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!

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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.