For Those Who are Uncoupled

By Enoch Haven, MBC Arlington Director of Men’s Ministries

A Powerful Picture
If the past is any indicator, this weekend I will see a reoccurring genre of images on my social media feeds. And no, I am not talking about the pictures of flowers, chocolate, and smiling couples at nice restaurants. The exact details differ, but often these pictures depict a wine bottle accompanied by a solitary glass. Some also feature a catchy hashtag like #ValentinesDayDinner. The funny thing is, I don’t always see food in these pictures. An image really can speak volumes.

This day, though joyful for some, is a painful reminder of aloneness for many others. “Singles Awareness Day” provides a fitting acronym for many who long to spend the evening with someone special, but can’t.

What good can a blog post about singleness do on Valentine’s Day?
When I was asked to write about this, I resisted for two reasons. First, I fear that anything written about singleness to be published at this time has the distinct possibility of doing more harm than good. This can be an emotionally volatile time, and even well intentioned words can cause real pain when read at the wrong time. I also understand that simply being single does not make me an expert on the subject. While many singles have similar stories, it is impossible to describe the “single experience” with uniformity. Men and women experience singleness differently. Being single at twenty-one is far different from being single at sixty. Some people choose to be single and others are single against their wishes. All of our divergent experiences of singleness have their own particular challenges, and the last thing any single adult wants to hear is another person claiming to know exactly how they feel.

That said, I have decided to venture into this minefield with the belief that some good can come from an honest discussion about what it means to be single today. I am certainly not a sage with great wisdom to share, but I am a fellow traveler who cares about other people also experiencing singleness. My goal here is to tell you a little bit about my own experience and share a few truths that have encouraged me in this journey.

Where I Stand
This is the post I almost didn’t write because there is always a danger with this type of vulnerability. You don’t want to be misinterpreted, and you certainly don’t want to come across as desperate. But I share in the hope that something I write will resonate with those who read.

I never expected to be single at twenty-eight. While singleness at this age is pretty typical in urban areas, I come from a place, Northern Michigan, where marriage in the early twenties is normal—and I expected to be married for years by this point. Most of my friends back home are married, and three of my younger siblings are also married. My birth family is very important to me, and I care about families a lot. I have long desired to be a husband and father.

Romantic relationships are all around me. Within the past two months there have been nine different engagements among my friends, (including two different girls I once went on dates with). I can think of five girls I once pursued romantically who are now engaged or married to someone else.

I often vacillate between really enjoying my life and really wanting to be in a relationship, but the desire for marriage is almost always there for me. It isn’t typically haunting or overwhelming, but it is usually present. And if I wasn’t already thinking about it, there are plenty of reminders.

It’s Not Always Easy
It seems like everyone has something to say about singleness, and many of them seek to remedy the “problem”. Friends offer us well meaning encouragements to “put yourself out there”, even though many of us do all the time. We are even told to not “be so picky”, as if desiring mutual attraction, appropriate social function, and spiritual stability is really asking too much. During the holidays we have to endure interrogation by parents and relatives who are concerned about our relationship status. After all, they all got married before twenty-five, so we must be doing something wrong. On top of all that, at this time of year in particular, we are bombarded by advertisers seeking to leverage emotional connections to sell their products.

Being single can be hard, and sometimes it is even harder in the church. Single adults are accustomed to hearing spiritual, but often trite, exhortations about how God has a plan. We are regularly fed sermons and illustrations that focus on marriage and family life. Those of us who are seeking a spouse often find dating within the church to be confusing. Making the transition from sister or brother in Christ to girlfriend or boyfriend (and sometimes back again) can be difficult.

In addition to these general church/singleness concerns, I deal with other specific challenges related to my vocation. Practically, being single while serving in the ministry limits your employment opportunities. Some churches and ministries are hesitant to hire older, single men. Worries about relating to the married population and suspicions about sexual orientation seem to be the most common concerns. While I tend to think any standard that would bar Jesus and the Apostle Paul from church leadership is wrong, the reality is that a lot of churches just don’t want an unmarried pastor.

And if you think dating within the church is awkward, try being on staff and dating girls at your church. Balancing spiritual care for all and personal affection for one is not the easiest thing to do, and you never want to be guilty of making any woman feel uncomfortable worshiping in your community because you express romantic interest in her.

What I Have Found Helpful
At this point you know a little bit more about me. Perhaps some of you can also relate to these experiences. Now I would like to offer three principals I have learned to apply in the midst of my single experience.

Surround Yourself With Community
We often connect God’s words in Genesis 2:18, “It is not good for the man to be alone,” with romance. After all, soon after God said this, He created Eve. But we must remember that God wasn’t just satisfying Adam’s romantic longings, He was also providing him someone to share his life. Adam’s need for human friendship was even greater than his need for sexual fulfillment. In our western context, we tend to see romantic relationships as the primary avenue for deep personal connection, but this modern attitude is far from Christian. The marriage relationship is not the only relationship in which one can experience God’s design for community. God never designed us to live in isolation, and we must be careful to cultivate godly community in whatever stage of life we are in.

I am particularly blessed to be part of a church with a large group of unmarried adults. Many of these people I consider to be good friends, and we do a ton of stuff together. I also have a great Christian roommate, and we regularly have inspiring conversations about God and life. These relationships are greatest blessings, and I don’t take them for granted.

Pursuing this type of community requires intentionality. We may be required to shift our priorities and make sacrifices to develop these relationships. Practically, it often starts with small decisions like planning events with your friends—not because you are looking for romance, but because you need other people in your life. It may also mean choosing those you live with carefully, and having a roommate even if you would rather live alone. Living with an older couple or a family could also help build this type of community into your life.

Listen To The Right Voices
As we already discussed, there are no shortage of perspectives and opinions on singleness and relationships today. Many of them, dare I say most, are not worth listening to. We must take control over what messages about relationships we absorb. This likely means (politely) tuning out the over-curious relatives and learning to ignore the sappy television ads. We may need to stop reading the romance novels and constantly listening to mournful love tunes. We may even need to set aside the Christian dating and marriage books for a while.

So what voices should we listen to then? We can start by listening to those who are doing life right regardless of their relationship status. And we should develop friendships with those who care more about the person we are now than about the person we might someday date. If your friends make you feel like a lesser person for being single you may need to find new friends.Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

We can also read the words of those who have navigated the waters of singleness commendably. Many church fathers and monastics wrote extensively about their single experience, and their words are a vital part of our Christian heritage. There are also current authors who write powerfully about what it looks like to live a godly and fulfilling single life.

Remember God’s Truth
I grew up in a church full of children, and every night at my home we listened to a popular family Christian radio broadcast. It may not have been intentional, but the unavoidable impression was given was that good Christians all got married and had kids, preferably at a young age. The idea that living as a single person could be pleasing to God may have been given lip service but this wasn’t encouraged or recommended. In fact, single adults were often looked at with sympathy and suspicion.

God, however, has a lot to say about singleness and some of it may surprise you if you grew up in a church like mine. Jesus and Paul affirm the single life by their words (Matthew 19:12, 1 Corinthians 7) and examples. Scripture also clearly teaches that human marriage is only for this earth (Mark 12:25). For the Christian, the single state is the eternal state. Even the best, most beautiful, most God-honoring marriage will not last into eternity.

It is also worth noting that Christianity stands out among other belief systems in the way it affirms the single life. This is specifically true when you compare Christianity to Judaism, Islam and Mormonism. As Barry Danylak says in his book Redeeming Singleness:

“While Christianity is similar to its Judeo-Christian siblings in its sexual ethics and value for family, it is notably different from its siblings in its affirmation of singleness as a gift and valued lifestyle within the life of the believing community.” p.17

Unfortunately, as we have already discussed, single adults may not feel affirmed in many churches today. Christians are not always good at living out our theology, and this is one of the areas where we have failed. But it is comforting to know that there will always be an important seat for singles at God’s table. Remembering the acceptance Christ showed to single adults should give us patience with those who don’t understand, and stoke in us a passion for making our church a welcoming place for those who are uncoupled.

If you are single, I hope something here has been encouraging to you. I plan to spend this weekend with friends, and I may even stop by a Valentine ’s Day party if time allows. But I will certainly be glad when this weekend is over—at least for one reason. On Monday, the candy goes on sale.

Typo Correction: The Most Important Letter Ever Written

By MBC Communications

Please note that the February 12, 2014 post, written by Will Pavone, entitled “The Most Important Letter Ever Written” contained a typographical error in a Scripture reference. We inadvertently created this error in the editing/posting process. We apologize for any confusion as it relates to the Scriptural context of this message.

The sentence in the third paragraph has been corrected and should read as follows, “The theological answer to that question is found in Romans 11.” This sentence was mistakenly published with a reference to Romans 1. If you’ve already read through Romans 1, please take the time to read Romans 11 as intended by the author.

Thanks for your understanding,
MBC Communications

The Most Important Letter Ever Written

By Will Pavone, MBC Tysons Young Adults and Edge Community PastorWatch movie online The Transporter Refueled (2015)

Romans 1:16 is a great verse for the McLean Bible Church family to memorize together because it best summarizes the apostle Paul’s ministry as a bondservant of Christ. Some scholars suggest that verses 16 and 17 of Romans 1 are THE summary statement of the whole book of Romans. Everything Paul writes in the rest of the letter is built upon that statement. Since these words form the most important sentence in the most important letter ever written, why wouldn’t we memorize it together?

Much can be said about this great verse, but we will focus on the last phrase, “To the Jew first and also to the Greek.” What does this mean? God is telling us through Paul that the Jewish people play a key role in God’s history of redemption. God chose Israel to be His set-apart people, through Israel came the law of God, they were called to be a light to the Gentiles, and most importantly Jesus the Messiah came from the Jewish people. The importance of Israel’s role in redemptive history is a topic that is fully fleshed out later in chapters 9–11 of Romans.

Practically, we see this play out in Paul’s ministry. As he went into a new city to preach the Gospel, Paul would first go to the local synagogue to preach to the Jewish community. One of those occasions was on his second missionary journey. When Paul and his missionary team arrived in Thessalonica, we read that he spent three consecutive Sabbaths preaching the Gospel in the synagogue. A reading of the New Testament shows us that Paul’s preaching to the Jewish community was usually met with mixed reviews. When he preached in Thessalonica, some of the Jews believed the Gospel and were converted, but others ran Paul and his team out of town (Acts 17:10). Paul’s preaching of the Gospel was met with some success among Jews, but it’s clear that the majority of Paul’s converts were Gentiles. At this point you may be wondering, “If the Jewish people play such a key role in the plan of salvation then why have most Jews rejected the Gospel since the first century up until now?” The theological answer to that question is found in Romans 11. I really encourage you to read it carefully and thoughtfully, but before you do, please understand this: God isn’t finished with the Jewish people!

God isn’t finished with the Jewish people!

The Scriptures point to a large-scale conversion of Jewish people at the end of the age (Ezekiel 37). There will be a generation of Israel who will be awakened spiritually and will embrace Jesus Christ as their Messiah, their hardness and blindness will be lifted, and they will repent and believe the Gospel. Until that day comes, the church of Jesus Christ must preach the Gospel to all people (Mark 16:15) including the Jewish people! In closing, a commitment to Jewish evangelism is an important component of a healthy, biblical church, and it gets right at the heart of the phrase,“To the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

God Colored Me Good

By Carole Schryber, MBC Tysons Attendee and Women’s Conference Breakout Speaker

One day as I was driving I stopped at a red light, and turned around to check on my youngest son who was only four at the time. Eighteen years later, I still can picture that day. The sun was shining in the back seat reflecting on his beautiful face. I declared, “Jack, you have the most beautiful blue eyes.” Without missing a beat, he replied, “God colored me good.”

Over the years I have often reflected on the profoundness of that statement. Jack understood that he was the product of a Creator God, who drew him in a unique way. And the result was good.

Sadly, it had taken his mother 32 years to appreciate that reality. I did not disbelieve in God, but I certainly can say that I did not understand that He was a personal God who colored me in a unique way to share in His story. How could a four-year-old grasp this, yet I could not?

I missed it because I failed to acknowledge that God acts purposefully. Not only is He purposeful, but He’s also personal. I like to think of myself as the logical sort, and if I were to accept that He acted purposefully in my own creation, as He did, it would stand to reason that I would feel some obligation to conform my behavior to that purpose. Ah, but I wanted to “do it my way”; control my own destiny. I made my own choices independent of whatever God’s will might be (I never asked), preferring to measure my worth by the world’s standards.

Yet, as the years went by, I came to realize that there was always someone prettier, smarter, more successful, and even a better person than me. Rather than feeling good about the woman I had become, I generally felt lousy, and not good enough.

Fortunately, God never gave up on me. Ultimately, I became a follower of Christ (that is a far longer story), and I began to study why God created man and woman. If the God of the universe thought it was important enough to add us into His story, shouldn’t I know His purpose? It finally became clear. I came to realize that He did not need us, but by His grace and mercy He wanted us to be part of His plan to redeem the world and reconcile us to Him. Each of us would be uniquely “colored” to reflect His attributes to the world.

I now know that I do not have to compare myself to anyone, or strive to meet the standards of what the world deems productive, successful or beautiful. If I follow Christ, as the perfect reflection of God, I will be guided to live according to His purposes, and that is all that matters. After all, God said after creating man and woman in His image, that it was “very good.”  

Sometime ago I came across this verse in scripture:

The Lord appeared to us in the past saying, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with lovingkindness.” Jeremiah 31:3 (NIV84)

It made me chuckle. I knew the word “drawn” was intended to mean that God called His people to Himself, and thankfully He did that with me. But I also realized that it is equally true that God has “drawn” us, as in colored or created, with lovingkindness. I imagine Jack pictured God with a crayon making the outline, carefully selecting the colors, and perfectly drawing a little boy. I love that image, and I can now imagine God did that with me as well. “God colored me good.” Who am I to declare anything else?

Carole is speaking at a breakout session at the MBC Women’s Conference in March. Sign up for the conference and breakout session by Feb. 14 to receive a $25 discount on any room.

A View of Discipleship from Thousands of Years Ago

By Tony Alany, MBC Arlington Director of Creative Arts

We’ve been talking a lot at MBC about discipleship, namely, disciples of Christ being disciple-makers. As I’ve been reading through the Old Testament (for those of you who think Christians just need to live in the New Testament…I beg you to rethink that approach) I came across the story of Elijah (disciple-maker) and Elisha (disciple) in 2 Kings 2.

See how this passage really lays out for us what disciples being disciple-makers looks like in real life:

  • Elijah was a man who followed God wherever he was led.
  • Elisha followed Elijah, who followed God.
  • Elisha fought to stay with Elijah when God sent him out, never wanting to leave his side. He loved Elijah deeply and was a devoted disciple.
  • When the two men needed to cross the Jordan, Elijah took off his cloak and, TRUSTING GOD, he struck the water with it. The water parted and they passed.
  • Elijah was taken into Heaven, Elisha was alone.
  • When Elisha needed to cross the Jordan alone, he recalled seeing his disciple-maker TRUST GOD by using the cloak to part the water. He then TRUSTED GOD in that same way and got the same result!

In response to these things we must recognize the following:

  1. It is the job of the disciple to be persistent in finding and following their disciple-maker.
  2. It is the job of disciple-makers to follow God wherever He may lead.
  3. Disciple-makers must, while actively trusting God, be vulnerable in allowing the disciple to see the process and struggle. (There was probably a good amount of mud while crossing the Jordan! They went through it together.)

This is the best way to equip disciples for similar struggles in their lives when the disciple-maker is not there to help. Let’s use this as an encouragement as we enter into discipleship relationships as the disciple, then as the disciple-maker!

What if We Didn’t Have Martin Luther King, Jr. Day?

By Joe Henriques, MBC Tysons Campus Pastor
Post was originally published by Joe Henriques on January 20, 2010 at http://mbctysonsblog.org.

Yesterday, I enjoyed extra time with my family because it was a holiday called Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. But, we never talked about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the impact that he made on life in America. I’m guessing that most of you reading this didn’t talk about him, either. The same would be true if it were President’s Day, or Memorial Day, or—most sadly for many Americans—Christmas.

As a society, we enjoy the shadows and often don’t give much thought to the substance that made it possible. In fact, celebrating shadows is so pleasurable and celebratory in itself, that soon the shadow becomes a tradition, a part of our culture. For example, the booms and showery displays of the 4th of July are like that. Friends and family gather for picnics, the town gathers for fireworks, a speech or two is broadcast by the President and other leaders. But, who talks about what happened in 1776 and what signing the Declaration of Independence cost the signers?

Back to yesterday’s holiday. What if we didn’t have Martin Luther King Jr. Day, what would we not have today?

Of the many thoughts that could be included here, I will mention just three: civility, equality and inclusiveness between the black and white races.

Civility. I’m a baby boomer who grew up remembering well the late 1950’s and 1960’s. As a kid, I didn’t understand the reason for the “white only” bathrooms and water fountains. The black athletes and I, who played on the same high school sports teams, joked together, practiced and played hard, without a thought about grown-up issues between blacks and whites. However, when a restaurant refused to serve our black teammates on a road trip, our whole team walked out. I remember watching Martin Luther King, Jr. on TV give speeches and lead marches, especially the famous Selma to Montgomery march. Because Martin Luther King, Jr. had the courage to confront cultural norms that were wrong, we now have a greater measure of civility, respect and peaceful interaction between blacks and whites. The biblical idea of “be at peace with all men as much as possible” is obeyed more now than before.

Equality. While the United States Declaration of Independence refers to all men as created equal, that is true only to the concept of being made in God’s image. Because all people are God’s creation, all people deserve equality in respect, dignity and the highest honor.

But being created equal in this way doesn’t mean that we are all equal to one another, for example, that we have all the same—or same degree of—natural talents/abilities or kinds of intelligence. There is another kind of equality that should be true regardless of race, culture or skill level: equality of opportunity or privileges common to all Americans. Dr. King focused on equality of respect and of opportunity. My parents were immigrants, but being half Portuguese (my father) and half Puerto Rican (my mother) never made me feel left out of opportunities or privileges. In all public places, I freely went wherever I wanted without being questioned as to why I was there. Schools and jobs had qualifications, but the same pre-requisites applied to all. It took the 1964 Civil Rights Act, subsequent policies, and the tumult of conflicting values that followed, to help all of us look beyond color to competencies. As God sends down rain upon all people for their benefit, so he has given gifts to all people to be fully utilized for the benefit of all. Equality of respect and opportunity enables that to happen.

Inclusiveness. The statement, “Sunday morning is the most segregated time in America,” has good sentiment behind it. It is a way of reasonably complaining that Jesus’ prayer that His people be one is not being played out by way of all cultures, in the same locality, worshipping the same Lord, together in the same building, at the same time, in the same way. While I respect the thought behind this form of soft chastisement, I personally reject it. Jesus came unto His own because He was part of a certain ethnic group called Jews. That people of the same culture like to be with each other isn’t the problem. Exclusivity is normal for every culture. It is a problem when one race or culture excludes another because of an attitude of cultural superiority. Then, exclusivity becomes a sin in God’s eyes. Dr. King broke down the barrier between blacks and whites in that it now feels more comfortable to go to a beach, a restaurant, a church, sit on a bus, do anything and go anywhere, sing with, clap together, and even debate views with, a person from another race. Societal inclusiveness is now normal. This is a picture of what Christ did. Inclusiveness is expected in God’s family because Jesus, accepting all of us as co-equals, broke down historical barriers of superiority, pride and animosity between Jews and Gentiles, men and women, slaves and freemen.

I know that these thoughts are barely an introduction to what should be a substantive conversation. Yet, it is right that we give tribute to a man who made such a significant impact on American society for good. To do so is to give honor to whom honor is due.

Let us thank the Lord for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his ideals, his courage and vision for a better America and the benefit that we all enjoy as a result.

Your Key to Running the Race

By Rachel Thomas, MBC Loudoun Director of Discipleship for Women and Ministry Teams

When I lived in downtown Chicago, there was a certain buzz around the beginning of October. The Chicago Marathon completely shut down the city for one day. However, the days prior to the Sunday morning race, you could see hundreds of runners doing their final trainings, street sweepers cleaning the route, and orange “CITY OF CHICAGO” barricades placed on corners and intersections redirecting cars and cabs. All the runners in “The Windy City” would be bundled up and layered appropriately to stay warm before crossing the starting line on those crisp, fall mornings. But then you could see them just a few miles later throwing off all the layers that were holding them back from gaining their best time and pace for the 26.2 miles. The looks on their faces as they crossed the finish line were looks of accomplishment and satisfaction, or was it exhaustion? Either way, they set out to run a marathon, and they completed it.

In Hebrews 12:1-2, the writer urges us to throw off sin that hinders or entangles us from running with perseverance. I have never seen this image so clearly portrayed as I had with the marathon. A few hours after starting, these runners went from being bundled up to their tanks and shorts. They persevered, endured, and threw off hindrances to help them run the race.

What are some sins in your life that are holding you back? What burdens are you running with that weigh you down?

What burdens are you running with that weigh you down?

Cast them off. Lay them at the cross. Know that a God who loves you and wants you to run with endurance towards Him forgives them!

Not only are we to throw off all these sins, but we have the promise of a “race marked out for us.” In Chicago, city blocks were closed to traffic. The runners were aware of the route. There was no guide needed to direct the runners saying “turn left here!” or “keep going, then take a right at the next fountain.” You didn’t even have to keep pace with the motorcycle or Kenyans to follow their lead. They knew the ultimate finish line was near the lake, after running through Lincoln Park and Chinatown. We know our ultimate goal in the faith race is Christ-likeness in Heaven with God forever. We have a race marked out for us. He is the Author of our faith! He already has it written out! We don’t have to know every single turn and stretch, but just run the race.

A true disciple is one who perseveres in the Christian faith. We run along side brothers and sisters who are all striving for the same goal. Keep your eyes fixed on Him and know that you have fellow runners in front of, beside and behind you to keep you persevering and running the race with all that you have!

3 Principles of Ideal Discipleship

By Nate Keeler, MBC Arlington Campus Pastor

I recently had a conversation with a friend from MBC Arlington who asked me the question, “Is there an ideal way that discipleship should happen?” Great question. This one question leads to many: Is it one-on-one? Older to younger? Peer-to-peer? In a classroom? In a small group? Or is it in a mid-size Bible study? And what should we study? An inductive Bible study? Life topics? Systematic theology? This is just a sampling of the kinds of questions getting serious about discipleship will provoke. Often I will speak to people who are dogmatic and passionate about discipleship happening only one way, and they will have their example from Scripture to prove it! But when we take the time to carefully study the concept of discipleship in Scripture, it is not quite so narrow. There are a few examples of discipleship in one-on-one contexts (Moses and Joshua, Elijah and Elisha, Paul and Timothy). While we often exalt this form of discipleship, in reality these examples are few and far between. We also see Jesus model discipleship in a small group of 12 disciples, a large group of the 200+ crowd of disciples that followed him, and also in the intimate group of three: Peter, James and John. While we think of Paul discipling Timothy, he also spent 3 years discipling many students in the School of Tyrannus in Ephesus (Acts 19). Not only does discipleship happen in various environments but in varying types of relationships. Sometimes discipleship is modeled as the older pouring into younger (Paul and Timothy, as well as Titus) and sometimes discipleship has nothing to do with age, as in the case of Pastor Timothy in the church of Ephesus (1 Timothy 4:2).

So what can we learn from this? A couple things come to mind: God loves diversity! One size does not fit all.

Throughout your life you will experience many forms of discipleship so don’t limit yourself to only one type. While discipleship takes on many forms there are three principles that unite all discipleship in Scripture.

  1. Discipleship starts with an intentional leader. More important than age or stage of life, discipleship starts with someone who takes on the mantle of disciple-maker.
  2. Discipleship takes place in a relational environment.  It is impossible to make a disciple or become a disciple outside of relationships. While that seems obvious it cannot be overlooked. This relationship can be in a variety of sizes and shapes, but there is no substitute for life-on-life.
  3. Discipleship must include theology and practice that can be transferred to others. This is what makes discipleship reproductive. Disciples make disciples. While there is no one set curriculum or formula, it does include “what to believe” (theology) and “how to live” (practice).

Throughout my life I have experienced many different types of discipleship and each has served a key purpose in my development. Take full advantage of the discipleship opportunities God has for you right now!

Will You Go and Meet Them?

By Mekdes Haddis, MBC Silver Spring Director of Discipleship

Growing up in Ethiopia, it was very easy and comfortable to invest in the local church I grew up in. But I don’t think I ever considered other believers around the world or even the other churches in the city I lived in. I mean why would I think of someone I hadn’t met? To be quite honest, I didn’t know there was a difference between the Local Church and Global Church. I understood very well the role I was to play in my local church but that was it. One day though, I passionately prayed to the Lord, “I love you so much, I want to know you more, and I’ll go wherever you want me to go.” Well, He answered my prayer. Everything I thought about Christianity changed when the Lord took me on a journey to discover His heart for The Church.

Shorty after I prayed that prayer, I finished high school and moved to the United States for college where I attended a Christian university. I didn’t know God’s plan for my higher education would also include spiritual richness. On my very first day in chapel, I was awestruck as I saw people not from my church, culture, race, language or country who passionately loved Jesus. And similar to my story, their lives had been changed by the power of the Cross of Jesus Christ. That blew my mind; the fact that I could travel almost 7,169 miles from home but still be home in the Body of Christ was not only comforting but also humbling. How big is this God I’m worshiping? Does He literally hold the world in His hands? All these people worship Him too? He’s not only the God of Ethiopians? I must seek and find out more about Him. How do I devote my life to worship, obey and live for His glory? He truly is glorious!

Even as I experienced cultural differences and homesickness, to know that in Christ we spoke the same language made me feel at home. I learned I could navigate through social issues by applying the Word of God, which made me cling to the Word and thirst for more. As a result, I sought out wise counsel and was introduced to a woman who took the time to disciple me all throughout college. God used our time in the Word to change my life, and I became a fully devoted follower of Christ.

That’s why I love the Global Church and love meeting believers from different countries and churches. I love asking them what the Lord is doing in their lives and marvel at His consistent, familiar and loving ways in which He works in their lives. I love praying with them and experiencing the unity of The Church. And I love when the Lord points out my blind spots, as I hear testimonies of other believers and how He’s working in their churches. That’s also why I love going on short-term mission trips. It’s a glimpse into heaven, it’s a way to see God’s heart for redeeming everyone, not just one tribe or nation, Christ died for everyone and one day we’ll all worship Him together in heaven.

And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”
Revelation 5:9-10

Until then, let’s go to every nation and make disciples! We can start by simply praying, “God I want to know you and am willing to go anywhere you would have me.” I promise, you’ll see Him to be more than you’ve ever had and for me that’s worth leaving everything behind. Will you go and meet them?

The Unbelievable-But-True Story of Christmas Past and Present

By Joe Henriques, MBC Tysons Campus Pastor

Has the thought ever crossed your mind that the angels’ song, “Peace on earth and good will towards men,” is a wonderful and wistful sentiment, perfect for a Christmas carol, maybe a goal to work towards, but really not very useful or even true for everyday life? If so, hold on. There’s more to the story.

Angels are smart. There must have been a good reason for them to belt out that promise from heaven to earth with such robust gusto. Look at it this way: For millennia they had witnessed firsthand God promising through the prophets that one day the Messiah would come to bring God’s rule to Israel and to the world. That makes for headline news in heaven. Do angels have adrenaline? I don’t know. But I can imagine the highly potent, spiritually charged atmosphere when they saw Jesus—the One they knew in Heaven as the Prince of Peace—born to Mary in a cattle trough! “There He is!” they shouted in amazement.

“There He is!” they shouted in amazement.

“Let’s go tell those shepherds that peace has touched down on earth! The Son of God, the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God about whom Isaiah wrote is there among fellow humans!”

Any one of a myriad of other events could have locked in their attention. Like political corruption, forced worship of Caesar, rampant immorality. But now was the time for angels to sing and evangelists to write about the most spectacular event to ever hit planet earth: A baby whose name was declared to be “Immanuel, God with us” was born! Not just an everyday kind of birth, mind you, but hear this, God was born on earth as a baby boy…through a virgin! Take two silent minutes to ponder that thought.

Here’s something you could do to experience the original exhilaration of the promise of peace. Imagine yourself there at the manger-trough scene looking at Jesus, talking to Him. Nothing else would matter. Now imagine that you are at the manger this year. Look around at your world of 2013 and compare it with the world of busy Bethlehem in 5 AD. Nothing has changed much. Every year is retro.

Politics are the same. When Jesus was born, the national population was forced to comply with a government decree mandating that everyone register for a national census. Sound familiar?

Players haven’t changed. Bethlehem merchants busily engaged in selling their wares to the crowds arriving for the census; malls, outlets and online stores scrambling to market their goods to the crowds of holiday shoppers; families traveling both then and now, whether out of obligation, or not; and angels, always on the move out there somewhere.

People and problems are identical. Some are thinking about the Messiah, others don’t care. Good and evil co-exist. Wars and rumors of war rumble on.

Here’s the best of what never changes: Jesus. He’s why you can have peace while on earth. Jesus and Jehovah are one and the same, the eternal God from everlasting to everlasting, the same yesterday, today and forever in His unchanging character, the One who is supremely loyal to you in His loving-kindness, which propelled Him to repeatedly and emphatically promise, “I will never leave you, I will never forsake you.”

Peace is rooted in the security and certainty that God is sovereign over your life, that He loves you, is faithful to you and desires only good for you. When evil and wrong come your way, and they will, Jesus gives you His grace to be victorious in your weakness.

The awe of the promised Messiah appearing on earth never ceases. The messiness of the world never changes. Jesus was born into a world of chaos, because that’s where a Savior thrives, that’s where people of then and now can look at Him with great relief and exclaim, “Look, there’s Jesus, God with us!”

Be like the angels in Christmas 2013. Herald His coming!

Be like the angels in Christmas 2013. Herald His coming! Focus the eye of your mind only on Jesus, on His very real presence. Do you see Him standing beside you? Do you sense His life within you? You can still be bothered by the problems of the world, concerned over troubles of your own, frustrated by the indifference, even the animosity, of society towards Jesus. The bent of darkness has always been to dilute, detract, or delete His influence. You can be burdened by the complete unawareness of millions of the world’s peoples about their Savior. Living with all these things form part of living on earth with Immanuel.

Above all else, may His never-ending wonder—not your retro worries—fill your mind. Then you will have peace on earth and good will towards men.