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Posts Tagged ‘missional’

I’ve been thinking a lot about simplicity coupled with radical faith.  Priests sometimes take a vow of poverty, renouncing worldly goods as Jesus suggested to the rich young man, “Sell all your goods and give the money to the poor.”  Since the last day of camp I’ve been thinking of the usual pattern of getting back into the routine of life, or adjusting to the real world.  I think that God doesn’t want me to get back into my life.  He wants my life to adjust to me and the changes He’s made.  This week at church was Vacation Bible School, and before each night our pastor gave a devotional to the volunteers.  The one I managed to make was about being doers of the word, not hearers only.  So Jesus says not to worry about what we will eat or wear, to take up our cross and follow Him.  He says blessed are those who suffer for His sake.  What if I was an actual doer of those words?  How seriously do I take the words, “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friend”? 

 

So God has called me, at last, to change.  My life has been essentially the same for six years.  Now I’m going to do something different – a lot of things different.  I’m a different person; I even eat spaghetti and drink tea.  But I don’t know exactly what He wants me to do yet.  I’m looking, trying to accept that faith is a moment by moment dependence on Him, not a leap into a well-understood long term plan.  What I do know is that I need to spend diligent time seeking Him about it: praying and reading the Bible and asking friends to counsel and pray for me. 

 

I think a lot about Abraham.  He’s the man who packed up and left Ur, where he’d lived about seventy years with all his family.  He left everything and didn’t even know where he was going, except that God would show him the place.  Well, he brought his flocks and herds, his wife and slaves, and even his extended family. 

 

If I literally followed Abraham’s example, though, America is not very receptive.  Abraham could travel through the land, pitch his tents where no one else’s were, feed his sheep on the grass there, and probably do a bit of hunting for his household as well.  In America there are things like licenses, fences, and laws.  I don’t have to worry too much about being attacked by a band of thieves or a local city-state’s hyper-vigilant army, but then I must submit to laws. 

 

We actually have some very strange laws.  If you are too poor to own or even rent a house, there is no public land on which you are really allowed to camp, not public land on which you can trap or hunt your dinner.  In fact if you are too poor to have a house, you can be arrested.  GK Chesterton says in his commentary on Matthew 8:20, “For our law has in it a turn of humour or touch of fancy which Nero and Herod never happened to think of, that of actually punishing homeless people for not sleeping at home.” 

 

But Psalm 84:5 says, “Blessed is the man… whose heart is set on pilgrimage.” What does that look like in my life?  How can I obey that today? 

 

At least I can shun things that are part of my normal life but not “of faith.”  I can pursue the things God describes: righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.  Jars of Clay’s Oh My God describes one side of this calling, the side that sorrows for the world and sees all the need and brokenness.  In their account of how the song came to be, Jars of Clay says, “It takes a long time to kill 5,000 people in a church. Think about being in there with your family as these murders get closer and closer, and to hear the screams.  I’m sure those people weren’t praying, “God, please help me have a better car, or please increase my land.” It was, “God, please stop the hand of our aggressor,” and it didn’t happen. That prayer wasn’t answered for anybody in that church. And this wasn’t the military doing this violence; it was their neighbors.”   

One of the verses everyone memorized at camp was Romans 8:38-39 (and we talked about verse 35 as well).  There are 17 things listed in those verses that cannot separate us from the love of God, things like famine and plague and persecution, death, demons, etc.  And it hit me that I was doubting God’s love not for any of those massive earth-shattering things like 5,000 people murdered in a church in Rwanda.  My doubt of God’s love for me was when He didn’t give me what I wanted.  When my focus is on God’s amazing love, love that even death and things to come cannot quench, the way I pray and the way I live is different. 

My brother went to Mexico this month.  He was gone for two weeks.  In Mexico people live simply.  Where he went kids raise themselves, and there is trouble and need – so I’m not saying it’s ideal.  But when there is so much need in the world, physical or spiritual, how can we come home and play video games or go shopping at the mall?  Another friend spent over a month this summer volunteering at an orphanage in Haiti.  Her love for God grew so much there as she was stripped of distractions and dependent on Him for the strength to love and serve others.  Her kids needed what even she could not give them. 

Some fellow counselors from camp talked about getting back into the real world by buying a new Guitar Hero game.  How can we leave camp so unaffected?  Do we really have to move to Haiti to live sold out to God? 

We’re willing to work.  At camp, in Mexico and Haiti, we didn’t just sit around and think spiritual thoughts.  And we don’t want to be cloistered away from all non-Christians; that isn’t the point, either.  Just we don’t want our ministry to be a section of our lives.  We want to sell everything else and make sure that our whole lives are about glorifying God.  I don’t just want to have my ministries, of VBS or Awana or Sunday school or youth group.  I believe God wants me to invest my life in a lot of people, and not necessarily be a one-note person (at least not at the moment), but there shouldn’t be ministry intermissions.  Everything I do should be about my relationship with God, whether it is taking time (as we did at camp) to refresh and refocus our spirits by prayer and Bible reading, or worship, or intentional fellowship for edification. 

I guess I’m saying that having a job isn’t wrong.  My job isn’t even bad.  In the job I have I could do the things I said, and continue a ministry focus without interruption.  Those of us in the world with normal jobs can be what another friend calls laborers, people who don’t see ministry as a vocation, but as an approach to life as they go, building the kingdom whether they’re paid or not.  But for me God is calling me to a different sort of job right now.  I’m looking for one.  Requirements are that it be something in which I can move, not just sit at a desk, one where I’m working in community with others, preferably Christians, and where our business or ministry is reaching out to the needs of the world.  Any suggestions? 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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“One may steal your thunder, but the lightning is always God’s.” – my family (a collaborative quote, in which we were stealing each other’s thunder)

Several weeks ago – this post is way behind, so sorry – my brother gathered a group of our friends who, along with others of our acquaintance, have independently sensed the call to do something with our knowledge and fellowship.  We are so good at parties, but we lose focus.  So many of us have been wondering where God wants us to act.  My brother gathered us to pray and share Scripture, seeking God for where He wants us to serve, why, how, who, etc.  It must be a God thing, or it is nothing. 

Last year for a few months I attended a young adult Bible study and worship time in which I sensed that most of us were passionately eager to serve God, to have a part in His work, but He hadn’t told us where to go.  He has been building faith in a young generation, like armies in waiting.  And we gathered to wait on Him, to encourage our readiness, and to seek God’s marching orders.  Some days I think there are so many causes, that I wonder why it’s difficult to find mine.  And then I remember that God has us waiting.  Until God speaks, I can wait. 

Karen Hancock’s allegory, Arena, is a vivid description of Christian living.  At one point all those “saved” are waiting, studying and training, in a well-provisioned safe haven.  They must wait for the exact moment at which God will give them a sign to move out and cross the enemy-infested lands to the portal to home.  If they leave too early or too late, they will run across lines and camps of enemies and be lost.  So they wait.  So we wait. 

But we believe God is at work.  Over Memorial Day Weekend I attended the New Attitude Conference in Louisville, KY.  Put on by Sovereign Grace and featuring Josh Harris, Eric Simmons, Mark Dever, Al Mohler, CJ Mahaney, and John Piper as speakers, the young adult conference attracted 3,000 soldiers in waiting.  I was surprised, though I shouldn’t have been, to find most of them as directionless as me.  Ok, most of them had college degree or career goals, but spiritually we weren’t sure where God wanted us.  Some of us, in the midst of waiting, felt like the fight to keep heads above water while treading was all we could do.  Maintaining a devotional and prayer life, passionately worshiping God and memorizing His Word were high orders. 

Then John Piper spoke on William Tyndale, who most certainly had a calling and was not about to waste his life.  He translated the whole New Testament and several Old Testament books into English for the first time.  And he wrote books and campaigned for the Bible to be printed in the common tongue and made available to the people – at the risk and cost of his own life.  The challenge went out and resonated with the three thousand in attendance. 

Why does it resonate?  Because God is at work, in the grassroots, you might say, reviving our faith in a big God.  Twenty-something Christians, though comparatively immature in our marriage and childbearing rates and economic productivity, are getting excited about the truth, about a God bigger than themselves.  Rejecting the shallow self-help and entertainment-driven church culture, they are reading up on Jonathan Edwards and getting excited about William Tyndale, singing theology-rich God-centered worship songs like Chris Tomlin’s How Great is Our God, or Isaac Watts’ hymns. 

This is the subject of Young, Restless, and Reformed.  Collin Hansen took a tour of the country to find out about this multi-rooted movement of ‘young Calvinists.’  He did a great job of filling pages with information about theology, denominations, organizations, authors, and what’s so exciting to us about God’s sovereignty.  Grace, a consistent description of the world, a God worth worshiping – we have lots of answers, lots of paths that are bringing us to become part of the revival of Calvinism in the West.  Why is God doing this?  We wait to see. 

Not only are our discoveries and conversions to Calvinism different; the lifestyles and trappings in which we couch our belief in the sovereignty of God also run a spectrum, which Collin Hansen (a writer for Christianity Today) describes with excellence: from liturgical and traditional presbyterians to charismatic and modern Mark Driscoll and CJ Mahaney.  Then there’s the unusual mix of Baptists and Calvinism (which for the moment describes me, though I find myself pretty much in pieces of everything).  On of the most interesting parts of Young, Restless, and Reformed to me was the chapter on the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Al Mohler’s Calvinist makeover of the college.  So that’s why my friends at Elect Exiles are Election-affirming and Baptist.  I’m from a church that, in my observation, has been more typical of 20th century S. Baptists: in between Calvinism and Arminianism and reluctant to debate the issue.  The tides are turning.  I’ll confess belief in a big, sovereign God was a prerequisite for me to vote for our current pastor. 

This is a book I will recommend to pretty much everyone.  The only disappointment I had was that the chapter on New Attitude, titled “Forget Reinvention,” didn’t say much about the conference.  If you want to know about that, the New Attitude website has plenty of info to get you hyped about next year.  I read the book in a few days, and told everyone I know about the book for the next several weeks.  Read it, talk about it, and be encouraged by all the others God is calling.  Keep waiting. 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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