Did Jesus have a mission statement?

OK – here’s a poll for those who want to voice a position. Did Jesus have a mission statement? If so, is it a verse? Or an action? Or did someone else state it for Him?


Some words are more important…

The polls are in and the top words banned in 2018 are fourteen overused words to avoid – included this year are “unpack”, “tons”, “drill-down”, and my favorite: “nothing-burger.” The number one vote-getter is “fake news.” Last year’s was “so” as in “I am so tired of lists.”

As we “off-board” last year and “on-board” 2018, it seems everyone is trying to put words to the year almost gone, maybe thinking what they might need to “walk back” or even “double down” on from the year –  and, or course, they “seeking traction” and are trying to “wrap their heads around” the coming months. I better stop now.

Some words are more important than others. Jesus came back to certain phrases to help us remember the important stuff. “Whoever has ears to hear, let him listen.” “You’ve heard it said, but I say to you” and it’s KJV companion, “Verily, verily, I say to unto you.” But, at the top of the list is ” The kingdom of heaven (or God) is like…”

Jesus would then attach to this phrase something totally, well, common. Relatable. A farmer, or a seed, or a net, or yeast, or a homeowner, or a wedding party.

My first thoughts about the “kingdom of heaven” is to look up, to the future, to eternity. And certainly eternity and heaven are within the stories Jesus told about the kingdom. But what we do here and now is kingdom stuff, too.

  • The kingdom of heaven is like the the woman who makes coffee for her friends so they can talk about Jesus around her table.
  • The kingdom of heaven is like the builder who hires and treats his workers with honor so they will see Jesus in his life.
  • The kingdom of heaven is like the the living room filled with people from different countries, languages, colors, and stories whose lives have been changed by the Savior.
  • The kingdom of heaven is like… (On 1/2/2018, let’s leave a blank and see how we can fill it in each day by inviting the common things in our life to connect and display the supernatural acts of God.)

Call it a “paradigm shift” or an “adjusted grid” – Perhaps 2018 is the year that I will ask how the common, the relatable things in my life, can show others what the kingdom of heaven is like.

For the King – Rick

P.S. My pastor and friend in Myrtle Beach, Tim Holt, has said more than once that the Kingdom is present when the King gets His way.

P.P.S. (List provided by Lake Superior State University – they’ve offered this list for decades! https://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2017/12/31/2018-banned-words/993549001/)

All Mission Supporters are not created equal…

From someone on the field who has some wonderful missional people in my life, I have learned to live by grace when it comes to the weighing the excitement people share about missions. (Please read on and don’t judge me by the title.)

  • Some are genuinely passionate to see the church go to the nations – after all, in more nations than not, a McDonald’s full of people would not have one solitary evangelical Christ-follower (other than you) if you walked in.
  • Some are excited for us that we are going on the adventure. And doing so for God.
  • Some look incredulously at us and ask, “what’s that all about”. In the words of my late father-in-law, many think, “I ain’t left nothing over there.”
  • And some wish they could go, want to go, would try to go if they could find the door opening. I can see it in their eyes. They want to be a part of the adventure.

So, how does this translate into being a mission supporter? And are they created, or does missional passion emerge?

Perhaps, to move further down this path, a quick recap of the needs missionaries have might help with perspective:

Food, transportation, housing, clothing, ministry resources, medical and dental care, the occasional vacation or conference – and since I live in Italy, a regular measure of coffee. Add to this short-term teams to come and help, church rent, Bibles, project resources, and special ministry funds for reaching out to the different kinds of needs. (I don’t know a missionary yet who is asking for the moon.)

Mission supporters come in all shapes and sizes. And God, somehow, matches us mission supporters with these needs.

I know fixed income Christians who give regularly beyond their tithe. I’ve met reasonably educated and employed church-goers who give up things they’ve earned the right to spend their resources on so they can give to multiple missional causes. Some of my friends are highly educated, highly skilled, and/or blessed with great wealth, and they strategically look for and give to mission needs. I even have retired friends who could be on the back nine who have reinvented their skills in business so they can give all the profits to Kingdom causes.

Then, how can each of us nurture our lives so we can be more missional?

  1. Overestimate … each moment of prayer for missions. Most of us, honestly, low-ball our impact in the prayer closet. We just don’t “feel” we are making a difference. God says otherwise. When we pray, we change and we connect God’s purposes and resources to those for whom we pray.
  2. Reposition … the heart. We can get pretty wrapped up in what’s before us, and forget what is happening across the street or around the globe. Ask God for an upward love – on Him, and an outward love – for the world, and for specific cultures and people. Jesus said the heart resides with what we value.
  3. Lavishly spend … time with missional people. Find ways to get “in the way” – get into the lives of missionaries. Learn about their nations. Find ways to surprise them with your presence and word of encouragement.
  4. Turn up the heat … on giving and going. Your heart follows your bank account. My pastor from Crossroads Church in Newnan taught me this in relation to giving. If you don’t give at all, give some to someone. If you don’t give regularly, give monthly to someone. If you don’t give a percentage, begin to give a specific portion. Make your tithe count in your church and strategic giving count to missional causes.

It’s very true that “disciples are made, not born”* and the same is true of mission supporters. We are all (yes, this missionary is a missionary supporter, too) on the way to becoming better mission supporters. God, the God of The Mission** to save our world, is working it in us.

From the field – Rick

* Two disciple-makers, Howard Hendricks and Walt Henrichsen, wrote Disciples are Made not Born years ago. Still an awesome book to read. The premise: each of us as Christ-followers have the potential to change our world, but we need to make the choices to be a disciples and find others who can pour into our lives and into whom we can pour into theirs. (Another shout out to Ken Adams, pastor of Crossroads Church Newnan GA – we are called to “be and build disciples of Christ.)

** I hear at Christmas time how Jesus came into the world as an immigrant (the trek to Egypt is the nod this claim gives). In reality, He was missional in the Advent – He came to declare and be Good News: the Kingdom of God is at hand (Isaiah 61, Luke 4, John 3).

The Apostle and the Congressman

The Apostle:

One of my favorite passages in the Bible is found in Philippians chapter 4:4-9. When the Apostle Paul wrote this to the church that gathered in the city of Philippi, he was in prison for preaching the Good News about Jesus.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

What a great way to approach life –1) Focus on good things of life – noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable. 2) Practice the right things we learn from Scripture and pass it along to others. 3) Don’t worry; but pray and trust God. And Paul includes, as he writes from his cell, do this with thanksgiving.

He certainly was learning how to do this in prison. But, he knew that it’s only when our faith is tested that we really get to put this into practice.

The verses before this passage tell us what the Philippians were facing. Two of the ladies in the church were having problems with each other. And not just two ladies; but two who had worked diligently right alongside Paul and other leaders in their church.

Euodia, whose name means “good journey” and Syntyche, whose name means “pleasant friend” – were absolutely not being pleasant and good. They were not getting along – and it was causing problems.

Paul encouraged them: to remember who you are, remember who you represent, and to work things out with the help of God. And directly after this – to change what you think about, change who your examples are, and change how you pray.

From the first settlers, when the Pilgrims survived their first winter in the new land, America was where people came who were oppressed for their faith. And for a century, Congregationalists, Baptists, Puritans, Presbyterians, and others settled in different colonies.

The Congressman:

A hundred years later, after the end of the Revolutionary War and during the establishing of the United States, the new President of this new nation named George Washington faced his own set of problems. America’s new Bill of Rights was barely three days old. It was the same Bill of Rights that guaranteed “free exercise of religion.”

And Washington knew he had thirteen states, with different dialects, different economics, different expectations, and different styles of worship. They didn’t get along and they weren’t sure this new government would work.

Washington’s good friend, Elias Boudinot, stood before Congress with a proposal he thought would unite the States in a stronger way. Boudinot, barely remembered today, was famous in his day for his strong faith, his belief that all people were created equal, his passion for everyone to hear the Good News, and even later for his outspoken defense for the rights of blacks and for Native Americans.

He proposed the first National Day of Prayer and Thanksgiving under the new government of the United States of America – “ a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God.”

The House of Representative, the Senate, and the President agree to call the whole nation to prayer on the final Thursday of the following month of November. It was to be a day of repentance and a plea that the new nation would be “a blessing to all the people” – that the leaders of this new nation would “faithfully execute…the wise, just and constitutional laws” of the new land. And, it would be a day to “promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue.”

In other words, this Day of Thanksgiving was to encourage this new nation to remember who you are, remember who you represent, and works things out with the powerful help of God.

And just like Paul reminded the church in Philippi, and the two ladies in the church, this Day of Thanksgiving was a day to focus on the good things of life, practice the right things we have learned from God’s Word, and pray with faith and with Thanksgiving.

Remembering —



It helps to point…

My wife has, for years, accused me of running out of words before the day ends. I get 3000 words, no less, no more, and none bankable. According to her. If I use them up, she can’t pry more than a syllable from me in the evening. I wonder if I work this way.

The more important question is: do I get 3000 in English, and 3000 in Italian? And if I screw up the Italian words (it can happen), do I get a redo?

Someone gave me a bike a few days ago. The chain was off, no lights, and one side of the gears was wonky. A new bicycle mechanic hung out his shingle two blocks down just last week, so I rolled into his shop yesterday. Disclaimers here:

#1 – I had probably used up all my Italian words at Monday’s Italian class (and I needed to borrow from tomorrow for the Bible study I led that Tuesday night (it’s complicated.)

#2 – I don’t speak “bicycle.” These are words that haven’t come up between “Piacere. Mi chiamo Rick” and “Dov’e’ il bagno.

#3 – My trusty standby – “Parli Inglese?” didn’t work on this 70-year-old bike mechanic.

Il Maestro di Biciclette” wheeled it into his back room, hung it on the shop rack. He tugged me over to watch. He pointed. I only understood three words (out of at least 300) – “catena ha caduto” or “the chain has fallen.” He pointed.

Then he tinkered with the gears on the right. After another 300 words, I heard “buona.” He pointed. I smiled, “funziona?” Back at me, “Si.”

He wiggled the left gears. He pointed. Another torrent and I heard “rotto” (I remember, rotten, for “broke.”) I grimaced, “non funziona?” “Si.”

After he worked some magic with the chain, he pulled it down from the rack. I asked him if it was a good bike. He pointed. He said, okay, but it’s older than me. We laughed together. I asked, “how much?” (I’m in the “Italian zone” by now.) He ignored me and handed it off. And I pedaled away toward the next challenge.

I’m glad to learn “catena e’ caduto” – reminds me that, for the Christian, the chains have fallen, they are “rotto” (in a good way.)

Two “take-aways” – it helps to point, and Italian men are gracious – and they get more than 3000 words.

Alla prossima volta,


One of these things is not like the others…

Since moving to Italy, I have noticed how easily it is to take on the the mantle of fault-finder. Granted, it seems that sometimes our new culture collectively looks askance at anything or anyone that diverges from their own. And mostly in a negative light. So, this has got me thinking.

How can I guard my eyes from focusing on the “big negative” among all the positives around me? If I only find what’s wrong, talk about what ought to change, or get consumed by the one thing I don’t prefer – then, I’ll miss out on all that’s beautiful and good and astounding and rich.

Here’s an example: we have a lot of immigrants and refugees in Padua. A half-IMG_3830million live in our region (that’s the legal ones), and that’s a very visible part of the stuff that goes on in the city – buses, trams, clinics, parks and street corners.

I can choose to see them different negatively (how they act, talk, dress, interact, etc.) or I can see the beauty (in how they act, talk, dress, interact, etc.)

My wife is my tutor in this. We were standing at the train station bus stop surrounded by immigrants and refugees. And I got frustrated with one who was… well, just in my way. Susan says to her, “the color of your scarf is beautiful.” Simple. But the most beautiful conversation followed. I was dumbstruck.

We got on the bus and we were completely surrounded by Africans. It only took a few minutes to realize everyone on the bus was on the way home from a church meeting on prayer. It was an experience that shifted my grid, perhaps for good.

All the good, beautiful, gracious, astounding, and rich around me can shout down the one thing I might find negative. If I’ll take time to listen.

Listening in the city – Rick

No Muck, no Miracle

I grew up two blocks from the famous “Grand Strand” of the South Carolina beaches, and just across our street stretched a long finger of marsh from the tides toward the inland highway. Its where we hunted for small bait (we called them fiddler crabs, since they “fiddled” their way sideways across the sand). I remember stepping into the mushy, wet sands and sinking down past my ankles. I can still hear the sucking sounds as I dislodged my feet from the muck! (My brothers, always encouraging, informed me there were hidden stretches of quicksand nearby waiting to gobble little boys whole.)

The psalmist writes that he found himself in “the slimy pit” and waited patiently for God’s clear path toward a firm footing (and everyone knows from the movies never to struggle in quicksand since it makes for a speedier demise.) He was stuck in the “mud and the mire” with no footing below and no way forward. And he did what any of us would do – he cried out, “help!”

We love the promises! When God gives a promise in the Bible, it nearly always is in the context of dire circumstances. Try a search on Top 10 promises and read them in context. God promises he will be near, that he never changes, he will strengthen us, uphold us, bless the work we do, save us, pour out his grace, and give us wisdom. The promises are truth, yes, but they are delivered in the quicksand of loneliness, pain, threats, fear, sin, hopelessness, and grief.

Today, and all week, my prayers have turned to a family I knew, worshiped with, and served alongside back in the states. The godly couple stood strong as an example of servanthood, leadership, and self-sacrifice. And they were lost to a careless driver’s bad choices this week. And there are kids, friends, church family, and more left behind.

In our hurt and in our prayers, we ask God to hear the cries that arise from the slow murkiness of grief. We ask him to provide a moment of firm footing in the midst of the swirl of questions. We ask Jesus to stretch out his hand and pull His kids back up onto the Rock.

It’s interesting what happens when the psalmist finds his footing in the Lord. Not only does he stand firm, but he breaks into song. Not a song from the canon of worship already learned and enjoyed. But, one that brings new comprehension of how much God cares and how near he is. It’s a new song, fresh from the experience of God’s provision and presence. And, through it all, as we wait, as we cry out, and we reach out for his presence, the psalmist says “many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.”

On solid rock.

Now that I’m 60 – what am I committed to:

There is something about entering a “new decade of years” that calls me to reconcile my experience with my values. As a reminder to myself more than anyone else, I am committed more than ever…

…to worshiping and serving Christ Jesus increasingly with my gifts, skills, time, and resources.

…to loving and honoring my wife till death separates us.

…to encouraging and influencing my son and daughters (and grandkids, when they show up for God’s purposes) toward loving and serving God with their lives.

…to loving what God says He is in love with: the lost, the broken, the lonely, the refugee, the hurting, the confused, the poor, the homeless, the enslaved, the imprisoned.

… to loving and lifting up the church local and global through my prayer, encouragement, time, presence and resources.

…to doing life with a small group of men and women for mutual encouragement, personal growth, and lifestyle ministry.

…to meeting with 2-3 men for discipleship on a regular basis to stay pure, live on target with my promises, and encourage each other toward a fruitful Christian life.

…to living a richer and riskier life in my finishing years by saying yes to each opportunity to give myself away, pour into others, explore new relationships, and influence my world toward Christ.

Five weeks and counting…waiting on Italy.

Hello All!

Each time I write, I hope I can do so from Italy. We are five weeks to the day past the day the Italian Consulate received our visa applications (along with our passports). We saw the 7-10 days timeframe on the Consulate website. We even have a friend who received her visa in three days.

For now, Susan and I are in training, learning that waiting is the most spiritual thing we can do.

The Psalmist makes it sound easy:

“Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD.” (27:14)

Believe me, we want to see God’s answer in the form of visas in hand and our flight to our new place to serve in Padova. There is an element to waiting on God that I don’t do very well. Standing firmly, quietly, at the ready while God gets me ready.

See if this verse helps make my point clearer:

“We look to the LORD our God for his mercy, just as servants keep their eyes on their master, as a slave girl watches her mistress for the slightest signal.” (Psalm 123:2)

So, as we wait on Italy to approve our visas, Susan and I stand at attention, our eyes on our Master, content to be near Him, recalibrating our ears to His voice, and staying open to serve Him where we are…as we wait.


Thank you for praying for Susan and me as we wait on our visas and wait on our God.


G.R.O.W. Assessment GIFTS Module – Spiritual Gifts Defined:

When you receive your Spiritual Gifts module results, you’ll notice a percentage score beside each gift. Some will be lower while others will land in the middle. This doesn’t mean you are deficient in anything or that God can’t use you in each of these gifts. In fact, God takes pleasure in using us in ways in which we think we are weaker. By all means, ask God to use you in all ways through any of His Spiritual Gifts. He’s in charge and gives good gifts to His kids!

Notice especially the gifts that are highest as these are the gifts that, at least according to this assessment, you will likely use most frequently in the Kingdom. Your top three are your best Spiritual tools! (In the event of a tie, make it the top four!)

Here are helpful definitions for each gift with a verse or two that describes each (by no means exhaustive in these definitions). This is what a person will likely do based on the Biblical definitions and church experiences and will help you with a basic understanding of your top Gifts. Further study, practice, and conversations with your friends and church leaders will help expand your understanding.

Here is a PDF of this list. g-r-o-w-gifts-defined

GIFTS (The “G” in the G.R.O.W. Assessment):

Artisan/Craftmanship (Exodus 31:1-5) –

  • Creates art that reflects God’s glory and unveils His character
  • Shows ability in one or more medium of creative art so as to connect the unbeliever with the Creator through that art

Celibacy/Volunteer (I Corinthians 7:7) –

  • Remains single through God’s provision in order to serve with greater intensity

Discernment/Distinguishing Spirits (1 John 4:1-6, 1 Corinthians 12:10) –

  • Perceives the intent and origination of spiritual matters
  • Recognizes whether a message is from the Holy Spirit or not
  • Distinguishes right from wrong, truth from error in a situation

Encouragement/Exhortation (Acts 14:22, Romans 12:8) –

  • Urges others toward action, faithfulness, and courage
  • Motivates others to have courage in difficult times or when faith wavers
  • Brings out the best in others and challenges them to meet their potential

Faith (Romans 4:18-21, 1 Corinthians 12:9) –

  • Sees what God is doing and believe Him for results
  • Trusts God to act on His promise in the face of great odds
  • Stands firm until God answers and/or the miracle happens

Giving (2 Corinthians 8:1-7, Romans 12:8) –

  • Gives much proportionately with pure motives
  • Invests resources generously beyond the tithe
  • Earns, invests, and give with Spirit-led success resources in order to support ministry

Guidance/Administration (1 Corinthians 14:40) –

  • Manages details to support to free other leaders to focus on their work
  • Sees gifts in other and connect them to ministry
  • Organizes resources, time, teams, and people for greater Kingdom impact
  • Coordinates multiple details and levels and accomplishes the goals of a project

Healing (James 5:14-16, 1 Corinthians 12:9) –

  • Prays in faith for others with the result that they are healed
  • Senses the prompts of God to pray for healing

Hospitality (1 Peter 4:9) –

  • Finds pleasure in housing or feeding others in home or through the church
  • Makes others feel welcome and significant

Intercession/Supplication (Ephesians 6:18-20) –

  • Prays faithfully until the answer comes
  • Steps into the place of a person, church, people group, or geographical area and prays consistently for the needs

Knowledge/Words (1 Corinthians 12:8, Acts 16:28) –

  • Speaks timely, Spirit-given knowledge that applies to a person’s situation
  • Comprehends and conveys spiritually revealed knowledge that helps a person with a specific need

Leadership (Hebrews 13:7, 17, Romans 12:8) –

  • Influences a group to accomplish it’s purpose or goal
  • Communicates purpose, direction, and vision to the group, team or church
  • Motivates others to work together to accomplish a ministry goal

Mercy/Grace (Luke 10:30-37, Romans 12:8) –

  • Empathizes with those in need and extend encouragement
  • Senses hurts and provide cheerful support to those pain, distress, or crisis

Miracles (Mark 11:23-24, 1 Corinthians 12:10) –

  • Prays in faith for God’s specific intervention in impossible situations and sees answers
  • Sees situations where God wants to move miraculously and prays for supernatural intervention

Missionary/Apostle (Romans 15:20-21,1 Corinthians 9:19-23, Acts 13:1-4) –

  • Shares with a God-given urgency the Gospel to others from vastly different backgrounds
  • Begins a fresh work of God in places that have no Gospel witness
  • Adapts readily to different cultures in order to serve in that culture
  • Seeks through the leadership and provision of the Holy Spirit to know about needs of other people groups and rallies resources to meet the needs
  • Compelled to communicate the Gospel through serving and speaking to others in a different culture than their own

Music (1 Chronicles 16:4) –

  • Plays an instrument or sings in a way that draws others to worship Christ Jesus
  • Creates worship through musical skills that presents the character of God and declares the Good News

Pastor/Shepherding (1 Peter 5:2-4, Hebrews 13:17) –

  • Exercises concern, care, and protection for a group or church that encourages growth spiritual health
  • Equips believers in Biblical world view and understanding of who Jesus is and how each can serve effectively
  • Models spiritual growth and service to members of group or church

Prophecy (1 Corinthians 12:10, 14:3, Acts 11:28) –

  • Delivers with persuasion God’s message
  • Discerns a current situation or potential future occurrence and delivers this message effectively
  • Understands the “big picture” of God’s redemptive and prophetic stream and relates it to the current church situation and direction

Serving/Helps (1 Peter 4:11) –

  • Sees needs easily and finds ways to practically meet those needs
  • Serves others personally and in church without need of recognition
  • Manages time and resources to solve individual or church needs

Teaching (Ephesians 4:12-13, Romans 12:7) –

  • Understands and explains Biblical truth in ways that believers comprehend and apply
  • Learns and is able to take others “with him/her” in learning

Tongues – Interpreting (1 Corinthians 12:10, 14:13) –

  • Understands words spoken in tongues and communicates it clearly to others
  • Interprets a message in a heavenly language or unknown tongue to those present

Tongues – Speaking (1 Corinthians 12:10, 14:2, 14-15, Acts 2:4-8) –

  • Prays in a language understood only by God
  • Speaks in an unlearned language or tongue to, along with interpreting, communicate God’s truth and give God worship

Wisdom/Word (1 Corinthians 2:1, 6-16, 12:7-8) –

  • Understands God’s perspective on practical life situations and conveys it in simple ways
  • Knows what to do, how to do it, and helps others do the same
  • Receives and conveys Spirit-given wisdom and application to a person or group

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