve openly in vocational ministry, able to devote more of their time to their service of equipping other Christians. But regardless, all Christians are missionaries living in a foreign land with a sole purpose–reaching a lost and dying world with the Good News of Jesus Christ.

When we as Christians begin to adopt this biblical mentality of true discipleship, I imagine that it won’t take very long for the remaining 2,000 people groups to get a Bible. I imagine that neighbors and coworkers here in America will hear the gospel. I expect we will see our prayers answered for God to send laborers into the harvest. And, I expect that we will see the most bountiful harvest we’ve ever seen. Perhaps you are one of those called to translate the Bible into one of the remaining 2,000 languages. But, it’s likely that God has gifted you with other gifts and abilities. Here’s my challenge to you: Will you translate the Bible into the languages of the neighbor across the street, your coworkers, and your friends and family? Will you put the Good News into words they can understand? Or will your children and grandchildren one day stand ashamed when their children or grandchildren ask them that dreadful, unanswerable question? “Why am I just now hearing this news?”

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”(Romans 10:14, 15 NIV)

Lord, please send workers into your harvest, both here and abroad. The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are, indeed, few. Amen.

*If there is such a biblical distinction, I would argue that unlike the Navy–where all ordinary soldiers are not expected to one day become Navy Seals–all “Christian soldiers” are intended to one day mature into “Christian special forces.” However, I still find such a distinction misleading since it implies that one can be a faithful soldier without living up to Jesus’ standards of discipleship. Furthermore, it seems to evoke an unbiblical admiration of those who are simply living in obedience to Christ’s commands and places more attention on the soldier than the commander. See Luke 17:7-10. Perhaps a better illustration is the one Paul gives–some Christians are hands, others are feet, but all obey the head, which is Christ.