Gospel Attraction

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This last weekend I was on a student retreat with the students at our Navigators club at the UofC in beautiful Banff Alberta. Traditionally, we would be in some far flung hostel in Kananaskis some place, where we would have the hostel to ourselves, and really focus on getting to know one another and where the vision for our year could appropriately be cast.

This was so much better!

Often our retreats become these momentary escape from the world, I mean that really is the intention, and their is an importance to it. Even Jesus took time to be alone with God, so it is important that we do the same. However, when you are vision casting, and that vision is the power and authority of the Gospel to change lives, than where better to do it than at a party resort in Banff!? For those of you not in the know, Banff is perhaps one of the most popular tourist destinations in Alberta, if not western Canada, if not Canada. It is a small town (sort of) in the middle of the mountains and nestled into some of the best skiing/snowboarding in the country and not to far from one of the most beautiful lakes in the world, the glacial lake, Moraine Lake. Banff also happens to have been the STI capital of the world, and still remains the capital of the country. Banff is a party town, in ever definition of those words. In the day, it’s a quaint little place to visit, but at night, it really comes alive.

The hostel we were staying at had a pub on sight, which of course was a massive draw for me. Say what you want, but getting the chance to go and sit in a pub and share a drink with my students is an opportunity I relish, and love. As events would have it, it would be these visits that would fast become the highlight of my time there.

We were talking about the power and the authority of the Gospel and it’s ability to transform lives, and it’s call to mission. I was speaking on Mark 2:1-5 about how 4 men, transformed by this Jesus they had heard of, tore the roof of a dudes house open to make sure a paralyzed man got to Jesus. Part of that talk was a call to stop focussing so much on our own Christian activity that we miss out on the people around us who need Christ. The other part was the order in which we tend to do these things. Four men do everything in their power to get a man who needed Jesus, to Jesus, and the very first thing Jesus chose to deal with was the man’s sin.

How often do we get this backwards?

How often do we choose to deal with man’s sin ourselves, and then get them to Jesus later?

How often, when we witness to others, do we provide moral ultimatums, rather than the saving power and transformative grace of the Good News?

A woman in the bar noticed our group, and came over to talk to us. She was one of the volunteer staff at the hostel, and she was on her night off with her boyfriend.

They were very much enjoying their night off.

She saw us, and she sat down beside me and she asked, “Are you the Christians?”

This woman had checked us in.

“Yes. We are the Navigators. We’re a Christian club out of the UofC here on a weekend retreat.”

“Oh ya? That’s cool. There’s so many of you! What are you doing here?”

That wasn’t the first time someone was amazed at how many of us there were. I explained we were on a weekend retreat and that it was the start of term and this was a great chance for us to get to know one another better. I explained that we were using the weekend to get centred on Jesus and his Gospel, and how it changes our lives and encourages us to reach out into places we don’t often get to.

“Cool stuff. I don’t believe in God or any of that stuff. Jesus seems pretty cool though. I’m an athiest. I don’t believe in that God stuff. But it’s cool if others want to. I don’t really like Christians because they never do what they say.”

“That’s the same thing I don’t like about Christians as well. I am pretty guilty of that myself. That is what this weekend is about. It’s about how Jesus and his grace motivates us as his followers to not just talk about his grace amongst ourselves, but to live out that grace in the lives of others.”

“That’s really cool! That’s awesome!”

Our conversation continued from there. It was pretty clear that her expectation of Christianity was a bunch of rules, stuck up individuals who had a hard time loving others, who never did what they said, and were constantly judging people. She had never been presented people transformed by grace, eager to love others, eager to make good on the teachings of Jesus, eager to get involved in the lives of people outside of their Christian community. This was a woman who had been presented only moral ultimatums, but was clearly attracted to the grace, the power, and the authority of the Gospel. We talked for nearly twenty minutes, and she was getting really excited about what she was hearing. Her boyfriend was growing impatient, and the two eventually left. I won’t get to start a long standing relationship with these people, but I like to think that a seed was either planted, or watered in that conversation.

It was a brilliant example of just how attractive the Gospel is. That it doesn’t need our massive events, and programmes to make it more appealing to people. It just needs people, transformed by it’s grace, eager to share it with others on a personal level. My hope is that more opportunities like this arise for my students this year. My prayer is that as they continue to get firmly rooted in the gospel, they won’t feel like they just want to share the Gospel, they will feel compelled to. We, as a group, are starting to move away from an events platform, and opening up more opportunity to get out into the world and express the Gospel naturally in the lives of the people around us.

It’s pretty exciting!

Commercial Community

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I was going to call this post, “An Unsexy Gospel” initially, but then I realised that I would just be falling into that old Christian trope of giving your literature a controversial sounding name in order to inflame passions, so I decided against it. You’ll note, though, that by mentioning what I had intended to do, I get away with the results without actually going through with the action.  Bear with me here, you’ll see what I am getting at shortly.

This is one of those anti-consumerist Church posts, but to not kill the overly used word “consumer”, I’ve instead gone with the word “commercial”. I feel like it accurately describes what I want to get at anyway, which you can tell by the title is Community. I’ll be honest, I could probably write a book on community. It’s a vast and far reaching subject with so many different aspects that we can talk about, and I have no intention of covering all of those things in this post, or even in this blog. I mainly want to discuss how we’ve begun to commercialise our relationships and how that hurts a society so desperate for authentic community.

I want to take this chance to be a little more open, a little more honest, a little more raw, with you. Up until now, this blog has done a pretty good job at keeping people at length from myself, but I am going to try and invite people in a bit more. Allow a peek at the me that I am not trying to present online. For the last few weeks, I have been depressed and I have been beating myself up existentially. I discovered that I have not so much a fear of commitment, but some real issues with it (not just relationally, but in a few areas). This in turn got me thinking about all the areas where that was evident and I really started to feel down about myself. I began to question my ability as a leader. I began to wonder if I was even in the right job, or if the idea of eventually becoming a pastor was even worth it for a guy who was so clearly messed up. I wanted to talk to somebody, but I was so afraid of them agreeing with all of these fears that I would lose my opportunity to be as involved in my church community as I have been. I became distant from people, I became quiet and unplugged. That is until I finally did talk to a really close friend, who also happens to be my pastor but has just been the greatest friend ever since we met. I shared all of the things I was struggling with, and all of my fears behind them and we had a very encouraging conversation. I shared how great it was to be able to share because in a job like mine (a pastoral job) the temptation is to feel like you need to be “on” constantly, to always be performing and to not let cracks show for the sake of others. Truth is that pastoral workers need the chance to share their very real struggles and fears as much as the next person.

I also visited with a really awesome friend of mine last night, and we both shared that we had been wrestling these past couple weeks with slightly different things. Though they were different, the results on both our lives had been roughly the same. We were able to encourage one another and had a great evening hanging out! I am telling you this because it is decidedly unsexy. There are so many times where I have been on something like facebook and saw people complaining about their lives and thought to myself “Facebook isn’t for sharing this kind of stuff, keep it to yourself”, and I bet that I am not the only one. Social media communities are about presenting the best and most exciting version of yourself to the world as possible. Having friends has always been treated as a kind of popularity contest, and friendship and community have increasingly become more of a commodity and commercialised. This doesn’t just happen in social media. If you get one thing from this post, please don’t let it be that social media is bad. Social media just happens to be a place where it is very easy for us to keep people at a distance while presenting a marketable version of ourselves.

A couple years ago I wanted to work on a comic. I have these creative spats where I absolutely need to start a project that I swear I will see to the end which usually lasts until the end of the day (remember that whole commitment thing). I had this idea of creating a story around a society that had allowed commercialism to inform every single aspect of their lives, and more importantly, their relationships and how they treated people. A persons worth was measured by what they could bring to your life, friendships were merely decorations and marriages were like corporate mergers. In this story, a man was going to introduce a very dangerous idea that would undermine that commercial society. He was going to suggest that people had worth beyond what they could do for you, and worse yet, he was going to live his life in a way that reflected that belief. There were also some bits about couriers carrying ideas like computer files and spreading them like viruses. It was all very wacky. I even managed to find a way to add super awesome fight scenes and killer code names.

Who would have thought that this was already the reality of the situation? Christian or non-Christian, we all do this. We surround ourselves with people who will assist in our presenting a certain image of ourselves. We get involved in only the newest and most trendy projects to assist in this process. The clean up after a flood doesn’t demand a great deal of our time. Volunteering with the poor and marginalised demands a long term sacrifice of our time and doesn’t get you the ticker-tape parade. The Gospel tells us to go to unsexy people with unsexy problems and to love them because Jesus said that they are worth loving. Not to earn favour, not show people how great we are, not to puff ourselves up. It says that loving those who are easy to love is nothing special, but to love those who are hard to love, this is the transformative power of Jesus and his Gospel. Jesus calls us to love others as he loves us, sacrificially. Can you imagine whole communities of people loving simply because they are loved? I feel like we’d get so much more done!

Authentic community/relationships are unsexy. They are hard work, and they involve a level of honesty with people the means laying yourself bare and open to potential judgement. Authentic community peels away all those layers we’ve surrounded ourselves with and gets to the soft, and vulnerable core of ourselves and nobody likes exposing that core, let alone putting it into the hands of other people. Community is messy, and complicated and comes with problems, because ultimately communities are people and people are not perfect. People want to be loved, and people are afraid that if others begin to see the parts of themselves that don’t get broadcast to the world that they might not find love. Jesus says to love my neighbour as myself. It’s a beautifully simplistic statement with far reaching consequences. Community around the idea that I can love people simply because I am loved, and simply because they are worth loving, not because of what they can do for me, but just because. As a follower of Jesus Christ, I should know that I am loved. The reality is that I often forget this, but I should know it. Knowing that I am loved, should motivate me to love others because if I am loved, so are they. The reality is that I love people who are easy to love, and only because they provide me with something. But the good news is that Jesus continues to transform me so that the reality of my situation, and what should be, begin to swap. The Gospel is good news for all people with all of our unsexy issues.

Love for Love’s sake.

Worship in the City

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Where do I even begin? I suppose this is the problem with taking such a massive break between posts.

As you can see from my last post, I have been spending my summer vigorously getting to know my city better. Truth be told, I already knew it pretty well, but getting to know it better certainly couldn’t hurt. While all of this has been going on, I have been reading Deuteronomy, a book filled with laws and regulations given to Israel before they entered into the promise land, as well as several books concerning cities. Between Timothy Keller’s “Why God Made Cities” and “Centre Church”, Matt Carter’s and Darrin Patrick’s “For the City”, Jon M. Dennis’ “Christ+City” and Darrin Patrick’s “Church Planter”, I’ve been a pretty busy fella. The workload has been intense, but the insights have been profound, and my time in Deuteronomy has been more than a little exciting.

One doesn’t always find a book of things to do and things not to do overly exciting, but from my time reading, it has been so much more than that. It’s been a book on Worship.

Deuteronomy is more than just a book of regulations and laws. It isn’t kidding about prospering in your land by following the commandments given inside of the book. The problem begins when we take these things at face value and we fail to see what is at the core of them. Almost every single chapter of Deuteronomy is filled with the same phrase, telling you not to forget what God has done for you. It is a constant reminder of just who God is, and what he has done. In chapter six, you get what is probably one of the most beautiful pieces of scripture. It is the call to holistic worship. It says that we do not worship Jesus in one area of our lives, and then ignore him in others. And yes, I do say Jesus, because Jesus quotes this very same scripture when asked what the greatest commandment is, placing himself at the core of it. “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” The following verses ask that they be written on your hands, on your head, on the gates of your cities, the door to your house and that they should be a part of your daily routine. These words were meant to permeate all facets of life. Jesus is Lord and no part of our life is separate from our worship of him. It is with this in mind that Deuteronomy goes on to tell us how that worship takes place. Things like communal responsibilities, honesty, integrity, how we treat the poor/marginalised, how we treat strangers. These things are all well and good, but in themselves are not enough. We don’t do these things to earn grace, and we don’t do them for God. We do these things because we have received grace, and we do them because of Jesus. 

You see, Deuteronomy isn’t about cities thriving under the work of our own hands. In fact, the cities in Deuteronomy were taken away from wicked men because they worshipped the works of their own hands. Deuteronomy is about the thriving of cities under the revelation of God by people worshipping in all areas of their lives. The great miracle of Jesus’ day wasn’t just his healing the sick, it was the transformation that took place in the hearts and the minds of the people who would go so far as to tear the roof of a house open to get people who needed Jesus to Jesus. People who were willing to go above and beyond for the sake of others because of Jesus and his grace. The Gospel is the power to change the lives of all men. Deuteronomy 12 can be summarised as, “Revel not in what you have done to impress God, but remember what God has done for you.” God literally says that he detests those willing to trample over and use others in an attempt to impress him; that he is far more honoured and glorified by those who sacrifice of themselves for the sake of others because they remember what God has done for them. It’s the picture of grace. There is nothing you can do to earn it because earning is completely the antithesis to grace. Grace does not know the word earn, they don’t exist in the same realm. Grace is unwarranted favour and when you receive it, you work hard to give it, not because you are trying to earn it, but because it is something to freely give, something to freely pass on.

When we stop remembering what God has done for us, when we turn from his word that reminds us over and over again as to who he is and what he has done, cities suffer for it. Israel neglected to make God the Lord over all areas of their life and their people suffered for it, and their cities, like the cities of those before them, were taken away from them by Babylon (Amos and Jeremiah). Seventy years later, they get their city back, they rededicate themselves to God and his word and a mere 12 years later they neglect it again, refusing to teach it to their children and once more, people (cities) suffer for it (Nehemiah). Even in Jesus’ day the same things happen. In Mark 11-13, people become more concerned with impressing God with power and wealth that they completely neglect their worship. God does not become the Lord of all areas of life, and the people suffer for it. Jesus’ disciples try to placate him by reminding him how amazing a building the temple is. “Hey, Jesus, I know your visit didn’t go the way you planned, but check out the temple. You gotta admit, it’s pretty boss.” Jesus tells them that he has no interest in the temporary work of the hands. That he has no interest in the works of the hands of men designed to impress God with their own ego, that it is the things built in the Spirit and in Truth that will last forever while all other things fade away. Jesus uses verses from Daniel, a book written during the Babylonian occupation, to emphasise his point. Babylon, a once proud nation, that revelled in their own power, lost to the ages. He speaks of Rome sacking the Temple, a mighty nation and the house of God, worshipped for being a grand house, both torn down and no more.

Spirit and truth last forever. Our cities will thrive not by the works of our hands, natural disasters and any number of things can undo that. But a people dedicated to the revelation of Jesus Christ in everything they do is a boon.

#4YYC

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Over the past 5 months at Urban Grace Church, we’ve studied the book of Nehemiah and taken a very serious look at how, in God’s plans to reach the world, the city bears great importance. As we’ve learned, in order to bring the grace of Jesus to the city, we have to know what the city is like and what the city needs. So, beginning in July, we are challenging you to join us in a little summer venture. We’re calling it ‘FOR YYC.’ The challenge is to use the next two months of our summer to take part in as many possible experiences and activities Calgary has to offer. This challenge does not require you to go broke, and it does not require you to become even more swamped than you usually are. The point is to stimulate you to experience more of Calgary than you usually do.

Let’s not forget that in all of these explorative activities, we are not looking to just do more stuff, but to meet the people behind the ‘stuff’. So, as you explore the city, don’t simply try to ‘get stuff done.’ Observe the people behind all of the places and things that you do. Be a curious and gracious citizen as you explore. Meet as many people as you possibly can. Tell them you appreciate their place in the city. Find out their story. And–enjoy your urban exploration. We have a great opportunity to spread grace in a great city that will only get better with more grace from Jesus.

Some of you won’t know where to start, so here is a list that our own city-exploration team compiled. Please add your own ideas to the list. We’ve also provided different ways for you to record what you’re doing. By recording your explorations, you will benefit yourself and others. You will have a future reference for Calgary activities, and, as you compare notes with others during the challenge, you will share good ideas. So we’ve hand-crafted our own UGC edition of Field Notes: you can manually and creatively record your activities. We’ve also created a facebook page and an instragram account so that you can record your journey with technology. Looking forward to seeing you on the streets of Calgary!

  • Sick of your music? Browse vinyl with a Stumptown coffee @ Luke’s Drug Mart

  • Mozy across the Peace Bridge @ Prince’s Island Park.

  • Scream for ice cream @ the Eau Clair Market Wading Pool.

  • Chow down on a Boogie Burger @ Boogie Burger.

  • View a film @ the Plaza Theatre.

  • Treck up Nose Hill Park.

  • Step inside the giant white head @ the base of Bow Tower.

  • Get the blues @ Blue’s Can in Inglewood.

  • Get a new perspective @ the Calgary Tower.

  • Wolf down a PB & J hotdog @ Tubby Dog.

  • Cheer on a cricket match @ Riley Park.

  • Cool down @ Village Ice Cream.

  • Stay @ the Burger Inn in Mission.

  • Smell a book @ Central Memorial Library in the Beltline.

  • Get a pitcher, not a belly itcher @ Bowness batting cages in Bowness.

  • Court one another @ Shouldice Park (free tennis).

  • Visit Fort Calgary and discover our city’s history.

  • Stroll through Canada Olympic Park.

  • Be artisy @ Glenbow Museum downtown.

  • Get your game face on @ a Stampeders game with friends.

  • Get wild @ the Calgary Zoo.

  • Feel like Kings and Queens @ the lobby of the Palliser Hotel.

  • Finally get your teeth cleaned @ Apple Appeal in Kensington.

  • Bomb the Mountain Bike trails at C.O.P.

  • Get shaky @ Shakespeare in the Park (Prince’s Island)

  • Experience the extraordinary @ Livingstone & Cavell’s Extraordinary Toys in Kensington.

  • Wake up and smell the bacon @ OEB (Over Easy Breakfast) on Edmonton Trail.

  • Wolf down a hamburger & a milkshake from Angel’s Drive Inn in Bowness.

  • Hunt for great used books @ Fair’s Fair in Inglewood.

  • Tune in for some Bluegrass @ the Irish Cultural Club in Bowness.

  • A River Runs Through Calgary: Fly-fish the Bow River in the city limits. (Contact Dana Lattery @ Bow River Fly Fishing to book 1-403-968-9877)

  • Improvise @ the Improv Guild in Erlton.

  • POUTINE @ the Big Cheese Poutinery on 17th.

  • Find out where everybody gets Field Notes @ Reid’s On 17th.

  • Ride the sky: take the C-train over the 4 story bridge @ the Sunalta station.

  • Wave goodbye to the airplanes @ 32nd Ave.

  • Devour maple-bacon deliciousness @ Jelly Modern doughnuts.

  • Hunt and gather @ the Calgary Farmer’s Market.

  • View the city skyline @ McClough’s Hill.

  • Tweet us @ Inglewood Bird Sanctuary.

  • Soldier on @ the Calgary Military Museum.

  • Get a crew together and go paint “The Rock” at the University of Calgary.

  • Flip out @ Kensington’s Flipp’n Burger.

  • Stuff your face with Mini Donuts at the Calgary Stampede.

  • Sit on the edge of your seat @ the Chuck Wagon Races.

  • Get a sweet tooth @ the Stampede Parade.

  • Be sporty @ the Canada Sports Hall of Fame.

  • Get cultured @ Chinese Cultural Centre.

  • See the Skyline from the SAIT Soccer Field.

  • Get a picture under the worlds largest Skylight @ TD Square.

  • Test the waters @ the Bow Habitat Station.

  • Soar @ the Aero Space Museum.

  • Drop your jaw @ Marion Nicoll Art Gallery, UofC.

  • Get up the creek @ Fish Creek.

  • Be outdoors while indoors @ the Devonian Gardens.

  • Watch the sk8ers @ Millennium Skate Park.

The Wilderness Downtown

Myself overlooking the city of Calgary.

Myself overlooking the city of Calgary.

I’ve been wanting to write this for a while. I guess I got caught up with the busyness of life.

Feels good to be back at it with this blog.

A month or so back, my pastor showed me this amazing website, http://thewildernessdowntown.com/. It’s an incredibly cool video project by Arcade Fire with their song We Used to Wait, and while the song is amazing, that isn’t what caught my attention. As you continue to watch the video unfold, you’ll begin to notice trees springing up all over the place. Trees breaking through the concrete, developing an enveloping wilderness on the map that you’ve placed into the video. This is the image that caught my eye, and it’s the basis for this post.

Mark Chapter 4 has several stories that Jesus uses to help unpack some of the things he is trying to teach people about, all of them dealing with things like:  investment, relationship building, timing, trust, growth, the spread of ideas, and provision. Jesus starts by telling the story of what I feel is a careless farmer, sowing seed in every which direction, regardless of the environment for growth. He follows that up with the importance of placing your lamp upon it’s stand where it can shed light for all to benefit, followed by a story about how farmers aren’t responsible for the growth of a seed, but the sowing and the harvesting. Lastly, Jesus talks about how even the smallest seed has the capacity for bigger things. It’s that last story that I want to focus on (Mark 4:30-32). It’s that last story that speaks of the Wilderness Downtown.

Jesus has a plan for Cities.

I had written out a huge explanation of the above statement before realising that it was perhaps another blog entry on it’s own, so I will try to keep my explanation brief. All through the bible we see stories that involve God’s people either in their own cities, or in the cities of conquering nations. In Deuteronomy, God’s people are promised the cities of the wicked. In Jeremiah, their city Jerusalem is destroyed by Babylon and they are told to take up residence in the cities of their invaders, to multiply in them, and be a blessing to them. In Nehemiah, after 140 years, God’s people are able to return to Jerusalem and rebuild it, in the process being restored themselves. During Roman occupation, Jesus tells Israel to give to Ceaser what is Ceaser’s and to God what is God’s. In Revelations we see the New Jerusalem descending upon the restored world, a massive city with a giant garden in the centre. Jesus has a plan for cities because cities are where the majority of this world lives and cities are where the widest variety of the kinds of people we are called to reach, as followers of Jesus, live. The story of the Mustard Seed in Mark 4:30-32 is about something small, and yet something that has within it all of the information needed to grow, not just into something big, but into a blessing. Jesus talks about a small seed growing into a massive tree that becomes a home, a place of rest and a boon, for the birds of the air. And every single tree as the capacity to produce after itself in kind. A wilderness begins with a seed. A wilderness begins with something small with the capacity for amazing transformation and then it becomes something big, and connected! Did you know that one of the oldest and largest single living organisms is in fact a forest!? Pando Forest, found in Fishlake National Forest, near Fish Lake at the western edge of the Colorado Plateau in South-central Utah, is a single organism connected by a root system of about 106 acres!

Are you starting to see what I am talking about when I say the Wilderness Downtown? Can you imagine a forest of Churches and Missionaries (we

Pando Forest

Pando Forest

are all called to be these after all), rooted in (Jeremiah 17:7,8) the life giving water of the Gospel, each of them a place of restoration and care for the people in residence around them? What an amazing picture! The Gospel is about community, and it is about not merely thriving in communities but creating thriving communities, each of them full of people seeking the benefit of not just themselves, but those around them. We are built to be a blessing for others. Proverbs 11:11 says that the upright are good for a city and help to make it prosper. Jesus over and over tells us to get into proximity with people and to be a blessing to them, not a burden. In doing this, we glorify (a fancy way of saying “reveal”) God.

This is what has excited me in my time with God these last few weeks. Thanks for letting me share it with you. I hope that you’ve found it as encouraging as I have!

The Story of Mission, Pt. 2

I wanted to leave my last post up for a bit so people could get a chance to read it, think about it, comment on it, disregard it, whatever. But I think it’s time for part two.

I am going to try and keep this short. I have a bad habit when it comes to writing blogs, and that is writing a wall of text for people to read. I love to write, I can write a lot if I wish, but I don’t want to intimidate anyone with a giant wall of words. I want people to read my thoughts and offer up their own.

Last post I discussed the missional story of God as something written on the pages of our lives and the importance of being in proximity with people so they can read it. I offered up a couple stories of my own to boot. Today, I want to discuss the missional calling of God and the promise that comes with it. I want to discuss just what it is that is so exciting about mission. I want to discuss just what story is God writing on our lives.

Genesis 12:1-3 has got to be one of the more exciting passages I have read in the bible. That isn’t to say that all other passages suck. There are a bunch more that I really enjoy and will no doubt highlight over the course of my writing in this blog. But I can’t help but feel like Genesis 12:1-3 is a whopper of a passage:

The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you.

I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others.

I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.”

Promising, get it!? HA!

Promising, get it!? HA!

This is the story. This is the story that God is writing on the lives of each of us, and honestly, I could not be more stoked about this. This is the story written in the lives of every single person we read about in the bible, and it is the story written on the lives of every single one of us for whom Jesus is Lord. Paul even says as much in Galatians 3:14 where he says that it is through Christ Jesus that we inherit the same promise given to Abraham and his descendants.  This is the promise and the call that every person we read about in the Old Testament is being faithful (or not being) to. Even Abraham, who received this call and promise, was tested in it a few chapters later with his son. This promise is repeated, over and over and over again, not just in the Old Testament, but in the New Testament as well. So what am I getting at? Let’s look at these three verses in another way.

I work with university students, so they might look at it like this; I will leave home for the first time, I will head into the uncertainty of University. I will go knowing that not only is God going with me, but he has gone ahead of me and prepared the way. God will bless others as I develop relationships on campus, and will watch over me.

What about those of us not in university? I will enter into a new work field. I will be a blessing to my place of employment because I will represent Jesus in that place. I will work hard, develop relationships, and in so doing, honour Jesus.

There are numerous ways that we can write out this story, but I can’t encourage you enough to look at it more in depth. We find our sense of identity, our sense of purpose and security in those three verses! It’s absolutely incredible, and really, I hope motivating! I hope you find it as inspiring and encouraging as I do. I hope it lights a fire under your ass like it did mine. When I realised that I was actually living out the same story as Joshua, or Moses, or Esther, or David, or Peter, or Paul, or Jesus, I got super pumped. God promises Abraham a nation as vast as the stars, and through Jesus Christ, we have become not just a nation, but a nation of Missionary Priests(1 Peter 2)! This means that we are sent into all areas of the world, more importantly, your area of influence, and introduce people to Jesus. Let me be clear though, we do this through proximity, and openness and integrity. We do this at the leading and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Abandon whatever agenda for conversion you might have because we are not called to convert, we are called to bless, to introduce, to be ambassadors. God’s work is in the areas of the heart and part of that is showing the transformation of our own hearts. When someone asks you to help them to know Jesus better, you are not converting them, Jesus is awakening their hearts to the reality of his Gospel.

Coffee Cup Fellowship

Coffee Cup Fellowship

So go out. Get to know people. Be involved with them. Introduce them to Jesus in your life. Surrender your agendas. Surrender your relationships to prayer. Watch God work. Encourage others to do likewise.

Reach. Restore. Reproduce.

The Story of Mission pt. 1

I was reading an article today, posted by a gentlemen talking about how “Mission” had become, or was on track to become, the new “Legalism”.

This is not going to be some kind of a response, or commentary, or look into that article, with the exception of one point. As such, I won’t be linking it, though if you would like it, just ask and I’ll link it to you. All I really want to address is this idea that Mission needs to be a grande gesture, when, really, mission isn’t more difficult than making friends.

For when I am in the "Field"

For when I am in the “Field”

I am wrestling over this post, because honestly, I could go on forever about this subject. It is something I have looked at for the last few years and is a subject I am very passionate about. This is because the more I open my heart to Jesus and his calling in our lives, the more I am transformed by it and the more excited I become by it. Honestly, there are so many passages I could show you that have lit a great many fires under my ass but I think the best way to go about this is to share a couple stories from my own life, and then share a verse. So here are a some stories from “the field” of life.

Story 1

I used to work for a graphic arts company about 6 years ago. It was a small place and my first time getting a job in a field that I was interested in making a career out of. I lived so far away from the office, however, I needed to wake up at 4 am every morning just to get there on time. Disclaimer: I don’t drive, this was a big part of the problem. I had been having a really tough go of it with this job and one morning I had called in sick, simply because I just didn’t want to be there. Instead, I sat down at my kitchen table, unable to sleep and read through the entire book of Ecclesiastes and my entire outlook on work changed. Funny that God would use the morning I lied about my health and skipped out on work to then have me read a book about how anything worth doing is worth doing for him. Like I said, my attitude adjusted in a major way. I started reading my bible at work in the mornings, simply because it was the only time I could. It was just me, and our project manager, who really seemed to dislike me. In fact, he worked very hard to get me to quit.

One day I was shown an e-mail by a co-worker who should not have shown me a it. The e-mail was to my boss, from the project manager, and I was not painted in a very flattering light. Needless to say, I was pretty bummed. It was the end of the day, and I was leaving to head to bible study and I chose to use the time on the bus to pray about what I saw. While this was happening, another co-worker was speaking to the Project Manager about how poorly he treated me. On the bus, I prayed to Jesus and decided that I had two things I could do. I could confront this person, and get upset, or I could forgive them right there on that bus and let God handle it. I chose the latter. The next time I went into work, the Project Manager sat down with me and apologised, which gave me a chance to tell him that I had forgiven him in person. He told me that he felt I was genuine, and was thankful that I always said hello to him in the morning, and that I worked hard no matter how I was being treated (don’t let this fool you, I allowed my temper to get the best of me more than a couple times a that job), and that he noticed I read my bible each morning. He asked me if I could give him one to read as well. I was in shock, I was awed, and just so grateful to Jesus for getting to be encouraged like that.

Story 2

This is a much more recent story, and a bit shorter.

I’ve moved into a new house as recent as 3 months ago and none of my room mates are Christian. I like to leave my door open when I am home because I want my room mates to know that I am available to them, should they ever want to talk or hang out, I am there. I don’t expect anything more than just getting to hang out with them, which I love getting to do. One day, the room mate whose bedroom is across the hall came home feeling down and out. He sat on his bed and mentioned he had been having a rough day. At first I gave the expected, “That sucks, sorry to hear that.” and then went quiet. He sighed aloud and mentioned how bummed he was again. And I jumped into action. Actually, I gave pretty much the same reply, except even worse, “Man, that blows, but what can you do?”

Ouch.

Bear with me here...it's the only food picture I have.

Bear with me here…it’s the only food picture I have.

Luckily, God wasn’t going to let me get away with retreating into myself that easily and my room mate mentioned aloud for a third time how down he was. Getting the hint, finally, I offered to hang out with him in the kitchen while I made supper. We made our food, chatted, and ate together, before retiring to our living room with a couple beers in hand so we could just hang out and talk through life, death and everything in between. The subject of karma came up and I told him that I didn’t buy into karma all that much, but that if you are an open, honest and integral person, people will respond positively to that. I don’t know why I said this next part, but I did. “Of course, being a Christian, I find all of those things rooted in the identity of Jesus Christ.”

Wow…bit of a bomb to drop on someone.

Thank goodness my room mate is pretty chill. He asked me what I thought about Jesus and we had a healthy discussion about Jesus, and the bible and the death and resurrection. All because I left my door open.

I could go on.

There are a lot of verses I can give around the subject of mission. But I will save those for another day and just share a small one. 2 Corinthians 3:2-4 talks about how we are all living letters for God. Every time I have heard people preach on these verses, they always follow them up with the question, “What kind of story are you writing?” If you’ll pardon my frankness, but this is a load. We are not the authors, Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith. We are the pages on which Jesus writes his story. It is on the pages of our lives that the story of God is written, and it is on the pages of our lives that his story is also read. The bible is filled with people being faithful to the promises and commandments of God, it is one of the reasons that we are encouraged by them, and it is one of the reasons we meet God in them. If we want people to meet Jesus, we need to do two things. We need to be open to be written in, and we need to go and be available to be read.

Discover your area of influence, be available there.

I’ll probably talk a bit more about this tomorrow.