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. 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.