• Caleb Harrelson

A Call to Engage

Engaging with our calling

Of all the places that you have lived, which location is your favorite? I get this question nearly everyday as an Uber driver. Why? I have lived in and visited several locations around the world that may be characterized as an exotic or ideal (to me at least) location. Places that have beaches, dolphin watching (Alabama) and great friends. I have lived in a winter wonderland in Ukraine where the snow stays from November to March and then after it melts you see a myriad of beautiful trees and sunflowers everywhere. Despite a few ups and downs in each location, I thoroughly enjoyed living in each place with my beautiful wife Kendra and now our three little girls.

But where would I live now if I could choose? Would it be New Zealand, where the Lord of the Rings’ Shire is at? I have always wanted to visit there as it looks so beautiful. Seems relevant as our wedding was semi Lord of the Rings themed. Would it be Hawaii? China? The Holy Land?

No. I would love to visit all those places; however, right now I would choose El Paso, TX. What? Why? It’s the desert! It’s hot! I know! I could have the most exotic scenery and the most glorious outdoor activities in the world around me but without God’s calling, direction and blessing over my life, I would be missing the point. I would feel a sense of emptiness and so would you. Why? Because we weren’t created to live for our own sense of self pleasure.

We were created to know God and enjoy Him forever.

How is that done? We don’t realize that we need a Savior until we realize that we are enemies before a Holy and Merciful God because we have broken his perfect commands in our acts, attitudes and nature. This is called sin. It is missing the mark. His mark is total Perfection (Deut 32:4; Matthew 5:48; Habakkuk 1:13). Everyone has sinned and fallen short of His glorious standard (Romans 3:23). There is not one person that has not missed the mark. Committing sin against an infinitely Holy, pure and perfect God is worthy of an infinite payment. If it was not, then how could we say that God is infinitely perfect and just? How could we complain about evil in the world and ignore the fact that in the sight of God we are all evil and unrighteous and even our attempts to fix our sinful hearts in his sight is like bringing him “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6-7)? To even complain about evil, we must realize that in order for God to get rid of evil in the world, he would either 1) have to get rid of every human on earth because we all have evil abiding within us (romans 3:23) or 2) provide a way to substitute the just payment for sin and give His righteousness and Spirit towards sinful humans: He would have to make completely new humans.

 Thus, our greatest need is to be in relationship with God.

To have a new heart that desires to love God and love others rightly. However, we can’t do that until we are cleansed and forgiven of our sin in the sight of a Holy and perfect God.

Couldn’t God just snap his fingers and say that humans are forgiven? Would a judge be just if he just slapped a criminal on the wrist and gave out zero punishment? No! the judge of the universe certainly must be Just, unchanging and perfectly good in all ways. If He is not perfectly just, then morality would be constantly changing, and that God would not be worthy of our infinite worship for His perfect justice. Morality would be arbitrary, and we could never say that anything is objectively wrong like stealing, torturing babies for fun or murdering the innocent. Morality is simply subjective if there is no God. Morality must be grounded in an un-changing, objectively good, Holy and just Divine being. Consequently, we must see sin the way that a perfect Holy being sees it.  

As author David Platt says, “the penalty for sin is not determined by our measure of it. Instead the penalty for sin is determined by the magnitude of the one sinned against. If you sin against a log, you are not very guilty. On the other hand, if you sin against a man or woman, then you are absolutely guilty. And ultimately, if you sin against an infinitely holy and eternal God, you are infinitely guilty and worthy of eternal punishment.”  

 Thus, God, by necessity, cannot compromise His character based off culture or man’s perspective of what is infinitely just. Just look at the cross of Christ. In the Cross we see the wrath and justice of God poured out on Jesus. In the cross we see the mercy of God poured out on Jesus. He substituted Himself in our place and, to those that place their faith IN Him, they do not get what they deserve (that is mercy) and receive a gift of eternal life. Everlasting life with the Creator. This is an undeserved gift and is what we call grace. To secure this, the payment for sin had to be a PERFECT sacrifice that was without sin or any blemish: Only God can be described this way. However, it was man’s debt owed to God, so the payment for sin had to also be fully man. Thus, God, “The Word made flesh” (John 1) has come to destroy the work of the devil as fully God and fully man to rescue hopelessly lost sinners.

Thus, Jesus is the only way to God because He is the only one who answers the problem of humanity. Any other alleged solution that says that man can do enough to make up for their problem of sin, is missing the point. You can’t do enough to pay for an infinite debt towards an infinitely holy being. To say that you could possibly do enough gets back to the problem that we listed before: if sin is not an infinite problem, then your being is not an infinitely holy being and morality is subjective.

Therefore, this is why Jesus has come: to live a life of perfection and of perfect obedience under the law of God, to die the death we deserved to die for the punishment for our sin (Romans 6:23) and to conquer sin and death by rising from the dead.  In His life He also showed us what life is fully intended to be lived like: In submission to God the father in all our thoughts, attitudes and actions and perfectly loving and serving others. Satan has come to steal, kill and destroy our true purpose for life, but Jesus has come that we may have life and life abundantly” (John 10:10). Life abundantly is referring to the abundant joy of walking daily in the presence of the Lord. An abundant life can be described like the songwriter David:

                “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11

                “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.” Psalm 84:10

                “One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.” Psalm 27:4

                Do those verses describe a relationship that is boring? Does it look like you would have to force this writer to spend time with God? Do you think that this writer cares where he Lives? David makes clear that as long as he is in the presence of the Lord, there will be pleasures forevermore. No matter when or where; there is fullness of joy in simply being able to seek the Lord. So, if you are in a restored relationship with God, through faith in Jesus our mediator, you WILL long for more and more of His presence the more you know Him and walk with Him. If you don’t, I would argue that you have not really met the real Jesus. I’m not saying that a true believer won’t have seasons of a diminished passion to seek to know the Lord more and need renewal though. However, there will always be this continual nudge of the Holy Spirit to draw us closer to Himself so that we would grow in our walk with Him (Philippians 1:6) in all true believers who are born again of an imperishable seed (1 Peter 1:3-4). So, as we know God and enjoy relationship with Him, our deep longing will be to Honor our Lord and make disciples of all nations whenever and wherever He calls us to go (Matt 28:18-20). We don’t, ultimately, have to fear persecution, death, or hardship because we know that NOTHING can separate us from the Love of God in Christ Jesus who has promised to never leave or forsake us (Romans 8:18-39).

More than anything, believers desire for His name to be exalted among the nations, for others to be restored to God and experience fullness of Joy in His presence, knowing we deserved hell and eternal separation from God and have been shown mercy at the cross. To TRULY love others is to tell them the TRUTH about God, our utter lostness before God, the cross, the gift of eternal life and the urgency of eternity. To love the approval of others so much that you fail to speak the truth to others is not love, it is a self-centered love that wants praise from others now at the expense of others knowing and enjoying the truth about God now and in eternity.

This is all that I mean when I say that I am content to go wherever God calls and to do whatever God may ask of me. No matter how risky or how much persecution it may bring to follow and proclaim Jesus, He is always worth it. For 2 Timothy 3:12 says that “all who desire to live a godly life will face persecution.” Thus, sharing the truth of the Gospel will always involve some type of opposition. Yet, out of love for God and others you must persevere. In fact 1 Corinthians 13:6 reminds us that “love finds no joy in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth.” To truly worship God will cause us to go as missionaries whenever or wherever and however. Through our jobs, full time local or overseas missionaries - Our lives are a blank check to God. I want to seek His kingdom and righteousness FIRST, and then trust that all of the other details will fall in line. (Matt 6:33).

So here we are. We have been called to be missionaries in El Paso, thus, this is the city that we love right now.

I was mentally getting ready to go overseas again…I was thinking about various hardships that I may put my family in if we go overseas again. Then God decided to change our plans to stay here in El Paso.  My wife, Kendra, was not initially excited as we thought that our next step was to go overseas again. I wasn’t sure if I just wanted to stay in El Paso because I was afraid to go overseas and was being disobedient to God’s call. Knowing Jesus is worth everything doesn’t mean that we won’t be scared or afraid of exactly how the cost may play out. Many times, it’s simply a processing of those realities, fears, doubts, and insecurities amongst other believers that help you see everything else against the backdrop of who Jesus is. Its’s our friends reminding us to fix our eyes on Jesus, so that His strength, His power and His worth grows clearer and the temporary things of earth end up falling into the background against His glaring goodness and power over all. It is as we spend time in God’s word and in community with other believers, who are also filled with His Spirit, that we help refine God’s calling in each other’s life. It is within the body of believers in the church that help encourage one another to move forward into our next season of life and into greater faithfulness to our Creator, Savior and King.

So, what will we do in El Paso? What is the narrowing of a call to be a local missionary in El Paso? Do we really need another ministry here in El Paso? I think yes and both Kendra and I are very excited and united in our calling to be missionaries here in El Paso now. In my next blog post, I will explain why and how God is calling us to Engage El Paso with more meaningful conversations about truth, Jesus, beauty, meals, friendships and more….

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