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!

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.

What is in a Name?

“Oh great, another Christian Missionary Blog.”

“What kind of name is that?”

“Dude looks like a hipster…paaaaassss”

“YOLO!”

“Ooo, an introductory post, those are always real gems!”

These could very well be one among some of the many things you might be thinking if you’ve stumbled across this blog. And honestly, I get it, I’ve said the same things.

Well…except YOLO.

It feels like the Christian Community has taken to blogging their thoughts on the world with an unbridled passion. And in true Christian fashion we all seem to be trying to out “contraversialise ” one another by choosing to write around subjects that are likely to generate a lot of interest and discussion, as well as a great deal of death threats and hate mail. There are a few people who don’t, and they are pretty awesome. I hope to be among those few who don’t, though it is likely that I’ll step on a few toes. It’s pretty much unavoidable when it comes to sharing your opinion online. Somebody is going to take umbrage with it.

My hope is that I can create a space where I what I am learning will be shared and that it will be as encouraging to you as it has been to me, regardless of your background. I just want to meet people, hear their stories and have a chance to share my own in the process. So if you think you’re down with that, well then welcome!

There is one thing up there I would like to address.

The name I chose for this blog.

It’s more or less an inside joke, though I doubt there are many people who wouldn’t get the humour behind it.

I have a bit of a pet peeve, and it was/is one that I derive a great amount of joy in getting to express with some of my friends, more in particular, a friend of mine from back in Manchester. The two of us on many occasions had joked around about the kinds of names that surfaced in Christian Ministries and Church Programmes. If it wasn’t something being set on fire, it was something being drowned in water, blown up or sent in some direction with extreme force, or an obscure Greek/Latin/Aramaic/Chaldean/Hebrew word, that was more often than not, taken entirely out of context. My friend had told me about numerous occasions where he had been stuck in church meetings for hours on end as they worked to develop and pray over the name for their new programme.

Oh, and acronyms, can’t forget those!

I don’t know about you, but that would drive me nuts.

My friend, in exasperation, finally exclaimed, “Call it Charlie Sofa Face Fun Time! Who cares!?” (try to imagine this being shouted in a Northern Irish accent, it makes it a great deal more amusing)

We both had seen more than our fair share of overly deep names given to various events and programmes, all in the name of marketing and sounding attractive. Don’t get me wrong, there isn’t anything wrong with wanting a name that will reach out and grab peoples attention, but there are some pretty standard tropes when it comes to naming Christian Stuff that we really need to let go of.

Engage

Refresh

Renew

Restore

Regroup (there is a great story behind this one. Feel free to ask!)

Impact

Fire

Elijah Project (one of my own)

Tahilla

Rock

Initiate

Detonate

Action

Dinamus

Ignite

Living Water

Rain

Radical

Radiate

[something] Revolution (we love revolutions, nothing like a good ol’fashioned revolt)

Crave (no, not the cupcakes)

i[something] (cus iPhone, get it?)

Reach

etc.

You get the point I am sure.

Before you paint me as some kind of pessimist, I don’t think these are terrible names, in fact I contributed to a few of them myself. I just want you to get a little bit of insight into my own sense of humour and as to why I chose the name I did for this blog. It’s a bit of a throw back to some of those more humorous conversations with friends that often involved us making up silly names for things. It seemed the best one to capture a little bit of who I was, a guy with a real sarcastic streak and the ability to laugh at himself.

I figured I will have covered most of my bases with the name. I found a website with at least 26,000 ministry names. Mine has got to at least pool together like…half of those or something.

Anyway, I look forward to continuing to update this blog on a bi-weekly basis. I promise that it will be much more interesting than just me ranting about names.

I’ll probably rant about other stuff to.