Different – Like Jesus

Mark6BellaPic

Mark 6

 

Wow! It’s now been a full week since Fuel ended, and I’m sure that many of you who attended are, like me, missing your friends, your classes, the sessions, and the overall atmosphere. But hopefully, we have been able to take what we learned that week and apply it to the way we live our everyday lives. How to be (drum roll, please)…DIFFERENT! We can see many examples of how to be different and serve the way Jesus served in Mark chapter 6. I think of this chapter as a sort of series of steps telling us how we are meant to serve.

So Jesus starts this chapter off with saying, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own hometown and among his own relatives and in his own household.” (Mark 6:4) The King James version actually says, “in his own country.” So in essence, he’s telling us, “Hey, I know you like your friends, your family, your home, and it’s easy to feel comfortable there, but I need you to GO OUT and share the truth with the world.” It is not God’s will for us to stay confined to our own little nook of the world. We have to go love everybody, everywhere. Don’t be afraid to venture outside your comfort zone, and love people there.

The next main point Jesus gets to is that when you stop in a town to share the truth with people, they might not accept it; they may simply say “no”. In that case, our job is to “shake the dust off our feet” (Mark 6:11), and move on. Because what happens when we stay in one place, working on bringing the same person to the truth for too long? We miss out on bringing so many other people to the truth! If someone is not willing to accept the truth and live for God, we have to know that it’s time to move on and find people who are. Because our mission is to get as many people into the Kingdom as possible.

After the sad and brutal story of the death of John the Baptist, Jesus told the disciples to “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest for a while.” (Mark 6:31) In order to help other people build a relationship with God, we need to keep ours strong. Luke 5:16, one of the memory verses from last week, says “But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.” So one important step we have to take in our lives is to take the time to go somewhere by ourselves and focus on our own spiritual health, so that we may be better equipped to go out and make disciples.

In verses 33-44, we read about how Jesus fed five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish. It says in verse 34 that Jesus saw them and felt compassion for them. But he didn’t just push the feeling away and continue on; he acted on his compassion. He did something. It may seem impossible to do what Jesus did, but God provides you with the means to do what you are called to do. And it’s not impossible by the way – if God thinks that you should feed five thousand people with a couple of tacos and a strawberry shake, you will feed five thousand people with a couple of tacos and a strawberry shake.

Next we come to Jesus walking on the water. His disciples were astonished when he climbed in the boat all nonchalant after walking out to the middle of the sea to calm the winds for them. Why were they so flabbergasted? I mean, they just witnessed him feed five thousand people with five loaves and two fish! Well, in verse 52 we read that they “had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened.” Don’t let your heart be hardened. Open your eyes to the things God is doing all around you, and let it affect you. Let it change your mindset, your behavior, the very way you live your life. Because that’s why God let Jesus do these crazy things, so that we could see His power and have faith in Him. Later on, in verses 53-56, we see how the people of Gennesaret recognize Jesus and flock to him, assuming that he can heal them, because they know he has before. Flock to Jesus. Know his Father’s power. Trust in Him. Let Him make you different.

 

-Isabella Osborn

 

 

 

 

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A Different Monday

Mark 2 14

Mark 2:13-14

“Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. As he walked along he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth.

“Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.”

It’s Monday.

For many of us, that means going back to work, which can be hard after a normal week, but this is the first Monday after a week of camp. A lot of times it can be depressing coming home after Fuel. We have to jump back into the same old routine, same old habits, same old life.

But you know what’s crazy, we don’t have to go back to the same old routine. We have been called out of the mundane, from simply going through the motions.

We are called to be different.

Because of Jesus, we can live in a completely different way than the world around us. You see, when people think of Monday as the beginning of a long, tiresome, annoying, difficult, boring, frustrating, week, we as Christians can have a different approach. Mondays are the start of a NEW week, full of incredible opportunities and blessings. You have a brand new set of 168 hours for God to work through you. Think of all the people you can meet, how much time you have to get to know God better, and all the opportunities to spread His love!

Last week we learned that being different will cause you to stand out in this world. If you go around without grumbling about Monday, or even better, being joyful that it’s Monday; people are going to notice, and ask questions, and possibly even look down on you because of it. But how blessed we are to be able to be different. We are lights in this dark world. Something as simple as Monday can spark life-changing conversations. How crazy cool is that?

In the second chapter of Mark, we find Levi simply doing his job. Same old stuff he does everyday. But then Jesus entered the picture. Jesus called him out of just going through the motions and into something life-changing.

You are called out.

Now most of us can’t just drop everything and follow Jesus as Levi did, but we can follow his example in the everyday experiences. The people around you are your platform. Your life right now is your ministry. You are different. And you are a difference-maker.

So in closing, I want to challenge each of you to this: Make this Monday different.

Have a blessed week friends,

Katelyn Hawkins

Temptation

Mark Chapter 1

Mark 1 13a

This week we begin a journey into the Gospel of Mark, reading just one chapter a day.  Jesus has much to teach us about being different.  Instead of hearing from just one writer this week – we get to hear from 7 young people as they inspire us to follow Jesus.  

“At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.  Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.  And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness,  and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.

Mark 1:9-13 (NIV)

In these verses, we see God having favor with Jesus as well as Jesus being tempted. We just came back from Fuel and it’s so easy to go back to life as we know it and to maintain the same habits. We will be tempted both now and throughout the year. However, the theme this year was different and regardless of a Fuel theme, we should strive each year to become a better version of ourselves upon going home.

Let us pray:

“God, we praise you for such a powerful week at Fuel. We’re grateful for the things you’ve laid on our hearts and for the Godly relationships that have been created and strengthened through fellowship. We ask that you would help us act in accordance with your will and help us fulfill the commitment that we made to be different in our personal lives as well as in our communities.”

Until next year, brothers and sisters in Christ.

~Caitie Wood

Departure

2 Timothy 4 8

Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.”  Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” – John 13:36-37

“It’s time to go!” says a voice calling from the driver’s seat indicating you might be left behind if you don’t leave now.  A friend or a family member receives your last look, a last hug, a last “see you later”, and maybe a tear or two.  It never gets any easier to say goodbye to people we love, yet such is the nature of life.  To move in the direction of God, often means to experience seasons of friends and family being at varying distances. I would imagine it was difficult for Jesus to say goodbye to his friends like Lazarus, his mother, Mary, and the eleven remaining apostles whom He spent a great deal of time with on this earth. But He was called to be somewhere else, to mediate between us and God (1 Tim 2:5) and to prepare us for a time when He can be with us all who love Him and keep His will.

In Revelation 19, we are given a picture of the marriage supper of the Lamb.  This is an event where the church will be reunited to celebrate with Christ – altogether, simultaneously, fulfilling the promise in Hebrews that no one would be left out but “God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” – Hebrews 11:40 – Not only will we be reunited with our loved ones from our present, but also those who departed from us along the way, that fell asleep in Christ (1 Thes 4:14). We have been told this, so we don’t give up.   We fight the good fight .  We have the endurance to be different.

“For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:” 2 Timothy 4: 7,8

“If you keep My commandments, you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and remain in His love. I have told you these things so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.”  John 15:11

But for most of us, and potentially all of us reading this blog, today is not our last day of breath, but a day we leave behind someone we love, either through proximity or heaven forbid, through physical death.  So how can we make sure we don’t forget about this promise to be reunited with the ones we love?

1. Seek His word in your life. First, this means reading your Bible.  It is not an instrument to be used solely on Sundays and Wednesdays and at church camp.  We are told that the word of God in the scripture is alive and actively ready to convict and confirm on thoughts, motives, and actions (Hebrews 4:2).  You are called to live out every day for Christ, so this means the Word of God must be present.  Reading and subscribing to this blog is a great start, but so is a Bible reading plan, or verse of the day bookmarks.  Also, spending time in prayer is a way to monitor your spiritual life and receive direction and confirmation from God.  As we seek to become more spiritually mature, we begin to thank God for a lot more, recognizing the blessings in our life that change the way we pray for the things we desire.  We can pray for God’s will, or in His will, as we wait because we recognize that we are already truly blessed.  This is a discipline, an exercise program.  If you have been a spiritual couch potato, don’t expect to run a Bible marathon or become a prayer warrior overnight.  Even introducing the smallest of these disciplines will begin to make a dramatic difference into your spiritual health.

2. Find a ministry. Do the ministry.  When we become idle, when we don’t have anything to do, that is when sin gets a jump on us (Proverbs 16:27-29).  We consume junk on screens, we find people to talk about, and we become open to other forms of ungodly entertainment.  The devil can be just as busy binge-watching Netflix (that should step on some toes) or scrolling through social media (and the ones I missed the first time) as it is in those who are actively seeking out ways to do evil in this world.  This quote by Edmund Burke addressed to another statesman rings true in the Christian life too, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”  It is time to find and actively participate in a ministry.  To move from the milk to the meat.  To not simply believe but to act.  Don’t know where to start?  Look at the list provided by Jesus in Matthew 25 as he separates the sheep and the goats.  Ministry is truly a win-win. When you are busy fulfilling the Word of God, there is simply less time to get caught up in the stuff that doesn’t matter.

3. Be a part of the church. We are not called to do the above mentioned things solely in isolation.  When we put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ, we become part of a greater entity: the church.  It is not simply a building, in fact, it has nothing to do with the structure you meet in at all.  The church is full of people who are trying to do the same as you: live better for Christ.  There is a small caveat.  Like you, they are not perfect yet.  However, everyone in the church has their own unique gifting, function, and strengths.  You don’t have to do this alone.  So what if they don’t have the style of music you want at the church.  So what if there isn’t a large group of people your age in the church.  So what if your friends and family live far away from your church.  Inside your community of believers you still have a function, can be held and hold people accountable, and find ways to strengthen and edify one another for the purpose in which you’re called. It is also important to understand the church is connected beyond the group you meet with on Sundays.  Your friends at camp, your bestie from college, a group of people at a break table or lunch table can talk about and worship God together.  Find a way to connect with other believers, and you will be further shored up against evil.

4. Let the grace of God do the rest. Often times when we come back from a fulfilling spiritual experience, we are immediately presented with our greatest challenges.  The trajectory up of spiritual life will not be a perfect, upward-moving diagonal line.  Inevitably, we will always find a spiritual low after a spiritual high. Don’t let the waves of doubt and defeat toss you and capsize the great life, truth, and hope you have.  You will mess up.  You will know the good you should do and not do it sometimes (Rom 7:15-20).  You may go several days without reading your Bible, become stagnant in your ministry,  or remove yourself from the church because you feel guilty you have committed an unforgivable sin.  Don’t give up. Let God take control and understand that He gives grace to all generously.  This is a free gift, so don’t waste your time “feeling bad” or “not worthy.”  Take heart. Get back up. Seek God. Renew your commitment to His commandments because each day is a new day.  Do everything not to depart from God, and He too, will do everything it takes to ensure you will never have to depart from Him or the ones you love that have fulfilled the same call, together united at the marriage supper of the Lamb.

-Aaron Winner

Peculiar

Phil 2 15.png
If someone were to describe your behavior as “peculiar”, you would most likely not take it as a compliment.  Peculiar’s origin as a word stems from particular, singling out an item or idea from the rest, but over time the definition, and more importantly, the connotation has shifted.  To be peculiar is not simply to be different, but to be strange, funny, odd, specifically to a way we act or think seemingly with rational or reasonable explanation behind the behavior.  Peculiar could be someone who wears different styles, colors, and heights of socks simultaneously (me), or someone who doesn’t like the food on their plate to touch (my wife), or someone who would turn down all the wealth of this world to serve the will of God (Jesus, Matt 4).

There is truly something odd about the Christian life.  We are constantly denying our instinct in order to fulfill our call.  Many times Jesus uses radical, hyperbolic language to teach the most important disciplines of the strange Christian life.  These words are meant to shock, encourage whispers, and dramatically shift the way we act and think.  Those who want complacent faith? To have miracles without the mindset? To have salvation without giving up their reputation or station?  They walked and will continue to walk away.  They don’t want to be perceived as peculiar, and more accurately, don’t want to be forever changed – a holy-first mindset.

In keeping with today’s theme, here is a shortlist of six of the most odd and convicting teachings of Jesus.  If you’re not different or weird because you do these things, then you are doing them wrong.  As you devote time to reading this list, use this as an opportunity for a gut check – are you only a listless spectator watching and critiquing without any action or any sacrifice or are you actively working on becoming a sold-out slave to the Savior’s summoning?

1. You must be baptized for forgiveness and to receive the Spirit – Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” – John 3:3 – Jesus has an eye-opening conversation with Nicodemus about the way God uses this symbolic gesture that had become a part of Jewish religious culture.  John the Baptist, like others before him, uses immersion in water as a means of symbolically cleansing us from our sins, but Jesus sets the example (Matt 3) that this also symbolizes a changing of our mindset.  The death and burial of our old self, and the rebirth of someone who is ready to receive the Spirit, the dwelling of God’s power in us.  There are theological nuances that we will leave to the scholars to debate, but this symbolic act is clearly exampled and talked about by Jesus, and practiced and talked about some more by his disciples.  This is the beginning.  If you haven’t been baptized, but you see the compelling case for Christ in your life, now is the time.  This symbol marks the launching point, not the precipice to our walk in Him.

2. You must be willing to live and die for Christ – “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”  Matt 16:24,25 – Obviously the apostles saw something happen that dramatically shifted the trajectory of their lives forever.  After the resurrection of Jesus, they were accused of moving His body to perpetuate the story that He had risen.  But would every single one of these men be ready and willing to travel so far and literally give up their lives for Christ? While a single man might die to protect a lie, I find it very hard to believe a whole group of men would do so. All of them, save John who was exiled, were put to death, each one receiving their punishment, not simply for their beliefs, but for their pursuit of evangelism and sharing the good news.  They each daily sacrificed their life, and even used their death, as testimony of the life-altering Gospel message.

3. You must live out communion  – “For My flesh is real food, and My blood is real drink. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains in Me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent Me and I live because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on Me will live because of me“ – John 6:56 – Here we have another physical gesture that is symbolic of Christian life.  While it is not too difficult to eat a piece of bread or crackers, or knock back a cup of wine or grape juice, the conviction of these symbols is terrifying – we must always remember that we are striving to be one with Christ.  Anything we put in our body, use our body for (i.e. sex, 1 Cor 6:18), or anything that happens between our two ears, has to be reconciled by or repented to Christ for Him to remain in us.  This means the act of communion, whether done formally or figurative as a daily discipline, should be convicting and purging us from the things that tear us away from Christ.

4. You must find joy in persecution and dejection – “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” Matthew 5:11 – Our natural instinct when we are attacked is to strike back.  If you hit me, I will return the blow.  If you hurl insults at me, I will use my wit and tongue to put you in your place.  Even when we gratify ourselves with revenge, there is no joy in it.  In Acts 5, Peter and the apostles receive a verbal and physical lashings.  What is their response?  Jubilation.  They found great joy in suffering for Christ because it meant they were becoming more like Him, and they were living out the Great Commission.  We should be ready and willing to be challenged, made fun of, and even receive physical abuse because we have taken a stand for Christ.  When we take a stand and our joy grows, but so does our testimony and resolve (James 1:2,3), compelling others to seek out the reason for our peculiar perseverance.

5. You must be willing to count anything as loss – “If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire.” – Matthew 18:8 – The example Jesus uses is a challenge to control our carnal nature using figurative language. If someone had the resolve to literally cut off the hand or foot, they definitely have a resolve to control other behaviors in the life.  But are we willing to literally cut out other things?  Are you willing to give up comfort? Opportunities? Sports? Friends? Family members?  Would you be willing to be thought of as dumb, ignorant, a fool, and even pitied?  Would you be willing to part with all of your money, all of your possessions, and all of your time?  It is better to lose your identity in this world or  to have no home, than to be thrown alongside your pride and identity in the fire.  It is better to throw away a coveted scholarship than for you to be thrown alongside your degree to be thrown in the fire. It is better to find new friends and family, or even have no friends and family, than to be thrown alongside them in the fire.  Now each of these things are placed in the proper perspective; pride, a degree, friends, family can all be great God-filled things, just like hands and feet, but if they are moving you away from Christ, they are not beneficial.  We have to remove them.

6. You can’t stop loving others. Ever. – “Love your neighbor as yourself.” – Matthew 22:39 – It would be so much easier if Jesus never said this.  The most radical, the most challenging, the hardest-lived statement is in these five words.  Loving God is truly easy – He deserves honor and praise, He loved us first, and He has established things in past, present, and future for us that are greater than we can ever imagine.  I would even dare say I am loving God more than myself on my greatest days of faith (which is not nearly enough).  But loving my neighbor. C’mon.  What have they done to deserve my love?  My neighbor could bash my faith on social media.  My neighbor could be making such poor choices with their money.  My neighbor could be abusing their family.  My neighbor could be lying to me, stealing from me, and badmouthing me all over town. My neighbor could physically spit in my face, beat me to the point of death, and hang me on a cross.  And that’s when we realize, we are Christ’s neighbor.  He have power to change our lives forever by living out the love of God.  He was so purposeful in His love in God that He saved us all from eternal separation.  By doing this, He has given us the power to peculiarly love people we don’t know, but even more so, people we know well.  We have the same opportunity as Christ.  We can do everything possible to love our neighbor into conviction and submission that comes from seeing, hearing, and feeling the Gospel message coming from God through us.  Yes, this is the most peculiar of all, but as strange, odd and weird as it is, it’s the most beautiful, the most attractive, and the most fulfilling thing we could ever do on behalf of our Father in heaven who so much loves His peculiar people.

-Aaron Winner

Alien

John 15 19 (1)

As a bearded, green-eyed, 6’ 2” white male, it was hard to lose me in a crowd when I was doing mission work in Peru.  I dare say it was apparent to everyone that I was not a local.  Now we could spend a lot of time being politically correct, especially with the hotbed of controversy that currently exists around race, ethnicity, and nationality –  I PROMISE I understand more than most how tall you are, what color your hair, eyes, or skin are, or even how bearded you are doesn’t necessarily make you a foreigner. You’re right. I very well could have grown up in the streets of Huanchaco, in fact, my Memaw (that’s a grandma in the South) who looks a lot like me, spent the majority of her childhood in Peru’s capital, Lima – HOWEVER, shocking as it may be, I didn’t run across anyone that remotely looked like me.  This left most people with the right conclusion –  I was obviously a foreigner.  In fact, Mackenzie, another girl on the mission team who happens to be pretty tall too, and I posed for more than one set of pictures with complete strangers while we were out and about because we were in fact so strange ourselves (if only they really knew).  I can only imagine the conversations that took place later – “You will never believe what we saw today” – as a phone is being pulled out to show the photo – “They were so TALL.  And WHITE.  And HAIRY.” Well maybe more true of me, but Mackenzie does have pretty long hair.  What is true of me in Peru is true for me in Michigan, and Ireland, and even North Carolina (which is the state above my own that defiles their barbecue with vinegar) – as much as I try to conform to the people and surroundings, there is still a part of home that shows.

As Christians, we rightfully spend a great deal of time being inclusive. According to Paul, in one of my favorite passages, any identity we bring to the table – nationality, status, or gender – is superseded by belonging to Christ (Gal 3:28). This is consistent with the message of Jesus – “Who is my neighbor?” – anyone. Jesus drives home the point that love crosses cultures as he tells the familiar parable of “The Good Samaritan.”  Make a note: this story is NOT simply called “The Good Child of God.”  This is not a politically or socially correct tale.  However, the moral of this tale from Jesus is not “See – Samaritans can be nice too,” but lies in the emphatic removing of the barriers of race, class, and status to place the sole importance of your identity coming from following the will of God alone – all that other crap: doesn’t matter.

This means that the lines we draw are simple.  We don’t have to use family trees, tax brackets, brown bags, diets, or circumcision to prove that we are followers of Christ.  Our status comes from following the example of Christ as we live out our faith. In so doing this, you are part of the promises of God, or you’re not.  You’re in his will or you’re not.  You’re a sheep, or you’re a goat (Matt 25:31-45).  This is divisive.  Some would have you believe there are many paths to salvation.  No, there is only one (John 14:6).  Some would have you believe that other religions worship the same God.  No, they don’t (Deuteronomy 6:4).  Some would have you believe that since God is love, everyone will be in His kingdom.  No, see the aforementioned sheep and goats.  At this point, you might be shaking your head. Is it moving left to right? Or it is moving up and down?  I get it.  I can feel the reflexive wince kick in from the “you do you” age we live in, but if you submit to today’s wisdom and not the teachings of Jesus, your home is here and now.

We are called to be aliens of this world which means we must, we HAVE TO! be different.  When so many are clamoring that truth and identity are relative, Christians must stand-out like a 6’ 2”, greened-eyed, bearded white man in small-town Peru or more so like a 33 year-old radical priest flipping over tables in the tabernacle, and say, “This isn’t so! Children of God, don’t give up your inheritance!”  We have to say IT IS NOT OKAY to sling mud or resort to physical violence just because someone has wronged you.  IT IS NOT OKAY to steal from someone even if you think you are deserving of what they have. IT IS NOT OKAY to live with someone before you’re married or divorce them simply because you decided not to be with them.  IT IS NOT OKAY to fail to actively teach your children the Word of God.  IT IS NOT OKAY that multiple sexuality and gender fluidity are glorified and thought of as superior to God’s design.  AND MOST OF ALL, IT IS NOT OKAY TO WITHHOLD THE LOVE OF CHRIST FROM ANYONE WHO STRUGGLES WITH ANY OF THESE THINGS OR MORE, NO MATTER WHAT TITLE IS PLACED UPON THEM OR THEY PLACE UPON THEMSELVES.  The Good Samaritan is the The Excellent Jihadist is The Great Transexual is the The Awesome Deadbeat Dad.  “That is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Cor 6:11)”’ This is the transition that is the definition of our hope.

The time of exclusion on this earth is temporary because our awaited time is soon coming; I don’t say this with triumph as much as I do with a sense of urgency.  It is worth the persecution, the name-calling, or moments of being looked upon as a fool or insensitive in order to lead someone to the true knowledge and the fullness of knowing their identity as a stranger of this world but more importantly, a child of God.  He has foreknown, predestined, called, justified, and glorified us, not even withholding His own Son for us all.  It is time to make some waves because of your faith.  Maybe become the object of ridicule because you speak and act so differently.  But most importantly, it is time to stand as an example of how God changes the hearts of His children in this world, and moves them into the precious citizenship of His Kingdom.

“They are so JOYFUL. And LOVING. And GIVING.”…”Why?”

Aaron Winner

Apart

Luke 5 16

I was almost two weeks into vacation with my wife, my  in-laws, and my friends in a foreign country. We had shared hotel rooms, meals, car rides, tours, every story we knew, and so much more.  We collectively saw more of each other in those two weeks than we saw of each other the year before. We had spent a lot of enjoyable time together, but I could sense my idiosyncrasies were wearing on them just as much as theirs began to wear on me. So what did I do? Just a little past lunch I told my family and friends that I would see them later that evening; I had decided it was time for me to  literally “take a hike.” The area we were in, Cinque Terre, Italy, is a group of small coastal mountain towns connected by some tame (and some treacherous) walking paths. With no cell phone service or any other way to stay connected, I turned and started walking in the other direction. As much as I loved them all, I needed time apart. At first, it felt a bit selfish, abandoning everyone I loved to do my own thing for a bit, but it was absolutely important to take a breather, to come back refreshed (although terribly sweaty and tired), so I would be ready to enjoy the rest of the vacation and our once-in-a-lifetime experience time together.

 

Often times, ministry plays out the same way.  Imagine you are with the same group for a long period of time, say the same twelve dudes for three years, or you’ve been in the same church for most of your life, or you work alongside the same people at the same event from year to year.  You’re going to fight (Matt 16:23; Matt 20:21) People are going to say some stupid stuff (John 14:9; Matt 15:16). But until Jesus comes back to restore this earth, there is nothing better we can do together with our time than to share and live out the Kingdom of God with other people.  Yes, we will have to share space, deal with failures, live with the smells, and even call each other out. This is the toll of doing ministry with imperfect people. This means every so often, when our spiritual and emotional bank is depleted, we need to take a hike.

 

In the scriptures, I see several reasons why God momentarily pulls away men and women from ministry. This isn’t necessarily an all-inclusive list, but these are five places or reasons God has called me to withdraw, take a hike, and spend some alone time with Him:

 

1. To refresh – God doesn’t suggest that you rest; he demands it “He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me by still waters” (Ps 23:2) implies that you don’t get a choice.  Additionally Jesus doesn’t say, “I can give you rest”, but he “will give you rest.” (Matt 11:28) Ministry is exhausting. Speaking out against injustice, finding provisions for those without them, or caring for someone on his/her deathbed are some taxing circumstances.  Momentarily withdraw and let the Comforter come in and refresh you, so God who called you once, can rely upon you to do His will again.

 

2. To repair –  Sometimes we’re just doing it wrong or have the wrong perspective.  We’re cynical; we’re cranky; we’re at a loss, and soon enough we’re like the Church of Ephesus (Rev 2) abandoning our “first love.”  During these times, God pulls us away to repair our perspective, sometimes harshly. Jonah was supposed to go to Nineveh (Jon 1). He didn’t go.  The rest is a whale of a tale. Sorry. BUT absence really does make the heart grow fonder. With the right heading and the correct motivation, God uses this time to rekindle what has been lost through disappointment or sin.

 

3. To protect –  Have you ever broken up a fight?  I have. The easiest way to get two people to stop fighting is to pull them away from each other.  You can’t hit someone who is not in reach. Adrenaline dies down. Breathing becomes slower. We become a bit more level-headed and rational.  Jacob and Esau (Gen 25), Peter and Paul (Gal 2), Jew and Gentile Christians (Acts 15) didn’t always get along. Sometimes God puts breathing room between us and our fellow believers.  Ultimately, we all want to do what is best for the Lord. Once we go to our corners and seek Him, we may find ourselves more agreeable, and maintain the bond of peace (Eph 4:3).

 

4. To speak –  Sometimes we are lost.  Sometimes we feel abandoned.  Sometimes we are afraid and tuck tail and run into a cave (well, at least Elijah [1 Kings 19]).  In these literal, or most likely metaphorical cave moments, God is speaking to us. He is not in the wind, or the earthquake, or the fire, or any other noise. He is in the stillness, speaking His promises.  Sometimes the change of scenery gives us the reminder of what He has already done and of the many blessings he has already placed in our lives, removing fear and restoring faith.

 

5.  To prepare – Jesus spends time alone in the desert praying and fasting before His ministry begins (Matt 4).  He also prays alone in Gethsemane before His arrest and crucifixion (Luke 22). These are possibly the two most crucial points in the life of Jesus, and He spends them alone speaking with God.  There has to be something to this, right? When God is preparing us to do the big things, we have to eliminate distraction and must turn our attention to fully seeking Him. Our relationships and ministry take a backseat. By doing this, we will not do what we think is best for the ministry to thrive.  We will not do what we think is best for us. We will be prepared to do or speak His will in a mighty way.

 

So this begs the question…is it time for you to take a hike?  Does God want some one-on-one time to assure you continue to minister to others? Sometimes it’s okay to be apart from ministry for a while if you are present with God and letting Him minister to you.  Let him provide what you need so you can come back to continue in the joy of ministry in this once-in-a-lifetime experience with those you love.

Aaron Winner