Category Archives: Missions

Intentional Living: Following God’s GPS

As I continue to adjust back to home, I have spent the past few days processing, seeking, and listening.  I know God has moved me in an extraordinary way and I am on a mission to capture that movement and follow the path He has laid out for me.  As I thought about my walk with Christ, I keep coming back to the words focus and intentional.  Focus is a funny word to me, mostly because I am 100% A.D.D.  Even today, as I read and study God’s word, I have found my mind drifting to completely different things.  Focus is not easy, but it’s an attitude and trait I have given to God and asked Him to help me change.  I want to live a life focused on Him – hourly, daily, weekly, and forever.  I mentioned it before, one of the greatest aspects of serving Christ in an all-inclusive environment is that the focus is always on Him.  Now that I am back in my reality, the focus still has to be all about Him.

For ADD people, we know that in order to focus we have to consciously do it.  Many people can do things without even thinking about them, but for someone who has a wandering mind, you have to purposefully keep your mind engaged on the point of focus.  This is a part of what is meant when we talk about living an intentional life for Christ.  Purposefully finding out what God wants, what pleases Him, and how He has gifted you to accomplish His will.  The other part of that is going beyond figuring it out, but actually doing it.  For a long time, I have had the head and even heart knowledge, knowing what to do, but it stopped there.  It’s like figuring out your exact destination on a trip – right down to the street number.  You take that information, enter it into a GPS, and instantly, the path is laid out before you.  Here is the starting point, here is the route, and here is the ending point.  But now what?  Well, the obvious answer is to start the car into motion and follow the route.  So why don’t we do that with God?  We have His word.  If we know Him as our savior, we have on-board GPS – the Holy Spirit.  All that’s left is to start into motion and follow the leading of the Spirit.  But for so many, myself included, we stop at the starting line.

For a long time, I didn’t feel prepared to start.  I knew the path, I trusted God’s word and plan, but I didn’t know how to follow it. I didn’t think I had it in me to tell others about Him in an effective way that would lead them to salvation.  I couldn’t speak eloquently enough, didn’t have enough answers to tough questions.  So I just sat there, not moving, just being.  In Ephesians 5:10, the Bible says “Figure out what will please Christ, and then do it.” (From The Message).    The context of this passage deals with following God’s example, not getting caught up in the worldly concerns of this life.  He is our GPS.  He is the beginning and end.  He is perfection and following him intentionally every day will keep us moving on the perfect path to become what He desires and accomplish what brings Him glory.  Now, I can’t illustrate anything with a GPS and not talk about re-calculating.  Anyone that has ever followed a GPS has made a turn, or a decision and saw the words re-calculating.  That does not mean the destination has changed, it just means you’ll get there by a different route.  The same is true in our Christian walk.  Thank God we are saved by grace and nothing we do outside of faith changes that.  Imagine if you were driving along on your trip, made a wrong turn and the GPS just quit and said, “Good Luck.”  We would never get where we were headed.  God loves us so much that He is willing to recalculate, but He’ll never simply turn off.  He just gives us a new route and our job is to trust that the route He provides will be the perfect way to get us from where we are to where He wants us to be.[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Go where He says to go. Serve how He wants you to serve.  Love how He wants you to love.  Be intentional.[/pullquote]

So, how does this apply?  It’s simple. Be on purpose – or be intentional. Pray daily, seeking the face of God and by faith and with commitment, submit to Him.  Go where He says to go. Serve how He wants you to serve.  Love how He wants you to love.  Determine everyday to live a life that thinks about Christ, considers what He would do when faced with our situation, and walk how He would walk, leaning on the faith that God will provide whatever is needed to do it.  Take responsibility for how you live your life.  It isn’t enough to say I want to be more like Christ.  The right statement to make is, “Today, I will be more like Christ in my thoughts and actions.  He is the perfect GPS and is ready to take us on this journey called life, helping us reach the destination He has for each of us.  Are you willing to take the ride?

Father, I love you.  I am in awe of you and I fear you.  I feel your perfect love and can see clearly this day how you intend for me to live.  I intentionally choose to look for every opportunity to walk with you and serve you with my whole heart.  I thank you for this refreshing attitude and pray that I’ll wake each day with the same purpose to follow you in all that I do.  In your name I pray – Amen.

Post-Mission: Attitudes to Avoid

I am feeling the effects.  Mostly jet lag and adjustment back to this time zone, but also the effects of post-mission deflation.  I’m not sure if this is a real thing or not, but I go through it every time I return from a mission trip where I spent the majority of each day serving and being immersed in ministry.  That is probably my favorite part of these trips – getting to serve, uninterrupted – 24/7 without any distractions.  Everything you do is focused on the key goal, telling others about Christ.  As a youth leader, there is the other aspect of being with your teen students all day every day.  Your bond and relationship with them deepens to a whole new level.  I learn more about their everyday life, their heart, and connect with them to the point that I look at them as my own.  You can’t help but love them…even when they have you up at 2 a.m. planning the next big prank.

sarah cole - IMG_0765But two days, post-trip, I am sitting here trying to get back into the “real world” I left behind.  I have daily tasks, meetings, responsibilities, etc.  But my mind is still on the broken path overlooking the Black Sea.  My heart is still thinking about the stories we heard, the games we played, and deep moments where we connected with our groups and saw them light up hearing how Jesus loves each of them.  I try to get my focus straight, but I can’t help feel a little empty because everything else that’s not serving Jesus seems pointless.  I miss working side by side with the team, hearing them laugh, watching them push through when their tired.  It’s easy to slip into a small depression, and to miss the Holy Spirit’s gentle voice.  He’s saying…“It’s not over, nothing but the geography has changed.”  I could just sit and think about what we did, but that’s not what God wants to do through me and this experience.  He uses these moments to “fire us up”, to get the blood flowing again.  To prime us for the real work.  Being a disciple and follower of Christ in our every-day lives.

When we are on these trips, we typically do a group devotion and it’s laid out beautifully. It helps you work your way through a passage of scripture and then apply that scripture through thoughtful questions.  One such question deals with what we want to avoid – actions and attitudes.  I think that’s a fair question for how I reflect on this trip and think about what comes next.  The last thing I want to do is have an attitude of “it’s over”.  [pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. – Romans 12:11[/pullquote]

That’s the furthest thing from the truth. In fact it’s just beginning.  During this past trip, our devotions focused on the missionary journey’s of Paul.  Reading through each passage, brought out one central theme: Paul never let an opportunity to witness and proclaim Christ slip by.  When he found success and a receptive audience, he didn’t just sit back and enjoy those memories, he pressed on and continued to reach as many people as he could.  His attitude is the perfect example and where I am determined to go.  My mission trip didn’t end, it just changed location.

So my attitude on this day is simple disciplines: Reading God’s Word, praying for understanding and application, and purposefully submitting to the Holy Spirit’s leading of my life.  Through this simple discipline, I will continue to grow, God will continue to lead, and I’ll be ready the next time he calls me to “Go.”  I am forever changed by the experience of visiting Ukraine and sharing the hope of Christ with the children at Bible Camp.  I have a deeper love for each of the students I am privileged to work with and my friendship and bond with my fellow leaders will last a lifetime.  I am certain of these things.  I choose, today, to take this boost and push forward, boldly living for Christ in everything that I do.

Father, thank you for the memories.  Thank you for a heart that longs to be immersed serving you with those that mean so much to me.  Thank you for giving me a heart that seeks after you.  I pray that I’ll move forward looking for opportunities to use what you have done on this past trip to strengthen me and help me grow in my love and devotion to you, rather than just sitting around reflecting on what has been.  I pray for your leading and strength so that I will serve you no matter where you lead me. – In your name, Amen.

Go…wherever you are called, just go!

Just a few short hours ago I was flying over the Black Sea leaving behind a 10-day experience in Odessa Ukraine.  In those 10 days I was part of an amazing group of teenagers seeking after God’s heart while serving the people of Ukraine.  We came along side our brothers and sisters in Ukraine to provide a Bible Camp to 70 children from villages around Odessa as well as refugees who have been displaced by the conflict in the Eastern part of the country.  God moved through that camp and in the end, several children accepted Christ as savior and forever changed their lives and eternal destiny.  I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to serve my Lord in this country, and am blessed beyond measure to have the chance to help lead our teenagers as they discovered the joys and challenges of foreign missions.

Derek Belcher - IMG_0940On the flight home, I was reading a book that has sobered me to a painful point in my life and made me look at my past Christian walk.  I have been heartbroken by the choices I have made and where my priorities have been.  There is so much more I could do for the Lord and so many opportunities I have lost.  But I remember the words of Paul in Philippians 3:13 – “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,…”  God isn’t interested in what I haven’t done. He is focused on what I can do…today, tomorrow and the rest of my days.  In reading this book, Crazy Love by Francis Chan, he made this statement: “Some people claim that we can be Christians without necessarily becoming disciples.  I wonder then, why the last thing Jesus told us was to go into the world, making disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey all that He commanded?  You’ll notice he didn’t add, “But hey if that’s too much to ask, tell them to become Christians – you know, the people who get to go to heaven without having to commit to anything.”Derek Belcher - IMG_1175

That’s powerful truth, staring you in the face. If you claim to be a follower of Christ then you have to be willing to go wherever he leads you.  We have one super simple job…teach others to follow Christ, so they can join our super simple job – teaching others to follow Christ.  This mission experience reaffirmed this simple call in my life.  I love foreign missions. It’s scary and exciting to visit a new place, to learn about their culture and see how God uses their different approach to life to accomplish His purpose, bring glory to His name and develop personal relationships with those that trust Him.  But my heart is burdened beyond that.  I realized, this week, and through reading the gospels and this book that the call is there for all of us, whether it be in a place like Ukraine or around the block in your neighborhood.  If we really want to call ourselves followers of Christ, true Christians, it’s time to open our eyes and answer the call to go.  Go to the local outreach, go on the short-term trip, go to the next county or state, go wherever God provides an opportunity to share His message of hope through Christ.  Just Go…wherever that may be…just Go!

Derek Belcher - IMG_0972

Father, I thank you again and again for your love and mercy in my life. I thank you for the grace we see in you, and for the indescribable love you show each of us everyday.  I thank you that you are not concerned with what I haven’t done, but with what I can do for you.  Make me the disciple you want me to be.  I pray that I will never miss the opportunity to Go!  In your name I pray – Amen.