Gospel Footprint: Who Are You?

gospel footprint

gospel footprint

As a fan of The Lord of the Rings, I enjoy getting into conversations with other fans and discuss their favorite characters. When people talk about characters like Sam and Frodo, they usually focus on their innocence and devotion as reasons for loving the story. For those fans of Gandalf, they usually resonate with his wisdom and strategy used in the fight against evil. Then there are those fans of Aragorn. His fans focus on how Aragorn grows into the man that ultimately leads the whole world against Mordor, along with his skill during the fighting. Yet, to be a fan of his seems odd, being that he spends so much of the story hiding who he is and trying to run away from his destiny.

We learn through the story that Aragorn was fully aware of his lineage and what it meant to be the last in the line of the kings of Gondor. It was that knowledge that led to fear of himself, and that fear led to him changing his name and becoming an unknown loner roaming across the countryside.

Aragorn is introduced to the audience as a failure; an anti-leader. He was someone who couldn’t stand up to responsibility and did all he could to hide the reality of who he truly was. Maybe that is why his fans argue for him so passionately; his condition is relatable. We’ve all been there; failure and the desire to hide (at least) parts of ourselves because we don’t think we can live up to who we think we are supposed to be.

Our Similarities to Aragorn

The goal of every disciple is to leave a gospel footprint. Yet, I think that those of us who are Christians (those who have placed their faith in Jesus) tend to live this way more often than we know, specifically in regards to our function and purpose in connection with the world around us. Let’s open up the Scriptures today and see what God tells us about who we are.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16

Jesus had just finished talking about the blessings that come with what we know to be a sanctified life, rich in Him. He spent 11 verses saying what we had as Christians, including blessings and expectations of persecution. He then focuses in to tell them what that means. He tells them who they are. Let’s be clear on it, and if you gain nothing else out this, please catch this. Jesus was NOT pleading with them to be witnesses of His message, nor was He telling them what they SHOULD be doing. He said you ARE the light of the world; you ARE a city on a hill. Let me put it this way: regardless of what you may be doing or any effort on your part to hide, if you are a believer in Jesus, then you are a missionary. You are living with the light of Christ in you, no matter how hard you may be trying to cover it up.

I’d like to take a deeper look at what it means to be a Christian; to be one who carries the light of Christ in their lives. This directly fits into our developing definition of DISCIPLE and what it means to grow closer to Jesus in our daily lives. Let’s look at 3 questions that can help you determine your footprint and how to take the next step.

Qualifications of a Missionary

“Who can resist his will? Who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use” (Romans 9:19-21)? The point here is that your designation; your place before God is up to Him. He declares you valuable and measures your worth, which He paid for in blood. Your calling is not yours to determine, but His.

God is the giver of gifts through the Holy Spirit and determines who receives what. Yet it is clear that we are all called to do the work of an evangelist, regardless of our spiritual gifting (2 Timothy 4:5). We are instructed to give out of what we have received. This is a precedent that started long ago with the calling of Abraham.

“And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing” (Genesis 12:2). God is the protagonist; the main character. It is God who declares and determines and calls us to obey. Abraham, despite all of his shortcomings, becomes a hero of the faith ultimately because of what happens in chapter 15. “And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). Please note that this was not the generic belief has no impact on one’s life, but with Abraham, belief meant obedience. Abraham trusted God and stepped out.

What qualified Abraham and today qualifies us is our trust. If we believe in God and whom He has sent, then we are part of God’s family and called to pass that blessing on to other people. That’s really it. While you may have to pass through rigorous testing, education and experience to become a paid missionary, that doesn’t matter in this context. Becoming a missionary only requires one qualification: trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins. If you are a believer, then you are a missionary. You carry the Holy Spirit inside you and are therefore the light to the world.

Whether or not we feel like we are ready or deserve it, this calling is on God to give, which He does to every believer. This was the case back when the exiles started returning from Babylon as well. They had just faced many years of punishment and were finally getting the chance to head home in Zechariah 8.

Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Let your hands be strong, you who in these days have been hearing these words from the mouth of the prophets who were present on the day that the foundation of the house of the Lord of hosts was laid, that the temple might be built. For before those days there was no wage for man or any wage for beast, neither was there any safety from the foe for him who went out or came in, for I set every man against his neighbor. But now I will not deal with the remnant of this people as in the former days, declares the Lord of hosts. For there shall be a sowing of peace. The vine shall give its fruit, and the ground shall give its produce, and the heavens shall give their dew. And I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things. And as you have been a byword of cursing among the nations, O house of Judah and house of Israel, so will I save you, and you shall be a blessing. Fear not, but let your hands be strong. Zechariah 8:9-13

God reminds them of their punishment and of the reputation they carried into exile, yet shows them they are to be the blessing to the nations. Remember this: regardless of where you are in your walk with God, as long as you have placed your faith in Him, you are a banner carrier of the Lord, you are the light of the world, you are the city on a hill and called to let it shine.

Hiding from Your Purpose

While there are countless ways for this calling to be worked out in each person’s life, there is still a strong desire to hide; to run away from our responsibilities. Yet this is why He saved us. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). Of course, God saved us because He loves us – that’s the whole point. Remember who the main character is? Is it us? Is it me? Am I the protagonist in my story? I certainly hope not.

God is the protagonist, and while He knows us and loves us by name, you, my friend, are not the only person He died for. He loved the world so much that He died for it. Each of us individually being a vessel for God to bless the world is the way God chose to work and by hiding from your calling, you are 1) being disobedient, and 2) losing out on the blessing of being that blessing.

And God takes this very seriously! Take what is said in James: “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:14-18)!

By ignoring our calling, we are doing wrong by our Savior and actively disobeying our Lord. If opportunistic lepers in 2 Kings 7 realize the selfishness in hoarding God’s blessing, then we need to see it as well.

“Now there were four men who were lepers at the entrance to the gate. And they said to one another, ‘Why are we sitting here until we die? If we say, ‘Let us enter the city,’ the famine is in the city, and we shall die there. And if we sit here, we die also. So now come, let us go over to the camp of the Syrians. If they spare our lives we shall live, and if they kill us we shall but die.’ So they arose at twilight to go to the camp of the Syrians. But when they came to the edge of the camp of the Syrians, behold, there was no one there. For the Lord had made the army of the Syrians hear the sound of chariots and of horses, the sound of a great army, so that they said to one another, ‘Behold, the king of Israel has hired against us the kings of the Hittites and the kings of Egypt to come against us.’ So they fled away in the twilight and abandoned their tents, their horses, and their donkeys, leaving the camp as it was, and fled for their lives. And when these lepers came to the edge of the camp, they went into a tent and ate and drank, and they carried off silver and gold and clothing and went and hid them. Then they came back and entered another tent and carried off things from it and went and hid them. Then they said to one another, ‘We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news. If we are silent and wait until the morning light, punishment will overtake us. Now therefore come; let us go and tell the king’s household.’ 2 Kings 7:3-9

Why Now?

Looking at the tragic state of our country and the world, this job of ours is 1) severely lacking in effort, and 2) needed now more than ever. The division in our country today is horrifying, and there is no such thing as righteous anger when it includes hurtful and hate-filled rhetoric.  A few weeks ago I shared a meal with a friend and listened to him as he slammed the liberal left and its policies — He spoke with anger as he talked against those who would impose their will or beliefs on other people. He became visually confused when trying to understand why people just can’t let people be. He decided for himself that he wouldn’t hold any position so that it wouldn’t affect any relationship he had. To him, this was love.

His world-view was filled with fear and hate. His version of love was to not get in an argument. More than ever we see how obviously lost this world is. No longer do we need to look in the secret places, but the hurt, pain and sin of this world is displayed—often with pride—for all to see! And everyone just wants to be accepted, loved, and pardoned for no other reason than that’s just what they think they deserve. Therefore, the safe move is to hide and run away from a calling that could get us in trouble with this world.

I responded back to my friend by asking him this question: If, for the sake of argument, there was a right answer to all this, and I had the answer, would sharing it with you be an act of love or of dominance/assimilation? He pondered for a moment and came to agree with me in that it would be an act of love. So I explained to him the passion behind many of those movements and used that as a chance to share Jesus with him. While he did not want to leave the comfort of “fence-riding”, he could see our discussion as friendship and not assimilation.

You are blessed. You carry inside your heart the light of the world. Jesus, on many occasions tells us what we should do with it. Our denomination pushes that even farther with our focus on the Great Commission. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20). What will you do? Will you keep the light hidden and selfishly hold back those blessing for others? Or will you boldly go and obey, sharing your faith, talking about Jesus in a way that makes the message clear, but is done in love?

Aragorn eventually stopped running and accepted the mantle of King. He ran into danger instead of away, becoming the kind of leader that any of us would follow. He gave no regard for himself, but did everything for others. This life in the open is not a safe road, but it is the right road. This is our calling as Christians, as followers of Jesus, as His disciples. Pick up your mantle as missionary and live boldly a lifestyle that engages with this world in love. Pay no heed for yourself, but live for love, love with abandon and trust in the one who made that all possible. This is how you begin to leave a gospel footprint.

“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news'” (Romans 10:14-15)!

Thanks to the Southeast District of the Christian and Missionary Alliance for help with the video in the video and the graphic.

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The Incredible Dork-i-ness of Being

I admit to being a dork, and truthfully, I don’t exactly mind it. There is a lot of fun allowed in this world to the dorks, nerds (smarter versions of dorks) and generally unappreciated members of society. Bart Simpson himself is a dork – he gets bullied at school, hangs out with Milhouse (and, at times, Martin) and is a failure at being a rebel because he cares too much. Coincidentally, that would be the first piece of evidence of my dorkiness; my ability and desire to discuss deeper philosophical issues from the Simpsons. But part of what makes life so much fun is relating most everything to the krazy karacters headlining Fox’s Sunday night animation domination (Peter Griffin, is still second to Homer).

The topics of deep discussion move forward from there, but not necessarily upward. One of my favorite debates is the swallow’s ability to transport coconuts. Before you ask me whether I am talking about African or European swallows, let’s make sure we stay on track. And was it really that hard for Lois Lane to not catch Superman hiding behind Clark Kent’s glasses? I will always side with Aragorn’s story over Frodo’s and am honestly glad that the movies did not include the 27 more endings for Return of the King that the book did. I enjoy having my opinions and arguing their basis for insight on human nature; after all, how would we know not to skip immediately to ludicrous speed if not for Dark Helmet’s mistake?

As I’ve aged, the naysayers that laughed at me during puberty have all fallen into silence. It’s incredible to note that more people seem to discuss Glee in public circles today than the Philadelphia Eagles’ plummet from the ranks of the NFL elite. By the way, I do not in any way endorse Glee – I have never seen an episode and do not intend to – I would still rather watch an Eagles’ game (despite me NOT being a fan and their dismal play of late). Being a dork isn’t really made fun of anymore – it’s glorified, respected; even admired. This is unlike one of the other labels I have been living under.

In media, culture and even some individual chatter, being a Christian is becoming more and more a joke. Not a Peter vs. the Giant Chicken kind of joke, but a serious offense against the rest of the world. As humans, we are all in this together, and though we each have our own opinions and beliefs on what is best and how to move forward, we still occupy the same space with each other. Whether or not there is room enough on this planet for all the differing opinions does not matter; we are all stuck here on this planet and all life (thus all opinions) have a right to exist.

As a Christian, I hold to certain opinions (the content of those opinions is not important here). This is where most people get angry, as they see those opinions as intolerant and aggressive towards other worldviews. Why? Look at this first part of the sentence: “As a Christian…” This means that I have chosen to live under a certain set of principles. My opinions are held for those who choose to live under the same set of standards. If I were to say, “As an American, I believe in taxation with representation”, that would be a belief held by those who choose to live under America’s standard; regardless of how they became a citizen. That may not be the opinion in another country, but I have no right, rhyme or reason to judge the citizen of another country that does not espouse that belief.

People who have chosen to live under another faith, or no faith at all, have ultimately chosen a different set of standards and principles to live under. That is their choice. Do I believe that my faith has something to offer other people? Absolutely, and I’m not afraid to share that. But it is still their choice to follow. If they choose not to, then they are free to live with whatever opinions they see most desirable. Tolerance is allowing them that decision. There are those inside my same faith who believe it is their duty to push their rules onto other people. Those people also exist in every faith, nationality and world view. In the end, each individual is accountable for only themselves.

I cannot nor will not answer for the inquisition, Holy wars, or even Jimmy Swaggert. What other people have done in the name of their country, their faith, or even themselves is a problem for every race and creed. What I can answer for is myself. Are my acts friendly, loving, and full of grace? After all, if you sum up everything in the Bible it comes down to one thing: love.

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

It’s incredible being a dork.