Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Most Important Work We Do When We Travel

I've been asked to speak a couple times since returning from Europe. Folks are curious about the "work" I'm doing in Spain and Italy. I'm really excited about the research that I am doing through the Universidad Complutense. I think it's important research. But it's not the most important work that I'm doing overseas. Not even close, in fact. Sure, while I was in Europe, I had the opportunity to look at 8 copies of the Complutensian Greek New Testament. 500 years old. Super rare. Amazingly beautiful codices. I'm not sure how many people have seen multiple copies in their lifetime, but I'm sure I'm on the list of few. Add on top of that the opportunity that I had to look at some rare New Testament manuscripts at the Vatican Library and you might think, "Wow, pretty amazing. Must be some really important work Thomas is doing." But wait. I promise you that it's not the most important work that I'm doing overseas. Not even close.

I was up in Lancaster, PA a couple of months ago. While I was having lunch with a colleague, a student walked up to me. He asked me about the trip to Europe, adding that he found out via the blog (someone actually reads this blog! Hooorayy!). He said, "I would give anything to be able to go to Europe and do some research like that. That's amazing. Wow." My reply went something like this. First of all, you can go to Europe and do something like what I'm doing. They haven't opened Europe up because they heard I was interested. If the Lord leads you to go, go. But, really, that's not the most amazing thing. It's really not the "wow" moment. My life could go on if I never held a copy of the Complutensian Greek New Testament. I wouldn't be devastated if I got a closed door to look at a Greek manuscript in the Vatican (although in hindsight I found out that I was disappointed I couldn't see Vaticanus). There's something way more "wow" than checking out old books and old manuscripts. There's something way cooler than getting permission to visit the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana. There's one thing that I simply need or my life can't go forward. There's something that I can't live without. What is the most important work that I was doing in Europe last month? What's the one thing that would cripple me were it, hypothetically speaking, ever stripped from me?

When we travel, we travel for Jesus. When we take a trip, we go as his ambassadors. Nothing really changes. We are his ambassadors everywhere we are, all the time, to everyone in our path. We represent one and we represent him to all. But one temptation when we travel is to kick off our shoes and relax, take a break, chill, pause, concentrate on us, not others. We can let our "world" take precedence. In my case, it would have been really easy to let the awesomeness of the trip puff me up. I could have just moved from opportunity to opportunity, living in the "wow" moments. But one thought was front and center during this trip. I wasn't going overseas to look at copies of the Greek New Testament. I would go and look at them, but that's not why I was going. There were people that the Lord was going to put in my life. There were going to be divine appointments. There were going to be opportunities to talk about the significance of what Jesus Christ accomplished on the cross. The whole past year has been saturated in prayer. Lesly and I prayed for people we were going to meet. We prayed for people we knew we did not know, yet. We prayed for conversations. We prayed for opportunities to bless people. We prayed for opportunities to serve others in place of being served. And God blessed our time in Europe. We look forward to seeing what he does.

Our trips ought to be Great Commission trips. You know what I'm saying? There's is no one more honorable, no one more precious, no one more worthy of our entire devotion than the Lord Jesus Christ. And there is no greater work than the opportunity to explain to someone what Jesus did for us on the cross, all the while giving them marvelous demonstrations of the scandalous love of the cross. These demonstrations are often clothed in menial rags, but the Lord energizes the menial and makes them magnificent. For those of us in Christ, all of life is the Great Commission. It's our single purpose. It permeates everything we are, everything we have, and everything we do with what God's given us.

This morning I received the following email:
"I really appreciate your testimony and reminder yesterday about staying sensitive and available to folks' spiritual needs as we travel. A new dimension for my prayers as I prepare to teach overseas next week. Love you, brother."
Here's to the most important work we can do when we travel. And here's to seeing lots of eternal fruit.

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