Friday, December 31, 2010

A Reflection on Faithfulness

New Year's Eve brings out the introvert in me more than any other day, I think. I'm not a huge party person to begin with, but New Year's Eve is the last day of the year I would want to party on. For me, it's a time of solemn reflection, thankfulness, and preparation.

On the whole, 2010 was rather uneventful for me. It was definitely an inbetween year. Nothing stands out as a huge landmark experience, at least compared to previous years. There was a whole lot of just normal life. School, work, family, church. In some ways, it's been a really hard year. It was much harder than I expected transitioning home from Semester. But it has also been a good year. It hasn't been exciting, but it has been good. Though it's hard to see along the way, I know I've grown a lot this year. My heart is in a much better place than it was last December. And I thank God for that! It is only by His grace.

If I had to pick a word to describe this year, it would be faithfulness. Again and again, I have seen the faithfulness of God. He has blessed me abundantly, and I am so grateful. I think this year was also about me learning what it is to be faithful. The vast majority of life is not about the beauty of the mountaintops, but being faithful in the valleys. Though the valleys are not always the most pleasant places to be, they make the mountains what they are. And for that I am grateful.

I've been thinking a lot the past month about what Stonestreet talked about in his last lectures at Semester. A lot of his material about going home well applies again to me as I look at beginning a new year well. I need to ponder on my loves, loyalties, longings, labors, and liturgies. I need to create space and schedule time for the things that really matter.

So here's to a new year. I have no idea what I'll be doing this time next year, but one thing remains sure: the faithfulness of God. He is good. And that's all that matters.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I have a dream...

I had a weird dream last night. It was definitely a dream, because there were some bizarre things about it, but it was very realistic in a lot of ways. I remember it very vividly, more so than any other dream I've had.

I was speaking in the sanctuary of our church. I'm pretty sure it was at chapel - it seemed like they were CCA kids - but it also had some elements of youth (the youth pastor's wife was speaking right before me) and YIM tour. I'm not exactly sure who I was speaking to - these were the dream-like elements I'm fuzzy on.

What is really clear though, is what I said to the audience. I had three main points, which are somewhat connected but not exactly - yet I remember smoothly transitioning between each point. While it's possible I might need to share these points with some one or some group in the future, right now I need to preach them to myself.

Enter the Great Conversation
- not just our generation and our issues
- realize the great wealth of church history and tradition
- read old books!
- interact with older, wiser people

Journal
- record what God has done
- set up standing stones
- record and track progress of personal growth

Doubt Well (from Ben Williams)
- freedom to question and doubt
- don't be a skeptic
- terrible two year old perpetually asking "why?"
- seek the truth, not just questions
- doubt in community
- rely on those who have asked questions before you
- be real and accountable with people
- realize that like love, trust is often not an emotion - it is a decision and act of the will

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Leaving Part Two

I left Summit Semester and Snow Wolf Lodge for the second time today. It was much smoother than last year's departure. Saying goodbye to the staff and the lone remaining student wasn't fun, but it wasn't anything like the near despair of last year.

Being back at SWL was slightly overwhelming at first. There are so many memories that I will forever associate with a particular group of 27 students I call my Semester family. But it was also good to be with the class of 2010 and get to know them briefly. They are (were?) a great class, and I pray they transition well back into the real world.

It's possible that I may have soaked in more of this year's graduation than I did last year. Last year, I was so obsessed with getting the slide show video done that I didn't focus on much else for the last few days. Graduation was filled with high highs and low lows with the success of the video and the goodbyes that quickly followed.

This year was different. I had a week to process all the emotions of leaving, this time with a year of separation. In many ways, I want to treat this as a second chance to implement the lessons of Semester into everyday life in practical ways, such as intentionally making time for relationships, scheduling my time, and limiting media.

It was so good to again be at Snow Wolf Lodge and Summit Semester. It was different going back, kind of like Narnia. It will always be different, but it will be good. And like Narnia, trips to Snow Wolf Lodge are important in of themselves, but ultimately, the real test is how life is lived in the real world. It seems simple enough, but it much harder to live.

May I study well, live well, love well, and be faithful, for Christ and His Kingdom.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Summit Semester Take Two

I don't have the words for an eloquent post. I've already tried twice. But I do have a lot of raw emotion I want to process here. So here are some random thoughts.

  • I'm back at Summit Semester, visiting for a week. It's kind of weird. Good, but oh so different. And yet, it's so similar at the exact same time.

  • One year ago today, I pulled away from Snow Wolf Lodge, tears streaming down my cheeks. Today, I'm hanging out with the awesome class of 2010, watching them process all of the emotions that come with their graduation week.

  • Time is a funny thing. In some ways, Semester feels like it was a lifetime ago, almost like a dream. In other ways, it seems like it was just yesterday.

  • I'm glad to be back at Snow Wolf Lodge, even without all the people my memories are associated with. I've spent a good deal of time just staring at the stars. I haven't really seen those in a year. There is peace, stillness, quietness that I haven't heard in a long time.

  • As much as I love the geographic location of Snow Wolf Lodge, it's really the people that make Summit Semester. I miss the community of 2009. This morning I again hugged friends goodbye as they left to return to school after a whirlwind roadtrip. I'm grateful for the opportunity to linger a few days longer, but I wasn't prepared for how very different it feels with new nametags on the doors and different faces in the halls.

  • That being said, I'm glad to get to know this class of 2010 at least a little bit. There are really great kids here. In some ways, nothing has changed. Some thirty young people have again gathered, absorbing all the knowledge their minds can hold, joyfully enjoying friendships, and asking the hardest questions of life. I've already had several great conversations, and I'm looking forward to more in the days to come.

  • As I walked the road and looked at the stars the first evening we arrived, I was struck by something very significant. I'm not the same person that walked down this road a year ago. I distinctly remember one particular walk down that road with Naomi as I wrestled to understand what it means to trust God. A year later, the answers to "what's next" aren't any closer. But my heart is at peace. I can say with confidence that my God is good, and I can and will trust Him when I don't know where we're going.

  • I can't express the impact Summit Semester made on my life. I learned so much and experienced a lot of growth. So I was almost surprised when God showed me something as I walked along the road. I've grown more in Carrollton this past year than I did at Semester. I guess in some ways that shouldn't be a surprise, but I wasn't expecting to discover that. This past year has been hard, in many ways. But having come to a milestone of this season of my life, I can look back and see growth that definitely wasn't here when I left SWL. (I've wrestled to trust God and know God this year, and I have grown in those areas. I might add that I haven't grown nearly enough, but that's part of life. When God is infinite and I am not, there is always more to learn.)

  • Finally, I random came across a quote in the church bulletin from this morning that resonated with all of this. Jeff Daley, the pastor at Grace Church in Pagosa for many years, recently moved to a different town, and the church here is in a time of transition as they look for a pastor. In the bulletin they printed: "Please remember Pastor Jeff's wise departing words for us: 'What happens to us while we are waiting is more important than what we are waiting for.'"

  • I have no idea "what I'm waiting for." But that's not the point. The point is that God has a plan, and His plan is good, because He is good. And He is working out His plan in me, even when it's hard or it seems like I'm stuck or I'm just frustrated and confused. He isn't wasting the "waiting times" of my life. Rather, it is through these very times that He is forming and transforming me into who He is calling me to be.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Dying Well

So after a brief hiatus, I'm kind of picking up where I left off. It's All Saints Day. In addition to having "For All the Saints" running through my head, I've been thinking about the cloud of witnesses that surrounds us. Really, more like one person in particular.

My grandmother taught me how to die. Now, she taught me many other things through her words and example. But she truly showed me what it means to die well.

Nanny, as all the grandkids called her, was in excellent health until the last few years of her life. These were very painful as she suffered severe osteoporosis and a host of other issues. Yet, as attested by her family and friends, she never complained. She always fought to regain her strength and be there for us, even as she experienced strenuous medical issues. After recovering from multiple falls, gall stones, and pancreatitis, she earned the nickname Energizer Bunny.

In her final months, she told us several times that she longed to go Home. She was ready to be with Jesus. But even still, she fought to live to the fullest in every moment she was given.

A few days before she died, my uncles were in her hospital room discussing sports. Nanny was fading, often in and out of consciousness and lucidness at that point. Yet she was well aware of one thing. "The Rangers lost. Lauren won't be happy." For a couple years, the majority of my summer nights were spent with Mom and Nanny, hanging out at her apartment, watching the Rangers, talking about anything and everything, and helping Nanny with her evening routine.

Tonight, the Rangers lost game five of the World Series, and I can't say I'm happy. But there are so many bigger things in life, matters of life and death, matters of eternity. Nanny lived out what it meant to trust God, even when life was living hell. She had a confident faith and a gracious strength. She never quit fighting, even to her very last days. On her 88th birthday, her whole family gathered in her hospital room. She told each one of us that she loved us and was proud of us. Two days later, God took her Home, and I'm sure she heard the words, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

May I strive for that, as she did, every day of my life, and may I live and die well, to the glory of God.

O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
All are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

O may Thy soldiers, faithful, true and bold,
Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,
And win with them the victor’s crown of gold.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
And hearts are brave, again, and arms are strong.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Longing for the Fullness of the Kingdom

My heart has been heavy the past couple of days. The elementary principle at my old high school is on a ventilator in ICU. A freak incident at a football game - heatstroke leading to a internal temp of 107 - and his cognitive brain function may never recover, save an act of God.

There are times when I long so much for God's Kingdom that it almost hurts. We see part of it now - the Already. We know what God can do - heal and raise the dead to life - but we know that we don't always experience this in a fallen world. We long for the Not Yet - the second coming of Christ, when Death and all his friends will finally be destroyed, when all things will be made new. All nations and tribes and tongues will gather before the throne of God and sing His praises forever. The world will be how it's meant to be, how we long for it to be, because we will continually be in the presence of God.

Understanding the Christian worldview is so critical here. We have to understand that we live in God's Kingdom of the Now and the Not Yet. We still live in a fallen world, and because of what Jesus has already done, we're called to join Him in actively fighting evil. Yet we know evil and death and Satan ultimately won't be defeated until Jesus returns. We long for the Kingdom that is Not Yet fully here.

But we know the fullness of the Kingdom will come! All nations will stand before the throne of God and worship! God will fulfill His promise.

Of all the things I've learned from Perspectives, this one little snippet from Bryan Padgett has kept going through my head:

In the darkest night of my soul, I know this. I follow a God who is faithful to His promises and this is NOT where The Story ends! It may be where my story ends... but God will fulfill His promise.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Martyrs and Matters of Life and Death - Part 1

The Christian faith is just as much about death as it is life.

Yet, most American Christians have no idea what a good death is. Most of them probably think that's an oxymoron.

This is one of those 'tough questions that no one else is asking' that Summit Ministries is willing to address. And I'm grateful. At the Summit student conference this summer, one line that kept coming up was "Death is not the ultimate evil." One of the four major questions we ponder for three months at Summit Semester is "What is a good death, and what good is death?"

We have Life because of the Good Death - the death of the Son of God on a cross. And we are given this Life when we too die. I am commanded to daily pick up my cross and follow Jesus, for I am crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me.

We don't really understand this in the American Church today. I think there are a couple reasons why, and I'll address these in upcoming posts.
1. Our culture doesn't understand death.
2. The prosperity gospel completely skews what life, death, and success really are.
3. The American Church doesn't understand real discipleship.
4. While we need to discuss death, we are not called to cultivate a culture of death like Islam.

I don't have the references, but this definitely stuck out to me in class Monday night. In the 1800s, waves of missionaries went to Africa, even though they knew the terrible statistics. 90% of missionaries would be dead within two years of arriving in Africa. Rather than shipping their goods in trunks, they packed their belongings in their own coffins. And yet missionaries continued to come, and slowly the Gospel spread. Ralph Winter, founder of the US Center for World Missions, commented that he didn't think his generation had the guts to do that. And if his generation didn't, mine certainly doesn't.

I'm not trying to be morbid or masochistic here, but this is not an issue that can simply be ignored. To quote Jim Elliot, martyred by the Auca/Huaorani tribe in Ecuador, "He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose."

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Hope and Faithfulness

Lamentations 3

21 Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:

22 Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.

23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

24 I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him."

25 The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;

26 it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the LORD.

This passage comes in the middle of Lamentations, a book chronicling destruction like I can't even fathom. The dreams of a nation are dying with their city. And yet, God is good. God is faithful.

This passage makes my own doubt, fear, and questioning seem all the more insignificant. God will accomplish His purposes, even when all my expectations come crumbling to the ground, just as they did for Israel. God is faithful, and this is all that matters.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Hope In "Telling the World Its Own Story"

Our theme for this week is hope. There are times I desperately need to be reminded of the hope and triumph of the Gospel, and this article has become one of my favorite resources.

A couple of excerpts from "Telling the World Its Own Story" by Richard John Neuhaus:

The story of God's creating love; His preparing redemption for the world; His calling a chosen people and from this people raising up a Redeemer, the Messiah; His establishing an Apostolic community of faith, the Church, that would then reach out through all times and all places and all languages and cultures. This story bearing the promise of the telos — of the end — the destiny of the Cosmos itself and God's loving purposes for the world that He so loved that He gave His only begotten Son. This is the story of the world.

It is the story of everybody in the world. Our job is to alert people to their own story and to help them understand that everything that goes on in this world, all the dimensions of human activity — if they are rightfully ordered, if they are rightfully understood — are sacred, for they are all endowed with the presence of the God of creating and redeeming love who continues to be disposed to His creation, of which He once said, "Behold it is very good." So also He invites a return to that goodness and a fulfillment of that goodness in Jesus Christ.

We have to share God's love for the world. To have a Christian world view is to love the world.



All of us who have contended to be Christian disciples, to be faithful, know times in which we are tempted to despair and to feel that we are a part not only of a minority enterprise but a failing and perhaps definitively failed enterprise. But we have not the right to despair, for despair is a sin. And finally we have not the reason to despair, quite simply because Christ has risen. And this is the strength of a Christian world view, the strength of the Christian way of telling the story of the world: it has no illusions about it. All the other stories are built upon delusions, vain dreams, and utopias.



Hope is a virtue of having looked unblinkingly into all the reasons for despair, into all of the reasons that would seem to falsify hope, and to say, "Nonetheless Christ is Lord. Nonetheless this is the story of the world. Nonetheless this is a story to which I will surrender myself day by day." Not simply on one altar call, but as the entirety of one's life, in which every day is a laying of your life on the altar of the Lord Jesus Christ being offered up in perfect sacrifice to the Father.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Kingdom of Hope

In class tonight, we talked about hope and the Kingdom of God. It wasn't mind blowing like last week's lesson, but it was a good class.

The Kingdom is obviously a major theme throughout Scripture. It's one of the things we focused on at Summit Semester. However, it's definitely something I still need mull over. It's a pretty abstract concept, at least in my head. However, two things are clear to me. It is both a physical and spiritual Kingdom. The Kingdom is in a state of being already here and not yet fully arrived. Beyond that, I'm still figuring out what it actually looks like in everyday life.

We live in a dark and fallen world, yet our response should be hope. Tom defined hope as a present belief rooted in the past but fulfilled in the future. It is something we cling to now, because we know God is faithful based on redemptive history and personal experience, knowing that He will fulfill His promises. It's a confidence that God is going to do everything He has promised, even when we are surrounded by nothing but darkness.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. - Romans 15:13

Sunday, September 12, 2010

On Blessings

"Blessing is a rich biblical notion that has been rather neglected in our society. Blessing in the Bible refers to God's characteristically generous and abundant giving of all good to his creatures and his continual renewal of the abundance of created life. Blessing is God's provision for human flourishing. But it is also relational: to be blessed by God is not only to know God's good gifts but to know God himself in his generous giving. Because blessing is relational, the movement of the blessing is a movement that goes out from God and returns to him. God's blessing of people overflows in their blessing of others, and, those who experience blessing from God in turn bless God, which means that they give all that creatures really can give to God: thanksgiving and praise." - Richard Bauckham, "The Story of Blessing: Prevailing Over Curse"


I think one of the major problems with the American Church is that we don't understand this concept of blessing. God blesses us so that we may bless others, and ultimately, so He will receive the glory due His Name.

However, we tend to want the blessings (both material and spiritual) without the relational quality. We value the gifts over the Giver, and we have no desire to share these gifts with others precisely because we do not know the heart of the Giver.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Remembering

It's so easy to forget. We like to think we won't. We promise we won't. But we do. Whether it's simply human nature or part of our fallen nature, we forget.

God is well aware of this. In Deuteronomy, which is basically one big speech by Moses summing up the past forty years before they enter the promise land, God commands them to remember 14 times. Remember what it was like in Egypt, and remember what I have done. Remember. Remember and obey. Remember and live.

Every now and then, we do remember. A certain anniversary or date forces us to take note and pay attention, but often not for long. For most of us, life as normal resumes as soon as the formalities are over. Church attendance rose dramatically after 9/11...for all of three weeks. And then most of the country went back to life as normal.

We're given certain opportunities in life to remember. Some come in joyous occasions. Perhaps though we more often remember when we don't want to remember. As Lewis said, "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world" (The Problem of Pain, 1940).

Yes, we must remember and honor those who have gone before us, those whose lives were taken and those who gave their lives to defend others.

But ultimately, we must remember Christ and what He did upon the cross and at the resurrection to redeem the world. We must remember this and live because of it - because of His name, because of His glory.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Psalm 67

May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face shine upon us


I've heard this verse many, many times, in many church services and on many wall plaques.

What you rarely hear is the next verse.

that your ways may be known on earth,
your salvation among all nations.


Huh?

The craziness doesn't end there. It keeps going.

3 May the peoples praise you, O God;
may all the peoples praise you.

4 May the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you rule the peoples justly
and guide the nations of the earth.
Selah

5 May the peoples praise you, O God;
may all the peoples praise you.

6 Then the land will yield its harvest,
and God, our God, will bless us.

7 God will bless us,
and all the ends of the earth will fear him.


You mean God's blessing isn't just about us? Since when? Genesis 12? What?

1 The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you.

2 "I will make you into a great nation
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.

3 I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you."


Walter Kaiser points out that both these passages have the same format - three promises of blessing and a conditional requirement - bless the nations. God's blessing is never just about us. It is always bigger than that.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Centripetal/Centrifugal

Not gonna lie, I had to look up the spelling for the title words. There's a reason I'm not a physicist...or an English teacher, I guess. Anyways, what do opposing forces have to do with missions?

I had never heard this concept explained this way, but it makes a ton of sense when I think about it.

In the Old Testament, movement towards God was centripetal - everyone moved to a central location. In God's infinite wisdom, this central location was the temple, located in Jerusalem, which really is the center of the Old World. God placed His people at the conjuncture of three continents, which gave them unique access to the trade routes and all the kingdoms of the world. In the Old Testament, everyone who worshipped Yahweh, Jewish or foreign, came to Jerusalem to the the temple.

However, we see a very different pattern emerging at the command of Jesus and throughout the book of Acts. God uses the phenomenon of people coming to the temple from all over the world to start His Church at Pentecost, but this is not the norm. The 3000 people that were saved at Pentecost, and the thousands more who heard the Gospel in their own language, take this good news home with them. Jesus commands the disciples to take the Gospel to Jerusalem AND Judea and Samaria AND to the ends of the earth. The movement is now centrifugal - moving away from the center to everywhere else.

Likewise today, our goal should not be to get people to come to a church building at a particular time. Our goal should be to take the Gospel with us into the world, wherever we go. We should be meeting people where they are, rather than asking them to go out of their way to find God. Ultimately, this isn't about we need to take more missions trip, but that every moment of my day should be focused on God and His glory and how I am to reflect that glory to a lost and dying world. The normal everyday encounters I have should cease to be just that - as I begin to see each encounter as an opportunity from God to share His glory.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Light Bulb!

I get it. I think I'm finally starting to get it.

For the past two years, I've known without a shadow of a doubt that I am called to mobilization - training the Church to be involved in God's global purpose for the sake of the Unreached, those who don't have access to the Gospel.

For at least the past year, I've had this acute inner struggle, wrestling with the fact that God has not called everyone to reach the Unreached. I came to grips with this fact at Semester, realizing that God calls us to different things. I'm not called to fix all the problems of America and reach the Unreached, but God will accomplish all His purposes, working through each member of the Body.

Not gonna lie, I've still been frustrated (to varying degrees) with a lot of people. I've been frustrated with the people and ministries that are focused only on reviving America. I've been frustrated with the people who do missions, but in places that already are reached with the Gospel and having a multiplying church. I've been frustrated with God, wondering why He keeps calling people to places that already have the Gospel.

(I’m very aware there isn’t (or shouldn’t be) any sacred/secular divide. The scope of redemption is the scope of creation, and therefore we are called to be agents of redemption in every area of life. At the same time, it seems we should have a particular urgency in taking the Gospel to those who have no access to it. But I digress.)

However, I'm seeing now that my whole vision and focus has been misplaced, therefore my whole perspective has been skewed. In other words, while pursuing good work for God, I've been pursuing idolatry.

My primary focus had been on the secondary motivation of missions - the people. Yeah, there are 1.7 billion who have never heard the name of Jesus. Yeah, there are 6500 people groups that are completely unreached with the Gospel. Yeah, there are tens of thousands of kids who died today because of completely preventable causes, like starvation and unclean water. Yeah, there are billions of people who are lost and dying without knowing Jesus.

BUT THAT'S NOT THE POINT!

The point is this: God's glory!

I've heard that all my life. I've been taught that in a dozen different ways by all the people who have influenced my life. Somehow I've never REALLY understood it until now. Maybe I haven't really understood what it means to "glorify God." Sure, I know the catechism. The chief end of man is to glorify God and/by enjoy/ing Him forever.

It's all about God's glory! The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the seas! (Habakkuk 2:14) God's glory is the primary motivation for missions, for everything we do!

Every Christian has the same calling: to know Christ, and out of this relationship and a passion for His Name, show His glory to the world. Love God and because of that, love people.

If people were the main motivation, then my frustration with those not going to the Unreached would be rightly founded. But they're not, and it's not. God's glory is the motivation, and this calling unifies us as the Body of Christ, even though we each live this out in a different way. Therefore the person who goes into American politics is just as valid in his ministry as the person who goes to people who have never heard the name of Jesus (assuming both are obeying and glorifying God). It's not about location, going somewhere else or staying here! It's about knowing God, and out of that passion for His Name, faithfully fulfilling God's global purposes wherever you happen to be!

To be sure, God’s purposes are global. From Genesis 12 onward, we see that God blesses His people that they might bless all the nations of the earth. (Paul declares that this is the Gospel in Galatians 3:8.) Everything God does in redemptive history is for the glory of His Name, that all the nations might know Him (Ex. 9:16; I Sam. 17:46; Isa. 37:20, 49:6; Eze. 20:9; Dan. 9:15-9; Phil. 1:29; I Jn. 2:12). Ultimately, we know every tribe and tongue and nation will stand worshipping before the throne of God (Revelation 7:9).

Every Christian is commanded to be a part of this in some way. But it’s not about geography, where you live. It’s about obedience and submitting to the lordship of Christ. Whether I never leave Carrollton, Texas again, or I spend the rest of my days in Timbuktu, my calling remains the same as yours – to know and glorify God, that all the nations come to know His glory. We’ll live this out in different ways. God has given you a different focus (including location, vocation, passion, culture) than He has given me. But God will fulfill His global purpose, using each member of the Body for His glory.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Walking In Obedience

I was talking to another friend tonight about the whole called to go/stay issue. While I am very much called to the Unreached, as Paul was, I don't want to devalue in any way those who are called to stay. However, I think the vast majority of American Christians aren't called to stay home; they just stay by default. As a mobilizer, this is what I want to challenge. No, everyone does not need to go overseas, but everyone needs to know the role they are called to play in God's Kingdom.

I love the phrase used by some of my friends who mobilize Christians in Asia. "Millions will go; millions upon millions will stay; each one will know his role."

I'm coming to see that missions really isn't about location, whether you stay or go. It's about submitting to the Lordship of Christ. If I can look Jesus in the eye and tell Him, "I'm not going to Timbuktu, or China, or fill-in-the-blank," I don't have an issue with calling or location. I have an issue with lordship.

Obedience really is key here. If I am obeying God, He will direct me and position me and use me wherever I am on the planet. God will do the same with my friends, even if they have a different overarching calling than I do.

Seeking the face of God and walking in obedience with Him is essential. Where we walk is secondary.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Bible Stories

Evangelical Christianity has a huge problem with understanding Scripture in its proper context. Example A - any self help book or kitschy art in a Christian bookstore.

I think a lot of this is seen in how we approach teaching Bible stories to our children. In fact, we need to stop right there. Pick a random Sunday school class in any church in America, and chances are, while they can give you a myriad of "Bible stories," they have no idea how these stories fit together in one overarching meta-narrative or even that the Bible is one story.

How can we ever hope that these kids grow up with a Biblical worldview to be World Christians if they don't even understand the context and purpose of Scripture?

Here are just a couple examples of kids' popular Bible stories that we jerk completely out of context, both in the Biblical narrative of One Story and in the global context of Scripture. Often we look at Israel, and we equate God blessing Israel with God blessing me. To be sure, He blesses Israel, and He wants to bless us, BUT it is not for the reasons we think it is.

The Exodus

The Exodus is never just about Israel. Through the ten plagues, Yahweh is systematically destroying the Egyptian gods, ending with Pharaoh's own household. Yes, God rescues Israel, but it is much bigger than just Israel. Egypt is the world power at the time, and God displays His power that He might save Egyptians (a mixed multitude leaves with Israel - 12:38) and that the whole world will see His glory. God speaks to Pharaoh and tells him:

"But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my Name may be proclaimed in all the earth." Exodus 9:16


David and Goliath

This is perhaps the most famous Bible story of all time. Many popular books have been written about how you can face your giants if you have faith like David. While this may be true, it's not the point of the story. David boldly faces down Goliath with confidence that doesn't come from target practice, but knowing the power of the Living God.

This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the LORD saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give you into our hand." I Samuel 17:46-7


Daniel

The book of Daniel is a mixed bag. It has a couple really great Sunday school stories, and then some stuff that's hard to understand, so most people really pick and choose what they like here. The story of Rack, Shack, and Benny is one of the popular chapters, but almost everyone quits reading before the end of the story. The end is the best part: Nebuchadnezzar literally writes a decree to the entire world!

Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way." Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon. King Nebuchadnezzar to allpeoples, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you! It has seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me. How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation. Daniel 3:29-4:3


The same thing happens with Daniel and his lion den incident, but by now, the Kingdom of the Medes and the Persians has conquered Babylon and the rest of the world. So this time, it's King Darius who addressed the entire world!

Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: "Peace be multiplied to you. I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel, for he is the living God, enduring forever; his kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion shall be to the end. Daniel 6:25-6


Amen. As Habbukkuk 2:14 declares, "For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea"

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Go/Stay = Both/And

I was talking with a friend at lunch today about calling as it relates to going/staying. She feels called to minister to those who have heard the Gospel - or at least are in a culture familiar with the Gospel - and yet have rejected it or not truly understood it. While she supports cross-cultural missions, she is called to stay "home" (whatever that actually means...in this case, not going to a different people group).

While I support the vision God has given her and many other people I love and respect, I don't have that vision. My heart resonates with the probing question posed by Oswald Smith: Why should anyone hear the Gospel twice until everyone has heard it once? Of course, this isn't practical, nor should it be. Repeatedly being reminded of the beauty and power of the Gospel is critical to my sanctification. But my longing echoes that of Paul:

And thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else's foundation, but as it is written, "Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand." - Romans 15:20-21


In class this week, I heard this described as the difference between Petrine and Pauline mission. You could say Pauline mission is going where Christ isn't; Petrine mission is going/strengthening where Christ already is.

Paul is very much about frontier missions, going to the unreached and the unengaged, those who have no contact with the Gospel in their language and culture. Peter, though not excused from cross-cultural ministry, focuses on his own people group - the Jews. Though focused on "staying home," Peter still has important cross-cultural work. He is the first to take the Gospel to Gentiles - Cornelius and his household, and he certainly is interacting with different cultures as he ministers to the church in Rome.

Both are needed. The Church must preach the Gospel and make disciples in Jerusalem AND Judea and Samaria AND the ends of the earth. We're not given an option of Israel OR the world, or Israel and THEN the world. It's definitely a BOTH/AND calling. We need Peter and Paul. Peter and Paul need each other, and they need to support each other.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Protoevangelium

Genesis 3:15 - I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; He shall crush your head, and you shall bruise his heel.
Ironically, the first promise of the Gospel is spoken to Satan. The first promise of the Gospel is spoken as part of the serpent's curse, but it is humanity's hope.

Indeed, the Serpent does strike the heel of Jesus on the cross - but this was not his victory. It pleased God that Jesus might suffer (Isaiah 53) that He might triumph by the cross and ultimately, the resurrection. With His blood He "purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation" (Revelation 5:9).

The next few chapters of Genesis serve as introduction to the rest of the Story - the flood, Noah, and Babel. But the main body of The Story begins in Genesis 12 - when God calls Abram. The first three verses of Genesis 12 are critical to understanding everything that follows. In Galatians 3:8, Paul declares that these verses are the Gospel!

The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: "All nations will be blessed through you."

All nations will be blessed through you. This promise comes to Abraham, then to Isaac, and again to Jacob. We see three fulfillments of this promise throughout Scripture. The first is through Abraham's family, the children of Israel. The second fulfillment of this promise is through Jesus and all who become part His family through faith. We see the ultimate fulfillment at the end of age, when there will be "a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb," as Revelation 7:9 declares.

The Gospel is not about you or me. It never has been, nor will it ever be. We are redeemed that we might become agents of redemption, that everything affected by the curse of the Fall may be restored into right relationship with God.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Lordship, Not Location

Missions is not about location; it is about Lordship.

I had never heard this concept expressed so explicitly before Perspectives. For most of my life, I have understood missions in the roles of goers and senders. There are those who move geographically to spread the Gospel. Others send and support those who do to go, but they are called to stay at home personally.

However, missions ultimately is not about whether you stay or go; missions is about submitting to the Lordship of Christ completely. God often demands obedience before we know where we're going. This was the case with Abraham (Go to the land I will show you) and it certainly seems to be God's plan for me right now.

There are times I feel like I'm waiting in a cosmic game of Red Light/Green Light. It seems God likes the color red a whole lot right now. But I don't need to know where I'm going. Would I like to know where I'm going? Absolutely. But I don't need to know the plan. All I need to know, and I do know, is that God has a plan, and it is good, because He is good. It may not be particularly "safe" or line up with the timeline I have in my head, but that doesn't matter. What mattes is that I trust and obey and submit to the Lordship of Christ. He will give me the green lights as I need them, step by step.

It's easy enough to say this, sure. It's easy enough to know it in my head. But it's learning to actually live it out, to really trust God with all of my circumstances and His timing for the future that is difficult. It's something I've been struggling with for a while now - certainly the past year, and probably really the past three years. There are times this is all really frustrating, but in other instances, by the grace of God, I am slowly learning to trust Him with all of my being...

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Building Babel

"For His glory in global worship, God purposes to redeem a people from all peoples and rule a Kingdom over all kingdoms."

This is what God is doing all throughout Scripture, all throughout history. We see that God is a missionary God throughout the whole Bible. Contrary to popular belief, the Great Commission is not a single random verse that pops up as an afterthought. We see it, first revealed as the Cultural Mandate, from the very first verses of Genesis.

God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground. - Genesis 1:28

After the Fall and after the Flood, God gives the same command to Noah and his sons - twice (Genesis 9:1,7). We've now seen this commanded three times, and this brings us to the next major scene in the Story, the Tower of Babel.

There is an interesting dynamic at work here. The whole world speaks a single language, and there is, in essence, one culture. They decide to build a city, a tower, their own kingdom, rather than obeying the oft-emphasized command of God to take possession and fill the whole earth. "We may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth."

God intervenes. He confuses their language. "So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city." The last phrase just strikes me as funny. Perhaps it did to God, too. Here they've gone to all this trouble to build a massive zigguart or the like, to make a name for themselves so they won't have to obey God. Then he creates new languages and throws them all over the place. Construction screeches to a halt.

It's a nice Sunday school Bible story, but the conviction hits close to home in a couple of ways.

There have been many times in the past three years I've seen my plans crumble to pieces. I've often questioned why, with little response. But I'm beginning to see that in most, if not all of these situations, I was building my plans, my goals, my kingdom. Even if it was "work for God," it wasn't ultimately God's work, His call and plan for my life. Time and again, I've seen everything from career choices to small opportunities crash and be scattered to the four winds.

In some of these things, I've already begun to see God's redemption and creation of His plan in my life, and I find His plan is infinitely greater than my grandest dreams. In others, I don't really see why they weren't what God wanted, and I probably won't. That's not the point, though. The point of Babel is that God will accomplish what He commands, with or without my consent. I have to be willing to obey, regardless of the consequences it has on my plans.

I also felt convicted as a member of the American Church. We build beautiful huge buildings that sit vacant most of the week. We pour millions of dollars into programs that attract seekers and keep up with the latest technology. We don't invest heavily in the Global Church. We don't focus on obeying the command of Jesus to take the Gospel to all nations. We seem much more interested in building our own individual kingdoms. Is this true universally? No, of course not. But we have tremendous resources, more than enough to see the evangelization of every people group. Yet we don't.

The good news is this: God is actively working to redeem every culture and people that come out of the dispersion at Babel. People from every tribe and nation and tongue will stand and worship before the throne of God. The Lamb will receive the reward of His suffering.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A New Chapter

We started class with one question. What obsesses God and drives Him to the point of killing His own Son?

That's a loaded question if there ever was one. There's not a short answer, either. Actually, the answer is a journey encompassing all of human history, and we're in the middle of it now.

What is so incredible that it made God pleased to destroy His Son?

That's the question initiating this exploration. I don't claim to have all the answers or even begin to understand the ones I do know. But I want to find out. I want to know God, know His heart, His passions.

I'm taking a class called Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, and I'm blogging about it. The class is basically an intense missions study, three hours every week for fifteen weeks. The blog will be daily, now until the end of the year.

I'm blogging because I need to, for several reasons. One, God has called me to write. Two, writing is the way I process just about everything. Three, I have a ton of information to process - more than enough just from the weekly lectures, not to mention the textbook and assignments...and the books I'll be reading on my own. Four, I need to practice discipline in writing - both in the daily effort and in keeping posts brief. Five, I hope and pray this will be beneficial to someone else.

I may do the daily postings over at http://missionsmobilization.blogspot.com and post highlights and more random/personal stuff here occasionally. I'm not sure yet, we'll see...

I don't know how to express how excited I am about this chapter God is opening up. I'm excited I have to hear missions experts and read articles and study missions for the next several months. It just resonates deep within my core - this is what I was created for: to know and glorify God by being involved in seeing all peoples come to worship Him.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Hanging Tightly to God's Calling

Phil Vischer is one of my heroes. I admire him for many reasons, some of which I shared here. Through the painful trials of his life, God has showed him many things about what it really means to follow and obey God, and not inflate God's plans into his own desires.

Anyway, I came across this interview with Phil this week, and the closing paragraph really got my attention. Recently, I've been overwhelmed with the state of the world and what I'm supposed to do about it. But God hasn't asked me to fix the world. He hasn't even asked me to attempt that. What He has called me to do is pretty simple. Just live each day to glorify God. Trust God. Obey God. On a larger scale, ultimately I know I'm to USE MEDIA TO MOBILIZE MISSIONS. What does that look like? Well, that's what I'm finding out as I live, trust, obey.

"What I’ve learned to do is to remember very specifically what God has called me to do. It’s very easy for us to put other things onto that and the calling gets very specific over time; ‘He called me to tell stories, he called me to tell computer animated stories … with my own animation studio … in a really nice building’ and so it goes on. The same thing can happen in retailing; ‘he called me to serve the church ... in this neighbourhood … in this store … to those people … with this shelving and store layout’. But what did God actually tell you to do? Serve the church? Hang on to that tightly, hold everything else loosely." - Phil Vischer

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

My Life and Hebrews 12

I wrote this about two weeks ago, but I haven't had regular internet access until today.

In many ways, this reflects the journey I've been on the past three years. In many ways, it specifically reflects the experiences of this summer.


Stirred dust billows high
As the cross I shouldered long ago
Scrapes the desert sand.
Falling, I scream at the cloudless sky.
"Do you know how heavy this thing is?
Have you brought me into the wilderness to die?"

The silence is shattered.
Long awaited answers come,
Not as I had hoped
But as a slap in the face.
Yet I find a gentle embrace
Awakening truth, renewing reality.

"Yes, it is heavy. I know the burden well.
But you have not yet begun
To shed your blood in this fight!
It is my blood that stained your hands.
And it is my blood that stains your heart,
Making you righteous, whiter than snow.

"I have brought you to this wilderness
Yes, you must learn to die,
But this is for my glory and your life.
Do not despise this testing.
I discipline those I love.
Strengthen your knees and run well the race."

And now the silence is all mine.
I ponder the intimacy found in the desert,
Being given what I need
But never would have chosen.
Considering the joy of Him who endured,
I fix my eyes. I will trust. I will obey.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Grace Has Brought Me Safe Thus Far...

I was struck by something this week. In many ways, I'm exactly where I wanted to be four years ago. I'm a youth intern, living at home, working on school in Dallas. And yet I'm in a different world today than the one I anticipated four years ago. I'm in a completely different church, very different circumstances, and I pursuing a college path I never would have considered. To be honest, there are times this is still frustrating to me. It's not where I wanted to be. But it's EXACTLY where God wants me to be, and that is all that matters.

I'm so grateful that God gives me so many opportunities to trust Him. Many of them are not necessarily opportunities I would choose, except in this: I look back, and I see nothing but the faithfulness of God.

The past couple of weeks we've seen a transition in our church leadership that was initially very uncomfortable for me. It struck way too close to home, in that it was almost identical to the situation we experienced when our old church split apart. I was disappointed, worried, and, scared about it all - which really revealed my reluctance to trust God. I don't see the end of the situation yet, but God is so good. He's brought a new pastor who's amazing. I was privileged to sit and talk worship and missions and theology and denominations with him for almost an hour, and it was incredible. I have so many new things to think about. If only I could learn...I'm trying, and God is faithful to give me opportunities to struggle to trust Him.

God always works for His glory, which is always for our good.

That's ridiculous. Absolutely incredible. There are times when He is orchestrating events so far beyond me that I can't see even a hint of what He's doing, and I so quickly begin to question. But God is faithful. He is good. And He shows me this time and time again, in little matters and in things that are determining the course and direction of my life.

This is where I am right now. I know God has a plan, and it is good, because He is good. It may not be safe, but it is good. I'm at this intersection of knowing God's goodness and faithfulness, and really knowing and believing that I can trust Him. The hard part is truly living this out, walking day by day by faith, not by sight. At this point, I'm struggling and falling more than I"m walking. But I can see the progress. I'm slowly learning how to walk, as He is faithful to pick me up and set me on my feet again and again.

Grace has brought me safe thus far, and Grace will lead me Home.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

"God's will for my life"

God is good.

After years of hearing Him whisper, I finally heard what He's been trying to tell me the past three years. Especially this past year, I've been looking for the wrong things. Reading Francis Chan's book Forgotten God definitely helped me crystallize some of these thoughts, but it's been incredible to see God confirm His word through so many different circumstances.

My dwelling place, my security, my home, my future is in Christ and Christ alone. If I look for these things in any other place, I will never be satisfied.

I do not have the right to seek or know "God's will for my life." It's not biblical to know "God's will for my life" as I usually mean the phrase. It sounds spiritual, but it's really just a demand for God to let me know what He's going to do the next five, ten, twenty, fifty years. And God doesn't work that way. He called Abram to go when Abram had no idea where he was going or where He would end up. We're called to walk by faith, not by sight, and sight is what I have been demanding of God, in a super spiritual nice way. Right.

But that fact is, I know God's will for my life. Scripture's pretty straightforward here. Love God. Love people. Follow Jesus. Walk in step with the Spirit.

And in His grace, He's given me more specifics - use media to mobilize the Church for the sake of the Unreached. Do I have any idea what this will practically look like? Heck no. But for the first time, I'm okay with that.

I have no right to ask/demand to know anything beyond this. I'm not supposed to know the five year plan or have my retirement figured out. I'm called to pick up my cross and crucify myself and follow Jesus and be faithful to obey in the little things every single day. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Honestly, I've been somewhat surprised to find the freedom in this, because it's definitely terrifying, too. But real grace is a terrifying thing. Radical grace demands radical discipleship, and there is nothing Jesus does not demand I give up. My flesh is terrified, but my spirit is at peace. Aslan may not be safe, but He is good. He is faithful. And right now, that's all I need to know.

Monday, May 24, 2010

My brother told me to blog more...

and so this is for him. He tried to bait me with something about Joel Osteen, but I'm sick of being frustrated by his type.

I'm realizing I don't really truly know anything about prayer. Which means I really truly don't understand God.

I find myself getting frustrated, overwhelmed, and helpless as I survey the world. I'm discovering these massive problems (like Pakistan) and nothing I can physically do is really going to make a difference.

I'm exhorting, begging people to pray - cause that's the only thing we really can do - and yet I have to fight myself. Part of me feels like that won't accomplish anything. I want to actually make a difference, solve the problem, do anything. And yet, for all practical purposes, my hands are tied. So I suggest we pray as a last resort.

Could my thinking be more backward?

I serve the God of the universe, who invites me to enter into conversation with Him, to petition Him to move in the earth and I'm told He will! Yet coming to Him more often than not is my last course of action, instead of the first thing my heart knows to do.

No wonder I don't know God.

God calls us to so much more - to really know Him, to walk in step with the Spirit, to pray continually. If I really understood what it meant to be in constant conversation with the most powerful and loving being in the universe, how could I not pray continually?

I have so much to learn. Lord, teach me how to pray.

Pakistan Part Two

I wrote this for our church newsletter:

For Christians in Pakistan, the persecution has never been worse.

Globally, militant Islam has been on the rise for several decades, and this has been seen in Pakistan as well. However, tensions rose dramatically with 9/11 and the ensuing war in neighboring Afghanistan. From mosque to mosque and town to town came a cry of revenge: “For every Muslim killed in Afghanistan, kill two Christians in Pakistan.”

There is a very strong sense of brotherhood within Islam. If a Muslim anywhere in the world is offended, injured, or killed, or if Islam is treated with disrespect, Muslims all over the world will respond with protests and demands for justice. Though Christians profess a similar doctrine as a key tenet of our faith (I believe in the holy catholic [universal] church…), we often are not aware of the suffering our brothers and sisters in Christ are enduring, and we rarely respond to their persecution.

In Pakistan, Christians faithfully attend church services, not knowing if they will walk out unharmed. Christian villages and their residents have been burned. A harsh Islamic blasphemy law makes it illegal to even compare Mohammed, the Koran, or Allah to Christianity—much less actually share the gospel. Scores of Christians have been imprisoned or martyred on charges of blasphemy, which are often completely false. Pakistani Christians seeking asylum in the United States are often met with unsympathetic immigration judges who do not understand the reality of the death threats they have received from radical Islam.

The stories of many, many Pakistani Christians are too horrendous to share in this publication, but they are real. We must not turn a blind eye to those who suffer. They are our brothers and sisters in Christ, and we have to support them, though we know nothing of the reality they face every day.

Pray for Pakistan. Pray when you learn of international news and politics. Pray for the Christian Pakistani community here in America as they try to intervene on behalf of endangered family and friends. Pray that God would protect strengthen, and encourage His people, especially those imprisoned and experiencing severe persecution. Pray that Christians would be faithful lights in the midst of great darkness and that God would draw many unto Himself. Pray that the strongholds of Islam would be broken and that God’s glory would be displayed in Pakistan and throughout the earth.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Pakistan Part One

Note: I was asked to write a short article about persecution in Pakistan for our church newsletter. This is part one, giving background, and I'm going to interview a family in our church that recently left Pakistan for a second part in a couple of weeks.

In the aftermath of genocides, the world community has developed a na├»ve but standard response. “We didn’t know, so we couldn’t respond, but we’ll try to do better next time. Never again!” From the Holocaust to Cambodia to Rwanda, all too often the world looks the other way until it is too late.

As members of the body of Christ, we must be aware of what is going on across the globe, right now. In dozens of countries, millions face severe restrictions, imprisonment, and death because of their minority status. Our connection to these goes far beyond shared humanity – they are family, brothers and sisters in Christ. In one particular place, persecution is severe and rising.

Pakistan is a tumultuous country, sharing tense borders with Afghanistan and India. Internal and international rumblings and connections with terrorism are often highlighted in the news. But for Pakistan’s three million Christians, less than 2.5% of the population, their persecution often goes unnoticed.

At times, the world takes note, as it did last month when six World Vision workers were murdered. But we cannot realize the courage it takes to walk into church knowing one might not get to walk out. Harsh Islamic law means that on average, at least one Pakistani Christian is imprisoned and another killed each month, often on trumped up blasphemy charges. Whole Christian villages have been destroyed, and many more homes and churches burned. Splinter groups from both the Taliban and al-Qaeda actively pursue Christians. Brother Andrew’s organization Open Doors ranks Pakistan as the fourteenth most persecuting country in 2010.

So what can we do? The honest answer is that we are limited in how we can respond. But three things are essential. First, educate yourself and those around you. Be aware of the persecution that is threatening so many of our brothers and sisters around the globe. As you do this, pray. Use the information you’ve learned to pray specific prayers for persecuted Christians. Sign up for updates from The Voice of the Martyrs or Open Doors, and pray as you receive news from believers around the world. Finally, reach out to internationals here in our own community. Many have their own stories of persecution, as well as family in areas where they may still be at risk. Get to know them personally and pray with them.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Calling, Butterflies, and Fools

I'd been helping my brother collect for the biology insect collection for about an hour. There seemed to be a certain butterfly that was taunting us, as Robert made several attempts to catch it. It was man enough to not fly above and beyond the trees, but it always seemed to stay just out of reach. (This prompted Robert's status update: "Freakin' Lepidoptera! You know who you are!") Robert had chased it all the way down and back up the field for a couple of minutes. I was determined to get it, so I grabbed the net.

For a full minute or so, my full attention was completely on capturing the freaking Lepidoptera. Sprinting, pivoting, almost tripping, sidestepping back as it fluttered just ahead of my swinging, swooping net, I was oblivious to everything else - the weeds I was crashing through, my brother's tired laugh, the cars honking as they passed on their way to the soccer game. I didn't care, because I was going to catch it.

I looked like a fool in the process, but I caught it.

Driving home, I thought about the chapter I had recently read in Os Guinness' book The Call - "Everybody's Fools."

"Fools for Christ" are not actually, or literally, or objectively fools but those who are prepared to be seen and treated as fools for Christ's sake. Since the world in its pretended wisdom foolishly thinks itself wise, it sees God's true wisdom as foolishness. Those faithful to God must therefore break with the world and bear its folly. They are what I call "foolbearers," acting out of love for Christ and wearing the world's shame as a badge of allegiance and honor.

Guinness acknowledges that "Holly folly has unquestionably gained a bad name in some Christian circles and for solid reasons. Sometimes it inspired what looks like plain weirdness...sometimes it has been used to justify flagrant anti-intellectualism..."

I've spent a lot of time in the past couple of years thinking and trying to be anything but a fool. I want to be an intellectual Christian. I want to communicate with media with excellence, not at the sub-par level expected from anything with a "Christian" label. At some level, these pursuits are good. We're called to love God with all our minds and all our strength. Our work as creators made in the image of the Creator should be excellent. But the focus has to be on God and His glory, not 'engaging (read: impressing) the world' or being 'relevant' or any other catchphrase or side effect.

Christians have made mistakes in the last century when it comes to interacting with culture and being intellectual, and it's not wrong to want to move beyond these. However, I'm forced to acknowledge how often my motivation for not being foolish is purely selfish and not to glorify God. Who do I think I am? Am I better than the prophets? The apostles? Jesus?

Calling entails the cost of discipleship. The deepest challenge is to renounce self and identify with Jesus in his sufferings and rejection.

Foolbearing is essential to calling because it is the true way to count the cost of identifying with Jesus. It is the price of obeying His call, renouncing self, and taking up the cross to follow Him.

Foolbearing is essential to calling because it positions us unmistakably before the world as a counterculture, antithetical to the world's very being. In the gospel there is an antithesis to the world that we dare no relax, a cost to discipleship that we cannot waive, a challenge to obedience that we must not conceal, and a scandal to faith that we should never airbrush away. If loyalty to those truths puts us beyond the pale, so be it.

Foolbearing is essential to calling because it is Christ's way of responding to injury. All of us as followers of Christ will flinch at times from the pain of wounds and the smart of slights, but that cost is in the contract of calling and the way of the cross.

I'm called to chase greater things than butterflies. I'm called to seek God and His Kingdom and righteousness. I can't remember the last time I pursued those things with half the focus and abandonment I gave the freaking butterfly. I'm a fool!

I'm a fool who desperately needs to die to myself and take up my cross and become a foolbearer, to the glory of God alone.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Grieving With Those Who Grieve

In this poem, the author and speaker are not the same (specifically in the first two stanzas). I do have a sense of grief, but it’s not out of my personal experience or loss. It’s much more about grieving with those who grieve, and longing for That Day.

“That Day Is Not Here Yet”

Where, O Death, is thy sting?
It’s here, piercing my soul,
Draining me of all I once assumed.
I know someday I’ll laugh,
Reminiscing, as of a dream,
The pain so engulfing today.
But That Day is not here yet.

Grief is all I know.
Today’s victory is another’s,
And this my only comfort:
The victory of the grave is not eternal.
But today the piled dirt and hard cold stone
Keep me anchored to this world,
Even as I long for another.

I live in the pain of this tension:
The Already and the Not Yet.
Jesus is life and hope.
And hope does not disappoint.
(Except in this shortsighted fact that)
We hope because we see not.
That Day is not here yet.

Death is already conquered,
But it is the enemy to be destroyed last.
Earning wages of the Fall, we all with Adam die
Even as all in Christ will be made alive.
Everything within me groans, with all creation,
For the reconciliation and final redemption
When all things will be made new.

There is hope.
But That Day is not here yet.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Random Thoughts

Today was the first Sunday of missions week at our church, and the services were incredible.

I want to go to the Unreached. I want to mobilize the Church to go to the Unreached.

My heart is burning within me, and this passion isn't going away.

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I've been thinking about the "Kingdom of God" recently. It's definitely a concept we talked about at Semester, and while it's something I've always been familiar with, I think it's probably harder for Americans to understand it. We really like our concepts of rights, but as Bauman said, rights are an American invention, not a Biblical principle. As a Christian, I have no rights, only responsibilities. God asks for my unconditional surrender, not my vote in the democratic process.

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I was going back through old posts, and I found this verse, quoted from the Message.

God, it seems you've been our home forever; long before the mountains were born, long before you brought earth itself to birth, from "once upon a time" to "kingdom come" —you are God. - Psalm 90:1-2

I like the phrasing here. I love how it brings out the story motif.

And I like how Moses ends the psalm.

May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us;
establish the work of our hands for us—
yes, establish the work of our hands.

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Tomorrow marks the start of new year for me. I have goals and plans for this year, but I trust that God has even greater plans, plans that I don't see yet. More than anything I want to be apart of His plan for His Kingdom, not my plan for my life. Just as He orchestrated the events of this past year (and all the years before that) in ways I would never have begun to imagine, He will prove His faithfulness again this year, because that is who He is.

May this be my prayer this year:

I do not ask to see the way
My feet will have to tread;
But only that my soul may feed
Upon the living Bread.
‘Tis better far that I should walk
By faith close to His side;
I may not know the way I go,
But oh, I know my Guide.


His love can never fail, His love can never fail,
My soul is satisfied to know His love can never fail.
My soul is satisfied to know His love can never fail.


-For the glory of the King and the growth of His Kingdom!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

When I Grow Up...

There are lots of things I want to do right now. Two top the list.

(Studying to get an expensive piece of paper doesn't quite make the cut.)

I want to read and think about great books.

I want to learn how to use pictures and videos effectively.

In short, I want to be a STORYTELLER.

Words, graphics, videos, I don't care. I just want to communicate in story.

Why?

Because that's how God revealed Himself - in story.
And that's how my heart responds best - to story.

Currently, I'm not a storyteller. But I want to learn. How I want to learn!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Story

I've been sick, and while yesterday I was feeling to lousy to read, I started The Drama of Scripture today. Though my reading was a tad slower than normal and I was a bit quicker to doze off, it was great to finally get some good intellectual and theological reading done.

I think the biggest "theme" of Semester was the concept of seeing the Bible as one Story, as an overarching metanarrative that is all about God's redemptive history as seen in Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Consummation - throughout 66 books and a span of several thousand years. One of the saddest trends in the church today is not understanding the Bible as it was written. God revealed Himself in STORY - not in "verse bites" or a gazillion different unrelated Sunday School lessons or systematic theology.

I had coffee with a friend around Christmas, and it was great to catch up after six months or so. I found it really interesting that she had learned many of the same things I had looked at Semester. We talked about this concept of story, which was something she had studied this semester, too. However, she learned it in her secular "Bible as Literature" class, not in church. While I'm glad she learned it and has a new perspective on Scripture, I think it's pretty pathetic that it takes college literature classes to do what the Church should be doing.

More thoughts to come as I continue to read and reflect.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

My life this week...



video + Legos + feeding starving children + music that gets stuck in your head = amazingness.

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year

“New Year” from The Valley of Vision (a collection of Puritan prayers)

"O LORD,

Length of days does not profit me

except the days are passed in thy presence,

in thy service, to thy glory.

Give me a grace that precedes, follows, guides,

sustains, sanctifies, aids every hour,

that I may not be one moment apart from thee,

but may rely on thy Spirit

to supply every thought,

speak in every word,

direct every step,

prosper every work,

build up every mote of faith,

and give me a desire

to show forth thy praise

testify thy love,

advance thy kingdom.

I launch my bark on the unknown waters of this year,

with thee, O Father as my harbour,

thee, O Son, at my helm,

thee, O Holy Spirit, filling my sails.

Guide me to heaven with my loins girt,

my lamp burning,

my ear open to thy calls,

my heart full of love,

my soul free.

Give me the grace to sanctify me,

thy comforts to cheer,

thy wisdom to teach,

thy right hand to guide,

thy counsel to instruct,

thy law to judge,

thy presence to stabilize.

May thy fear be my awe,

thy triumphs my joy."

This is the perspective I need this year. Nothing like godly, wise, dead guys to help you when your current situation seems to be spinning out of control.