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.

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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.

Not Just for Me

Skyline_002I have been reading Deuteronomy in my private devotional time. It was no easy choice as there are so many questions and subjects that I would love to look up and I found it more than difficult to sort of hone in on any one place. I suppose I could have just gone wherever I wanted to go, read whatever I wanted, looked for something that very specifically addressed my current need. But Jesus hit me hard with that kind of thinking and behaviour not to long ago.

My church has been going through Nehemiah in our series called Magna Civitas. We have been looking at how God rebuilt his people as they rebuilt their destroyed city of Jerusalem and the take away is how we as followers of Jesus Christ are to approach the city we are in. It has been something rich with the Gospel Story, with Discipleship and the call to mission and to leave our comfort zone so that we can identify the broken gates in our city and help repair them. Not a week goes by where God hasn’t challenged with with this. In fact, it was this very series that was pivotal in my decision not to go back to Manchester, but to remain in Calgary (more on that another time). It’s the reason I started this blog in the first place.

We had been going through Nehemiah 8 a couple weeks ago and it occurred to me just how selfish my time in the bible tends to be. We go to the bible because it is a great source of encouragement to us. We learn about our identity and how it is rooted in Jesus. We learn about our purpose and why God created us. We learn about who God is, not just through prophets and poetry and divine acts, but in the life of Jesus Christ and the impact he had on people. When times get tough, we can go to the bible and we can find steady footing again, we can recentre ourselves on Jesus and find security in him.

Confession. I do not always do this.

It is hard enough to remind myself in times of doubt, or times of loneliness or when I need to be uplifted, to find those things in the bible. So imagine how hard it is to not just go into the bible for myself, but for others as well! The challenge that Jesus laid on my heart was that I was using his word as a means of settling my own problems which was keeping me back from an incredible and much more full expression of community. Yes, there will be times where God can speak through his word directly into a situation in my life. But there are other times where I might be reading something and have  trouble making sense of it. My immediate reaction is drop whatever it is that I am reading, and flick through until I find something that deals with my problem. Again, it isn’t bad to want to find encouragement in God’s word. My question is, what if God gave that piece of encouragement to someone else, to give to me? Better yet, what if that difficult passage I am reading and having trouble with isn’t in fact for me, but is in fact for me to share with another person?

Kind of puts a new spin on things, eh?

It occurred to me that I was missing out in engaging with other people because I would crawl inside my own issues and seek a private answer. Yes, it is important for us to see the value of the bible in our lives, but it is equally as important to encourage others with it as well. This is a part of mission, this is a part of discipleship. When it comes to mission, we get to live these encouragements out, maybe people ask us about them, or maybe, if you’ve developed a good relationship with a person, you can just tell them about it. When it comes to discipleship, what I am learning is what you are learning and what you are learning becomes what I learning. I was intensely convicted by this. I was challenged.

I love challenges.

Sometimes a challenge can put me on edge and start to question the worth of pursuing it. Other times, most of the time, it is an opportunity to rise to the occasion. Don’t leave here thinking anything special on the part of my character here. There is a very good chance that this desire stems completely from my bull headed stubbornness. It’s a family trait.

In Nehemiah chapter 8, the word of the law, the words of God, are read to the entire nation of Israel that had helped to rebuild Jerusalem, and they were made to understand with the assistance of the priests. After they were convicted, they celebrated together because they understood together. This is a community thing. The word of God is a community thing, something we do together and not alone. How cool is that!? Doesn’t that excite you? It certainly excites me, and it lit a fire under my ass to want to get into my bible more, not for head knowledge, not even just heart knowledge (heart knowledge is an amazing thing), but for Heart Application as well. This conviction certainly stopped me in my tracks for a moment, but then I grew excited at the prospect of being made closer to people for it. I yearned, from that moment, even more to understand Jesus so that I could be drawn closer to him, but also closer to the people, all of the people, that God has blessed my life with.

I hope this challenges you. Like it did me.

I hope this encourages you. Like it did me.

I hope this draws you closer to Jesus. Like it did me.

I hope this draws you closer to people. Like it did me.

It’s kind of funny, I had started this post in the hopes of sharing what I am learning in Deuteronomy…looks like that will need to wait for another day. Did I mention I was unorganised?

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.