YOU... Are Okay...

"You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." -- Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV)

I need to read this passage from time to time.  The words of Jesus in Matthew must ring louder in my heart than the voices around me that are often nothing more than noise pollution.  You see, even though we know that God does not NEED any of us to accomplish His purposes, the fact remains that He CHOSE us...  imperfect people in constant need of take the message of Jesus to the world.

Why is that important?  Well, there are quite a few out there that believe that to do actual ministry, YOU need to get out of the way, and see what happens.  Just "let God work" is the method of some out there. This "whatever will be, will be" mentality just does not make sense to me.  I mean, if you hold to this thought process, then should we stop voting?  Should we stop speaking up when the Bible is taught out of context, or incorrectly?  Should we stop doing evangelism?  To take this thought process to it's ultimate end, I guess we would all need to get robes and sit in a quiet place and wait for the world to end.  No thanks...

On the other end of the spectrum are those that teach and believe that we are to work ourselves to death in the name of the church, or religion.  One does not have to go very far to find church and Christian leaders that are so engrossed in church programming, activities, events, community and social activities that they feel like they are "failing" if they are not busy DOING something.  Burnout and discouragement are rampant among these leaders, and for good reason!

Then, there are the self-denial folks, which is honestly just a different way to say legalism.  They set up rules, often for themselves at first, which must be adhered to in order for them to feel "spiritual," or good about themselves.  Any form of ministry, or life for that matter, that does not fit into what they perceive as the "rules of religion" cannot be tolerated, and must be dealt with.  Often times, these regulations become so stringent that they involve food, exercise, church attendance, use of money, time spent doing "God-things," and limiting themselves (often severely) from the things that they truly enjoy doing.  Doesn't sound fun on paper, doesn't sound fun any way you slice it.... These guys were called "Pharisees" in the Bible.

I can write about these examples, because I have been in the church world long enough to have experienced all of these, and have even bought into some of their logic at times in my own life.  All I know is that all of these lifestyles never actually brought me closer to Jesus.  In fact, they did just the opposite.  You see, all of these things, even try to be a "self-denyer," did nothing but bring the focus of my life squarely back to... well, ME.

Now, don't get me wrong here.  I know that the Bible says in John 3:30 that,  "He must increase, but I must decrease.”  I agree that Jesus must take the #1 spot in my heart and in my life.  HE must become my focus.  The problem with all the religious stuff that I talked about earlier is that, most of the time, these things do not cause Jesus to increase in our lives, churches, and cities.  Rather, they cause us to keep our gaze on things that other people have deemed as important.

God has gifted each of us in specific ways.  Some of us have amazing talents in art or 
music, some are great writers, others are great teachers, great orators, or administrators.  God gifts some in ways that are very obvious to the outside world, but He also gifts some of us in ways that might not seem glamorous, but are vitally important.  He gifts some with a heart to serve, hearts full of mercy and compassion, and even some that are given an amazing level of discernment.  All of these gifts are hugely important, and should not ever be overlooked or thought less of.

That being said, there are still many of us who know this, but have become convinced that our own gifting should have to fit into one of the paradigms that I spoke of earlier.  In my own life, I constantly struggle with whether it is okay to actually ENJOY the ministry that I have been given both passion and gifting for.  I know, it sounds crazy when I type it, but it is true!  I even had a church leader once ask me if the main reason I did a particular ministry was because I enjoyed it!  Again, that sounds crazier than my first statement, but after that conversation, I began to struggle with my "motivations" for doing what I do.  Constantly trying to figure out if what I loved could be stuffed into a legalistic box that someone else created.  

Then, a verse that my dad often reminds me of came to mind.  John 10:10 says, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."  The verses that I have quoted in this blog today are that voice... the voice of Jesus that drowns out the legalism, hatred, pride, arrogance, and busyness of the world.  Those things are the things that the "thief" (referencing the Devil) brings to destroy our lives, our witness to the world, and our joy.  I have to cling to the part that Jesus says that He has come to give us life to the fullest measure!  HE created me to be who I am, not who someone else wants me to be!

I am a country boy from New Mexico.  I love snow, movies, computers, playing music, and talking about life with others.  I love Jesus.  I want Him to use my abilities and passions to reach others in this world with the love and message of God.  I LOVE my family, and I ADORE my wife.  I LOVE sitting and talking with people.  I do not like doing things just to be doing something.  I like purpose... I like meaning...  I LOVE working with teenagers.  I LOVE working with missionary families.  I LOVE partnering with ministries in other places.  I LOVE sharing with those right here at home.  I am just the way God created me to be.

YOU were created for a purpose.  YOU are who Jesus died for.  YOU are EXACTLY what some part of this world needs.  Do NOT let anyone tell you that you have to BE something that you are not in order to reach others with the message of Jesus.  Stay tuned into Jesus, and let Him open the doors as you walk through this life.  YOU are OKAY... as long as you have Jesus... :)