Several years ago, I ran across The Mission of God by Christopher Wright and it, along with my seminary experience in San Francisco at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary changed my view of "missions" and what God is doing in the world. Wright says that we should see the Mission of God, or the Missio Dei, as central to who God is and what He is doing. He also says that we should read the Bible in light of God's mission to seek and save the lost. He says that most people would agree that there is a Biblical basis for mission, but he actually turns things around and says that mission is so central to the heart of God that there is a missional basis for the Bible. In order to rightly understand the Bible, we need to see it through the lens of God's mission. The more that I thought about this, the more that I realized that he is correct. The "Big Picture" or "metanarrative" of Scripture centers on the person and work of Jesus and God's plan to reconcile all of Creation back to Himself through Christ. If we can see that, then we can better understand Scripture and our place in God's Story. Getting this helped me personally align my life with God's purposes and also helped me as I sought to help others walk with God in the ways that He intends. I don't see "mission" as an add-on to the Christian life when someone becomes really mature, but rather, I see it as the heart of God that captures and affects us from the very beginning of our relationship with Christ.
It is with this perspective in view that B&H Publishing in conjunction with Lifeway has published the Mission of God Study Bible:
The Mission of God Study Bible encourages followers of Jesus Christ to see their everyday life from God's perspective and have His heart for people. It's a reminder that we live around people in desperate need of redemption and reconciliation with God, which can only be found in Jesus. The mission of God has never been just for specialists; it is for all believers to live out through their daily lives and by sharing the good news of what God has done through the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus. Wherever you are, you are on mission.
In The Mission of God Study Bible, readers will hear from today's top thinkers, theologians, and leading voices in the church about what it means to live in the mission of God. Essay contributors include Matt Chandler, Tullian Tchividjian, Ed Stetzer, Matthew Barnett, Andrea Mullins, Dave Ferguson, Christopher J.H. Wright, and many others.
Readers will also discover "Letters to the Church" from elder statesmen that speak to the grand narrative of God's mission in Scripture. These words from Billy Graham, Jack Hayford, R. T. Kendall, Erwin Lutzer, Calvin Miller, and R.C. Sproul will inspire you to live God's mission daily.
Lifeway is hosting a live webcast with Ed Stetzer and Philip Nation, the editors, and other guests about the Mission of God Study Bible next Monday, January 28th, at 3pm EST (2pm CST). Go to lifeway.com/theexchange for the webcast. I was asked by Lifeway if I would help get the word out about it and because I think it is a good thing and I know a few of the contributors, I thought it would be a good idea to participate.
They have also made a free code available to be able to access the study Bible online. I will be giving away that code on Monday morning in another post to the first person who asks me, so be looking for that.
Here is an intro video to the study Bible and the webcast from Ed Stetzer, one of the editors:
In addition, Lifeway has provided some articles from the Study Bible to preview. Here is one by Christopher Wright on God's big story that I was referring to earlier. Check it out and take part in the webcast Monday afternoon!
The Metanarrative of God’s Mission
Too often, the church has separated theology (as a discipline about God—what God is like, what God has said, and what God has done), from missions (being about us and what we do). However, our mission is derived from God’s own mission—he
Some people use the term missio Dei as referring only to the sending action of God. The reason they do this is that the “root” of the Latin verb mitto means “to send.” However, if we reduce our focus only to the sending acts of God, we may ignore a number of important missional themes and teachings in the Bible, which are crucial for our understanding of the fullness of God’s mission and our own practice of missions.
Through the experience of God’s grace, God makes Himself known. God declares His desire to be known through salvation (Ex 5:22-6:8, Is 46:9-10). He declares Himself to be the king over the whole earth through His redemptive acts (Ex 2:23-24, 15:18, Ezk 36:21-23). Based on His redemptive deeds, the Bible proclaims that there is “no other” god than the God of Israel (Dt 4:32-39, Is 41:22- 23). Unlike the fictional gods of the other peoples, who were thought of as having limited power that allowed them to rule only over specific locations, the God of the Bible has unlimited power and extends His reign over all of creation (Jr 10:10-12; Ts 45:11-13). He is the only and only God, and the whole universe is His to rule as He pleases.
Even through the experience of judgment, God makes Himself known. Through the plagues and Red Sea, Pharaoh learns why he should obey the God of Israel (Ex 5:2). Israel and the nations learned of God’s uniqueness and sovereignty over the whole earth through the exile of Israel (2Kg 18:32-35, Jr 27:4-6). Even kings who do not know the one true God are used by Him to accomplish His purposes, much as an axe is used to chop wood (Is 10:5-19). And yet God remains faithful and committed to His people even in the midst of sovereign judgment upon them (Jr 27:1-14). Their punishment is to have a redeeming and purifying purpose.
In the New Testament, Jesus fulfills God’s mission to be known—dentifying Himself with the God of Israel, fulfilling the promise made to Abraham by opening up the way to blessing for Jews and Gentiles alike. The biblical story reveals that God wills to be known through Jesus, His Son (Jn 1:18, 17:1-3, 2Co 4:4-6). Making Himself known is God’s purpose in creation and His purpose in redemption. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky proclaims the work of His hands. Day after day they pour out speech; night after night they communicate knowledge” (Ps 19:1-2). God’s “invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what He has made” (Rm 1:20). The whole Bible presents a God of missional activity, from His purposeful, goal-oriented act of Creation to the completion of His mission through the redemption of all Creation in the new heavens and new earth, and the creation of a new humanity in Christ, redeemed from every nation on earth though the blood of the cross.
We also find in the Bible that humanity has a mission (to rule and care for the earth); Old Testament Israel had a mission (to be the agent of God’s blessing to all nations); Jesus had a mission (to embody and fulfill the mission of Israel, bringing blessing to the nations through bearing our sin on the Cross and anticipating the new Creation in His Resurrection); and the church has a mission (to participate with God in the ingathering of the nations in fulfillment of Old Testament Scriptures).
The mission of God, then, governs the story of the Bible from the brokenness of the nations in Genesis 11 to the healing of the nations in Revelation 21-22. If the grand story of the Bible and our world is God making Himself known, then this is the motivation and purpose of the church’s mission. The church’s missional activities, to which they are called and sent on, flows directly from God’s mission. The church’s missional activities are acts of humble participation in God’s great work for His grand purpose. God is on mission, and we, in that wonderful phrase of Paul’s, are “coworkers with God.”missio Dei —which in turn is a reflection of what God is like, what God has said, and what God has done (and is doing and has yet to do). This unity between theology and missions is one key way of looking at the grand story of Scripture. Our theology of God must include the mission of God as a unifying metanarrative for the whole Bible.Missio Dei can have a broader sense drawn from the way the Bible paints a picture of the purposefulness of God. The mission of God is the commitment of God to make Himself known to His creation ultimately for the purpose of redeeming and restoring all creation to its right relationship with God. The story of God making Himself known is the grand narrative of the Bible. God’s mighty acts make Him known to the peoples of the world and are predicted, proclaimed, explained, and celebrated throughout the biblical storyline. In His election of Abraham, God makes Himself known, and launches His great agenda of bringing blessing to all nations on earth (Gn 12:1-3), repeating this promise five times in Genesis. Paul defined this great missional purpose of God as ‘the good news ahead of time’ (Gl 3:6-8), and understood his own mission, and the church’s mission, in light of it.
Back in 2009, I read something by Eugene Peterson in his book, The Contemplative Pastor, that really changed my perspective on pastoring. He called for the pastor, and by extension, all Christians, to consider a subversive approach to their ministry as agents of God's Kingdom. After explaining the frustration that he sometimes felt because his parishioners often did not understand the gravity of what he was promoting and that he wishes that he could just clearly get them all to fall in line with his spiritual authority, Peterson said,
Then I remember that I am a subversive. My long-term effectiveness depends on my not being recognized for who I really am. If he realized that I actually believe the American way of life is doomed to destruction, and that another kingdom is right now being formed in secret to take its place, he would be at all pleased. If he knew what I was really doing and the difference it was making, he would fire me.
Yes, I believe that. I believe that the kingdoms of this world, American and Venezuelan and Chinese, will become the kingdom of our God and Christ, and I believe this new kingdom is already among us. That is why I'm a pastor, to introduce people to the real world and train them to live in it. I learned early that the methods of my work must correspond to the realities of the kingdom. The methods that make the kingdom of America strong - economic, military, technological, informational - are not suited to making the kingdom of God strong. I have had to learn a new methodology: truth-telling and love-making, prayer and parable. These are not methods very well adapted to raising the standard of living in suburbia or massaging the ego into a fashionable shape.
But America and suburbia and the ego compose my parish. Most of the individuals in this amalgam suppose that the goals they have for themselves and the goals God has for them are the same. It is the oldest religious mistake: refusing to countenance any real difference between God and us, iimagining God to be a vague extrapolation of our own desires, and then hiring a priest to manage the affairs between self and the extrapolation. And I, one of the priests they hired, am having none of it.
But if I'm not willing to help them become what they want to be, what am I doing taking their pay? I am being subversive. I am undermining the kingdom of self and establishing the kingdom of God. I am helping them to become what God wants them to be, using the methods of subversion.
It is in this spirit and context that Ed Stetzer writes The Subversive Kingdom: Living as Agents of Gospel Transformation. This is an excellent book that I really enjoyed reading and it would make a great small group study for churches and groups of Christians contemplating how to faithfully live out the implications of Jesus' Gospel of the Kingdom in a hostile world.
Stetzer says that the world system is in rebellion against God's Kingdom, but he calls us to "rebel against the rebellion."
We live among a world system that, even though ultimately under the reign of a sovereign God, temporarily exerts a competing authority that seeks to enforce an unjust, unrighteous order on those it claims to rule . . . The world's illegal rebellion is illegitimate. It certainly feels real, of course - IS real - but it doesn't change the reality that God is still the ruler of everything. Though people may think they have rebelled, they have not - and cannot - ultimately escape the fact at King Jesus is still sovereign.
And though we feel outnumbered and highly unpopular at times by clinging to our Christian ideals, though we make ourselves subject to all kinds of criticism and misunderstanding by resisting the widely held opinions of our friends and neighbors, we can't help but recognize a tension that keeps us from followoing where the leader of this rebellion wants to take us. As much as we may feel obligated by our family histories, or as willing as we may be to at least consider the validity of these differing viewpoints, there's no common ground for us to stand on. Our aims are incompatible. As Christians, we don't join an illegitimate rebellion. Instead, we live for King Jesus in contrast to the world around us. We live in loyalty to the very One the world rebels against.
We're in rebellion against the rebellion.
Stetzer goes on to explain what the Kingdom of God is (the reign and rule of Christ in all of life in complete contrast to the ways of the world led by Satan) and our call to participate in it as a way of life. He says,
Being a Kingdom agent means becoming one who "loses his life" from a worldly point of view (Mark 8:35) in order to find true life for ourselves and to help rescue others who are chained in darkness, doubt, and cleverly disguised despair. It means representing God through his body on earth - the church - as he uses us to advance and expand his kingdom through Spirit-led, subversive ways.
Stetzer calls Christians to be "subversive" in the sense that we are not to grasp after power or control to force upon people the truth of God, but rather, we are to show up in people's lives and in the structures and assumptions of the world with truth, justice, mercy, and humility as we represent Christ by living out the gospel in all its precepts.
Stetzer calls us to 5 positions in a hostile world.
1. We live in rebellion against the rebellion. We rebel against the world system that is rebelling against God. We recognize that what the world is rejecting is actually the truth and we live in accordance with the truth by not accepting the world's assumptions.
2. We deconstruct our false view of the Kingdom. God has not called us to safety or to religion or to embrace the status quo of the ways of the world. We are not called to be consumers of religion but co-laborers with Christ in advancing His reign and rule in the world.
3. We live as agents and ambassadors of God's kingdom in small, subversive ways. The Kingdom of God is not some big, shiny thing that takes over the world by force, but rather, it advances in small ways among small groups of believers that are living out the Christ life through daily acts of obedience and mercy as they tell God's Story through their lives.
4. We show and share the love of Christ. We are to both proclaim and demonstrate the Gospel of the Kingdom. Proclamation and Demonstration are not several things but they show that the Gospel is not a matter of word only, but also of deed. And, that when we do good works we do them because of the life and message of Jesus. It is ONE thing, the Gospel of the Kingdom. To this, I say, "Amen."
5. We live our lives in a manner directed by (and empowered by) our King. All of life is to be lived in relationship to Christ with Jesus as Lord.
6. We wait for this lost, broken world to be completely fixed and reconciled to God. Things are not as they should be but Jesus is going to make the world right. We live with that hope and we bring that hope into our everyday lives by representing the ultimate reality of Christ's victory.
In this book, Stetzer has hit on most of the major themes of the ministry that I have engaged in for the past 15 years. This is not a scholarly book (though Stetzer is more than capable of that), but it is a treatment of how we should live out the Gospel of the Kingdom in common ways. Anyone could read this book and understand what Stetzer is saying and it is applicable to every Christian.
I don't want to necessarily pit one book/author against another, but if you read and enjoyed David Platt's excellent and incredibly popular Radical, you will find this book to touch on the same subject but in a more practical, doable way. Stetzer here answers all of the questions that I had from reading Radical regarding the "What next?" I liked this book much better.
Also, at different times in my blogging journey, I have reviewed books here and after reading Subversive Kingdom and writing this review, I am reminded of the benefit of that exercise. Hopefully, this will be the first book review of many in 2013 and it was a good way to start this feature up again.
I think that we often get Christian marriage all wrong and the result is devastating for both Christians and non-Christians. We hold up an ideal relationship of love and fulfillment and we give people strategies for how to go after it so they can be satisfied. Christians get married so they can share their life with their soul mate and when things are not what they hoped they would be (as they will never be), then disillusionment often sets in. But, what if the metric was different from what we thought? What if the goal was not some perfect union where there were no problems and God was invited in to create wedded bliss? What if, instead, we recognized that marriage, Christian marriage, is actually two sinners submitting themselves to God and sharing a life together on God's terms instead of their own? What if the problems faced when two sinners joined their lives together were actually allowed by God so that the couple would experience the Way of the Cross and learn dependence upon the Lord instead of themselves? What if Christian marriage was not about the couple getting the life they always wanted, but rather, was a journey into trust in God, forgiveness, grace, mercy, and self-sacrifice and the life that only God can provide? What if Christian marriage was radically different from what we have thought?
Paul David Tripp has an interesting take on it that is different from what I've heard from many ministers in the past. He actually roots marriage in the Kingdom of God and explains what it looks like for the Kingdom to come in a marriage and how a marriage becomes a ministry and a place where God shows up.
As someone who likes to read more than watch videos, here is part of the transcript of what Tripp is saying:
When you think of the marriage between a man and a woman who are believers as being a forum for great commission ministry there are a couple things that come to mind. If you have these two sinners who by nature are self sovereigns who have little interest in doing anything in life, but building their own kingdom…And if they’re now living in a relationship of real unity, real love, willing self sacrifice, you’re seeing the Kingdom come. It has come in this marriage. There are few places where you can better invite people in to see the King at work and see how His Kingdom operates more than a marriage, because typically you don’t have unity, understanding and love.”
Tripp is saying here that when two Christians, who are by-nature sinners and are bent on getting their way, actually submit their lives to each other and serve one another and forgive one another and bless one another - instead of trying to get their own way - then, the Kingdom has come in that marriage. The Kingdom of God can come in a normal moment of service and love and sacrifice for the other that is not anything dramatic at all - but it is supernatural because it is not what the flesh produces. When one spouse decides not to try and get their way but instead seeks the good of the other, that is the reign and rule (the Kingdom) of God manifesting itself in that marriage and Christ is witnessed to. When the Christian life is simply lived out in the context of a marriage and real sacrificial love replaces real selfishness - that is missional ministry. Then, the world is invited to see something different - the relationship between Christ and His Church.
I do not always do this. I can be selfish and, well, selfish. That pretty much sums it up. But, as I learn to seek God and the good of my wife and my children over and above myself - then I am able to live out the Kingdom mission in my home. God help me. I am selfish way more often than I should be. But, like everything else, it all begins with my walk with the Lord and dying to myself and living to Christ daily. When I look to Jesus, everything else falls into place and makes sense - including my marriage and family. When I look to myself, everything falls apart. God help me.
I love Chik-Fil-A. My family does too. If I am not in the right frame of mind, diet-wise, you will see CFA bags or a sweet tea cup in my car. The chicken sandwiches are amazing and the waffle fries are perfect and every once in a while, there is nothing better than a cookies 'n cream milkshake.
I also love their customer service and their stand for Christian values and their support of traditional marriage and the family and their scholarship programs and charity work and, well, just about everything.
In addition, I think that Dan Cathy, the Chik-Fil-A CEO had every right to answer a question about his support for traditional marriage and the family the way he did. That is his belief and he should be able to speak it. He was also right to speak out in favor of his Christian convictions on marriage and the family and more of us should do the same. I also think that it is totally wrong for the mayors of Boston, Chicago, San Francisco and other protestors around the country to try and keep Chik-Fil-A out of their cities because of their beliefs and positions.
One more thing: I also think that today's support of Chik-Fil-A is generally a good thing and I am glad that people have a desire to see businesses who stand for the right things do well.
But . . .
I am feeling a bit uneasy as the day goes on. Something in my gut is wondering if those supporting Chik-Fil-A by eating a chicken sandwich today did not end up accelerating the culture war to a new height, and not in the way that is best. Here is what I mean: Dan Cathy did not specifically say anything against gay marriage. He simply said that he supported the traditional family and marriage. But, this protest is very clearly a response to the backlash against Cathy and Chik-Fil-A by homosexuals and their supporters. So, by nature, the long lines of people at Chik-Fil-A today are counterprotesting the protestors, thus, making a statement against them that Cathy and Chik-Fil-A still have not made. They have just kept doing their work. Is this what Chik-Fil-A would have wanted?
Secondly, buying a chicken sandwich and waffle fries today and standing in long lines to do so does not really support the things that Cathy and Chik-Fil-A said they were in favor of. It can come across more as a show of power to those who would try and exercise power against us. Where does Jesus' teachings on "do not resist an evil person" (Matt. 5:39) come into play here? Granted, this is not resisting in a negative way, but instead, it is a positive affirmation of Chik-Fil-A. It is almost a silent protest of support. No problem there - it can actually be a good thing, but I wonder if in the contest of protests and counter protests, it doesn't come across as a show of power, especially when we get really excited about the long lines and how many people are on our team?
"It used to be that taking a bite of a chicken sandwich just meant you were hungry. Now it has become a symbol of whether you stand for or against same-sex marriage, or – alternately – the right to express your personal views without fear of retaliation."
Chik-Fil-A will now forever be known as the "anti-gay" restaurant chain, which is not who they are at all. They are not "anti" anyone nor are they discriminatory. They have no policy in either hiring or service against homosexuals. Instead, they are "pro" traditional marriage and family. But, I wonder if that message is being lost in the sound and fury of the culture wars?
A lady in our church, Molly, updated her status on Facebook today by saying something very poignant, I think, which stopped me in my tracks and got me to look at the larger picture here. While not criticizing those at CFA today to show support, she asked how many people would be at Chik-Fil-A on Friday night when the homosexual protest took place to show love, concern, compassion, and to engage in conversation and share the gospel. That got me thinking and I have not been able to shake the thought all day. Standing in line to buy a chicken sandwich and support the business of Chik-Fil-A can be seen as more about us (not saying it is, but it could be construed that way). It could be seen as Christians and Conservatives trying to protect those institutions that promote our way of life and to give them more power - economic power. Nothing necessarily wrong with that, per se, but I wonder if Jesus would have shown up to buy a chicken sandwich today, or if he would be sitting in a booth on Friday night dining with "sinners?" I wonder if the way of Jesus here is not something altogether different - not exercising power to build up Chik-Fil-A or attack sinners and also not saying that homosexuality is the right course and the issue doesn't matter. Perhaps the way of Jesus would be to bring something altogether different to the conversation - the new life found only in Him, forgiveness, and the crucifixion of our way of life so that we can walk in His way.
These are just thoughts. This blog is the workshop of my mind and it is often a big mess. I am not questioning the motives of a single person who went to Chik-Fil-A today. I am NOT criticizing anyone who went to CFA today to show support for their family friendly values. I would have gone there too and was pretty excited about the whole thing this morning. I might go tomorrow. But, I am attempting to think "big picture" here. I am trying to see this through a gospel lense. If it wasn't for Molly, I probably would not have thought too much of it. But, apart from the individual motives of all the people who went to Chik-Fil-A today because they wanted to do something good, I just wonder if collectively we didn't fall for the world's old ploy that tries to get us to protect our way of life through trying to hold onto our place in the world instead of realizing that we already have a place in God's Kingdom and we are free to lay our lives down in love - even for those who would take action against us?
At LIFE Group this past Friday night, we were sitting outside by the fire and talking about prayer and fasting and how the discipline of fasting has a two-fold objective, which is to put away distractions and dependencies to bring us to God and then to give ourselves away to others. Gabe Posey, a member of our group, brought up The Apology of Aristides, which was a 2nd century writing by the Athenian philosopher, Aristides, that he delivered to Emperor Hadrian as a defense of Christianity. I had never heard of this, so I asked him to send it to me, which he did. This is really interesting:
But the Christians, O King, while they went about and made search, have found the truth; and as we learned from their writings, they have come nearer to truth and genuine knowledge than the rest of the nations. For they know and trust in God, the Creator of heaven and of earth, in whom and from whom are all things, to whom there is no other god as companion, from whom they received commandments which they engraved upon their minds and observe in hope and expectation of the world which is to come. Wherefore they do not commit adultery nor fornication, nor bear false witness, nor embezzle what is held in pledge, nor covet what is not theirs. They honour father and mother, and show kindness to those near to them; and whenever they are judges, they judge uprightly. They do not worship idols (made) in the image of man; and whatsoever they would not that others should do unto them, they do not to others; and of the food which is consecrated to idols they do not eat, for they are pure. And their oppressors they appease (lit: comfort) and make them their friends; they do good to their enemies; and their women, O King, are pure as virgins, and their daughters are modest; and their men keep themselves from every unlawful union and from all uncleanness, in the hope of a recompense to come in the other world. Further, if one or other of them have bondmen and bondwomen or children, through love towards them they persuade them to become Christians, and when they have done so, they call them brethren without distinction. They do not worship strange gods, and they go their way in all modesty and cheerfulness. Falsehood is not found among them; and they love one another, and from widows they do not turn away their esteem; and they deliver the orphan from him who treats him harshly. And he, who has, gives to him who has not, without boasting. And when they see a stranger, they take him in to their homes and rejoice over him as a very brother; for they do not call them brethren after the flesh, but brethren after the spirit and in God. And whenever one of their poor passes from the world, each one of them according to his ability gives heed to him and carefully sees to his burial. And if they hear that one of their number is imprisoned or afflicted on account of the name of their Messiah, all of them anxiously minister to his necessity, and if it is possible to redeem him they set him free.
And if there is among them any that is poor and needy, and if they have no spare food, they fast two or three days in order to supply to the needy their lack of food. They observe the precepts of their Messiah with much care, living justly and soberly as the Lord their God commanded them.
Every morning and every hour they give thanks and praise to God for His loving-kindnesses toward them; and for their food and their drink they offer thanksgiving to Him. And if any righteous man among them passes from the world, they rejoice and offer thanks to God; and they escort his body as if he were setting out from one place to another near. And when a child has been born to one of them, they give thanks to God; and if moreover it happen to die in childhood, they give thanks to God the more, as for one who has passed through the world without sins. And further if they see that any one of them dies in his ungodliness or in his sins, for him they grieve bitterly, and sorrow as for one who goes to meet his doom.
This gives us a great picture of the lifestyles of the early Christians. Apparently, they were dramatically different from the pagans around them. What I find of particular interest here is the statement above in bold that says that if there were any who were poor and needy among them who had no food, others would fast for two or three days to supply what was lacking in the poor in their midst. Those who had food would sacrifice for those who did not. This goes along with the injunctions about true, Biblical fasting in Isaiah 58:6-9.
6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
The perspective of the early Christians was that their life was not their own and that they were to sacrifice for one another. May we have the same perspective.
When we think about our "calling," we often think of someone being "called" into full-time ministry. But, that is a very truncated view of what our calling is. From the Latin word for "calling" we get the concept of Vocation. Everyone has a God-given Vocation, a role to play in their family, church, workplace, and the larger society. God has uniquely shaped, equipped, and placed each one of us to contribute to His overall plan and care for Creation. We all have gifts, talents, and abilities that God uses as He sovereignly places us in spheres of influence to display His glory and influence. I often say that God is not a character in our story, but rather, we are characters in God's Story. He has a plan for each of us and He exercises His rule through us. It is remarkable, when you think about it.
With this as a backdrop, we are able to look at the concept of work differently from the rest of the world. "Work" is not a way to establish ourselves as independent from God or anyone else. Nor is it a way to accrue wealth so that we will have safety and security. Work is not primarily about money nor is it something to hate or to get away from whenever we can. Many want to be wealthy so that they will not have to work and so they can do what they want when they want to - in other words, independence from others, from society, and from any real sense of responsibility to anyone or anything. All of this is from the Fall where work/labor became associated with the Curse related to sin (see Genesis 3:17-19) and it became something that was often seen as tedious and life denying.
But, there is a different way to see work. We can go back before the Fall and see that God created mankind to work in relation to His will and to be a part of how God rules over and cares for His Creation (Genesis 1:28-2:3). And, we know that in Christ, God is restoring all things to His intention for us and that He is renewing Creation. So, if we are in Christ, we are free to work with meaning and purpose in God's economy as His representatives and co-laborers. Christ has destroyed the curse of sin so we are free to be creative and to add value to all that we do as we reflect and give thanks for the glorious freedom that Christ has provided us. The concept of Work as been redeemed and retrieved from the effects of the Fall and has been restored to God's original purpose as the way that we live out our calling in this world.
Is there real, widespread poverty in America?
The National Review put out an article that claims that those classified as poor in America (approximately 40 million people) are actually much better off materially than we might think. They have things like air conditioners, DVD players, big screen TV's, X-Boxes, computers, internet, refrigerators, adequate shelter, plenty of food and clothing, etc. Yet, they are still considered poor. Why is this?
Data from the Department of Energy and other agencies show that the average poor family, as defined by Census officials:
● Lives in a home that is in good repair, not crowded, and equipped with air conditioning, clothes washer and dryer, and cable or satellite TV service.
● Prepares meals in a kitchen with a refrigerator, coffee maker and microwave as well as oven and stove.
● Enjoys two color TVs, a DVD player, VCR and — if children are there — an Xbox, PlayStation, or other video game system.
● Had enough money in the past year to meet essential needs, including adequate food and medical care.
Supposedly, the SBC meeting in Phoenix will issue a new declaration on racial discrimination within the Convention that will be multifaceted. This is really important and I am glad that my denomination is continuing to see this as a gospel issue. Dave Miller at SBC Voices explains how he has pushed for this and is excited to see what the SBC is doing here. I responded to Dave with the following comment that I wanted to lift out post here. I think that racial division in the body of Christ is a gospel issue, not just a social issue (but, of course, the two are related).
The last strong vestige of racism in the SBC is found in the realm of “personal preference” and “worship styles.” That has become code-language for, “I don’t want to be with “those” people.” We will be with them if they become just like us, but that then becomes a kind of circumcision-separation in the body of Christ. If they take on our culture, our customs, our vocabulary, our way of doing church, and our music, then we will fellowship with them. That is just like the Judaizers saying that the Gentiles had to be circumcised, obey dietary laws, etc. to be accepted with the people of God. Of course, we don’t make our preferences soteriological like the Judaizers did, but we do make them ecclesiological and even missiological, and if you understand the implications of the gospel in Ephesians 2:11-22, Christ is our peace and tears down the dividing wall – there is neither Jew, Greek, Barbarian, Scythian, slave, free, male, or female. We are all one in Christ. So, that Oneness must be our priority, not our preferences, styles, methods, and approaches. All of those divisions are products of the Fall and are erased in Christ.
The only way through this is Agape – Sacrificial Love. If I truly and sacrificially love my black brothers and sisters in Christ, I will recognize that the divisions that we have are all from the institutional and cultural sins of racism, slavery, and segregation – sins that my Baptist ancestors promoted and codified. So, love for God and others requires that I not wait for them to come to me and become like me – rather, it requires that I go to them and identify with them, bringing the Incarnation of Christ into the still-existing broken relationships.
Could the healing of America be found in white, Baptist (and other), Southern Christians going to black, Baptist (and other) Southern Christians and laying down their lives sacrificially to communicate something other than our personal preferences? What if we truly laid down our lives for them in every way – for the health of their churches and communities and their future? What if their concerns became our concerns? What if we did not leave the cities because there were problems, but instead joined together with our black brothers and sisters and pastors and churches to identify with them and to carry their burdens? Might we then see the healing that we so desire. Isaiah 58 seems to say so.
Yes, Dave. This is crucial, but true healing requires much more of us than we can imagine. This is the work that we are doing in Montgomery, AL and it requires every bit of our lives. But, the witness of the Kingdom is at stake and Christ demands it of us.
I sincerely hope that we will see the tearing down of racial divisions in the body of Christ in America in the coming years to the point that we no longer consider a church to be a "white" church or a "black" church, but simply a church made up of followers of Jesus. May it be.
I think that we struggle with the gospel. I don't pretend that I have some great revelation into what the gospel is that was heretofore not seen. It is pretty clear in Scripture. But, we still struggle with it. As Southern Baptists, we seem to have reduced the gospel to a series of propositions that must be believed and accepted. Those who articulate it like we do are in and those who don't are out. We get this tendency from Evangelicals, revivalism, and our application of modernism to our theology. The gospel becomes "Four Spiritual Laws," or "Steps to Peace With God" that we believe in order for us to get into heaven when we die. We need our sins forgiven to get to heaven, so Jesus provides that if we repent of our sins and ask Him to forgive us. No one wants to go to Hell, so Jesus gets us out of Hell and gets us into Heaven where we will "have a mansion over the hilltop" and see all of our loved ones who have gone on before us. We'll walk on streets of gold and spend eternity in a state of bliss. Believing in Jesus is how we get there, so we make sure that do that and "pray a sinner's prayer" to gain entrance. All of this "gospel shorthand" might be helpful in a "gospel" presentation, but it is not necessarily helpful in positioning us to live missional lifestyles now. Nor, is it necessarily biblical.
One of the places where Paul defines his gospel is in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8. He gets pretty explicit. This is the kerygma, or what was preached about Jesus.
1 Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
This is all about Jesus. It is about who He is and what He did. It is about Jesus the Man, the Person. The Gospel is the Good News of Jesus Christ. When we are confronted with the Gospel, we are to be confronted with Jesus Christ Himself. Do we believe in HIM? Do we throw our faith into HIM? Do we entrust ourselves to HIM and follow HIM? When the Philippian Jailer saw the power of God in the release of Paul and Silas from prison and asked what he must do to be saved, Paul answered, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved - you and your household" (Acts 16:30-31). He didn't say to believe things about Jesus or to make a transaction with Jesus to forgive your sins so you could go to heaven when you died. He told the jailer to believe IN or upon Jesus. He introduced the man to a person, not a system or a set of propositions.
See Part One here. Please note that I am writing with broad generalizations about overall trends and perspectives. I have seen many exceptions to what I am writing here. But, they stand out in my mind because they are exceptions, not the rule.
A couple of days ago, I asked if Southern Baptists were capable of being missional. Of course, the answer is a qualified "yes." Anyone is capable if they are in touch with the Spirit of God and are participants in God's Kingdom. But, is it likely? For all of our talk about evangelism, the Great Commission, and missions as a people, I am leaning toward the answer being "no."
Let's go back to how Southern Baptists started. We say that the Convention started over missions. The SBC was started in 1845 over the right of southern slaveholders to be appointed to serve on the mission field. Northern Baptists, dominated by abolitionists said no. Southern Baptists were offended by this and broke away from the northern baptists, starting their own convention in Augusta, Georgia in 1845. The peculiar institution of slavery had to be defended because that was where the South drew its economic lifeblood. The Southern "Way of Life" had to be protected. Eventually, a war would be fought and 600,000 people would be killed from both sides. Still, Southern Baptists didn't challenge the status quo and they became defenders of the "Lost Cause," a mythos that claimed that even though the South lost, she was in the right and was more pure and moral than the rest of the country. Racial prejudices were recodified in the Jim Crow laws and segregation that emerged in the late 1800's and early 1900's and Southern Baptists went along, supporting the larger culture and the social economics of the day. The SBC became the state church of the South and helped to solidify the civil religion that emerged.
The entire conversation in the Evangelical Christian world has shifted to engaging ourselves with the larger culture missionally. Even the Rob Bell dust up over the issue of the existence of hell has missionality as a foundation because he is trying to figure out how to discuss difficult issues with people who do not find our doctrines palatable. We are now living in a post-Christian culture in the West and much of what was once taken for granted has faded away. There is no longer a Christian or even a cultural consensus in the West and everyone is trying to feel their way through the resulting confusion.
Enter Southern Baptists. Just about every blog, conference, and denominational leader is focusing on being missional. That is the buzzword of the day. Guys who didn't know what the word meant 4 or 5 years ago use it exclusively now. It is on the tip of everyone's tongue and the concept is being pushed at every level. SBC leaders like Ed Stetzer have popularized the term and everyone is getting in on it. The Great Commission Resurgence (GCR) was adopted recently (was that last year? It seems longer ago) and the SBC is supposedly realigning according to a "missional" focus. But, like Inigo Montoya famously said to Vezzini, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."
The true definition of "missional" has to do with "sentness." There is a recognition that God is both the sending God and the sent God. The Missio Dei (Mission of God) has to do with His very character and essence, not just an activity. God doesn't add on "missional." It is who He is. The Father "sent" the Son. The Son was "sent." The Incarnation itself declares the missional essence of God. The Father and Son "sent" the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit empowers and sends us out into the world as ambassadors of Christ, representatives of another Kingdom in a world that is false. This all happened before the foundation of the earth was laid, by the way. Christopher Wright, in his excellent treatise, The Mission of God, states that instead of the Bible giving us a biblical basis for missions, it is better to see that there is a missional basis for the Bible, for the Son of Man came to seek and save what was lost (Luke 19:10).
But, is that what we are seeing in the Southern Baptist world? Are we living as sent people? Are we capable of it as Southern Baptists? Of course, it is possible, but the overarching perspective that we maintain continues to be a defense of the status quo, "us vs. them" positioning, church growth strategies, constant calls for more money, the exalting of celebrity pastors and megachurch expansion, and the building of our religious enterprises. "Missional" does not equal church growth or denominational growth. They are not the same thing. One implies that we leave what is comfortable and live with open hands among the heathen. The other implies that we try to build our institutions larger and make them more secure. One implies risk and loss while the other implies safety, security, and more influence. The Way of Jesus seems conspicuously absent from what our Southern Baptist leaders are calling us to. Calling for more expository preaching in our churches (while a great approach to communicating biblical truth) does not equal missionality. Having a missions program in our churches that sends people out on short-term mission trips is not being missional, necessarily. Those are good things, but they do not encapsulate the full range of living as sent people.
To "live sent" means that we are letting go of the need for safety and security and money and large crowds around us to reinforce our lifestyles. It means that we are willing to engage those who disagree with us and we are living life in relational terms with people different from us so that the life of God can flow through us to them. Our posture in the world changes from "insiders" who sit opposed to people who do not know God to those who might come alongside those alienated from God and actually identify with them and join our lives to theirs. This is what Jesus did in the Incarnation.
I wonder if Southern Baptists are capable of this? I wonder if our theology and historical experience allows us to live in any way other than as religious people defending our way of life in the world? Are we confident enough in God and His Kingdom that we can take His life everywhere we go, even if we are not reinforced by money, power, crowds, and programs and systems? I'm asking. I have come to the conclusion that just talking about being missional does not make one missional and I'm wondering if the whole way that we see things might be an impediment to us actually joining God in His work and actual essence in the world.
Maybe the issue that holds us back is bigger than us just not being "sold out" enough. Maybe there are fundamental structural problems with how we see theology and the world. More on this later.
My friend, Marty Duren, has written a book on missional giving called The Generous Soul: An Introduction to Missional Giving. In it, he makes the case for a reorientation of how we see the blessings that God has given us. Marty is coming to speak at Gateway this Sunday, so I thought it would be good to interact with this concept a bit. It really is connected to much of what we've been talking about regarding Advent/Christmas and reorienting our lives toward God's missional purposes.
Here are some excerpts:
"Missional giving makes a financial priority of those things that are priorities in the kingdom of God: evangelism, justice, helping the poor, showing mercy, meeting needs, providing a cup of cold water in Jesus' name. Or some cash. Or cash from selling a car. Or a jet ski. Missional giving recognizes that all possessions entrusted to God's children are entrusted for the singular purpose of fulfilling God's plan."
If we are all characters in God's story instead of Him being a character in our story, then this makes sense. It makes sense that the resources that He has given us should be used for His purposes. "The earth is the Lord's and eveyrthing in it." Psalm 24:1.
"The proper understanding of finances means that the priorities of God's people related to money and possessions should be the same priorities that God has for the Kingdom. The use of money is not a separate reality from the Gospel. On the contrary, our use of money and possessions is a direct reflection of our understanding of and love for the gospel and the Savior it reveals. If the gospel ("the Good News") is the story of God's redemptive activity through Jesus Christ of all things lost in the Fall, then everything under our management is usable for the embodiment and expansion of the gospel. If we keep money and possessions under a separate section of our lives it is tantamount to lording over that area ourselves rather than yielding lordship to Christ. To maintain this control of our finances is like divorcing ourselves from God. We cannot, no matter how much we try, serve both God and mammon."
It is amazing how much the modern distortion of the gospel as simply a way to Heaven has affected how we see just about everything. We have no problem with "accepting Christ as Savior" while we continue to use our time, energy, and resources on ourselves as we see fit. Jesus said something about dying to self and taking up our Cross and following Him. That message has been replaced with "God as a means to an end of a happy and prosperous life." Perhaps, the life that God calls us to in Christ is actually BETTER than what we can hope to attain by holding on to stuff, but we don't seem to have the imagination or faith to conceive of that, so we just keep spending on ourselves and justifying by saying that God loves us and wants us to be happy.
Marty also gives a definition of MIssional Giving. He says, "Missional giving is the financial strategy of the missionary manager, purposefully utilizing all the money and possessions God has entrusted to him or her according to His priorities and viewing all financial activity as integral with God's Kingdom."
Marty will be with us at Gateway this Sunday at 10:30am to talk with us about this. I'm excited to hear from him. I hope you'll be there. If not, we'll have the audio up on our website after the service.
I already posted this to my Facebook the other day, but wanted to put it here. You've probably seen it already as it has gone viral and around 10 million people have seen it so far. If not, check it out. It is a choir in Canada that sang Handel's Messiah in a local mall's food court. Awesome. This got me thinking. What if we took much of what we do in the church out into our community? What if we thought about what could benefit the community through the arts, education, service, counseling, peacemaking, and community development through gospel involvement? What if we gathered for worship and edification and then took everything else that we did out to the world? This video is amazing and it has me thinking what it means for the Word to become flesh and make His dwelling among us (John 1:14).
Incarnation. Emmanuel. Missio Dei.
Oh yeah. Watch the video.
Alan Hirsch says that we are to plant the gospel and not plant churches. Church emerges from people incarnating the gospel in their neighborhoods. Everyone is commissioned to carry the gospel - our baptism IS our commission. Good stuff. Take a few minutes to listen and tell me what you think.
With the emergence of Black Friday as an unofficial American holiday (holy day), I have been giving some thought to the purpose of holidays in the experience of a culture/people. The word “holiday” comes from the concept of a “holy day,” or a day of commemoration, celebration, or observance. Every religion has its holy days and feast days that commemorate different aspects of their religion or cultural/national story. America, being a secular culture, also has no shortage of holidays to mark the year, give meaning to people’s lives, and to serve as touchstones for our shared cultural experience. Watching the crowds of people overwhelm shopping malls and stores today causes me to the think that Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving when retailers put on massive sales to clear out inventory and put their books “in the black”) has now been added to the pantheon of American holidays. Some of these days are purely secular and some have religious overtones, but all exist currently because they support some aspect of the American story.
The American Dream, as introduced by James Truslow Adams in his 1931 book, The American Epic, went something like this: "life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement." This opportunity was to be available to all irrespective of race, creed, gender, or class. In other words, America was to be an egalitarian society where anyone could achieve their goals of personal advancement, prosperity, safety, and security. This became the definition of freedom and was, in many ways, a good thing. Basically, the American Dream involves the hope that every person can advance, improve themselves, and live their best life possible in a nation that is established for that purpose. All of society is to align itself with the goal of helping the individual live out the American Ethos of the pursuit of personal happiness. As the Dream has grown, it has slowly pushed out care for the other. Consumerism and individualism have become manifestations of this pursuit, and education, family, community, and even God/religion are seen as valuable so long as they help us achieve the fulfillment of our dreams.
Because of this, I firmly believe that the American Experience is not secular at all. It is highly religious in the ways that all religions are. Regarding consumerism as a manifestation of the American Dream gone mad, Anthony B. Robinson says,
Is it too much to suggest that consumerism has become a kind of alternative faith, a religion of sorts? Religions are characterized by some vision of a good life, by their rituals and by a particular language. Consumerism seems to be developing all three apace.
Consumerism's vision of the good life is the gaining of goods and experiences. Consumerism also has its own rituals that form and promote consumer character. The acquisition of credit cards and debit cards by the young becomes some sort of rite of passage. The Friday after Thanksgiving is consumerism's high holy day, the No. 1 shopping day of the year. How much we shop during the Christmas season is an indicator of our national health. Television offers the liturgy of consumerism 24/7, and wonder of wonders, we consent to having it piped into our homes!
One might even do a compare- and-contrast between religion's historic and characteristic virtues and consumerism's virtues or qualities of character. For faith and religion, the crowning virtue is love, a capacity for other regard. For consumerism, self-regard would lead the list. No. 2 in a listing of religious virtues would be joy with the associated notion of contentment. Yet for consumerism, discontent is essential. One must be in a constant state of anxiety about keeping up, having the newest and the latest. Virtue No. 3 of the spiritual life is peace and harmony with others. But for consumerism, envy is to be preferred. (http://www.seattlepi.com/local/350593_faith09.html)
I am continuing with the Alan Hirsch video clips this week. They are quite good, actually. He says that we are being discipled by the culture, media, and technology. Anyone who comes to Jesus in the Western context is already a well discipled consumer. Consumerism is the alternative religion of the West and we have to understand that if we are going to make true disciples of Jesus today. Discipleship is becoming more and more like Jesus. The way we worship Jesus is to obey Him. It is not about words, it is about becoming like Jesus. The early church grows like wildfire because it is made up of disciples of Jesus, not consumers. You cannot build a church on consumers. They will desert you at a moment's notice. They have no commitments beyond their own needs. Jesus calls us to Die to our own needs. Jesus calls people to die to their own agendas and to live for Him. With disciples, you can build movements that change the world.
Me: In other places, Hirsch says that consumers will never be missional people. They care too much for their own desires, wants, and needs. They are too busy caring for themselves to truly follow Christ. That is convicting. He says that people must first be followers of Jesus. They must be disciples of Christ. Then, they are able to be missional because God is a missionary God.
As we head into the time of Thanksgiving, Advent, and Christmas, thinking about the Incarnation and the missional nature of God is important for our spiritual formation, I think.
Luke 14:12-14: 12 Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
Do we do this? Our church is having a Thanksgiving Dinner this Sunday evening. Are we inviting anyone? I thought of this passage this afternoon and wonder if we, as Christians, think about who we invite to stuff. Do we invite the people that we think we can benefit from? Do we only give to those who can or will give back? What about investing in those that might never give a return? That might never reinvest in your ministry or your life? That might never be your friend, increase your standing, or make your life better. Do we give our time and energy to those that we will never see a return from, or are we motivated to help those who will repay in some way, maybe not financially, but with a return of the favor.
Giving thanks to God means that we understand that everything we have comes from Him and we don't need to get our needs met from others. God will meet all of our needs. This frees us up to give freely to others since we have received freely from God (Matt. 10:8). Why do we try and protect ourselves through our relationships? Why do we only love those who love us back?
Helping the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind might not always be to our immediate, realized benefit as we understand it. As a matter of fact, it will always require sacrifice of time, energy, and resources. The poor, crippled, lame, and blind might be people who are that way emotionally or spiritually. They might be people who seem to be bad soil. But, when we invite them anyway, we are saying less about them and more about us - how we see God and people. We are confessing that our reward comes from the Lord and not from other people or from what we can scratch out of this life.
"Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."
Engaging in some random thinking tonight as the nation changes with the sweeping in of Republican leadership. I predicted this almost two years ago when the stimulus bill was passed, by the way ("Did Republicans Just Win the 2010 Midterm Elections?" Feb. 17, 2009). I don't think that Americans chose the Republicans as much as they are disgusted with the course of the country and are throwing out whoever is in charge. If Republicans don't somehow produce massive change in the next two years, Obama will be re-elected, Democrats will keep control of the Senate, and the Republican majority in the House will decrease. If anyone thinks that America has suddenly turned conservative, they are mistaken. Americans are angry and are going to blame anyone that they can. Republicans had better do something with this opportunity, or the Tea Party will splinter off and weaken the Republican Party to the point of being unelectable. We need some leaders with a real vision for how to move the whole country forward, and those leaders are few and far between right now. Maybe they will emerge in this Congress and over the next two years. I hope so.
This past week, Andrew Jones (Tallskinnykiwi) and his family came to visit us. He blogs at http://tallskinnykiwi.typepad.com, in case you didn't know. I have known Andrew and his wife, Debbie, for over 10 years now, having met them in San Francisco in the late 90's. They impacted me deeply then and continue to do so today. You can listen to the audio download of our time together here (see 10/27/10). Andrew is one of the major reasons that I started blogging years ago, and he continues to have a huge influence on believers around the world, especially in the missional church movement. He was one of the pioneers of faith-based blogging and continues to exert heavy influence in that arena.
When he was with us last week, I asked him how he and his family came to the point where they were willing to give up everything for Jesus and follow Him all over the world? How were they able to give up all of the stuff that we accumulate and depend on in our Western lifestyles? He said that all that stuff wouldn't fit on the truck. Andrew, Debbie, and their kids have been traveling all over Europe in a truck that they outfitted to carry their family wherever God might lead them. They only take with them what will fit. I was stunned by the answer. So many of us focus on the "stuff" and wonder how we can fit God into our lifestyles. We try to find a little room for God in the midst of all the other junk that we carry with us. But, the Jones' had a different answer. They decided to follow God first and only take with them what they needed. Revolutionary concept, eh? I think that Jesus said something along those lines.
After the sharing time, we prayed for Andrew and Debbie and for their family. They are traveling across America over the next few months and are then headed back to Europe and then across the Middle East to India. We have established a way to help support them in their travels and ministry through a non-profit that we have set up called Community Development Initiatives. If you would like to help the Jones' in their traveling quest to share the message of Jesus with the nations, let me know and I'll get you the information on how to do so.
Sunday evening, we had a major outreach through our church. We have a Fall Festival every year where we invite the community, play games, give out food and candy, love our neighbors, and share the gospel. We went out the week before and invited our neighbors and prayed that they would come and that the event would be effective. God answered our prayers. We had around 500 people come to the event, which made it the largest outreach event in the history of our church. I am so thankful for Jeremy and the Children's Ministry Team for putting all this together and for those who prayed and invited people to come. It was a very multicultural group, as well, with many African-Americans, Hispanics, Koreans, and Muslims from the Middle East who came by. I was able to talk at length with a Muslim from Morocco and, through conversation, share the gospel with him. It was an amazing night and I am excited about how we continue to be salt and light in our community. God always seems to bless us whenever we step out and put ourselves out there in our neighborhoods and around the world.
Politics, mission, global connections, local impact. Those are the things that are on my mind tonight, and I lay down to rest, I remember that God is alway working, always moving us down along the shore of life, unexpectedly and surprisingly at times, but always according to His will. We can confident of that.