Greater Things

Syrian Desert Go

“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!” (John 14:12-14)

Read: Matthew 1:18-25, Luke 1:39 – 2:40

Relate: The Fifth Crusade was well underway when a surprising lay recruit showed up in the camp in the summer of 1219. Today he is best known for the apocryphal stories of him preaching to animals and for his work among lepers. In his own day he was best known for his voluntary poverty and founding an order of “lesser brothers” who did the same. Either way, Francis of Assisi was the last person anyone expected to take up the call and join the crusades.

He wasn’t done with his surprises, however, and sometime in late August or early September he sneaked out of the crusader’s camp and into the enemy’s lines. Against impossible odds he did manage to get a one on one audience with the Sultan. Impossible odds were what was necessary because his goal was to convert the Sultan to Christianity and bring an end to the war. We do not know with accuracy what was said in that interview but we do know that, when the Crusaders were crushed on the battlefield Sultan Malik al-Kamil was unusually magnanimous returning all captured crusaders and signing an eight year peace treaty when he could have capitalized far more on his victory. We also know that Saint Francis sent an order to his order of “lesser friars” to show love and live in peace with the Muslims. No, he did not accomplish his stated goals but we will never know until heaven the results of one man’s unquestioning obedience to God in what looked like an impossible situation and impossible task.

React: President Obama spent the day yesterday at the United Nations stumping to form a coalition against ISIS. He said they are a symptom of “the cancer of violent extremism” and that “the only language understood by killers like this is the language of force.” It sounds a lot like the rhetoric Bernard spewed out when he was stumping around Europe to build fervor for the Crusades. The truth is, meeting violence with violence only escalates the violence.

Jesus came to establish a different kind of kingdom. He came to bring about another order. Jesus came to bring victory over death. Obama called ISIS a “network of death”. Are we willing to do the work He has done? Are we willing to attempt the even greater things He has promised? The statement has been made, “The world has yet to see what God can do with a man wholly committed to Him.” That’s not true. We have Jesus. But what if one, or a dozen, or a hundred believers today were to take up that challenge and walk in Francis’ steps. What if we were willing to pack up our bags, leave our comfy Christianized world and confronted head on the “enemies of peace” with the radical love of Christ? It might possibly cost us our lives but it will definitely change our world. Would you be willing to go? Am I?


God, I belong to You. Spend me. Use me. Waste me. Spill me out. Let my life be a drink offering poured out for Your glory. You promised us that we would do greater things and I am tired of that being some empty, hollow, vague promise. The world needs changing. Let me be a part of an army that will dare to get out of our pews, go to the darkest of places, and begin living out the miracle of Your love. God, please keep me far from the comfort of complacency.




[Ed’s note: This was first written just less than two years ago. It was the day God called me to pack my own bags and go.]

24 thoughts on “Greater Things

  1. Well said–you bring up a reality that most of us don’t want to confront. Leaving comfortable and convenient for pain and possible death and definite inconvenience. For the sake of the gospel. In the love of Jesus. Sure gives me a lot to consider.

  2. I appreciate the painful truths you’re pointing out. Far too many people are willing to sit by and obey the dictates of self-appointed leaders rather than listen to the moral compass they have been nurturing throughout their lives. Whether it is through faith or otherwise, the resolution of this conflict will not be assured through the use of force. And yet here we are, being told by the “leader of the free world” and supported by too many who consider themselves men and women of faith, to go and kill in order to make way for life. As you rightly point out, who among us is willing to deny this narrative and pursue a more just and more holy route?

  3. “Am I?”

    I Am said “I am” and did. I said “Am I” and continued pondering. BJ – thank you. Kind of focuses a lot of things right back to one place.

  4. This is something I’m just starting to comprehend by the Holy Spirit’s leading, and it has been quite an amazing journey so far. Every day is a another step closer. Slowly I’m learning just what Jesus was talking about as he draws me deeper into the infinite depths of his love and grace.

  5. BJ here is a point where we disagree – the story of St Francis is interesting but not relevant because contextually Jesus wasn’t referring to St Francis works.

    Jesus pointed to the kingdom as the hope for humanity and Salvation through his personal sacrifice. You quoted Daniel a few days ago, go back to chapter 2 and read the prophesy of the Kingdom and the final parts in verses 44 and 45.

    In the days of those kings – which kings? those who fail to recognise the Jesus in his Messianic role; God establishes a KINGDOM that puts an end to all human government. Jesus also refers to the End Times and teaches us to pray for Gods Kingdom.

    Those human governments of any religious persuasion oppose Gods Kingdom therefore deliberately putting ourselves or encouraging others to put themselves in harms way is an unreasonable response.

    Jesus parting message to his Apostles and Disciples was “Preach the Good News of Gods Kingdom” because we recognise that Gods sovereignty and ruler-ship are the only answer to mankind’s problems.

    We know we can’t convert the whole world, the outlines the destruction of those opposed to Gods ruler-ship in the hands of Jesus and we know we have a final accounting to deal with.

    So how do we do greater works? Our daily lives attest to our dedication to God, Our message is preaching the Good News of Gods Kingdom and by applying bible principles we see and understand the healing and recuperative effects of the Bible on people of all races, tongues and backgrounds.

    So please don’t let anyone think a vain gesture of living with IS is anything more than a personal sacrifice.

    Sorry to disagree but there is sufficient scriptural context to provide an explanation of this verse.

    • Yes, it is much more comfortable to stay where we are than to go into all the world. It is much safer to be a light where lights abound than to go shine in the darkness. I’m sure all kinds of theological justifications can be worked up to not obey Jesus’ command to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow him. If you are comfortable and content with complacency and mediocrity then go ahead. But to follow Jesus is a call to die.

    • It depends on how receptive someone is to the Holy Spirit’s leading. I have the desire to follow Christ where ever he may lead me. I know I’m not spiritually mature enough yet but I refuse to stagnate and become lukewarm. I’ve come to a point of willingness to joyfully lay down my life if need be when and if God requires, even if it’s not “fair” to me. Matthew 10:38-39

  6. Lord give us a mind like yours and a heart like yours. Transform us father into something spiritual and pleasing to you. What a challenge B.J. Martyrs for Christ if need be. Lay down our life’s for the brother. Faith….

  7. Wow. You remind me of the song that says “I have made you to small in my eyes, oh Lord, forgive me.” (Be Magnified) We lead powerless lives, in part because we’ve stopped seeing and living in God’s great wisdom, strength and mercy — and instead are swept along with the tides of this world.

  8. BJ. You make me think. You challenge me to listen better. And you make me examine just what this “faith” I so love writing of and enjoying (in a comfortable and safe way) is really all about.

    And all of that – in this context – scares the c**p out of me!

  9. “And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!” Luke 12:4-5.

  10. Yes. I have a country that over the years I have prayed for. In fact I am blessed to have a friend who just went there as a missionary and I get the privilege of supporting them. I also have a friend currently in Turkey doing missions work. God is good. I love your perspective and I am now adding your purpose to my prayers. God Bless

  11. I always think about who it is we are reaching. If I thought I could make a difference with men from a Middle Eastern back ground as a female from the West (Im just a whore to those people) and God left me w/o a shadow of a doubt and made the way … Id pack up and leave. He still could, but in the aspect of Gods holiness and commands, I wonder how much impact I would have? But then again His ways are not my ways and He uses weak and silly things to confound those who think they are wise. As far as punishment, what does ISIS do? Destroy, steal, and kill, … who does that sound like 😈 I wouldnt kill them. I would make them work and labor to rebuild everything. But thats just me. Violence does beget violence, imprisonment with work … planting fields and rebuilding villages.

    • Some of the most effective workers I know here in the Muslim world are women. As a single man half the population here I simply cannot reach. In general women here are far more open to the gospel than men are. And yet… I cannot reach them. We need more women to heed God’s call and to come.

      • I thought about that after I posted the comment. That makes sense. I think about the rape that has occurred, the forced abortion … things that are touchy subjects for anyone and much more so in the Middle East. The field is big and ripe for harvest …. I pray. I also pray that if God really wants me there personally, he would give my husband work there if possible. We actually know people who have worked in the Middle East in a construction capacity. Its not impossible.

  12. Deeply challenging. But, how do you square mercy and forgiveness with justice? God has mercy upon us because justice was satisfied at the cross. Islamic State is a great evil in the world. Should they not face justice? Has the international community not a moral duty to overthrow such wickedness as we did when Nazism was defeated. Did that mean that Christianity did not have a role to evangelise among the Nazis then and to Islamic State now? The answer is yes. The church is not the state and the state is not the church. The church must be prepared to take risks, to send missionaries. To reach the unreachable place with the Gospel. As you rightly said, if 100 people were willing to risk all and venture into Syria for Christ, it may well change the world. But the State still has a duty to exercise justice in the world. Sadly all too often justice is negated, legacy issues arise, victoms feel left behind by the peace at all costs mentality. You have raised important issues that got me thinking. Thank you.

  13. Reblogged this on ChristianBlessings and commented:
    Let me burn out for Thee Dear Lord
    Burn and wear out for Thee
    Don’t let me rust or my life be
    A failure my God to Thee
    Use me and all I have dear Lord
    And get me so close to Thee
    That I feel the the throb of the great heart of God
    And burn out for Thee.

    Author unknown

    Romans 12:1 – Therefore, I urge you brethren, by the mercies of God to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.

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