My mistake slowed me down.

This post is from a sermon Justin recently gave at Parkside Church.

Coffee Talk, formerly known as Coffee House is an outreach that is near and dear to me and I’ve had the pleasure of leading it for the past six months. While I love the work we do at Coffee Talk, it’s definitely come with it’s own difficulties as well. Most recently we’ve had a lack of English speaking volunteers and an abundance of students wanting to learn! As a team we were short staffed and things were entering code red territory.

I led Coffee Talk for a good three months while in this code red. I met with different English speaking expats. I rushed around trying to recruit Christian friends who might be able to help. After all, this was one of our longest running ministries and one of our strongest too! I even went against my best judgement and recruited a young Christian gal who came to Taiwan to teach English… before she had even landed in the country. That’s right, I gave her no space to adjust to the food or culture or even her new job. I opted to pray for her instead of giving her the time she needed to adjust. I told myself I would trust that God would take care of her even though I knew this transition would be difficult for her. I was so wrong… 

This is the kind of mistake a missionary like me makes when I’m in a hurry.

I’ll tell you the rest of that story about my mistake, but first I want to dive into God’s word. Head over to Philippians where Paul is addressing an early church in Eastern Europe. The city of Philippi was a Roman colony and these people were retired soldiers and wealthy citizens of the Roman Empire. Because of this allegiance to the Empire the Christians there also struggled with how to act, being good Roman citizens, but also knowing they were citizens of the Kingdom of God.

Paul starts off his letter of encouragement by reminding the Philippians that he is not ashamed of Christ and in fact For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. (1:21) He goes on to say, I’m torn between these two desires; death and life. (1:23). But for the sake of the Philippians it’s better that Paul lives so that he can serve them. He urges the church to live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. (1:27)  Why? Because belonging to Christ leads to encouragement, love, fellowship, and compassion. That’s chapter 2

1 Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? 2 Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. 3 Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. 5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.” ‭‭ Philippians‬ ‭2:1-5‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Then, because Paul is telling these people to be like Christ. He describes Jesus. I have to read it, these verses are beautiful. 

6 Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. 7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, 8 he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. 9 Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. ‭Philippians‬ ‭2‬:‭6-11‬ NLT

This is what Jesus modeled and why Paul followed him. Because Jesus humbled himself in obedience to God and sacrificed himself for us, we do the same for others. That’s why Paul talks about living for others, even though he wishes he could be done with his life’s work. 

Friends, these verses are a lesson I’ve had to relearned for myself. I speak them today as a reminder to all of us. It doesn’t matter if we’re in an exotic mission field or ice fishing on lake Waconia with our neighbors… We cannot take the Gospel to a region beyond ourselves if we are unable to slow down and get over ourselves and what we have deemed most important. 5 We must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.”

That mistake I made… It was made because I had a job to do. My task as leader of the Coffee Talk team was a good and honorable job, but I put the task before the people. My wife was going to have a baby, we were moving out of our apartment, oh and after that we were heading back to the US of A for a three month break. Life was happening. 

The thing is, even in our time here in the States, ya’ know after we finally got to our “break”. We R&R’d a bit, but then my natural incline was to immediately speed into working. We’re called to serve others after all, right and as a missionary that’s basically my job. No harm done, right?

We live in a world that honors this lifestyle. Fast is good, slow is bad. 

Just take for example a road trip. Despite the mileage needed to travel and the set speed limit when we shave a few minutes off our trip by eating in the car or going just a smidge over the speed limit we often say we’ve made good time. Not fast, good. This culture is written all over our language. The movie was slow, the service was slow, that man is slow. All of those statements have double meanings and they aren’t good ones. But that’s not part of our Father’s Kingdom culture. Life will always be happening, and it will try to drag us into distraction and busy-ness and all of the sudden we’re trying our hardest to use our own strength to get out and make time to do something as simple as beginning to read our Bible again. We hurry towards our goals, just to slow down. This is not how Jesus intended life for us. (‭Matthew‬ ‭11‬:‭28-30‬ NLT) 28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” 

I don’t believe it possible to read those verses quickly and for their words to still retain their power. Love from a gentle heart… joy in an easy yoke… and peace as we find rest. Those things are incompatible with speed.

There have been so many times when I’ve rushed people through something. We rush our kids to hurry and finish their breakfast so they can get to school. We rush our employees or colleagues to finish their work so we can check our task off and head home. How many times have you sent a text message expecting a reply near instantly. I mean, the green symbol says they read it, right?! Why won’t they reply? 

This is not loving. This is not what Jesus modeled. This is not how we should be treating people. If we desire the Gospel to go out we must resist the world’s pace and take up Christ’s! 

So where does that leave us… How do we live like Christ in 2020? Friends, first we must acknowledge what the culture outside our doors is pushing on us. In Taiwan and Minnesota these things are the same. The culture around us is trying to sell us more time. Buy the latest smartphone because it’s quicker and has more battery life so you’ll spend less time charging in your car and more time out with your friends. Visit your local McDonalds because who wants to cook for their kids when you’ve had a long day. Save yourself the time and energy and let us do the work! Rocket Mortgage had a Super Bowl ad whose slogan wasn’t even a full sentence because they just want you to “Push button, Get Comfortable. Get Mortgage.” We sell ourselves to these things for the sake of time and rest and the chance of being able to use it, while Jesus simply invites us into it rest. No strings, just come and follow him. 

The story about my friend the Coffee Talk volunteer ends with me apologizing. Our community had come around her. One woman began intentionally investing in her through 1 on 1s. But I can’t help but wonder what God would have done if I’d given her my time.

So, you might be sitting here today thinking… I’m not in a rush. I don’t find myself hurrying through life. To you I’d say; please teach us. We want to know what Jesus has taught you! Better yet, call it out in me! Call out those of us whom struggle with going too fast all the time. 

And for the rest of you; I know there are different things in my life that push me to hurry. Sometimes I don’t prioritize my sleep and I get irritated easily. Other times I just work too much… If you know of some of these ticks in your life I want to invite you to press into Jesus and ask him to show you what you can do. If you’re not sure… then maybe you can try these simple things and pray for God to meet you in them. Ask him to speak into your life while you try these out. 

  1. Drive the speed limit.
    This one I’ve just recently been able to try because I don’t drive much in Taipei. But, stop going five over. Stop pushing the limit. Live within the limitation you’ve been given and learn how to be content in that. Paul says in the end of his letter to the Philippians, I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. What’s Paul’s secret? Chapter 4:13, Christ who gives me strength.
  2. Use the longest check-out line.
    Full confession, I would never have come up with this one on my own. I got it from a book, but I’ve gotten a chance to practice it! What if we took back the small bits of time that we have given to convenience and instead use them as moments in life to spread the Good News? When you walk up to the cashier you can engage with him or her, share how you’re doing and really ask them how they are. Or, just use the time to pray.
  3. Parent your phones.
    Most parents I talk to don’t wind down their evenings together with their kids. Sure, you hang out and interact with them, but eventually you put them to bed. Try putting your phones to bed. My seven year old goes to bed at 8PM. My phone should too. Set it to airplane mode and leave it charging in the kitchen then go and relax. You don’t need your phone for that. 
  4. Practice Sabbath-ing.
    Perhaps you’ve heard people talking about this more and more recently. It’s by no means new, but I’m so happy to hear more people trying to recover this command God gave us. Find a day in your week to do nothing but rest and worship. Those are really broad categories because what you find restful could be much different from me. But God gave us a day to do just that… 
    Friends, God has given us a Sabbath day to slow us down. He’s intentionally built it into his divine rhythm to give us rest and keep us from burning out.

Perhaps you decide to not own all of these ideas I’m giving you. At very least, join me in making space in your life to give people the time of day. That’s really what we’re all about in Taipei. The Aroma exists to help others smell the Aroma of Christ, become the Aroma, and spread the Aroma. The becoming and spreading can never happen though if we are unwilling to open our lives up to the regions we’ve been called to. That starts with our time. After all, our time is our life, and our attention is the doorway to our hearts. So tear away from anything holding your attention captive that isn’t Jesus. My prayer today is that you would join me on the mission field you’ve been called to. Together, let’s be a people that stops pointing away from ourselves saying “Go to church” and instead starts saying “Come to me” all while pointing towards Jesus’ loving embrace. 

That’s scary. It’s gonna’ cost you your time and probably some of your money too. It’ll be tough too, but Paul reminds us that the reward is so much better; For me, living means living for Christ. 

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