Sunday, January 17, 2016

Why We Are Here

The Blisses, still in Bulgaria.

Today is the 5th anniversary of the ReachGlobal Sofia City Team.  Exactly half a decade ago my family and I moved to Bulgaria.  Today, I am going to write about why.

There are so many things to work for in this world.  Some strive for a political ideology.  Some seek fame.  Some seek to build an empire.  Some want adventure.  Most merely desire the comfort and security of a simple of life.  None of these are my goal because none of them will last.

Politics are important.  They shape the world.  They determine whether we will live in freedom or in servitude.  Yet every nation at some point will cease to exist.  No country lasts forever.

Fame is nice.  It makes us feel loved.  Yet even those who have it seem to be found wanting more, and eventually all fame evaporates.  How many of us can name even one actor from the Globe Theater, or more than a handful of movie stars from the early 20th century.  Eventually every famous person will be forgotten.

Building an empire may seem important.  We can leave a legacy to our greatness by starting a big business.  We can change the world with our power and position.  Yet no matter how much we strive, everything we build will some day turn to dust.

Adventure is great!  I love adventures.  Yet the thrill of summiting a mountain in Europe or fishing for swordfish off the coast of Central America or chasing a tribe of monkeys through the jungle in the Congo does not last.  Adventures make for good memories, that’s all.

Comfort is one of the most alluring things on this planet.  It is the thing that most of us settle for in life.  Just give us a soft couch and a TV to watch our favorite programs and we will spend our lives drinking and eating until eventually that is all we know.  And then some day our life will be over.

Whatever we chase on this planet, it will pass.  Yet the people who chase them will not.

As a Christian, I believe in the eternity of the human soul.  This means that everyone who has ever existed from the creation of the world until now still exists.  This also means that every person I come in contact with will exist forever in a radically different form then they are now.  This is something I take very seriously.

C. S. Lewis perhaps said it best:

“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”  (The Weight of Glory)

Think about that for a moment.  The pharmacist across the street shoveling the snow off of the sidewalk, the Gypsy guy who drives his horse and buggy around the neighborhood collecting treasures from dumpsters, the woman who nearly ran into me at the stop light last week, none of these people are ordinary.  All of them will exist forever.

When we see people for whom they really are, the world seems to fade away.  Fame, power, adventure, and comfort all seem meaningless.  Even health, freedom, and life seem like secondary goals.  Most of what we consider important is merely a temporal entity.  Only people are eternal.

Not only are we all eternal, as Christians we are in possession of vital information that can affect everyone’s eternal destiny.  It is the message of God’s grace given to us through Jesus.  We need this free gift of salvation.  Without it, every one of us eternal people will get exactly what we deserve.

With that in mind, how could I spend my life chasing after something that will not last?  What kind of a fool would I be if I clung to that which I cannot keep while giving up that which can never be lost?  I have no control over people accepting this great salvation.  But I do have control over whether or not I tell them about it.

Thus, I gave myself to God’s will and sought His guidance as to where to serve Him best.  He led me to the county of Bulgaria, to the city of Sofia, to the neighborhood of Lozenets.  Here I will stay, until He leads me elsewhere.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Not Why We Are Here

Sunday January 17th is the 5th anniversary of the day we landed in Bulgaria to found the ReachGlobal Sofia City Team.  On Sunday I hope to post a blog about what made us move to Bulgaria and serve in full-time ministry.  Today however, I’m going to post a prologue giving you reasons that had nothing to do with our decision to serve in ministry.  These are the common misconceptions of the ministry worker.

A picture from our home town of Sofia.

Misconception 1: We couldn’t cut it in the work force
Someone once asked my what lucrative career I gave up to serve in ministry.  I responded, “All of them.”  Not to toot my own horn, but I’m of above average intelligence and physically stronger than most.  I could have gone down any number of career paths.  Lawyer, restaurant owner, teacher, water heater installer, mechanic, and countless other professions were available to me.

And not just to me.  Sasha is one of the smartest people I know.  She is fluent in four extant languages and has a degree in an ancient dialect of Greek (she graduated with highest honors).  At the same time, she is a kind and compassionate person.  There is very little that she would not be good at.

Yet with all the choices laid out before us, we both decided to go into ministry where the pay is much less than most other professions.

Misconception 2: We have some hidden agenda
I have heard it said that religious workers all have some secret agenda to attempt to control the lives of other people.  This may be true of some people engaged in spiritual work.  There are undoubtedly people out there who use spiritual beliefs and superstitions to control the lives of others.  Yet we are not among them.

There are people out there who promise wealth if only you buy their magic talisman.  There are people who promise an eternity of sexual relations with young virgins if only you blow yourself up.  There are people who promise health and prosperity if only you send it $19.95 for their magic washcloth that they blessed by praying for it.  There are all kinds of scams that people come up with by promising that the spirit world will bend to your will if only you do the thing they want you to do.

As ministers of the gospel, we offer a message of salvation through Jesus.  This salvation is a free gift.  We do not charge for it or demand certain behaviors.  In fact, we don’t even give the gift out.  It comes from Jesus alone.  All you have to do is accept it.  We get nothing from you, and we don’t force it upon you.  If you don’t want to accept God’s gift of salvation, you are not required to do so.  No one is required to know God.  Though we dearly hope that all do.

Misconception 3: We are seeking personal gain.
There are undoubtedly many people out there who do ministry for some sort of political purpose or to attain some sort of status.  We see men and women calling themselves “reverend” on TV all the time building their own personal brands.  There are commercial pastors and ministry directors who seek to make money off of books they write or seminars they give.  There are even low-level versions of such creatures who may creep into your local church.  You can easily spot such people because they are more interested in what they can gain from you than in what they can invest in you.

Of course, I could tell you that we are not such people, but any of them would say the same thing.  They would tell you that they are just doing what they do with nothing but good intentions.  Many books, seminars, and broadcasts are indeed done for good reasons.  How are you to know that we are not such people?

In our defense on this point I will merely point to the evidence of our ministry.  We live in the corner of Europe in one of the poorest countries on the continent.  We have no teammates, and most people have never heard of us.  If we were in this for personal gain, then we have done a terrible job of gaining anything.

Now that you know why we are not here, the stage has been set for us to tell you why we are here.

Check back soon to find out why.