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


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.


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.

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


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.


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


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


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.