A conversation with Islam

islam_christianityToday in Missions class we did something truly remarkable…and truly unorthodox.  Our teacher invited in a devout Muslim to engage in discussion.  Honestly this was my first real engagement with a Muslim since my friend Azeem in high school.  What transpired was truly helpful as we got to peer into the mind of a Muslim and how he thinks about the world and we also learned about the nature of Islam.

As he was sharing and answering questions I found myself able to see where these different world-views really bump up against each other, that is, where in our practical life that it makes a difference what you believe, if you live it out.  With regard to Islam there are at least three major distinctions that came out of today’s conversation.  The Nature of God (trinity), The Nature of Sin, and the identity of Jesus.

1.  The Nature of God, The Trinity

I suppose this is a no-brainer.  But Islam lives by the motto, “there is one God and Muhammad is is prophet.”  A muslim would tell you that there are three great God-02Abrahamic Faiths, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam and that they are all monotheistic.  While there is some obvious truth to that, Christianity is more of the fulfillment of Judaism.  That is, gentiles have been grafted into God’s covenant people via faith in Jesus’ work.  Islam, in some ways seems to be a reaction to Christianity and specifically to the nature of the Trinity.  It is a mystery, no doubt, how Christians believe God is one, yet three persons.  But we must leave it at that, a mystery, by its very nature is unexplainable.

Islam, would also have no conception of the Holy Spirit and His work.  Basically, in Islam, it is all up to the individual to decide, even so spurred on by education and the teachings of Islam.  At least, in Reformed Christianity, turning to God and choosing him is only possible after the work of the Holy Spirit coming in an changing a persons heart.  In Islam, you are left to just yourself, in Christianity God comes into your heart to save you and change you.  You are never left to yourself.

One final element in the nature of God is his transcendence.  In Islam, God is utterly unknowable in a personal way.  There are 99 attributes of God, or names of God, some of which are justice, mercy and compassion.  But there is no such personal relationship as there is in Christianity, where through the Son, we are made sons of God.  Only a Christian can call God father, and know him in such a personal an intimate way.  All others religions may know him as Creator, or Sovereign for example.  But only in Christ are we said to be his children.

2.  The Sin Nature

sinThis is also a major difference between the two religions, and, in fact, Christianity may be the only religions that teaches the idea of not only original sin, but its consequence, total depravity.  A muslim  would teach that people are born pure and are only held accountable after they reach puberty and understand the rules.  Christianity however, teach that from Adam’s sin on down to our present day that we are tainted with a sin nature, in that we sin by both nature and choice.

According to Christianity, we are all born into sin, and are unable to choose and love God and thus incapable of doing good, and eve if we do ‘good’ we are unable to do it with God honoring motivations and intentions.  Now I realize, that this also is offensive to the secular mindset and so Islam may have some advantage there.  But the beauty of Christianity is that we are sinful, and dark and evil, yet God’s grace through Jesus is all the more astounding and our change at regeneration and through the rest of our life all the more magnificent.  But Islam does believe in a Judgment Day, which isn’t so acceptable in the secular mind, but your life is spent trying to do more good works than bad and banking on God’s mercy on you on the judgment day.

But for the Christian, God’s mercy and grace has already been given in Christ, by his perfect life (which by the way is the requirement), so we can live our life in full assurance of the blessings of the age to come.  Islam, can offer no such assurance, only a hope.

3.  Who Jesus is

Here is a really tricky one because if you were to ask a Muslim if he believes in Jesus hejesus-resurrected-ray-downing would say yes, of course he does.  The real question is, “which Jesus do you believe in?”  They do believe that Jesus was a prophet and he is highly honored as such, but they do not believe in the Jesus presented in the gospels.  They do not believe that Jesus was the son of God, God incarnate, come to die for the sins of the world and rise for her justification.  When pressed on what the gospels do teach, they would say that the Christians scriptures have been corrupted and attribute a lot of the confusion to Paul’s teaching.  But when one looks into the nature of the scriptures, their creation, preservation and propagation, we find a different story.  The gospels are reliable.  And so the bottom line is that, though they say they believe in Jesus, it is not the same Jesus.

Conclusion:
So it was very helpful to see some of these distinctions between our religions and make no mistake they make a difference in how you live your life.  Granted that even as a Christian we struggle mightily with sin and truly loving people and loving God, but we can always look to the Cross and rest assured that we truly are his, because as Jesus uttered on the Cross…”it is finished.”  We are able to live free lives, free from the fear of punishment and consequences of Sin that will come on the last day.

What difference does Jesus make?

christ_mosaicI find myself considering this question more than I like to admit.  When people who don’t know Jesus seemingly are so happy and fulfilled I wonder, what difference does it make that I claim allegiance to Jesus?  This is especially true when I’m having a hard day, or when my wife and I are struggling with something.  Why do we need Jesus?  What difference does he make, here and now?

1. Jesus gives us a deeper, enduring Joy

There are a plethora of joys in the world, anyone who denies that is self deceived.  Sin is appealing no doubt, it feels good, it brings pleasure.  But it doesn’t bring lasting pleasure.  In fact, anytime sin is involved we will see two things happening.  One just as your tolerance for caffeine goes up the more you drink so too with the pleasures of sin. joy_stone3 You will find yourself needing more and more of it to get to the same point of pleasure.  This is in a sense true of Jesus also, but the difference is Jesus keeps on giving.  In fact the more you enjoy Jesus, the more you are able to enjoy Jesus and on and on it goes, actually to eternity.  This is kind of like a positive feedback loop.  Loving and enjoying Jesus only leads to more loving and enjoying Jesus, on forever.

2.  Jesus relieves of the need to hold grudges.

Here is an amazing fact.  In the gospels we read about Jesus forgiving sins on the spot.  Now have you ever thought about that?  Jesus comes a long and forgives someone’s sin against someone else.  It would be like Jesus coming into a situation and forgiving a thief for stealing right in front of the person who was robbed.  The person who was robbed would be like…what?  What about me?  This cost me something, where’s my retribution.  But this is the beautiful thing about the gospel.  Jesus paid the price for everyone’s sins.  We can also be free to forgive the ‘thief’ because Jesus took the punishment he deserves.  This means we don’t have too seek revenge.  Justice has been served, punishment has been delivered.

Holding-Grudges_largeThis means so much in the context of marriage because husband and wife will daily sin against each other.  And the only thing that can clear the obstacles of resentment and anger is realizing that Jesus paid the price for the sins committed.  This really only works when both husband and wife are believers.  But thank about that.  When we believe that Jesus takes the penalty of sin, it relieves us of the need to seek to hurt or seek retribution from the other party.  This is freedom indeed.

And what results when both parties do this is actually a deeper intimacy.  A deeper friendship.  Only Jesus can turn sin and use it for good and godly purposes.  This is amazing.  Whatever happens in a nonbelievers union the compromises made will never reach the depth that the atonement achieves for us.

Jesus says we are free, and we are free indeed when we believe in Him. This is great news.

3. Only Jesus fulfills the truest and deepest needs of our souls.

All of us are all the time seeking our deepest pleasure.  We may work a job we hate, but deep down we are choosing to do that so as to avoid the worse consequences of being unemployed.  We may go out and party with our friends, drinking and carrying on, because we believe that will fill the gap.  But it doesn’t last.  The next morning we have lost the high, or worse yet we may be in regret.

The truth is that the desire that manifests itself in us, is actually pointing to a deeper Happiness-1truth.  CS Lewis has said it best, hunger does prove that such a thing as food exists, but it certainly proves that such a thing ought to exist.  So to, if nothing in this world can ultimately satisfy us, the only logical answer is that we were made for another world.

We were made to know, love and enjoy Jesus.  Only this will severe the intense longing to fulfill our souls.  To be sure we will continue to seek pleasures and continue to seek Him more, but at last our hunger will start to be truly satisfied, and will reach full satisfaction in the age to come.  That is perhaps the most striking answer to why we need Jesus.  We are a people that are looking forward to the age to come.  Like an engaged couple anxiously awaiting the joys and pleasures of their wedding night, so too we long and wait for the eternal joy that is to come to us who believe, when Jesus, at last comes back.

That is our hope.  That makes all the difference.  We are not suffering in vain, but all has meaning.  All has purpose.  All is for our good and God’s glory.  That is a precious truth, and a truth that the world, with all it’s promises can never trump.

Thank you Jesus for your truth.  Thank you that you are  the truth.

You cannot Commend what you do not Cherish…

Is there any more concise way to sum up the Christian life?

John Calvin was right, we are Idol making factories and the Idol we most fashion exasperatedand we most bow down to is our self.  Oh, that we (I) would be free from the tyranny of self.  We so often are preoccupied with what we need to do, what we ought to do.  We run around as Christians -as those who have been freed from the Law, freed from to-do lists, free from performance treadmills -as though we were still bound to the law as a slave, as thought we need to earn our worth and status, as though our performance determines how well we are doing.

The reality is the Christian life is so much better.  Author and Pastor, Tullian Tchividjian puts it this was,

“To stop obsessing over if we are getting better, is what it means to get better”

Oh how quickly we turn from the source of all joy and satisfaction and turn to our own efforts.  I want to be free of this.  And the truth is the less we are focused on our self and the more we are focused on the glories of King Jesus, the more we will actually fulfill His desires for us and for others.

That’s why this quote is soooo crucial.  You want to talk about mission?  Missions? Evangelism? Community Groups? Church Structures?  What is the only thing we really need to do?

Fall more deeply in love with Jesus.

When we bask in the freedom of the gospel, in the magnitude of God’s grace towards us, we cannot be unchanged.  We begin to cherish Jesus and cherish his mission because we have been so deeply changed.  And this is a gift in and of itself, a work of the Holy Spirit.

And so how can we become more missional?  How can we become more concerned with the lost?  Is it by more programs or more money diverted to these causes?  Perhaps, but there is a deeper solution still, and it is no secret.

cakeThe solution is to know, love and enjoy God more.  From this will stem a true desire for God and for his purposes in the world.  Only when we truly cherish God can we commend him to others.  It’s like sharing a great movie with someone, or sharing a delicious piece of Cake.  We say, hey man you gotta try this…it’s delicious.

That is the heart of mission, that is the only true, enduring and lasting motivation that will indeed bring God’s kingdom on Earth!

Six Marks of a Movement

6In Steve Childers’ Missions last week we completed our broad sweep of missions throughout the history of the Church.  In this overview emerged six marks that reveal a healthy God-honoring, mission  focussed, gospel centered movement.

1. Personal Conversion
In the movements we looked at that made a significant impact personal conversion was always stressed.  We need to make sure that we don’t have a group mentality but that each member of our church has in fact been converted.  What we are battling against is nominal Christianity.  We want people that love Jesus and want to perpetuate His message of grace.  That only happens when one is truly converted, and that only happens when one receives the Holy Spirit.  Craig Ott puts it this way “Mission passion fueled by the power of the Holy Spirit is the locomotive pulling the train of Christian mission.”1

2. Taking sanctification seriously.
Or taking one’s walk with God seriously.  If one is converted and indwelled with the Holy Spirit he cannot remain stagnant because the Holy Spirit isn’t stagnant.  Overtime one’s love for God and His mission will grow.  Along with that obedience will grow and joy and trust in God’s character.  When we don’t encourage this sort of lifestyle we cut the legs out from under a deeply rooted faith that is necessary to propel us into risky endeavors to bring the gospel of grace to the ends of the earth.

3. God’s Word to us
The Bible both recounts all of redemptive History and speaks directly to our hearts.  This maybe seen as one’s devotional life, but the fact is the word of God is nourishment of our souls.  When we are regularly in it seeking to hear from God and be changed it will keep us balanced on the gospel.  It will speak to our hearts in moments of despair.  It will fuel the fire for missional zeal.  And it will remind us that God is in charge and because everything we want and need we already have in Christ, it will free us to serve him with everything that we are.

4. The Kingdom of Priests
Here the emphasis is that role of laity is active not passive.  Each believer is indwet with the Holy Spirit and is responsible to learn His voice, trust His leading and not quench Him.  The church is not the Lead Pastor or elder team, the church is each and every member.  The Pastor and elders are in place at God’s discretion to love and lead the body in Godliness.  Their job is to equip the saints for the ministry (Eph 4:12), we are those saints!

5. Societal and Cultural Transformation
If the people are being radically changed individually then this will inevitably lead to cultural and societal renewal.  When the values of a people are changed it is reflected in all areas of life.  We should be intentional about this as well, this is part of the ministry of the saints.  Some will be uniquely wired and gifted to impact different elements of society.  This should be encouraged within our churches.

6. Mission is stressed to the ends of the Earth.
There is no way around it.  You cannot claim to love God and not love the things He loves.  God loves people, He loves them so much that He sent His son to die for them, so that they could be His people.  God’s heart is given to us by the Holy Spirit.  It may take time, and that’s ok, but eventually the Holy Spirit will reveal His work in his church by there being an intense passion for the lost of the world.

Whatever your context is these are penetrating questions, yet very simple.  History can teach us so much about the present if we will take the time to learn from those who have gone before us.

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, are these six things manifesting themselves?

 

1. Ott, Craig (2010-05-01). Encountering Theology of Mission (Encountering Mission): Biblical Foundations, Historical Developments, and Contemporary Issues (Kindle Locations 149-150). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Theology, Spirituality, and Mission

fruit-bearing-580x333What makes a healthy Christian?  In my Missions class this week we learned that these three are vital to a healthy lifestyle:  Theology, Spirituality, Mission.

 

Spirituality could be defined as being deeply devoted to Christ Jesus and the spiritual disciplines to grow in His grace.

Theology could be described as a love of learning and a life of learning.  We ought to always be hungry to know more of God.  Jesus says in John 17:3 that ‘knowing God is eternal life.’  We will spend an eternity getting to know an infinite God.

Mission can be seen as a great passion and zeal for those not yet saved.  God’s grace never stops on us, but changes us and then flows through us into others.  This looks like a lot of things, one of them being a love for the lost and a deep passion that others would know the God you know, and experience His grace and be saved.

This is a very helpful way to break down the Christian life.  When a movement gets going these three things are always present.  All of these must be kept in a healthy balance, if one is lacking then our walk will be lacking.  But when these three are held in tandem and practiced the result could only be joy.

Yet the truth is all of us will have propensities towards one of these.  Are you heady andring do you love theology?  Do you love to study and beef up on knowledge?  Then Theology is your bent.  Do you constantly think about evangelism and winning others to Christ and discipling people?  Then your bent is mission.  Do you love to pray to God and sit and meditate on his truths?  Do you yearn for others know God more deeply and thoroughly?  Then your bent is Spiritual.

The great truth is that God has wired us all differently, yet when we come together harmoniously, not out of envy, we operate as a healthy body, and healthy things grow. Ephesians 4:15-16 gives us the best description.

15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. “

Let us strive, then to this end, together.  Keeping an eye on all three of these important elements.

 

Should we even do mission?

coexistSome would claim that trying to convert anyone to a religion is “arrogant, bigoted, or intolerant”1, others reject any single universal truth claim, still for others, missions is viewed as a form of imperialism, or that missions destroys cultures.  Some look to the Crusades and claim that it is because of missions that so much blood has been shed.  Others see any form of fundamentalism (including Biblical Christianity) as extremist and dangerous. Finally, some may even claim that there are already too many Christians in the world, why in the earth would we need more.

Criticisms and challenges abound against the idea of Christian Missions.  I might even add to the pile from within the Christian community as Missions being hard, or dangerous, or that there is already enough to worry about in my life, who has time to worry about missions.

Craig Ott in his book Εncountering a Theology of Missions confronts these claims head on.  He claims that the idea of mission(s) is rooted far more deeply than just a particular culture, religion or people.  He asserts that Mission arises from the very nature of God.  He says that, “Mission must start with the very person, plan, and character of God himself as revealed in the scriptures.”  (This, of course, assumes that the God revealed in the Scriptures, is the real and true God.)

Ott says that mission is fundamental to who God is, because God is the creator of everything and therefore is a universal God.  There is nothing that is outside of his godcontrol or authority.  If we are to believe in God, this undoubtedly would be the sort of God we’d have to believe in, or else He isn’t much of a God.  Therefore, God is not just the God of a particular people or religion, if He is God, He is the God of everyone and everything.

The God of the universe then, is also an intentional God, and has a particular plan for His creation.  Because His authority and control extend over everything, so to then does his plan, and thus it is a universal plan.  What is His plan?  That His creation, climaxing in the creation of humanity, would be His people, and He would be their God.  The only problem is, humanity has rejected both God’s authority and control.

Therefore God’s response, isn’t to blot out humanity from the face of the earth, which He has every right to do if he is in fact Creator, but rather His plan is to pursue humanity and go to great lengths to demonstrate His love for them by becoming a man Himself, identifying with all our struggles, resisting temptation, joyfully obeying God in every moment of His life, and then taking upon Himself on the cross the banishment and punishment that we all deserved by turning from Him.

Through this single act of Judgment and Mercy He opens a way for us to be reconciled to Him.  He sends His own spirit into our very beings to change us at the most heartfundamental level so that we too could joyfully respond to and obey God, the creator.  This is only made possible when our eyes are opened to see the truth for what it is, we have turned away from the only source of life and chosen death.  We are sinners in need of a savior and that savior is Jesus.

Although Christianity has been called the most exclusive religion, it is simultaneously the most inclusive religion.  For through Christ, the way is open to every ethnicity, nation, color, language and people on the face of the earth.  God’s open hand extends to the end of the earth.

Why did He do it?  Love.

“Mission has its origin in the heart of God. God is a fountain of sending love. This is the deepest source of mission. It is impossible to penetrate deeper still; there is mission because God loves people” – David J. Bosch.

God is bringing about His original intent that humanity would be His people, and that He would be their God.  God by His very nature is a sending God.  God, the Father, sends the Son.  God, the Father, and God the Son, send the Spirit.  And God, the Father, God, the Son, and God, the Holy Spirit, send the church.

Once you grasp the universal scope of God’s mission, you cannot be unchanged.  God has a purpose and it is issuing from His deep heart of Love.  Ott gives us five practical implications of a proper understanding of God’s mission:

  1. Assurance That Mission Is God’s Prerogative and Undertaking
  2. We Can Confidently Proclaim the Gospel to All People
  3. The Person of Jesus Christ Must Remain Central to Both the Method and the Message of Mission
  4. Mission Must Be Undertaken in Dependency on the Power of the Holy Spirit
  5. We Can Be Encouraged and Inspired to Renew Our Commitment to Mission

 

*Credit for this content is mostly due to Craig Ott in his book, Encountering a Theology of Mission, Chapter 3, “The Justification of the Mission”.  This was reading done for Steve Childers’ Missions class.

Are we being missional?

missional-graphic-2Today was the first time I really got to see the passion of Steve Childers for missions. Today’s terminology of being missional, or being on mission, or missio dei, or missions has become so convoluted that we are not sure what we are even talking about.  Modern missional reformed movements have hijacked the traditional term missions and it has taken on a new meaning.

Essentially being missional is living on mission wherever God has you.  That is, you are living in such as way as to bring people to Christ.  You are intentional about seeking and saving the lost.  You are involved in culture, creating, caring for, showing mercy and making the world a better place.  But the end goal is always that people would come to know Jesus.  That they would see our works and glorify God (Matt 5:16).

This is all good and right and should be the way we live as Christians.  The problem is being missional is really just another word to basically mean be a Christian.  In America, we have gotten to the point that being Christian means you go to church once a week.  But this is not the biblical picture of being a Christian.  Being a Christian is an entire new nature (2 Cor 5:17, Gal 6:15) and an entire new way of thinking (Rom 12:1-2).  In an attempt to reclaim what it means to be Christian we have had to adopt new terminology.  But is something being missed in our use of the word missional?

Steve Chliders says yes and it could be tragic.  “Missions” has historically referred to the childerssending of missionaries to the unreached people of the earth.  (Unreached being defined as “A people group among which there are no churches with adequate numbers and resources to evangelize this people group without requiring outside (cross-cultural) assistance.”)1  What has been an important move against nominal Christianity may actually eclipse part of the Great Commission.  In our attempt to reach our cities and neighborhoods we are neglecting the needs of the lost where there are no resources to aid them.

imagesThis isn’t a rebuke to stop being ‘missional’ in your context, that is necessary and right and true.  It is a rebuke to not forget the nations.  90% of our resources going to missionary work is going to areas that already have sufficient resources.  Where are the missionaries that are going into the unreached people?  Have we forgotten that Christianity has spread through persecution?  Are we afraid as Christians to leave the comforts of the Western World and give our lives for Christ?

These are penetrating and scary words.  Let us consider anew the calling of God, to be a light to the nations, both reached and unreached.

1From class notes.

(This post is in response to week 3 of Steve Childers’ Missions class at RTS)

Mission is not the goal…

piper_handsYou cannot read John Piper on missions and not be deeply moved.  Consider these statements:

Missions is not the ultimate goal of the Church, worship is.  Missions exists because worship doesn’t

 

Worship is also the fuel of missions…You can’t commend what you don’t cherish.

 

Where passion for God is weak, zeal for missions will be weak.

 

All of history is moving toward one great goal, the white-hot worship of God and his son among all the peoples of the earth.

 

Missions is not God’s ultimate goal.  Worship is.  And when this sinks into a person’s heart, everything changes.

 

Missions is the overflow of our delight in God because missions is the overflow of God’s delight in being God.

 

The liberating fact is that the message we take to the frontiers is that people everywhere should seek their own best interest.  We are summoning people to God.

 

His first and great requirement of all men everywhere is that they repent from seeking their joy in other things and begin to seek it only in him.

 

A God who cannot be served is a God who can only be enjoyed.

 

The most exhilarating thought in the world is that God’s inexorable purpose to display his glory in the mission of the Church is virtually the same as his purpose to give his people infinite delight.

 

These words are indeed liberating.  Mission(s) isn’t something we do out of necessity or obligation, we do it because we love God so much that we can’t help but tell others about Him.  If you have ever been in love you know this.  You can’t stop thinking about the person, you tell all your friends, your parents, everyone you meet.  You can’t wait to spend time with that person.  This is a picture of how we ought to relate to God.

When we know God, when we clearly see who He is, in his word, we will be change and we will begin to love Him in this way.  And the more we love Him, the more we get to know HIm the more we will be compelled by our great love of Him, because of His great love of us, to go the world, to our cities, to our neighborhoods to simply tell others of Him, because we want their best joy also!

(This is in response to week 3 reading of Steve Childer’s Missions class at RTS)

4 Myths about Missions

missionWhen I hear the word missions My mind almost immediately conjures up images of distant and remote tribes needing to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ, but is this the biblical image?  Is it only the most dedicated Christians who go over seas?  Can you be an authentic Christian without a radical commitment to missions? These are a few of the pertinent questions that need to be answered if we are to adequately understand what the Bible means by mission.

Myth #1: A Radical Commitment to Missions is Optional

Here is one that we probably all cringe at.  John Piper says that a “commitment to missions is the measure of the authenticity of your theology.”  What that means is we cannot claim to love Jesus if we don’t also love what Jesus loves.  Jesus says that he came to “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10).  He spent countless hours with sinners, so much so that he was accused of being a glutton and a drunk.

What is so uncomfortable about this is probably that we feel like we have to do something and we don’t want to feel guilty.  But the truth is mission isn’t about doing, it’s about being.  Maturing as a Christian means you grow to be more like Christ, and since Christ was a missionary, we too will become missionary minded.  If we are not the answer isn’t to go out and do a bunch of missional stuff (though that might be better than nothing) the answer is to get to know Jesus more.  Something isn’t flowing right.  When we see Jesus clearly we love him (we can’t help it) and when we love Him we become like Him.  Mission is about loving, adoring and cherishing God and commending other to Him.

Myth #2: You Can Have a Commitment to Sound Theology Without Having a Commitment to Missions

Sound theology, will always have a missional bent.  The Father sends the son, the Father and the Son send the Spirit, and the Father, Son and Spirit send the Church (John 20:21)  John Stott says that “God centered theology is always missional because God is a sending God.”  Michael Goheen in his book Light to the Nations explores the idea of the mission of the people of God all throughout the Bible.  Mission was always the case.  Israel was to be a Light to the Nations.  Goheen makes the distinction that a shift did happen with the coming of Jesus, the mission went from centripetal force (that is inwards towards Israel) to a centrifugal force (that is out to the World). (131)  So we can see that the mission of Israel began with God’s promise the the patriarch Abraham, that through his seed the nations would be blessed (Gen 12:1-3), which was fulfilled in Jesus and carried out through the church.

Myth #3: A True Commitment to Missions Means Going Overseas

Mark Driscoll, among others, has said for us today, missions is walking across the street.  If we truly are the church then we are on mission wherever it is we find ourselves.  Christianity is in decline in North America and it is showing.  A hundred years ago everybody would have said they were Christian, but post modernism and the Information Age has caused many to discount the Bible as meaningful or relevant.  The result being that Churches die and large regions become secularized.  The challenge for the Church is to apply God’s timeless truth to our times.  This is part of the mission of God and in modern America this challenge is around every street corner.

Myth #4: A Radical Commitment to Missions Will Cost You More Than it Will Benefit you.

The truth is when we give our lives for the cause of Jesus we gain immeasurably more than we could ever lose (Matt 19:29).  There is a great lie that when we give up earthly things to serve God and seek the Kingdom that we somehow lose out.  But the truth is that when we are aligned with God’s purposes and walking out his purposes by the obedience that comes from faith, we are more fulfilled and more joyful than we could ever be with worldly things.  I think the great missionary Jim Elliot, who gave his life for God’s mission, says it best, “He is no fool who gives up what he can’t keep to gain what he can’t lose.”

(This is in response to Steve Childer’s Missions Class Week 1, RTS)

Search me, Oh God…

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! (Psa 139:23-24)

This is one of the most important prayers we can utter.  David knew this.  The problem imagesis our hearts can’t be trusted.  Even when we become Christians we have blind spots, we have doubts, we have motives that are wayward.  I heard one Pastor liken our intuition to a faulty map app.  If it’s off it will lead us astray.

When I come to decision points in my live and/or experience struggles I almost immediately turn to the one person I’ve always been able to trust, or so I thought…that person being me.  But God has given us something much better.  He’s given us the church, the church filled with his Holy Spirit.  He’s actually given us Himself.  And when we pray this prayer we are asking Him to come into our lives, to speak to our blind spots, to bring us back from waywardness to His path.  The Path that is everlasting.  The Path to eternal life.  That is the Path to Him.

I am in one such phase as I creep back into church leadership, wrought with fears of how it went last time.  I want to be protected, I want to be loved, I don’t want to feel used.  These are my fears, some legitimate.  But being a Christian we have something far better.  We have a God who IS our protection.  We have a God who DOES love us and has demonstrated that to us through the Cross.  And we have a God who invites us to lose our lives that we might gain them in Him.

This is a far better truth and reality than the do it your self, if you just believe enough,IMG_2484 if you just have enough faith mentality.  For one, even the faith we have is a gift (Eph 2:8-9).   And so I’m praying that prayer and moving forward, trusting that God is good to fulfill his promises, to lead me in the way everlasting.