Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. (1 Timothy 4:12)
Let’s consider some other examples of relatively young people making huge impacts:
• On October 15, 1517 God used a 33-year-old monk named Martin Luther to accidentally start what became known as the Protestant Reformation.
• John Wesley was only 26 when he started his “holy clubs,” sparking revival on England’s campuses.
• One of the most influential theological works in the history of the Church, John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, was not written by a baldhead graybeard seminary professor, but by a young man in his early 20’s.
• George Whitfield, the original mega-phone mouth, was 20 when he joined one of Wesley’s holy clubs and 25 during his first mission trip to America in 1739, where he preached to open air crowds as large as 30,000 people.
• William Carey was an illiterate cobbler until he was saved as a teenager. He immediately tacked a world map to his cobbler’s bench and began to educate himself. Carey eventually produced more than 200,000 Bibles and tracts in forty different languages. In 1792, Carey was 31 when he birthed the modern mission movement.
• Charles Spurgeon, the greatest preacher of the nineteenth century, started preaching at 16 and attracted such large crowds, that, before he was 30, he had built and filled the 5,000-seat Metropolitan Tabernacle in London.
• William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, started preaching in the slums of London while still a teenager.
• In 1844, George Williams, then a 23-year old businessman, started the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) as an evangelistic outreach to businessmen.
• In 1722, Count Ludwig von Zinzendorf, at the age of 22, founded a Christian community dedicated to prayer and world missions. Its followers eventually became known as the Moravians. They had a prayer chain that lasted 100 years. Their mission work spanned the globe.
• George Müller was saved at 20 and founded the world-famous Bristol Orphanage ten years later.
• In 1646, George Fox was saved as a 22-year old. His bold in-your- face preaching landed him in jail four years later. During his sentencing, the 26-year old fearless preacher warned the judge to “tremble at the word of the Lord,” thus earning the nickname “Quakers” for his followers.
• Early Methodist horseback riding evangelist and frontier church planter, Peter Cartwright, was saved as a 16-year old and started preaching one year later in 1786. He was ordained a deacon at 21 and an elder at 23. He singlehandedly won the West! (In case you ever wondered “How the West was Won”)
• Called by some as the most brilliant mind America has ever produced, Jonathan Edwards entered Yale in 1716 at the age of 13 and was converted the same year. At the age of 21, Edwards preached the sermon that sparked the “Great Awakening,” bringing thousands to a living faith in Christ and laying the spiritual foundation for what would become the United States of America.
• David Brainerd was converted at 21 in 1739. Another young gun who got in trouble because of his boldness, he was expelled from Yale three years later for “indiscreet zeal.” He then became one of the original cross-cultural missionaries to Native Americans, traveling over 3,000 miles on horseback, making disciples, training leaders and planting churches. His motto was “burn out for God.” He did just that, dying from exposure at the age of 29 in 1747. He was found dead on his knees. He may have burned out too soon, but he accomplished more in his 29 years than many do in 70 or 80.
• Robert Moffat, pioneer missionary and father-in-law of David Livingstone, was just 21 when he started his fifty-five years of ministry in Africa. Like most preachers in their early twenties, he probably had more zeal and faith than wisdom and strategy. But, because of his obedience and despite his youth, he helped reach a whole continent.
-Spiritual Multiplication in the Real World
Young people, don’t believe the lie that you’re not old enough to GREATLY impact the kingdom. Take a bold step of faith and go change the world for Jesus.
I can not seem to fall asleep tonight. I am angry.
When tragedies and shootings and bombings happen, my response is normally sadness. Sadness and sympathy at loss of life, at brokenness, at pain. But something about today’s events at the Boston Marathon is causing me sleepless, clenched-teeth anger.
Maybe it’s because I’m getting tired of seeing tragic news events in what seems to be every other month. Tired of these days clicking refresh on news sites and twitter feeds and wondering what is happening. Angry that the bombs went off at the four-hour mark, where the trained runners have finished and that is when the families and people running for causes are finishing. Angry that the fingers automatically point to the guy who looks Middle Eastern. Angry because I can’t get the image of blood spattered on pavement out of my mind.
I’m angry that 50% of our generation will have cancer in our lifetimes. I’m angry that 20,000+ children die a day from preventable diseases. I’m angry that there are more slaves today than during the peak of the slave trade. I’m angry that there is straight up genocide happening in so many countries and so many people don’t even know it — Congo, Syria, North Korea, and Somalia, just to name a few.
This thing called compassion fatigue doesn’t seem to be taking over. This stuff still makes me lose sleep.
If Jesus isn’t true, and the resurrection didn’t happen, and he is not returning, what hope do we have? If Matthew 24:14 and Revelation 7:9 and Revelation 21 aren’t true — if Jesus is not returning to make everything new — we have nothing. Man’s nature and track record tell us that there isn’t any reason to be optimistic.
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. …And he who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”
This is why I’m passionate about lifting high the name of Jesus to all nations and seeing movements of disciples multiplied all over the world.
Because without the name of Jesus going to every people, he won’t return. And without his ways, societies won’t transform. And people won’t stop sinning. And we will have no way to endure or escape sin, suffering, and death without him.
Praise be to God, that the words of this book are trustworthy and true, and His promises are always fulfilled, and that He is completely sovereign. Thanks be to him, that we have an unfailing hope in Jesus.
God is good. Bombs went off at the Boston Marathon today. Those two statements are still not contradictory. We know this because a holy Savior was unjustly nailed to a Roman Cross for our sins 2,000 years ago.
And we have hope. Because he rose from the grave three days later. And he is coming again to make everything new.
Come, Lord Jesus.
The Last Day
Today was my last day at Adlucent.
After 1.5 years, I am sad to be leaving. It was my first job out of college, and I couldn’t have asked for a better job, a better culture, or a better group of people.
I’ve learned so much from my time there. From being a completely inexperienced, 21-year-old philosophy graduate, to handling millions of dollars as a senior account manager in a complex industry, I can confidently say that it was completely God’s favor and blessing that allowed me to enjoy the success I had there.
And I loved the people that I worked with. They are hilarious, interesting, smart, creative, and just fun to be around. I’ve learned just as much about building relationships and interacting with people as I have in the SEM industry. I’ve learned how to enjoy the company of people with different backgrounds, and how to share about Jesus as my treasure in the workplace.
But God’s calling on my life has always been to the nations. Before I even left college or interviewed for jobs, I knew that He was sending me to go where there is no Gospel. That was always the foundation on which my time at Adlucent stood.
Still, I didn’t expect to leave quite as quickly as I did. Joining a Goer MC under Andy Kampman opened my eyes to just how immensely God was moving among the nations. Thousands upon thousands of disciples being made in movements all over the world, in the hardest places in the world! I got a glimpse of just how plentiful the harvest is, and consequently, how great the need for laborers is (Luke 10:2).
So, for the next year and a half, I will be joining Every Ethne as a mobilizer under the 100 People Network of the Austin Stone before launching to Thailand in late 2014.
My heart is heavy; it’s still a little raw. These people that I saw for 40+ hours a week, shared life with, and have grown to love — I know that God loves them so deeply. The abundant life and joy and purpose that I know in Jesus, the vast majority of my friends at Adlucent have not experienced. I pray for a revelation of the Gospel to come to Adlucent, and for many to be saved.
But I’m also excited. I trust Him in all of His sovereignty for the calling and plan He has on my life. I’m passionate to see the vision of Revelation 7:9 fulfilled, of a multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language to be worshipping before the throne.
Jesus has forever changed my life. He has purchased me, and all I am belongs to him. Career success and a big salary pale in comparison with the deep intimacy I have in following him and embracing the calling he has for me.
Today was my last day at Adlucent — and for all I know, the last day I hold a job in the professional world. My desire is that this decision would be in order to hasten the coming of the day of the Lord (2 Peter 3:12), and that the gospel of the kingdom might be preached to all the nations — and then the end will come (Matthew 24:14).
My hope is that this last day would directly impact the last day of all things, when he returns and makes all things new. Would praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!
Hebrews 11 - By Faith
My notes/list of the attributes of the people commended for great faith in the Hebrews 11 Hall of Faith:
-convicted, confident, sure of things yet to come and not seen
-their faith leads to salvation on the last day
-brought a better offering, brought their best, realizing their sinfulness & God’s holiness (Abel)
-walked with God and pleased God by their faith (Enoch)
-drew near to God, believed in His absolute existence and that He rewards those that seek Him (IMPT!)
-faith = righteousness —> salvation
-unbelief = sinfulness —> condemnation
-have no sight for the world; their eyes are fixed on heaven!
-God did the physically impossible thru them, and multiplied their descendants innumerably (Abraham and Sarah)
-even died in faith, believing God would fulfill His promises even beyond their lives (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph)
-believed in God’s power beyond their capabilities (Abraham)
-believed their promises would be fulfilled in their sons and their disciples (Isaac, Jacob, Joseph)
-not afraid of earthly dangers and threats, but of God’s goodness (Moses’ parents)
-refused worldly pleasures and suffered, for a better reward (Moses)
-endured earthly threats because they had seen the invisible King (Moses)
-endured foolishly, fruitlessly, trusting in God’s promises (Israel around Jericho)
-saved their whole household (oikos) by believing in God! (Rahab)
-had exploits greater than their own power/imagination (Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, etc.)
-suffered greatly to obey, to believe in God’s promises, seeking a better reward
These people had an absolute assurance that their God would fulfill His promises and that He had a better reward than what the world could offer. They refused the world to go foolishly, blindly after what God had sent them to at a great cost to themselves, even death. Yet they will be made perfect on the last day, because of Jesus!
This type of faith astounds me. When they are mocked by the entire world and cannot see where their fruitless endeavors go, still they trust in God. Their faith is based on God’s promises and on His character — nothing else. Their lives look completely contrary to the world, rejecting it. And they suffer for it. There is no neutral action or worldview: either you are following the ways of Christ’s Kingdom, or you are following the ways of the world and the Enemy. As He says in James 4: “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”
Help me, God, to believe in your promises and in your character — that there is a better reward to be had than what this world can offer. Even in suffering, help me to say that Jesus is worth it.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
My friend Farshid is currently in prison in Iran because of his faith in Jesus. I was touched by a letter he sent a few days ago…
To the fathers and mothers who lost their precious children in the Connecticut tragedy,
I really don’t know what word in the world could comfort…
Pt. III - Fruitfulness
There is a strange and haunting passage in the gospel of Mark, where Jesus is hungry and walks up to a fig tree. Upon finding that it has no fruit, Jesus has a severe reaction and curses it — may no one ever eat fruit from you again! — and it withers and dies.
John 15 mentions a similar idea, that a branch that does not abide and bear fruit will wither, be cut off, thrown in the fire, and burned.
This idea of fruitfulness, or the lack of it, used to keep me up at night. What does it mean to bear fruit? Am I doing it right? Will I be cut off and burned?
Fruitfulness is a principle that is key to the kingdom of God. Some derivation of the word “fruit” shows up in the New Testament 66 times, many of which come straight from the teachings of Jesus.
It seems that Scripture categorizes fruit in two different ways — its quality and its quantity. This is how we define actual fruit anyway, by its health, flavor, condition, and it’s ability to product a crop, produce more of itself.
For a follower of Jesus, fruit is defined by Christ-like character, and by multiplication of disciples.
The Fruit of the Spirit
Galatians 5:22 defines it outrightly: 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
The New Testament mentions fruit in this manner many other times, that the “fruit of light is found in all that is good and true and right,” (Ephesians 5:9), or in Hebrews, where discipline “yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:11).
Christ’s promise is to sanctify you, to make you holier and more like him, and this change can be quantified by the fruit of the Spirit. When you meet Jesus, he changes you. He changes your demeanor, your character, the way you act and think.
Think on how he has changed you since you’ve started following him. In high school, I used to be filled with bitterness and anxiety and had a hot temper. I’ve seen how Jesus has changed me over the years, that I might love instead of judge, that I might have peace that transcends understanding instead of stress out about my future, that I might be filled with grace instead of anger. He has changed the way that I think, speak, act, plan. He has changed ME.
If you question whether you are fruitful or if Christ is sanctifying you, look on what Paul lists out as the fruits of the Spirit — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. If your actions and thoughts are becoming more in line with these things, the Spirit is working in your life! Praise him and ask him for more.
The Fruit of Multiplication
Although many people understand that fruit from abiding in Christ is character and heart change, when you read the Scriptures, it feels that Christ puts even more emphasis on this second category of fruit — multiplication.
In Mark 4, Jesus tells the parable of the sower and then explains each type of soil. He ends with the fourth one — the good soil. Those that hear and accept the word bear fruit — thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold (Mark 4:20).
Jesus continues throughout the Gospels, especially when teaching about the kingdom, to talk about fruit in terms of multiplication, sowing and reaping, and a harvest. He says the kingdom is like a mustard seed, though tiny, grows to be the biggest tree in the garden (Matthew 13:31) or like yeast, that spreads through all the leaven (Matthew 13:33). In Luke 10:2, Jesus says that the harvest is plentiful, or how the fields are white for harvest (John 4:35).
Throughout the Bible, there is a theology of multiplication, culminating in the Great Commission in Matthew 28 — “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 obey everything I have commanded you.”
Multiplying disciples is the method that Jesus chose to bring the gospel to all the nations, in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. He invested in 12 broken, unaware, but faithful young men — and within their lifetimes, the gospel had been brought to all of the known world.
This is the method that he still uses now; movements of multiplying disciples. Disciples that make disciples that make disciples, like 2 Timothy 2:2. He is doing this all around the world — thousands upon thousands of new believers to countless generations in China, the Middle East, and some of the most unreached, difficult parts of the world. He’s even doing it in America (multiplymovement.com).
The church is coming together to finish the Great Commission and see Christ return (Matthew 24:14). It WILL BE completed in our lifetime. And the harvest is plentiful — there is so much joy to be had through brothers and sisters joining our family! He wants to multiply disciples THROUGH YOU. Yes, you!
Just a glimpse from our M/C’s perspective — in 3 months since the beginning of the semester, we’ve made over 70 international friends and are reading the Bible with 10+ of them. We had a new sister come into the family just last Thursday! In another group I’m in, we’ve made 100+ new friends and are reading the Bible with 20+ of them. We’ve never experienced anything like this, and it’s been one of the most fun, filling, and joyful times in my life.
The harvest is plentiful! It’s available, and commanded, for you to bear fruit, and go and multiply disciples.
Lastly, the key to bearing fruit — a close mentor once said to me, “fruitfulness is dependent on intimacy.” In John 15, Jesus says, “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” More on this in Part IV.
“How to be Constantly Happy in the Lord.”
Interrupting the series of blog posts for this, which unequivocally describes what I’ve slowly been finding as true better than I can. From this excellent post by John Piper on Spiritual Leadership.
“George Mueller is noteworthy for his great faith in the work of his orphanages. In his autobiography he has a section entitled, “How to be Constantly Happy in the Lord.” He complains how for years he used to try to pray early in the morning and found that his mind wandered again and again. Then he made a discovery. He records it like this:
The point is this: I saw more clearly than ever that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was not how much I might serve the Lord, how I might glorify the Lord; but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man might be nourished … Before this time my practice had been at least for ten years previously as a habitual thing to give myself to prayer after having dressed in the morning. Now I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the word of God and to meditation on it, that thus my heart might be comforted, encouraged, warned, reproved, instructed; and that thus, while meditating, my heart might be brought into experimental communion with the Lord. I began, therefore, to meditate on the New Testament from the beginning early in the morning. The first thing I did, after having asked in a few words the Lord’s blessing upon his precious word, was to begin to meditate on the word of God, searching as it were into every verse to get blessing out of it; not for the sake of the public ministry of the word; not for the sake of preaching on what I had meditated upon; but for the sake of obtaining food for my soul. The result I have found to be almost invariably this, that after a very few minutes my soul has been led to confession, or to thanksgiving, or to intercession, or to supplication; so that though I did not, as it were, give myself to prayer but to meditation, yet it turned almost immediately more or less into prayer. When thus I have been for a while making confession or intercession or supplication or have given thanks, I go on to the next words or verse, turning all, as I go on, into prayer for myself or others, as the word may lead to it; but still continually keeping before me that food for my soul as the object of my meditation.
The result of this is that there is always a good deal of confession, thanksgiving, supplication, or intercession mingled with my meditation and that my inner man almost invariably is almost sensibly nourished and strengthened and that by breakfast time, with rare exceptions, I am in a peaceful if not a happy state of heart.
Now that God has taught me this point, it is as plain to me as anything that the first thing the child of God has to do morning by morning is to obtain food for the inner man. As the outward man is not fit for work for any length of time, except we take food, and as this is one of the first things we do in the morning, so it should be with the inner man. We should take food for that, as everyone must allow. Now what is the food for the inner man? Not prayer, but the word of God; and here again, not the simple reading of the word of God, so that it only passes through our minds, just as water runs through a pipe, but considering what we read, pondering over it, and applying it to our hearts.
By the blessing of God I ascribe to this mode the help and strength which I have had to pass in peace through deeper trials in various ways than I have ever had before; and after having now above forty years tried this way, I can most fully, in the fear of God, commend it. How different when the soul is refreshed and made happy early in the morning, from what it is when, without spiritual preparation, the service, the trials, and the temptations of the day come upon one!
It should be an encouragement to all of us to persevere in the meditation upon God’s Word when we read a letter which, in 1897, George Mueller sent to the British and Foreign Bible Society in which he had to excuse himself from attending a meeting in Burmingham. He said, “Will you have the kindness to read to the meeting that I have been for sixty-eight years and three months, viz., since July, 1929, a lover of the word of God and that uninterruptedly. During this time I have read considerably more than one hundred times through the whole of the Old and New Testaments with prayer and meditation.”
More on this in Part III.
Pt. II - Intimacy with Jesus
An encounter with God.
It’s a peculiar idea. If I disappeared one day out of the blue, and resurfaced a week later with disheveled hair and a crazed look on my face saying that I had an encounter with God, I could be labeled a lunatic, or gain some followers and start a religion, or both. A lot of people have done this, to different degrees and reactions. Moses, Joseph Smith, L. Ron Hubbard, Siddharta Gautama, Jim Jones, and Muhammad, to name a few.
Yet, every morning, and every moment of every day, I have uninhibited access to the living God. I encounter God. Or, more accurately, He encounters me.
As a Christian, all of a sudden this is no big deal. Daily, I feel the presence of God and hear his voice, know his character, enjoy his love. To most of the world, I am slightly insane, at least a bit weird, or it’s just a method of moralism. To most people who claim to be Christians, this is just whatever, or it’s just a method of moralism.
For some reason, this doesn’t BLOW OUR MINDS and somehow, stuff like fantasy football, TV sitcoms, and chores take precedence over drawing near to the presence of God.
This is a vastly overlooked aspect of following Jesus. Actually, one could argue that the foundation for all Christianity is relationship. Because God so loved, He sent His only Son. Without relationship, we have only religion.
So much of what Christianity is known for is rules, rules, and rules. Don’t drink, don’t cuss, don’t have sex, go to church, read your bible, give your money away, do what you’re told to. For a generation that values fun, happiness, and enjoyment more than any generation before it has, this sounds pretty awful. Give up the stuff you like — for what? To feel like you’re a good person?
But so much of what Jesus invites us to is enjoyment.
“That they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
This isn’t a select few verses; Jesus invites us to walk with him, to share in his joy all throughout the Gospels. This doesn’t sound at all like religion or following rules to me. It sounds like relationship.
Most of us that grew up in church have missed out or forgotten this completely — intimacy with Jesus is everything. Do you remember that first moment when you realized and thought to yourself, “I can have a relationship, I can really know JESUS?!” And you were overwhelmed with such joy and gratitude and love and excitement. That intimate relationship is still the foundation for everything else. Forget serving or being a good Christian or even a good person. If joy in following Jesus is obtained in knowing and experiencing him, why do we focus on everything else BUT him?
I didn’t come to Jesus because I was such a holy person with perfectly right motives and I had so much to offer him. I came as a broken, filthy, beaten down, utterly useless person in need of someone to heal me, to save me, to even care about me. He responded with a kiss and an embrace, and put a robe around me, sandals on my feet, and celebrated over me. I have absolutely nothing to offer him but my sin, and his response is to just give me everything.
That kind of intimacy — that of a Father over his lost son, of a friend that is always with you, of a Savior that would die for you — that is what Jesus invites you to. Draw near to him. Spend time with him. Cry out, worship, rant, unload, learn about him, obey him, enjoy him. He is simply waiting with the best thing you could ever want — a relationship.
An encounter with God doesn’t really capture it at all. It’s more like an embrace.
Pt. I - “I’ve Been Waiting For You.”
I remember the first time I ever went to the Austin Stone, I was alone. It was the beginning of summer after my freshman year, and I hadn’t been to church in 6+ months. I had been battling depression and isolation for most of that spring semester, and I think I just figured that I was really tired of meaningless living, so maybe going to church again would do something about that.
I went to the 7pm service, back when there was no rush for parking, no traffic, and no packed gym. There were entire empty rows near the front, so I sat in one, because, quite honestly, it was awkward and I didn’t much want to talk to anybody. I sat there wondering what in the world I was doing in church.
I don’t remember much else from that day, because worship started, and Andy Melvin opened with Fire Fall Down. The lyrics go like this:
Cause I know that you’re alive
You came to fix my broken life
And I’ll sing to glorify
Your Holy name, Jesus Christ
You bought my life with the blood
That you shed on the cross
When you died for the sins of men
And you let out a cry, crucified
Now alive in me
I didn’t make it past the second line before I started weeping, violently, with my body shaking. I was so tired of sin and living a meaningless life. But more than that, I remember Jesus saying to me, I’ve been waiting for you. And then it was just uncontrollable, and I started crying, like, pathetically. And I remember saying back to him, “Jesus, you are all I really ever wanted.” I don’t remember the rest of the songs or the sermon because I was just repenting like crazy and crying out to him.
I kept going to Stone that summer, I think mostly by myself, because every worship time just resulted in copious amounts of tears. He was doing so much ripping out of sin in my heart and healing and replacing that sin with his love.
I think that summer was the first time I really heard the gospel and believed that I could have a relationship with Jesus. I don’t discount the experiences I had in high school because they had a lot to do with who I am now, but I just… didn’t know Jesus. I only knew about him.
I can’t believe that was just 4 years ago. What I thought about following Jesus before that time, since then, what I know now, and even what I will know tomorrow or 10 years from now are so radically different. In such a profound manner that can only be achieved through a deep understanding and care, He has changed me.
He continues to change me, to surprise me, to simultaneously come nearer and become greater than I ever thought possible. In year five, he is uncovering something paradigmatic about what it means to follow, to encounter Jesus. It is so much further from religion than I thought this whole Christianity thing was supposed to be. But more on that later.