"If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it" (Luke 9:23-24, ESV).
Over the past year, through blog posts and some Facebook statuses, I referenced "starting the next chapter of my life." Although I have spent the past several months laying the foundation for that chapter, only a select group of people are aware of what it entails.
To make a long story short, much of my adult life has consisted of living out the stereotypical life of an American Christian. I've been actively involved in a church and served in a number of different capacities. Leslie and I have participated and led small group bible studies. I have read my Bible regularly and prayed on a daily basis. I've listened to Christian music and given money to several Christian organizations. Prior to this deployment, I even spent some time working for a local non-profit missions ministry. In sum, I've been doing or trying to do all those things that are associated with Christianity in America. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with these things, but over time I began to wonder if there is more to my faith. Did Christ die for me so that I can attend a weekly worship service, hang out with other Christians, and do a few acts of service for other people? Did Jesus undergo the persecution and torture on the cross so that I could have a stable 8-5 job, live in a nice house and not have to suffer any of same things he endured for me? The more I began to actually pay attention to what God's Word said, the less I felt I was truly following Jesus.
When I actually began paying attention to the words in Scripture, I began to realize that I was still living for myself. I wanted a comfortable, easy, care-free life where I made a decent income and got to enjoy the "American Dream." I wasn't willing to sacrifice all that this world has to offer because I didn't want to deal with pain and suffering. Then I came across Christ's command in Luke 9:23-24 (which is mentioned in Matthew and Mark). If I am to be a committed follower of Christ, that means I have to take all those earthly, worldly desires and leave them behind. I have to die to all my fleshly wants and desires and exchange them for the pain and suffering of following Christ to the ends of the earth. Although suffering can mean different things, it certainly didn't mean enduring a few losing seasons of Vols football. It also didn't mean sacrificing a week at the beach so I can afford to screen in the back patio on our house. Following Christ means giving up everything you want from this world and living a life of compassion and service to those in need and spreading the good news of Jesus to unbelievers, both at home AND abroad.
Now that I have returned home from this deployment, I am starting a non-profit organization called Global Planting Initiative (GPI). The goal of GPI is help local churches fulfill the Great Commission through planting indigenous, reproducing churches among unreached people groups around the world. This pursuit is definitely a leap of faith for me and Leslie, but we are both confident that surrendering our lives to the cause of Christ is worth it. I hope that those of you reading this will please keep us in your prayers over the next several months. Moreover, if you would like to know more about GPI, please visit our website at www.globalplanting.org.
I'm very excited about this new chapter and look forward to seeing how God will use the ministry to change the lives of people around the world.
Finally, if you are reading this, I challenge you to do the same thing I did. Sit down and actually read the words of Christ. Pay attention to what the Bible says about following Jesus and actually put them into practice. Doing so will change your life, just like it changed mine!