Changing The World Doesn’t Have to Be Intimidating

Text: Esther 2:1-11

“And every day Mordecai walked in front of the court of the harem to learn how Esther was and what was happening to her.” —Esther 2:11

Most of us have heard of the name Billy Graham. As a teenager growing up on a dairy farm in North Carolina during the Great Depression, he grudgingly attended church with his family. The young Graham often felt restless and resentful during his family’s Bible reading, praying, and psalm singing. But that all changed one night after he surrendered his life to Christ at a tent revival in Charlotte. He went on to become a legendary preacher—for decades, Billy Graham held numerous preaching Crusades in stadiums and sports arenas across the United States and the world, leading millions to faith in Christ.

We know about Dr. Graham’s legacy. But do you know the name of Graham’s teenage friend who invited him to that tent revival? Most do not. His name is Albert McMakin. He invited Billy to the meeting by saying, “Why don’t you come out and hear our fighting preacher?” The deal was then clinched when McMakin offered to let Billy drive his dairy truck to the meetings. The rest is history.

Do you know what McMakin was doing? He was simply doing for one what he wished he could do for all—constructing opportunities for people to encounter Jesus. God used McMakin in the tapestry of Billy’s life. That young man helped shape eternity in many by investing in the one right in front of him. Though that may not always seem far-reaching, it is much bigger than you realize.

Oftentimes when we think about the story of Esther, we are mindful of the orphan minority girl who bravely saved her people from genocide. We might tend to overlook the simple example of how Mordecai—the devoted foster parent, the consummate mentor, and the intentional discipler—changed the world by investing in ONE vulnerable young person. He didn’t change the world or redirect the course of history by pastoring a mega church, building a mammoth non-profit organization, preaching mass crusades, or producing faith-based films that influence millions.

No, Mordecai changed the world by investing in the faith of ONE person caringly and consistently—Esther!

Mordecai took Esther in and raised her after she lost her parents. He nurtured her, bringing her up in a God-fearing home. He endowed her with courage, faith, and dignity. He empowered her to use the gifts she had for the right purposes in serving others rather than self-preservation. Then he unleashed her potential by sending her out with confidence (though he wasn’t in control of her destiny). Furthermore, he continued to walk by the king’s palace every day to check on her as she was preparing for her big moment with the king.

Mordecai invested so much into one. Who is that one that God wants you to intentionally invest in right now? Is there a colleague or friend in need of spiritual answers? Where do you need to mentor, disciple, parent, or just be there for one presently in need of encouragement, guidance, or strength. Whose corner do you need to stand in right now in this season as they endure hardship or trials?

Changing the world doesn’t have to sound intimidating, it’s simply a matter of saying “yes” to Jesus regarding those in your path of responsibility or proximity of influence. Think about that as you seek to abide in Him this week.

PRAYER

God, help us to be encouraged as disciplers and world changers—salt and light in a land that is desperate for gospel saturation. Guide us each day into those contexts and relationships where we can flesh out the gospel and invest in a future generation that will serve you faithfully. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Questions for Reflection, Small Group or Family Discussion:

  1. Why does changing the world feel so intimidating?
  2. In what ways might accomplishing ordinary things for God make us instruments of change?
  3. Who has God brought into your life that you have a sense of responsibility to mentor?
  4. In what ways does the story of Mordecai and Esther challenge your faith?
  5. How does knowing that you were made for such a time as this affect the way you approach each day you’ve been given in this lifetime?

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Wisdom is Crying Out to You

Text: Proverbs 8:1-36

“Does not wisdom call? Does not understanding raise her voice?” —Proverbs 8:1

I have a friend and colleague in Northern Ireland who loves to awaken young people at summer camp to the melody of an old traditional children’s song. Each morning he grabs the megaphone, stands in the center of camp, and with the morning fog hovering over the mountains as his backdrop he sings so that the whole countryside can hear:

So rise and shine
And give God the glory glory
Rise and shine
And give God the glory glory
Rise and shine and give God the glory glory
Children of the Lord

The children reluctantly rise to a voice that beckons them to wipe the crust from their eyes and liven their senses.

In Proverbs 8, we hear a voice crying out as widely and broadly as possible “to the children of man,” like a prophetess summoning those within earshot to navigate through the world’s fog and find “prudence” and “sense.” Wisdom is personified as a noble woman rising early in the morning and calling out to the “simple ones” to find “life” and “obtain favor” from the Lord—even offering a stern warning that he who fails to do so “injures himself” (vv. 35-36).

One of the main purposes of the wisdom principles in Proverbs is to align a person’s heart with what the Lord loves, also bringing contrast to what wisdom hates (and therefore what the Lord hates). The call is for a person to examine his or her heart, to guard it from such things, to walk in accord with what the Lord loves, and to seek wisdom for all of life’s interactions. Whether a person’s heart and path are aligned with wisdom is a recurring theme of this chapter (vv. 8:17, 21, 36).

“I love those who love me” reinforces the call to seek wisdom, for she will show favor and then grant multiplied benefits. “Those who seek me diligently find me” reinforces the promise that the Lord will give wisdom and its benefits (vv. 8:18–21, 35). “Riches and honor” come with wisdom, but also something even greater: a kind of “enduring wealth and righteousness” (v. 18), a “fruit” that is “better than gold” and “silver” (v. 19), and an abundant “inheritance” (v. 21). One professor noted: “Paradoxically when wealth is sought it corrupts, but when wisdom is sought, edifying wealth is given (see 1 Kings 3:4–15).” While this description would include any material blessings that come to those who seek wisdom, these things cannot compare to the greater value of what is promised here: life and favor from the Lord (v. 35).

Not everything in life is easy to figure out. How can I be a better parent, spouse, or neighbor? What should I major in? Should I marry this person? Should I take this job? Should I make this financial investment? How can I resolve this relational conflict? How do I honor the Lord with my business? Mr. Google may have a wealth of information, but he doesn’t necessarily have wisdom.

We don’t need to buy into the lie that wisdom is elusive or beyond us. God has never been veiled or cryptic in His leading. His word is clear: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting” (James 1:5-6). He loves to bring clarity into our confusion. He promises to direct “the steps of the godly” because “He delights in every detail of their lives” (Psalm 37:23). Sometimes we just fail to ask Him. Ask in faith and you shall receive!

PRAYER

Heavenly Father, you are the Author of all wisdom, and I’m trusting that you will make this path straight. Please give me insight, clarity, and instruction for what I am facing in this moment. Your Word says you give generously without finding fault, and I believe that promise. I ask for wisdom in faith and I trust you to lead me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Questions for Reflection and/or Family Discussion:

  1. What one possession do you value more than any other?
  2. In Proverbs 8, why do you think wisdom was depicted as being out in the streets of the city?
  3. What keeps us from asking God for wisdom? What role does faith play in asking God for wisdom?
  4. What is something that you have mistakenly valued more than wisdom?
  5. What is a big question mark in your life right now? How will you go about seeking God’s wisdom this week?

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What You Need to See in Difficult People

Text: Genesis 33:1-12

“No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” —1 John 4:12

A driver in Kentucky was in for a rude awakening after trying to run over a 9-foot-tall snowman only to hit a massive tree stump underneath. Cody Lutz built the huge snowman in his front yard and after leaving for work, a would-be vandal decided to run it over with his car. Little did he know that the base of the snowman was built around a rock-solid tree stump that served as its foundation. Let’s just say that Frosty didn’t go down but the driver did experience “instant karma,” said Lutz. Imagine that driver’s surprise at the revelation that there was more to Frosty than meets the eye. He wasn’t just… snow. He was something more substantive.

It seems that Jacob was a bit surprised in his reunion with Esau in Genesis 33. Having spent twenty years away from the brother he once tricked and cheated out of a birthright, Jacob fearfully wondered if Esau was still intent on serving up revenge for the wrongs Jacob had perpetrated. After all, Esau had threatened to kill him. Will the bitterness remain, or has it subsided?

The moment of truth arrives. Esau runs to meet Jacob. Embracing him, he throws his arms around Jacob’s neck and kisses him. They weep together. Tension has been broken and Jacob must’ve breathed a sigh of relief. Reconciliation has prevailed. Then, like that bewildered driver in Kentucky, Jacob gets a striking revelation. It’s the kind of revelation that should change the way we all approach reconciliation. Jacob says:

“For to see your face is like seeing the face of God…” (Genesis 33:10)

In the past Jacob had been a conniving schemer, seeing his brother as nothing more than a superficial pawn to be manipulated for selfish gain—used then discarded to get ahead in life. He’s just in the way of Jacob’s passion and pursuits. He’s the annoying hindrance to progress. In a drastic and dramatic turn of affairs, Jacob now sees his brother much differently—he sees God in his brother—certainly more than a mere human obstacle to be conquered.

It’s noteworthy to consider that Jacob can’t come home without going through the gritty work of reconciliation with his brother. Esau is not just an obstacle—he is essential to God’s bigger picture of redemption and Jacob’s own spiritual maturity.

How might it change us and the dynamic of our lives to begin seeing Jesus in every person with whom we have had strife or tension? It’s so natural to see Christ in ourselves and not so much in others—especially those who seem to be in our way. No matter the person—a spouse, a sibling, a coworker, a neighbor, a political adversary, even an enemy—the more we see Christ and his exhaustless grace intentionally at work in their lives (all of creation), the more we will seek out the scriptural mandate for reconciliation with others.

Jesus is so adamant about us seeing Himself in others that he gave this stunning command: “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24). When was the last time you actually saw someone do that on a Sunday morning?

Perhaps there are people around you that you have only esteemed as superficial “Frosties” when God wants you to discover that He is the unseen, under-the-surface reason for their existence. They’re not just here to make life difficult for you—though it may feel that way sometimes—no, they exist because God loves them and has a plan for their lives. Seeing people through the lens of His creative and redemptive purposes will ultimately change the way we value others and seek out reconciliation as people of the cross, and “as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18).

Are you seeing Jesus in those people who are a thread of tension in your life? Perhaps you can do that this week as you seek to abide in Him.

PRAYER

God, life is messy. Relationships are difficult. We are all prone to offenses—being offended and doing the offending. It is humbling to recognize that I have been a difficult person in someone else’s life. As much as I would want mercy from those I have wronged, am I willing to extend that same measure of mercy toward those who have offended me? This is what it means to live as people of the cross—to forgive because we have been forgiven, to love because we have been loved, to offer grace because we have experienced grace. Jesus, help me to see you in others—even those who have yet to recognize that you are at work in their lives. Teach me how to flesh out the ministry of reconciliation with others and to live in your peace, as far as it depends on me. In your name, Amen.

Questions for Reflection and/or Family Discussion:

  1. Why are people intrigued by stories of “instant karma”?
  2. Why is it easier to receive mercy than to offer mercy?
  3. What is most striking to you about Jacob and Esau’s reunion in Genesis 33?
  4. Why is it difficult to reconcile broken relationships?
  5. Is there a difficult person in your life of whom you need to see beyond the surface? How will you pray for them? How will you shift to see them through the lens of God’s grace and mercy this week?

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When the Most Wonderful Time of the Year is a Mess

Text: Matthew 1:18-25

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). —Matthew 1:23

The most wonderful time of the year can be quite a mess. I look around and recognize that there’s not a whole lot of “happy” left in the holidays. Shopping malls are chaotic. Road rage lurks around every bend. I even saw one of Santa’s elves beating up another elf. Tis the season for… stress, and in some instances the loss of our humanity. And this is just the external mess.

Internally, we may be struggling with our own mess: trying to maintain the illusion of a Christmas-card-perfect December while really feeling wrecked and exhausted inside, struggling with family or relationship tensions, dealing with financial strain, or failing to control our temper in such times of madness. Then we try to sing “Silent Night” while the choir of shame sings a completely different tune in the soul.

What do we do when the most wonderful time of the year gets so messy? We need to remember that God didn’t send baby Jesus into a warm and fuzzy illusion. He didn’t send the Savior into an insulated bubble of morality. He sent His Son into a stressed out and jacked up world—a very messy one filled with racial and religious hostility, sharp political discord, injustice on the streets, madness on the corners, and hopelessness in the hearts of everyday people.

To this tumultuous backdrop, the Gospel of Matthew loudly proclaims:

“’She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.’ Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which translated means, ‘God with us.’”
(Matthew 1:21-23)

God “with us” in the mess? Perhaps we have decorated the Christmas story and sanitized the nativity far too much to remember how incredibly messy was that real scene in Bethlehem. Jesus in the manger is the Mess-iah who entered the mess by divine design, spending his first night sleeping in quite possibly the dirtiest corner of that town. God wants you to know, beloved, that none of the dirt in your life intimidates Him. He is not a God demanding that you get your act together in order to be worthy of His visitation; rather He has demonstrated quite vividly that the mess cannot, and will not keep Him away. He loves you too much to leave you alone in the mess.

As Ann Spangler notes: “When our sins made it impossible for us to come to Him, God took the outrageous step of coming to us, of making Himself susceptible to sorrow, familiar with temptation, and vulnerable to sin’s disruptive power, in order to cancel its claim.” He has not only invaded our mess—He has conquered it!

A Savior who isn’t intimidated by the mess will rescue you from any and every maddening situation. He will also rescue you from yourself this Christmas. Think about that as you seek to abide in Him this week.

PRAYER

Lord Jesus, thank you for invading our mess. You are not a distant Messiah, but one who is very near, deeply familiar with our struggle… our pain… and our despair. You are here. You are holy. You are awesome in power. And You are bigger than all of this. You want to rescue us again this Christmas. Save us from those feelings of being left to ourselves in all the madness. Let that revelation bring the joy back into Christmas—the happy back into the holidays. In Your name, Amen.

Questions for Reflection and/or Family Discussion:

  1. What kind of madness have you witnessed during the holiday season? Why do people seem to lose it this time of year?
  2. Why do you think people are so stressed to make Christmas perfect?
  3. What is the significance of the name Immanuel? Why do you think God wanted that in the narrative of Christ’s birth?
  4. What is it that makes people feel they need to get it all together before coming to God?
  5. In what ways can God rescue you from yourself this Christmas?

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Jesus Knows What He is Riding Into

Text: Matthew 21:1-11

“Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” —Luke 19:38

Have you ever been guilty of misinterpreting a situation? How many times have you said to yourself: If only I had known then what I know now? The old saying “hindsight is always 20/20” certainly has relevance in our lives, as it did for the disciples when Jesus came riding into Jerusalem during his triumphal entry (John 12:16).

Palm Sunday is the day we observe that triumphal entry. In the Christian tradition, Palm Sunday serves as a preparation of one’s heart for the agony of Jesus’ passion and the joy of His resurrection. It’s the beginning of Passion Week (Holy Week)—that fateful week in which Jesus entered the holy city to face his cross. Here our Lord would drink the cup of suffering. By the end of the week, he would be betrayed, arrested, tortured, and crucified. His followers would be confused, disoriented, and scattered. But not this day…

This day, riding on a donkey, Jesus entered the city and is greeted by ecstatic crowds waving palm branches in celebratory honor. The adulation! The applause! The political rallying! They loved him on this day but were suddenly ready to kill him by Thursday! How fickle this crowd would prove to be. Within a few days, many of those same voices shouting “Hosanna” would turn to raging howls of “Crucify him! Crucify him!” (Luke 23:21)

Momentarily, while the crowds are enamored with Jesus, the disciples are probably feeling pretty good. It seems like everything is falling into place for a new earthly kingdom to emerge. Jerusalem is welcoming their king. The people are anticipating a Messiah who will rescue them politically and free them from societal oppression—to overthrow the Roman Empire and reestablish Israel’s power in the world. But God is up to something so much bigger.

Jesus is about to turn the whole system upside down.

He rides in on a lowly donkey. Now a donkey is hardly the stuff of a royal motorcade. Yet some 500 years prior to Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem, the prophet Zechariah had already prophesied this event would take place precisely in this fashion (Zechariah 9:9), adding to over 300 other Old Testament prophecies Jesus fulfilled.

In the ancient Biblical world, a leader rode on a horse to declare war, but on a donkey to signify peace. Jesus didn’t come with violence. He didn’t come with bloodshed. He didn’t come with hostility. He came in humility and servitude—to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). He didn’t take life; he gave up his own life to save the world.

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. —John 15:13

Once the crowds saw no more political capital in Jesus, they turned on him overnight. But Jesus knew what he was riding into. He came to suffer and die for the sins of the world. By triumphing over the grave, the risen King of glory has established a kingdom that is not of this world—but a Kingdom that has conquered this world!

Sometimes God’s plans don’t make sense in the moment. His infinite ways can never be constrained by our finite understanding—though He can certainly be trusted.

Jesus knows full well what he is riding into in your life. He knows the hurt, the loneliness, the grief, the betrayal, the anger, the doubt, the despair, the exhaustion, the weariness, and the constant struggle. He knows all the madness. Yet your King lives, beloved—and he will indeed triumph over every last bit of it. Think about that as you seek to abide in Him this week.

PRAYER

King Jesus, I worship you! You didn’t enter your holy city on the back of an intimidating warhorse, but humbly on a lowly donkey. You knew what you were riding into—the hostility of a lethal multitude—yet you came in peace. You died for my sin; you conquered the grave and disarmed the power of death that holy week. You laid down your life to save mine. You are worthy of my praise! I will sing of your goodness and continue to declare your deeds to the next generation. Your kingdom come! Your will be done, here on earth as it is in heaven. In Your name, Amen.

Questions for Reflection and/or Family Discussion:

  1. Can you share a time you couldn’t figure out what God was doing in your life, only to understand more clearly later?
  2. What strikes you most about the imagery of Jesus riding in on a donkey?
  3. If Jesus were to ride into Washington, D.C., on a donkey today, what do you think the headlines would read?
  4. What kind of reaction do you think the religious leaders had during Christ’s triumphal entry? (John 12:19) Why do you imagine they were so threatened by Jesus?
  5. Jesus knows full well what he is riding into in your life, and he’s not the least bit intimidated by any of the drama. How can you find rest in that this week?

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A Super Bowl Underdog

Text: 2 Corinthians 12:1-10

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Nick Foles will be the man at the helm for the Philadelphia Eagles when they take on the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII. The backup quarterback, who replaced Carson Wentz following a season-ending knee injury, has played an unlikely role in getting to football’s grandest stage.

Foles was drafted in 2012 and burst onto the NFL scene with one of the greatest passing seasons in Eagles history. Then after being traded a couple of times over the next few years, it seemed that his NFL career was going in the wrong direction. In the summer of 2017, Foles spoke about how discouragement nearly led him to give up on the game. “I wanted to retire from the NFL, and I really struggled,” he said. “I couldn’t pick up a football for about eight months. I had no love for the game, and it was tough.”

It was a time of prayer and daily communion with God that reinvigorated his passion for the sport. Foles shared that God was bringing him down to his knees. He felt the Lord was saying, “Just take a step of faith. You’re either going to stop playing the game of football and you’re going to go onto a different area of your life and I’m going to be with you, I’m going to be the most important thing in your life, or you’re going to step back into football and you’re going to continue to play and I’m going to be with you every step of the way and you’re going to play to glorify me.”

It was 2 Corinthians 12:9 that graced him in his decision to return to the NFL:

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

After winning the NFC Conference Championship, Foles was interviewed three times: on the field, on the podium while receiving the trophy, and then in a postgame press conference. Each time, he paused and recognized that he would not have been there without his faith: “Words can’t describe what I feel right now. All glory belongs to God. I’m grateful and humbled to be part of this team.”

I imagine it will be a surreal moment when Nick Foles steps onto the field tonight in Minneapolis, knowing that none of this would be a reality had God not granted him the strength to carry on in weakness.

We all experience times of weakness—times when it feels like we just can’t go on. The will to overcome appears to be lost. It might even look like our best days are behind us. Our passion fades. Our love for the game of life and its purpose grows faint. Those moments are real to us all, not just NFL quarterbacks.

You might find yourself in one of those seasons right now. Maybe you feel weak or powerless about your circumstances. It might also be tempting to see your weakness as a liability that disqualifies you before God. But the truth is, your weakness is an asset to God. It’s the place where He can display His power and sufficiency in ways that would be impossible to rob Him of His glory—that place where “only-God” breakthroughs happen.

Paul pleaded three times for his weakness to be taken away. Then he learned the spiritual art of letting his life become a canvas for God to magnify Himself through weakness. The display resulted in something Paul described as “perfect.” The Greek word is teleioō, meaning to make complete, to accomplish, to bring to the desired end, or to reach a goal. It refers to the process or action of overcoming an imperfect or incomplete state with a more perfect or complete one.

So the next time you feel overwhelmed, helpless, or utterly inadequate, you are in a great place to hear Jesus say, I am all the grace you need—grace that is unmistakably completing and fulfilling something favorable in you.

PRAYER

Heavenly Father, help me to know that your grace is sufficient in every weakness. This sufficiency doesn’t mean just barely enough, but profusely more than enough for whatever I face. In times of powerlessness, may I come to see the power of Christ resting upon me. In the fellowship of the Holy Spirit may I also say, “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Questions for Reflection and/or Family Discussion:

  1. Why do we love underdog stories? Have you ever played the role of an underdog?
  2. In 2 Corinthians 12:1-10, what was the focus of Paul’s boasting?
  3. When was the last time you pleaded desperately with God? What was the outcome?
  4. In what ways has Christ’s power been made perfect in your weaknesses?
  5. How can you boast in Christ’s sufficiency this week?

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St. Patrick’s Day: Reclaiming Patrick the Missionary

The factual accounts of Patrick, missionary to Ireland, are even more compelling than the folklore. Telling the true story of Patrick offers an inspiring saga of grace, mercy, and world-changing missionary work.

During a time when the beautiful island was shrouded in terrible darkness, Patrick lit a fire in pagan 5th century Ireland, ushering Christianity into the country. Warlords and druids ruled the land. But across the sea in Britain, a teenager was poised to bring this nation to God.

From Slave to Missionary

As a teenager Patrick was kidnapped, taken from his home in southern Britain, and sold into slavery on the island of Ireland. He spent six years tending his master’s flocks on the slopes of a Mountain. Patrick recounts his time as a slave in his memoir entitled The Confession: “I prayed a hundred times in the day and almost as many at night,” he said. It was through those sufferings that he came to know Christ and be identified with Him. He converted to Christianity and earned a reputation as a fervent evangelist.

In the dark of the night Patrick escaped his bonds and traveled 200 miles cross-country to the west coast. He found a ship ready to sail, but was refused passage. After a desperate prayer, he was allowed aboard. Patrick eventually returned to his home and family. His experience of God’s grace and provision solidified his faith. He began to study for the ministry.

God spoke to Patrick in his dreams and told him that he would return to Ireland and serve as a missionary to the people who had kept him in bondage. One night he had a dream. There was a man who came from Ireland with a whole bunch of letters. He opened up one of the letters and it said “The Voice of the Irish.” And then he heard a voice coming out of this letter that said, “Holy boy, please return to us. We need you.”

Patrick struggled in his soul. Could he return to Ireland and minister to the same people who had enslaved him? Once again, he turned to God in prayer and felt compelled to return. He set sail in a small ship as a missionary to Ireland. After Patrick landed at the mouth of the Slaney River and set foot on this shore, it was said: “a new era dawned on this island.”

He did not return with malice in his heart, but as a missionary eager to convert the Irish. Patrick came to face and help his former enemies who had enslaved him. He engaged the chieftains and their druid priests and proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus Christ, serving them and doing them a great favor. He used a shamrock as an object lesson to illustrate the central teaching of the holy trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit).

Patrick served in regions of Ireland where outsiders had never traveled. While roaming through Ireland he preached to pagans and also instructed Christian believers. Patrick trained Irish helpers and ordained native clergy. He was bringing a new way of life to a violent, war-oriented pagan culture. His work was both groundbreaking and Christ-honoring.

In 432 A.D., Patrick built a church on the site of the present day St. Patrick’s Memorial Church in Saul—the first ever Christian church in all of Ireland. It’s considered the cradle of Irish Christianity. Patrick’s ministry lasted 29 years. He baptized over 120,000 Irishmen and planted 300 churches.

Discipleship Comes With a Cost

Rev. Robert Eames said, “I honestly feel that what Patrick taught Ireland was that there is a cost to discipleship, but it’s a cost worth paying. And I believe, to bring this right up to date, the church of St. Patrick must be constantly saying to people, ‘Discipleship demands of you, but it’s a cost that Christ will help you to pay.’”

“Daily I expect to be murdered or betrayed or reduced to slavery if the occasion arises,” Patrick wrote while serving in Ireland. “But I fear nothing, because of the promises of heaven.”

In fifth-century Ireland women were a commodity. Selling a daughter or arranging a politically strategic marriage was common and advantageous to a family. Patrick upset the social order by teaching women they had a choice in Christ. As God converted these women to Christianity, some became full-time servants of Christ in the face of strong family opposition. Patrick told women they could be “virgins for Christ” by remaining chaste. This newfound control was appealing to many women, but it angered many men who believed Patrick was taking away their prized possessions.

At the time many scholars regarded Ireland as the end of the earth, or at least the edge of the inhabitable portion of earth. The collapsing Roman Empire supported many beliefs that civilized society was drawing to a close. Politicians and philosophers viewed Ireland as barbaric and untamable. Many Christians did not believe the Irish were worthy of being saved. At that point in history, Patrick truly served as a pioneering missionary to a forgotten people.

Patrick advocated learning among Christians. He promoted the ascetic life and monasticism. The Irish culture did not place great value on literacy or education. Patrick, however, promoted studying the Scriptures as well as reading books written by fathers of the faith.

Recovering the True Patrick

Patrick entered an Ireland full of paganism and idol worship. But just a few short decades after Patrick arrived, a healthy, Christ-honoring church was thriving. The Irish church was so strong that in the centuries to come it would send missionaries to evangelize much of continental Europe. Patrick’s legacy lives on through the countless spiritual grandchildren he left to continue his work.

Patrick lived in a way that brought honor to God. His devotion and resolute obedience offer examples for all followers of Christ. Patrick stood in the face of great challenges and did not falter. His service, his life, and his unwavering commitment to spreading the gospel of Christ are as commendable today as they were in the fifth century.

Patrick wrote a poem titled “The Breastplate,” in which he wrote:

“Christ be within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ inquired, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.”

We as Christians have allowed the modern, secular customs of St. Patrick’s Day to steal away one of the greatest missionaries in Christian history and reduce his memory to leprechauns, green beer, and fictional tales. Let’s take back our beloved servant of Christ and share God’s glory achieved during the life of Patrick the missionary to Ireland. Let’s share the true legacy of this great Christian evangelist.

How To Know God: Discover a Personal Relationship with Jesus Christ