Thursday, October 6, 2016

Religion AND Politics...and it's not even Monday.

Fast Eddie.  That’s literally the name he goes by, and I can’t even tell you what his last name is or if he even has one.  Like I’m one to talk.

I met Fast Eddie the very first time I went to the church I’ve been attending since roughly June.  It was one of the hardest things I have had to decide – leaving a home church after thirteen years.  It was the place where I had grown immensely in my faith walk and understanding of Scripture, of God and who He is.  It was the place I went when my soul needed a lift, when my focus needed sharpened, and when my mothering needed reinforced.  Those walls, that comfort, the protection of familiarity, those people…those people.

People are funny.

People are broken.

People are just…people.

So it came as absolutely no surprise to me that characters like Fast Eddie would abound in all their “different” funniness, brokenness…humanness inside of a building that looks more like a nightclub than a church.  The welcoming and long overdue new walls hit me like a ton of bricks; the people inside awakened my dull, numb, robotic church senses like a jolt of caffeine after a night of no sleep.

Everything about it felt different.  From the aesthetics to the congregant diversity, I was out of my comfort zone.  Yet oddly (and in obvious retrospect not at all), right where I needed to be.  Taking it all in as new surroundings tend to force upon the willing and unwilling alike, I was reminded of what an elder from my former church once told me as I interviewed him for a final paper, “We do a good job of making disciples here, but we do a terrible job of kicking them out.”

I either got kicked out or kicked myself out.  I’m still not sure where the chicken or the egg occurred in that scenario.  Regardless, let the record state I’m biting my tongue at the low hanging fruit I just set myself up nicely for with the analogy/word choice of “chicken.”

Beth, you’re talking about being a Christian, so please move on.

Good point.  And in fact, my point exactly.  The hypocrisy which infiltrates religion is astounding.  It’s unfathomable.  It’s horrifying.  And it is EXACTLY what drives people out of churches and away from God.

You want to be President of a country that was founded as one nation under God?  Just be a people-hating, misogynistic greedy human being who exemplifies everything that Jesus did not model and certainly wouldn’t condone.  Or wait.  You could also be President of a country that was founded as one nation under God if you are a disingenuous people-pleasing, misandrist greedy human being who exemplifies everything that Jesus did not model and certainly wouldn’t condone.

Is there seriously any question about why this feels so wrong?  Why either choice is really no choice at all?  I guarantee I am not alone in saying that when we push that square button in November, surrounded by those makeshift four walls of non-comfort and non-protection, we are definitely NOT going to walk away thinking, “Wow – I totally feel like one nation under God! Can’t wait to go make (or continue to make) America great again!  Woooohooo!  YASSSS!”

It’s sad.  And it’s also predictable
Indubitably, people are just people.  When you divide them – whether it be Southwest Allen County and Downtown Fort Wayne, Republicans and Democrats, or God-forbid those conservative Evangelicals and the liberal megachurch new-age types – nothing feels right.  Because God didn’t make us to be divided.  He did not make us to live in disunity and a state of constantly proving each other to be wrong. ‘Cause guess what?  WE ARE ALL WRONG in some capacity or another.  No one has it all figured out, and not one of us is right all of the time (Don’t throw this back in my face, honey, please and thank you).

Tension is okay.  Tension is in fact, welcomed when it can be viewed as an impetus for growth, for change, and for the betterment of society.  The aforementioned honey and I go at it constantly (again with the low hanging fruit, Beth?  Don’t be such a newlywed, ewww.) with regard to both politics and religion.  And I can honestly say that tension helps me to grow and change my mindset in ways which no one else has managed to do.  Or lived to tell about, stayed married to me, potato…puh-tah-toe, etc. etc.

The point is, when we limit our thinking and our actions to only that which feels comfortable, feels right, or feels like justification for those thoughts in the first place – we are weak.  And we are not making a difference in the lives of others which is absolutely what Jesus did for us then and continues to do for us now.  He gets my vote not only every four years, but every day.

Only I didn’t always get that.  Not only did I used to not know how to vote, I wasn’t even aware He was on the ballot.  Nor did I know there were other opponents in the race.  I literally knew nothing – until I decided to get informed in an effort to make the right decision.  One that wouldn’t just decide the next four or eight years, but an amount of time which we cannot even begin to fathom.  Little thing called eternity.  Living outside of time, space, destruction, pain, hurt, cancer, Trump or Hillary.

Well, maybe, that is.

Maybe my altruism will come to pass.  As I was telling my hates-to-be-labeled-because-he-is-wicked-smart-and-interesting liberal megachurch husband last night, I am hopeful that if Trump gets elected (because at this point, nothing that’s happening with this icky race would surprise me) he will be transformed.  I hope that ALL THESE YEARS of stepping on the “little guys” to get ahead, to get all those gasp!... Wuh-wuh-wuh-women, gazillions in those loop-holed loser banks, fancy suits, shoes, and hotel drapes that Hillary’s Dad or someone else she probably never spoke to made in a factory in Malaysia…I hope that he will realize none of it matters.  I hope that he will realize that to whom much is given (i.e. Presidency), much is expected – and that those expectations are not his self-aggrandizing ones.  I’m hopeful that he will actually see that he will potentially have the ability to make a difference in other people’s lives.  That greatness comes not from serving yourself, but from serving others.

Now, I’ve also been hopeful and put my trust and altruism in other people with whom I’ve had actual relationships and gotten burned.  So do I realize that this might be as ridiculous as Lester Holt’s moderating abilities?  Yes.  But I will never stop believing and trying to see the best in people.

Because at the end of any given day, isn’t our best what what we want others to see in us? Our potentials, our hopes, our dreams, our existences?  Don't we NOT want them to see our maybe one or two or thirty-seven (hundred) not so finest moments and, unequivocally not define us by them?  Isn’t what Fast Eddie wanted my husband and I to see as he walked up to communion looking over his shoulder at us as he fist pumped the air like he was Muhammad Ali, simply him? Nothing more, nothing less, just...Eddie?

What I saw in that moment was thankfully very different than my same eyes would have seen years ago.  I saw a 58-year old man who was beholden to be alive and loving Jesus, and living in a country where he can vote for whomever he believes will help him to be seen.  Where he will be given opportunities to matter and be valued.  Where he will enjoy the camaraderie of humanness.

It was then that I saw him walk back to his table from communion - and sit with four homeless men in true, non-partisan, non-race related, non-divisive joy, modeling to me and others around him what should imbue every human being at their core.  No matter their job.  Or their political party.  Or anything else.

Man what we can learn if we humble ourselves, serve others, and simply take the time to look around.  I'm hopeful the planks will not continue to impede us from actually seeing what is meant to be seen or doing what needs to be done.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Quick and easy.

Monday morning quick (right) post from the office. And no. I will not be answering the question of Are you really just procrastinating? so please don’t even bother.

I finally got out of circa 2001 and into Windows 10 with my home computer. Sure, I sell technology for a living, but regardless, it’s kind of a thing with me. I refuse to replace stuff solely on the basis of I think it should last forever in the first place. My former washer and dryer lasted 19 years before I relented and not even a laundry mat would take them as a charitable donation. Me versus the machine. Literally.

As I was setting up the new computer, I began to clean out additional clutter. Most of it was also at least circa 2001 – some even older.  It’s a cathartic feeling, doing that, saying goodbye and good riddance to bad decisions, bad hair, and bad car insurance. Suffice it to say, at the end of that process I had a bag full of “what the heck were you thinking” reminders that I could never deny given the evidence trail of documentation. Lucky for me, there is an industrial-size shredder at our office and I’m usually the first one here.

So I bounce towards the warehouse, bag in hand. Doug was actually sitting in his chair slaving away at what looked to be weekend football scores. We caught up a bit, and he informed me that the warehouse was also undergoing a cathartic clean out, so, if I wanted, he would take care of shredding my erstwhile life. Having worked with the guy for almost twenty-years, I only had a slight tinge of pause, wondering whether or not he’d want my identity. Nah, I deduced. He’s also been around long enough to know my last name has changed like, a hundred times, and that’s just too much work for him.

As we walked through the key-padded door, I saw it. A photo cube that used to be in my old office.

“Hey!  Those are my people!  Wait.  Did I leave that in my old office?”

“Um, not sure. Bob just told me to throw it away.”

“Awww…look at her! My baby girl! She was three years-old in that picture. I saw her over the weekend; she’s not three anymore.”

“Does she live in a dorm or an apartment this year?”

“Sorority house. I know. I wasn’t all that good with it initially, trust me, but it’s not your stereotypical house. They’re fun, but not that kind of fun. It’s why she loves living there and I can sleep at night.”

“Well, when my Mom went to college, that generation just went to find a husband. They went for a couple years then dropped out.”

What also dropped was my stomach as I tried to push down the puke that was working its way to my mouth.

It dawned on me in that instant how times have changed. Secondarily, it dawned on me how old I would have sounded if I would have said that out loud.

So I didn’t. I just got sad.

Maybe it’s because it’s Monday. Maybe it’s because my baby is almost twenty and living in a mini-Vegas-like environment that I’m paying for like an idiotic "don't do the crap I did" enabler. Maybe it’s because I am going to put myself through self-induced hell tonight by watching the debate (because you can’t not watch the debate) and additional self-induced hell on Saturday by running a marathon (because you can’t not run a marathon when it’s in your hometown and you call yourself a runner).

No idea, but I do know I you can choose to fix my your attitude. Tout de suite. 

Everything is a choice, in fact. Choices abound now, just like they did then. And before then-then.  Nothing is new under the sun accept the way in which we choose to see the sun. Some people will tell you it causes cancer while others will tell you it makes their flowers bloom.

And Al Gore will tell you he called it years ago…waayyyy before he even invented the interweb.
Choose whom you listen to wisely – above all else. Not everyone is selling the same thing. Said your favorite salesperson ever.

Post Scriptum: Next class starts soon and the new site is almost done. Yes, I know that will be helpful for us all in that there will be specific topic sections -  i.e. you don’t have to read my moods or my final theological papers and instead can just skip right on over to the dirt - and I won’t have to wonder how to stay on topic. I get to tell myself. ‘Cause hello…choose whom you listen to wisely...did you skip that part?

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Repeat After Me.

I have fifteen minutes to write this post. It’s 4:30am and in exactly 30 minutes I will be running mile repeats to see if anything is in fact, repeatable. I’ve not run a full marathon since April of 2014, I’ve not trained properly for this one, and I’ve not put myself through such draining tumult since at least yesterday, so we’ll see. Nothing is impossible as we all know and as the ever-helpful cliché goes.

Speaking of all things clichédly repeatable, I was reminded yesterday just how much I love being a Mom. Of all the things I am or cop to being or have been, nothing will ever trump that role for me.  It is pure joy when my phone rings and an image of her face pops up. All it takes is one little “Hi” uttered by that familiar voice for me to know how she is, how she’s feeling, and how to respond.

I had just arrived home with take-out in hand after a day I’d like not to ever repeat itself. I had just sat down. I had just breathed an exhale of breath so loudly that Pete Best could hear it all the way from London, his former drumming and Ring-o-ringing in his head from being pink-slipped notwithstanding. 

“What is it, sweets?”


I knew immediately what that nothing was feeling like for her. I knew then, at that age, and I’ve known several times after. My only (fine, only-ish) advice to her was that no matter how she was feeling, it was allowed. Give yourself a break, I told her. There is no need to be so hard on yourself for trying to out-tough yourself and realizing you are actually not so tough after all.

Or at least in that moment.

And this moment will pass – trust me.

The slippery slope as a parent who loves their kid more than will ever be explainable, who has fought to stay alive to parent him or her both literally and metaphorically, and who has been through those same, repeatable life stages is this: how do you “allow” your kid to experience pain so they do not become some entitled little jerk who lives in your basement until they’re thirty and simultaneously assure them that this is not their fault? 

How do you convey the guarantee that someday, that little putz and all the others who were too self-absorbed, too immature, and too weak to realize they had struck pure gold amidst the shallow and loose bedrock will end up either begging for your understanding or as a head clown riding trikes in circles and throwing candy in local parades?

Yeah, no idea what you do, but in my case it involves making pasta salad and blondies and bringing it to her on Saturday. 

And also hanging up, smiling at cold take-out and the two-fold realization that, without even knowing it, she has once again made my life easier, better, more fulfilled – and Pete Best will tell you to this day that being dumped by John, Paul, and George was the best thing that ever happened to him.

It’s the disguise part of the blessings that’s always the hardest. Lucky for her, her Mom is like Nancy Drew over here.
…In fact, I think I should try to find someone who is not Kanye and is female to sing about gold diggers. Maybe that’d be a ‘lil more helpful to those poor, poor boys.
(Clearly I am not totally hating. His rendition coupled with thoughts like the above helped me to repeat miles in stellar fashion. While 100% NOT wearing Yeezy’s.)

Love Me Do.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Nothing Much

So my husband - yeah, you read that right - told me yesterday in his classic direct and awesome way that the most talented writers write 7 days a week for at least four hours per day.

Problem solved.

You guys know I love inspirational quotes, but I'll spare you from reading the ones about doing anything you put your mind to.  At present, I'm mad at my mind because it won't stop telling me to write; I'm more mad at the rest of myself for not doing it.  How can I go around spouting off about my disdain for all things hypocritical when hello....?  You can't actually say you love something and totally ignore it for twenty-eight hours a week.  Imagine if I ignored my husband - yeah, still reading it correctly - for twenty-eight hours a week.  My soon-to-be pseudonym would be Liz Taylor.

Someone with whom I have worked for many years once told me it's intriguing, weird, and inexplicable that I want everyone to like me.  Of course his unfounded diagnosis wasn't even fully completed in the form of a sentence before I began systematically outlining the reasons that was obviously ridiculous.  Remember that one nut job?  You know I didn't care about whether or not he/she liked me after...

He interrupted and said something about that being his exact point.  Me even allowing said nut jobs in proximity to my space, my time, my life was absurdity in and of itself, and in his non-qualified estimation, I allowed it so as to avoid people from not liking me or thinking I was mean.

Whatever about that and his point.  But let's pretend he may have had one and I finally admitted as much.  How does that relate to writing?

Well, as Aristotle would say:  "There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing."

Who trifles with Aristotle?  Not this chick.  And I'm pretty sure not even Amy Schumer whose book I could not put down.  All I kept thinking is, if she can be that transparent and share her own nut job stories in an effort to help assuage others of their guilt for past mistakes, so can I. Because let's be honest - real stuff is funnier than made up stuff and trust me, you cannot make up ANY of what I can tell you.

My new site is underway.  Hoping to have the direction, vibe, aesthetics, functionality, etc etc figured out by the end of the year and never look back.  If I can get through cancer, a couple divorces, raising a teenage daughter, battling constant religious struggles, other life-long internal demons and a guy who vacillated between wearing Batman masks and skull caps, I can find twenty-eight hours a week.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Cougar visions.

How long has it been?  So many ways to answer that question, although for our present purposes let's just say wayyyyy too long.

I've missed writing.  I've missed this blog.  But I have not missed a thing as of late...

Marathon training - check.
Spending time with family and especially Liv before she goes back to school - check.
Work - check, check, check.
Class - see below.
Cleaning the house - she was here this morning;  It's obviously still Rumspringa.
Wedding - mmmhmmm.  Check please.  Home stretch.  Cue Europe.  (No, not the country).

My last class ended and I was Loverboy Lovin' Every Minute of It.  Thursday will be Week 3 of the current class, taught by one of the most difficult Professors in the program.  He uses 4-syllable words on his rest day and/or when he takes his kids to Chuck E. Cheese.  I have Siri on standby with strict standing instructions to understand the first time what word I am parroting and expecting an accurate definition of.  Ugh!  See?  Prepositional ending.  Just give me the A- now.  <*@!$>

Anyway, the class is Revelation.  It's singular.  John had one vision and one vision only.  If you've never read it out of fear, confusion, or straight up no clue - that was our week one discussion.  You're in good company.  But honestly - check it out.  Everything you don't understand is found in the preceding 65 books of the Bible in some way, shape, or form.  And since we all know how the book ends...why not arm yourself with the intel of how amazing it's going to be?

Here you go.  Hang on, because the only vision I have now is whether or not I'm gonna be able to keep a straight face walking down that aisle.  Here's lookin' at you, kid.

The Book of Revelation as Apocalyptic Literature Discuss how important (or not) you think it is to read The Book of Revelation as “apocalyptic literature.” How important do you think it is to read The Revelation in a socio-literary context with other Jewish (and Christian) apocalypses? What is the significance of viewing Revelation as part of this kind of literature? 
(What can we learn about Revelation in comparing it to other Jewish/Christian apocalypses? What do we learn about the manner in which Revelation communicates its message through visions, symbolism, metaphors, mythical figures, allegorical representations, scriptural allusions, etc.? What are the limits of comparing Revelation to other apocalyptic writings? In what ways does Revelation modify or ‘break the mold’ of other apocalyptic writings?)
(2–3 paragraphs) 
(2) Reading Apocalyptic Symbols as “Reframing the World”: Many scholars believe that much of 1 Enoch is written in response to crises that the Jewish people faced in light of the influence and invasion of Hellenistic cultural into the their lands. (For reference, see J.J. Collins, The Apocalyptic Imagination2nd [Eerdmans, 1998], ch. 2;  G.W.E. Nickelsburg, Jewish Literature between the Bible and the Mishnah2nd [Fortress, 2005], chs. 2–4. See also Anthony Tomasino,Judaism Before Jesus [IVP, 2003], chs. 4–6.) The Jewish apocalypses of 4 Ezra and 2 Baruchwere clearly written as responses to the Judean war with Rome in 66–73 C.E., the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E., and the after effects.
With reference to specific elements of the Jewish apocalypses assigned above, compare how they use symbolic elements (e.g,. the symbolism of animals, numbers, time-frames, etc.) to address the situations of crisis or perceived crisis, and how Revelation does the same thing for Christian believers living under the Roman empire in the latter half of the 1st century C.E.
(What elements of the different sections of 1 Enoch relate to problems within Judaism in the 2nd and 1st centuries B.C.E.? For example, what kinds of issues might the mythic narratives of the “Book of the Watchers” refer to? What human conflicts might make sense out of the story of the “fallen angels/watchers”? What kinds of ‘pollution’ might Israel being experienced at this time? What is the significance of the “10 Weeks” in the “Apocalypse of Weeks”, and specifically the “seventh week”? What kind of history is imagined in the “Animal Apocalypse”, and how does it relate to the history related in 1 Maccabees?
What is the significance of the “eagle and lion” vision in 
4 Ezra? How does the imagined period of the Babylonian conquest [e.g., 6th century B.C.E.] help to [re]frame Israel’s experience of the Roman violence experienced in the 1st century C.E.?
In the fifth vision of 
2 Baruch what is the significance of the allegory of the vine vs. the cedar?  How are the ‘covenant people’ redefined in this section? What is the role of practicing the law for defining God’s people, and differentiated those who are not God’s people?
In what ways does Revelation help to address issues with the new manifestation of ‘Babylon’ in the Roman Empire as the powerful force in the world that embodies evil and opposes the Kingdom of God? In what ways does Revelation use symbolism to address the specific situation of Christian believers in the 1st century C.E.?
(3–4 paragraphs)
The Book of Revelation as Apocalyptic Literature:
Reading The Book of Revelation as “apocalyptic literature” is important insofar as what we are trying to accomplish.  Bauckham’s opening hits it on the head when he states that our answer to the question of, “what kind of book is it?” determines our expectations of the book and what we expect to find therein.[1]  Assuming we are trying to “accomplish” what we do with any other book in the Bible (i.e. a proper understanding [of what God wishes for us to know of His character and intent] and active application of the message), then it is imperative we read Revelation as it tells us to read it.  And that is, in three ways: as a revelation (1:1), as prophecy (1:3), and as a letter (1:4-6). 
John’s work is obviously a prophecy as much as it is a revelation (1:3, 22:7, 10, 18-19).  He even calls his book a “prophetical work” and tells us the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy (19:10).  Yet besides being prophecy and revelation, the book is grounded in current history.  It is a pastoral letter written to the church at large – to real, actual people then living (1:4, 11).  And further, since Revelation was at least part letter, it was meant to be read in the churches (cf. Col. 4:16) which we know not only from the “bookends” (1:3 intro; 22:6 conclusion), but also chapters 2 and 3 written to individual churches.  Thus, Revelation is a unique kind of writing in its combination and blending of three literary types – apocalypse, prophecy, and letter.  The question and quite honestly, difficulty, is trying to assuage our brains of which of the three carries more weight – which complex literary element are we supposed to grasp and is it different than what the first hearers of the book were supposed to grasp?  Did John intend to create a liturgy or drama, some cosmic myth, a prophetical book, or “just” an apocalypse? 
I contend John, as Jesus’ chosen agent, used all of those genres to construct and exemplify the epistolary schema reflective of his true literary intention, but that we are not as fully equipped as his original readers to understand such a writing.  Our understanding of Revelation is impeded by the fact that they apocalypse as a literary form does not exist in our time as it did then.  John’s original readers knew how to comprehend such a writing, but since it is outside of our experience in 2016, we have more difficulty in cognition.  To that end, not only is the ability to properly correlate The Book of Revelation with OT knowledge imperative to its comprehension, but so too is gaining an intimate understanding of the culture in which it was written.  We must approach it on its own terms as a (socio-literary) writing of its time that was well understood by its original readers…and had a meaningful message for them.
Lastly, that said – it almost goes without saying that the way to up our cognitive game is to compare Revelation to other Jewish/Christian apocalypses so we “get” that whole genre.  Under the adage of “you play like you practice,” there is really no way to fully grasp apocalyptic writing unless you read apocalyptic writing. How many of us felt the immediate blush to our faces when reading Shakespeare aloud in front of classmates?  It was awkward because we didn’t understand that kind of language, not just because we were fifteen and inherently awkward.
Apocalyptic writings usually had certain characteristics in common (i.e. Enoch, Abraham, Twelve Patriarchs, Moses, Ezra, Enoch, Elijah, etc.) and claimed to reveal God’s purpose in history.[2]  A major role of the apocalypse was to explain why the righteous suffered and why the kingdom of God delayed.  Prophecy had dealt primarily with the nation’s ethical obligations at the time when the prophet wrote, and focused on a period of time yet in the future when God would intervene to judge the world and establish righteousness.[3]  The writers of apocalyptic works viewed their days as the worst of times, filled with pain and suffering for God’s people. And to offer hope in trouble times, apocalyptic writings included a promise that God would intervene in human history, destroy evil (thus, pain and suffering) and bring the despairs of His people to an end. These basic threads are woven throughout the fabric of apocalyptic construct and thought.  When we study Revelation, our views are of the same issues and topics: the meaning of history, the suffering of God’s people, and the coming of the Messiah and God’s kingdom – both then and now.
We are a sinful people born into a broken and sinful world.  And what we look for, I think, are “signs” of [the promise of] hope – hope that we can endure all the brokenness and suffering until such a time when it ceases to exist and “everything makes sense.”  Imagery and symbolism constitute such signs in both prophetic and apocalyptic literature.  Whereas the former includes more easily recognizable visuals such as plants, animals, and farm tools, apocalyptic imagery is strange, mystifying, unknown.  Grant R. Osborne comments in The Hermeneutical Spiral, that “the purpose of esoteric symbols in apocalyptic literature is to turn readers from the actual event to its theological meaning.  In other words, readers are expected to see the hand of God in the future but are not supposed to know the exact sequence of events.”[4] 
Both prophetic and apocalyptic literature brings readers/hearers to the ideas of repentance and encouragement.  And both share a common goal: to point people to God.  In that way, I don’t see any limitations of comparing Revelation to other similar apocalyptic writings - again, as long as that is the end-game.  If that is not the case, then by definition, the writings limit themselves. 
Reading Apocalyptic Symbols as “Reframing the World”:
While there can be little to no doubt that The Book of Revelation belongs in the apocalyptic genre, there are both obvious and subtle differences between it and other Jewish apocalypses.  First, Revelation has decidedly more visual imagery than other apocalypses.[5]  Clearly, symbolic visions are indicative of the genre, but in other Jewish apocalypses other forms of revelation are often equally or more important. [6] 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch share the expectation that the Messiah will appear at the end of time, and it can be seen as their hope in response to the situation of the Judean war with Rome.  Although scarcely the central figure in either text, the Messiah does play a more prominent role in these apocalypses than in other early Jewish writings. There are several passages in 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch that describe the activities of the Messiah with a bit of detail.  Both pieces entail judgment scenes that describe how the last wicked ruler is stripped of his authority and dominion is passed to the Messiah. In 4 Ezra 12:31-35, the Messiah is represented by a roaring lion who appears from the forest.  He confronts the remaining enemy, the last Roman emperor, who is represented by the eagle.  The Messiah rebukes him and his followers, recites all of their offenses, convicts them of their wickedness, and destroys them.  The Messiah will then deliver “the remnant of my people” (12:34), those who live within the borders of Israel.  The corresponding passage in 2 Bar. 39:7-40:4 depicts the Messiah standing on Mount Zion at the end of time (cf. 4 Ezra 13:35).  The Messiah, symbolized by the vine, summons the last Roman ruler and his cohorts.  He convicts them of their evil deeds and puts the ruler to death.  The Messiah will then rule for the time that remains “until the world of corruption will end” (40:3).
So we see the same hopeful expectation (of a new world, sans corruption) within those texts as we do in Revelation.  However, my sense is that Revelation interprets the OT in an almost contradictory way to Jewish apocalyptic writings – and we can construe those [other] writings as a challenge to the church and Revelation as an almost rebuttal.  For example, Revelation transforms the nation of Israel into the church, it postulates the OT prophecies about the salvation of Israel, and does not refer or equate the restoration of the temple (peace of Jerusalem) to the Jews as an ethnic group, but rather to a perfected and glorified church. 
The people of God isn’t just a remnant of Israel, but people from all nations who have put their faith in Christ and therefore, the true Exodus is the spiritual and eternal salvation of the perpetual church.  “John’s constant allusions to biblical stories suggest that he composes his book of visions in conversation with the Old Testament.  His message corresponds to the prophetic promise of the triumph of God’s reign within history.  For him, the new Israel has experienced a new exodus from sin and death and has set out on a journey for a new Jerusalem.”[7]
I believe this is paramount to the “reframing of the world,” as Revelation challenged the claims of the apocalyptic writers and their [own] ideas of “history," who the people of God were, where He was working, and how they would have to deal with the end-time.  To the Jews, the return of the Messiah and his intervention in human affairs (i.e. invasion of Hellenistic cultural influences, Judean war with Rome, Roman destruction of Jerusalem) was the fulcrum period of history.  Yet, Revelation fixes the most important part of history in another place – Jesus.  And that is exactly why Revelation 5 and the vision of the Lamb opening the scroll is the absolute pivotal point of the book…and the most meaningful symbol which/who alone reframes the entire world. 
[1] Bauckham, Richard. New Testament Theology: The Theology of the Book of Revelation.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993. p. 1.
[2] Mounce, Robert H. The Book of Revelation, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans Publishing Company, p. 19.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Osborne, Grant R. The Hermeneutical Spiral:  A Comprehensive Introduction to Biblical Interpretation. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1991, p. 283.
[5] Bauckham, Richard. New Testament Theology: The Theology of the Book of Revelation.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993. p. 9.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Kroll, Paul and B. Palmer. “Revelation, Apocalyptic Writing, and the Old Testament” 1999.  Web. 06 July 2016. 

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Embracing Risk

I'm starting to understand why writers always post things about getting rejected a zillion times before they are finally published.  This is the second Reading Report I wrote for class.  Extra effort.  More explanation.  Better grammatical structure.  Less sleep.  More focus.  2 percentage points lower.


The mere fact that I am posting it anyway given my gunner tendencies should tell you how much I loved these books - highly recommend both.

     Arriving at a destination requires planning, intentionality, and a clear sense not only of where one is coming from, but where it is they wish to go.  This is as seemingly simple as it is obvious.  Landing on definitions of the means of transportation for the trip, however, can be a challenging task.  Both The Faith of Leap: Embracing A Theology of Risk, Adventure & Courage (“Faith of Leap”) by Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch and Kingdom Conspiracy: Returning to the Radical Mission of the Local Church (“Kingdom Conspiracy”) by Scot McKnight set out on their own explorations of challenging readers to rethink the purpose of their own [missional] lives.  Is it about us, or is it about God?  The answer ultimately shapes not only our personal journeys but our corporate missional journey as well.
     Kingdom Conspiracy takes an ecclesio-centric view of the kingdom in an effort to refocus our attention back on the church as the crux of God’s plan.  McKnight immediately plunges into an extremely thinly-veiled and dichotomous stereotype of “Skinny Jeans Kingdom” (social activists) and “Pleated Pants Kingdom” (evangelicals), luring the reader into his point that “Kingdom theology” is on the rise.  But this statement begs the more pressing underlying question he asks and answers throughout the book… what is the kingdom? 
     In fact the more granular question both books seek to answer is this: what is kingdom in this world as it relates to the church and its mission?  McKnight argues that if we fail to understand the kingdom’s connection to the church, we will get lost on our journeys as we look to find the place of redemption.  “There is no kingdom outside the church,” he writes. (McKnight, 2014, p. 87). Frost and Hirsch agree: “The Christian community, at least as Jesus intended it, is one of the most exciting aspects of the gospel experience: the church is the frontier of the kingdom” (Frost & Hirsch, 2011, p. 22). 
     To illustrate his Skinny Jeans-Pleated Pants viewpoints, Scot McKnight recounted a dinner conversation among a group of pastors, whereby one pastor indicated that each of the seven mission trips he had been on “had nothing to do with telling people about Jesus or establishing a church or teaching the Bible, but with service projects like building medical facilities” (p. 3).  When McKnight asked that pastor if the young man leading those mission trips used the word ‘kingdom’ for what he was doing, the pastor responded affirmatively:  “Over and over” (p. 3).  Admittedly, McKnight says that the last thing the pastor uttered in summary was the most haunting to him:  “These young adults, God bless ‘em, think ‘kingdom’ has nothing to do with ‘church’” (p. 3).
     How anyone can miss this is an almost affront to the three authors; yet while in agreement over that conundrum, the approach of the books varies somewhat.  Kingdom Conspiracy does a fantastic job of pointing out what we all know but are perhaps afraid to say for fear of being socially/politically or hypocritically unacceptable, and that is - the Skinny Jeans activists are all about redeeming society while the Pleated Pants folks are all about redemption for the individual.  The brilliance of McKnight is that he says both are looking in the wrong place!  “The primary locus of redemption is in the local church” (p. 85). And, he further asserts in a bold reproach to the evangelical consensus (of “the kingdom of God” referring to God’s redemptive rule and not His people) that au contraire, you Pleated Pants wearers!…”The kingdom of which Jesus speaks is a people governed by a king” (p. 74).
     When critics and scholars lay out two opposing viewpoints, they typically compromise in the middle after pointing out each side’s strengths and weaknesses.  Scot McKnight doesn’t take that approach whatsoever.  Instead of arbitrating, he basically calls out all the players by telling them to get in the [right] game: the one which exemplifies the storyline of Scripture, precisely Israel’s story and what “kingdom” meant to the Jews. 
     To that end, while Kingdom Conspiracy goes on to discuss how the conveying and spreading of the kingdom story in an effective and contextual manner ought to be done, Faith of Leap primarily conveys how those doing it ought to live (adventurously, courageously).  McKnight’s opinion is that our understanding of the biblical storyline affects our mission insofar as it requires conversion (i.e. repentance and faith are described as a “surrender” to King Jesus) and discipleship (being mastered by the Scriptural story).  For him, spiritual growth is linked to the kingdom’s inauguration. “To the same degree that the kingdom has been inaugurated in Jesus, the kingdom can be realized among us.  To the degree that the kingdom has not yet been realized, it cannot be lived out in the present” (p. 39).  Frost and Hirsch meanwhile, continue to pump us up by playing to the inner adventurers and believers that we all are, or could/should desire to be by having courage and “learning to live for something that is more important than our own safety” (-Scott Bader-Saye, PhD, Duke University; p. 34).
     Contextually, McKnight shows how Jesus’ kingdom story set him against five competing stories (including the Pharisees, the Essenes, and the Zealots) and surmises that likewise, faithfulness in the kingdom mission means we must embed kingdom realities in our own context, purposefully countering the ruling stories at work in our world today.  Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch call that “holy urgency,” and they could not be more adamant about its importance in the combined realms of living, learning, and leading in all areas of missional orthopraxy.    
     Faith of Leap has one primary focus as it relates to kingdom and church – the inhabitants.  Frost and Hirsch bravely venture into relatively uncharted waters by exploring the risk, adventure, liminality and the absolute necessity of communitas people are willing to take for church, discipleship, mission and themselves.  Between examples of men from Abraham (his somewhat “unbalanced” action put him and his large household at risk) and J.R.R. Tolkein (his Lord of the Rings Trilogy exemplifies the struggle of good vs. evil and requires nothing less than everything, the “giving up” of our lives in favor of a quest that is never a matter of one’s own desire but rather one’s calling), their book inspirationally screams to its readers that we have become complacent in the church today because the church today is not in crisis.  There is no tension.  The Western church and its inhabitants have been cruising along at such a big, safe, fictitious-growth-results rate that it has not only become stagnant, it has become the most vulnerable it has been in longer than anyone living today can remember.  The real outcome (and rub) of that vulnerability is that we find ourselves right now, in this day, in the position “of the utmost missional importance for church (people) to be as we are meant to be, yet we live in a post-Christian, post-Christendom world, and the result is that seventeen centuries of “Western church” have effectively inoculated our culture against the gospel (p. 21).
     That prevention of gospel-spreading, Faith of Leap (and I) would argue, stems from the absence of any real tension or liminality in people.  It is exactly what is rendering church, kingdom, people and mission paralytic.  Hearts are unmoved.  Where are our hearts?  They are bored, they are selfish, they are safe, and they are uninspired.  Thus, we are unable to breathe any new life into anything or anyone.  There is no [communitas] quest which requires a “by all means necessary” sacrifice, which in and of itself is mind-boggling.  How can we know the gospel message and NOT employ that mentality to share it with those who don’t?   As Frost and Hirsch say, “it is clear that opting for more of the same is not going to resolve our problems.  We must be willing to dream again, to innovate, and to risk the rejection of peers who think that the status quo is sufficient to the task” (p. 24).  Crisis in some real sense was normative for the church of Jesus, just as it is today where gospel growth is highest – in persecuted churches in persecuted countries.
     “Rediscovering the meaning of the word “movement” and relinquishing being administrators of a stifling status quo, or worse, purveyors of fine religion,” is what Faith of Leap urges us to do, because if we do this, we will experience the same spiritual renewal and passion pervaded in the New Testament (p. 24).  Frost and Hirsch further remind us that we are people born of the missio Dei, which means that the church is a result of the missionary activity of God and not the producer of it (p. 21). Thus, the church is defined by its mission and not the other way around!  The mission of redemption is not yet fulfilled; therefore, we are still on the Journey and we had better get a move on, i.e. act instead of sitting around doing more of nothing.
     Summarily, perhaps the best statement to describe the heartbeat of both books is as follows:  “In order to rediscover church as missional adventure, we will have to start by reJesusing the church” (Frost & Hirsch, p. 24).  As we have seen, the church equals kingdom equals people; thus people – as in we, the communitas “we” - need to start by reJesusing ourselves.  We need to stop asking ourselves the wrong question of where the church fits into society.  Why would we want to fit into society anyway…has anyone seen it lately? Seriously, do we even have any vision?
      Instead we should be asking how society is summoned into God’s society (McKnight, p. 111).  We must risk ourselves to the truth that we believe is true, and we must stake our lives on the person and promises of God.  For in order to take a proper Faith of Leap, we have to have the courage to see things differently and step out into the unknown with little more than a commitment to the vision of what Jesus wants from His world.   
     Is it about us, or is it about Him?

Frost, Michael and Alan Hirsch.  The Faith of Leap: Embracing a Theology of Risk, Adventure, & Courage. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2011.
McKnight, Scot.  Kingdom Conspiracy: Returning to the Radical Mission of the Local Church.  Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2014.

Subjective Grading

So the good news is, 97% is still an A and the color gray continues to work on my former-entire-life-black-and-white-wait-why is this not 100 percent?-mentality.  All I gotta say is, there must be a reason the colors of a rainbow are ROY-G-BIV.

If you want to check out two good reads about some different viewpoints on how to "do" evangelism, I recommend these two - just not as much as the next two I'm about to post.  Oh and P.S.  "glocal" is a word even though your brains and spell check will tell you differently...

     The purpose of this paper is to compare and contrast the following two books:  Christian Mission in the Modern World (“Christian Mission”) by John Stott, updated and expanded by Christopher J.H. Wright, and Global Church:  Reshaping Our Conversations, Renewing our Mission, Revitalizing Our Churches (“Global Church”) by Graham Hill.
     Insofar as the ongoing and apparently age-old deliberation between “evangelical” and “ecumenical” churches are concerned with uncovering the best approach to mission, likewise are both books.  At the highest-level and briefest first-blush description, Christian Mission is evangelically skewed while Global Church is ecumenically skewed…and that might be the understatement of the year.  Stott was writing in the context of the 1960s and 1970s and states in the preface that he was “immediately plunged into the thick of contemporary debate about the meaning of mission” when he found himself amidst one of four experiences which served as catalysts for his writing.  Out of the gate, Stott acknowledges unapologetically that he is a Christian of “evangelical” conviction, but seeks only to be fair in his assessment of other viewpoints while, at the same time, critical of himself in the process.  The book’s undertone was successful in doing so, yet his emphasis on biblical revelation at the forefront of all mission temperature-taking could not be concealed.  He states that a broader consensus on the meaning and obligation of “mission” is unlikely ever to be reached unless “an agreed biblical hermeneutic is found.”  While many points in his book are valid and presented both clearly and fairly, as fairly goes in this debate, the resounding oxymoron in his chief concern of bringing ecumenical and evangelical thinking to the same “independent and objective test: that of biblical revelation” could not be missed.
     Nor could one miss any of the blatant non-objective viewpoints which Graham Hill brings to the table in Global Church.  The dedication to “the African, Asian, Caribbean, Eastern European….” was a pretty clear indication of how the book was going to be presented, and it did not disappoint!  Just as one may read works by Gloria Steinem and think, “Wow, she hates men,” likewise when reading Global Church it is exceptionally easy to think, “Wow, Graham Hill hates the Western church and all its elitist mentality with a fierce passion.”  However, as you dig deeper into what Gloria Steinem’s underlying declaration of equality was truly about, you find a much larger message behind the defensive façade of rejection, disunity, and opposing sides.  And so too is it the exact case with Graham Hill’s Global Church.
     Even though both books come across to the reader with a different spin on mission and how one ought to spread the gospel, the authors agree on both interesting and substantial points.  Firstly, they wholeheartedly are in tandem with regard to the integral mission itself.  In in simplest form, it is agreed that there must be a proper understanding and communication of the Christian faith, i.e. The Gospel.  While there is definite variance in form when it comes to the communication portion of that statement, they are both unwavering in what is to be understood as paramount to the overall mission:  that there is a responsibility among human beings to be salt to the world in a transformational way.  Contextualizing that effort will look different in its manifestation, but the incarnation of God’s love for the world manifested in Christ cannot be denied.  “Contextual mission is incarnational.” (Hill, 2016, p. 52).
     Hill points out that “the words and deeds of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit show us the ultimate form of contextual mission.” (p. 52).  That words and deeds need to constantly and continually match in order to be true to our mission was easily agreed upon in both books.  GlobalChurch states the integral mission “has to do with the basic issue of the integrity of the church’s life, the consistency between what the church is and what it proclaims, (FN); Christian Mission clearly points to Jesus coming to serve “in deeds as well as in word, and it would be impossible in the ministry of Jesus to separate his works from his words” (Stott, 2015, p.24).  The sense which was intimated throughout both reads is that mission, no matter the difference(s) in approach, cannot be hypocritical.  Where Stott sees social action as a partner of evangelism, Hill sees the two as each demanding integrity.  The integrity of the church’s life (i.e. mission) must maintain consistency between what the church is and what it proclaims.  Word must match deed.  Do what you say.  Say what you mean.  Do not waiver when you are in a Western culture nor when you are in Majority World culture – but make no mistake, go to both.  Do not be a hypocrite and expect others to either listen or believe you’re without agenda when you are acting in just cause to meet the world’s social needs.
     To that end, both authors understand that there is a necessary combination of acting and speaking the gospel.  It was resoundingly evident that Hill believes Western churches fail miserably in thinking about let alone addressing in action the social injustices in our world today.  And while both author’s agree that God’s primary relationship is to the world, Stott believes that the priority of evangelism (as seen in the Lausanne Covenant which both books also address) should be in the knowing, i.e. speaking, of the gospel because in his view, “Is there anything so destructive of human dignity as alienation from God through ignorance or rejection of the gospel?” (Stott, 2015, p. 58).  He welcomingly goes on to say, “the fact that God disclosed himself in terms of particular culture does not give us another justification for rejecting his revelation, but rather the right principle by which to interpret it, and also the solemn responsibility to reinterpret it in terms meaningful to our own culture. (Stott, 2015, p. 63).  
     Again, there is consensus among authors that all cultures must be addressed, with less concern for the “results” of evangelism and the utmost concern for the truth of the good news, delivered by culturally relevant means.  It is a global world, and while sometimes that is scary in its perceived “preoccupation with social change that leaves little or no room for evangelistic concern,” we certainly cannot fail to have “comparable concern or compassion for people’s spiritual hunger.” (Stott, 2015, p. 19).  Polarization is not a workable solution. Both authors quote Rene Padilla with regard to the ethical aspect of mission in a global world.  Padilla states that “without ethics there is no real repentance.”  And clearly since biblical ethics includes more than just our own personal piety, as in also our social engagement, he goes on to make this significant and provoking assertion: “Thus social responsibility becomes an aspect not of Christian mission only, but also of Christian conversion.”  On this, both authors stand arm in arm.  It’s just that Hill’s arm span seems to be a little longer and his grasp a little tighter…
     GlobalChurch asks, in sort of an all-encompassing question for which both books ultimately seek the answer: “how do we deliberately cultivate glocal conversations in our biblical interpretation?” (Hill, 2016, p. 39).  The inverse can be asked as well (as one might rightly deduce would be found in Christian Mission), “how do we deliberately cultivate biblical interpretation in a glocal world?”  Intentionality.  Or, as Hill refers to it – attention.  “Glocal theology does NOT need to accept all the assumptions or assertions of postcolonial or Majority World thought, but it DOES need to engage with them and take them seriously.  We need to practice the art of attention, being especially attentive to those who are different to us” (Hill, 2016, p. 39). 
     Our views can, and often do, become so narrow in focus that we fail to realize God created the whole world, not just the rural county in which we live.  He created literally everything, and, as both authors also concur, our responsibility as missionaries (because we all are) is to be the salt and light of the world, acting and speaking in solidarity.  Individual cities sitting on a hill reaching each and every city, people group, environment – all of creation - below it.
     At one point, Hill discusses the observations he had while in the Majority World.  Specifically, he was astounded that folks in those areas are intimate with their bibles.  They are intimate with each other.  They are intimate in corporate, community, and neighborhood prayer.  They are intimate about living.  That in and of itself is different for many people living in the Western world.  Perhaps if we depended on God and His Word as much as others in our world demonstrate on a daily basis, we would actually know how to respond – in both word and action.  And perhaps that is exactly the point Hill was trying to unabashedly make.  I think the guy would actually help us get up from that bus which he so skillfully threw us under.
     But then again, maybe some of us deserve to hang out there a while.  Or at least long enough to be transformed by the understanding that mission is not black and white.  Instead of looking through our own shallow lenses, we would be best served by ditching our own taxonomies in favor of simple obedience to the totality of the Bible’s commission on the lives of God’s people.  For ultimately, those partners in evangelism are for life. 

Stott, John and Christopher J.H. Wright.  Christian Mission in the Modern World. Downers Grove: IVP Books, 2015.

Hill, Graham.  Global Church: Reshaping Our Conversations, Renewing Our Mission, Revitalizing Our Churches.  Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2016.


I had the pleasure of attending Mars Hill church in Grand Rapids this morning.  Peter Rollins delivered the message.  If either he or Mars Hill are new to you, Google them because a) you should and b) I'm too mentally drained to hit the link icon on here.  One of us gets to be lazy right now, and I vote me.

His message was this: don't change.  We each are already accepted.  Just as we are.  We spend countless sleepless nights and wasted daytime hours trying to accept the fact that we are accepted. And we fail to believe it - over and over again.  Even though we know better, our pasts have dictated otherwise, so we exert repeatable behaviors to our continued demise.  Our continued, ridiculous, exhausting, saddening relational demise.

Here's the rub.  If we don't choose to fully believe it (i.e. behave differently, as in be transformed), then we wreck our relationship with God.  And if we don't choose to fully believe it with others, we wreck our relationships with them.

Does anyone else's head never quit?  Like it's a freaking tennis match and the volley is literally never going to cease?

I find myself playing the worst match of my life right now - trying to use this semblance of athleticism to run all over the court, left, right, front, back, faster, faster, get there!  Seriously, just hit the stupid ball and score already!...instead of skillfully relying on the past knowledge that I have played tennis before and that even if I hit a terrible shot or throw multiple games because my head is directly up my rear, my partner still accepts me.

Peter Rollins started out his phenomenally delivered message by saying humans are a mess.  It's why there's no such thing as "indogmane" or "incatmane" - only inhumane.

Maybe that's why old single dudes end up with the proverbial man's best friend and old single chicks end up with 30 cats.

Thank God I am not an animal lover.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Bust A Move

Before spiritual maturity = Young MC

Now/today/getting closer  = Go out and help others.  Go make disciples.

Fine, chant the lyrics if that's your pre-game, but know the better message to spread before you get wherever it is that you're going.  And I know you maybe don't know where that is yet.  Trust me, I know firsthand.  But that's ok.  None of us do exactly right now - but we can know for sure where it is that we should want to end up later.  Look at it as the lesser of two evils swarming around in your constantly conflicted brain:  when has doing good for others ever made you feel worse about yourself?

As promised, more on the Christian Mission class for which I find myself reading for days on end and wanting to immediately pack up and move to Cambodia.  Or, at least to the corner of Creighton and Hanna.

The first assignment was an open-ended "write your own personal theology of mission."  No idea.  But I turned it in on time nonetheless and received it back last Thursday, fully graded.  Let's just say since I'm not at 100% right now, I have some work to do in order to do better...for others.

Side note:  CliffsNotes version is don't wait to go anywhere other than where you already are in order to make a difference.  In 27 minutes, that means RediMed for me.  Happy Sunday.

     Developing an inaugural theology of mission can be and often is, the most overlooked component of Christianity for the majority of best-intentioned Christ followers.  While we purport to “being Christian” and “doing God’s work” – what does that really mean?  Do we even know what we are saying let alone doing?
     The difference between the singular “mission” and plural “missions” is notable.  The former is of a larger scale and scope, i.e. “God’s love for redeeming the lost, encompassing God’s church in its entirety.”[1]  The “mission” of theology, therefore, belongs to God – just as those who carry out the requisite cross-cultural “missions” work under its umbrella so find themselves.
     Regardless of geography, while one without the other can exist, it would be futile for individuals to partake in missions work without the greater mission in mind.  Missions and [the] larger scale mission neither are nor should be mutually exclusive.
     Moreover, without the One to whom the greater mission belongs guiding the way for those doing the missions, the work itself is pointless.  It becomes nothing more than worker bees ineffectively buzzing about, circularly swarming an increasingly more frustrated global nest.  God is a God of purpose; of mission.  Therefore, my personal theology of mission begins with Him. 
     God had a mission in Creation.  He is the original Creator of all; the Great Artist, Draftsman, Architect and Builder.  Man is the pinnacle of His creation, made in His image and likeness (Gen. 1:26-27).  All of creation is for God’s glory and as such, still finds itself in accordance to God’s mission.  Stated simply, while God had a mission in creation, so He still has.  According to Christopher Wright, “Creation exists for the praise and glory of its Creator God, and for mutual enjoyment between the Creator and the created.”[2]
     God is on a mission to be loved and worshipped by all people.  Perhaps the best way to summarily describe God’s purpose for [His] mission by [His] created mission workers is as follows:  “For His Glory in global worship, God purposes to overcome evil by redeeming a people who will love and obey Him within every people.”[3]  Indubitably, God’s mission is seen in His redemptive work.
     Redemption is restoration through Jesus Christ.  Jesus has bought [us/creation/missions workers] back what was stolen by Satan (Col. 1:13-14).  Believers in Jesus Christ and His redemptive work are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation in order that they may proclaim the mighty acts of Him who called them out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1Pet. 2:9; cf. Ex. 19:6).  God’s promise to Abraham then, becomes my/our individual precept for missions, as in effect it was His promise to the world.  God said he would not only bless Abram but that Abram would become a blessing (Gen. 12:2) and that “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Gen. 12:3).
     This promise is fulfilled in Christ:  “And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal 3:29).  Paul declares, “Those who believe are the descendants of Abraham.  The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.”  So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham the man of faith” (Gal. 3:7-9).  Thus, as Gallagher and Hawthorne point out, “through Christ anyone on earth can inherit the full family heritage of being blessed in order to be a blessing to the nations.”[4]
     The reciprocity is profoundly intentional.  If God’s mission is seen in His redemptive work, not only did he first do (model) the work through Jesus in redeeming His creation, but it is exactly those redeemed beneficiaries through whom His purpose continues, i.e. He saved His people so that they could save others.  “The promise so clearly reveals God’s purpose that Christians rightly consider it to convey God’s mandate to serve as His agents of blessing among all the peoples of the earth.  We are blessed in Christ in order to bring forth the blessing of Christ among all the nations.”[5]
     As a disciple of Jesus, my personal mission is to follow his example and commands.  He came from heaven to earth to show us the way; in turn, I am called to show others the way.  Jesus gave his disciples a clear command:  “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15).  My assignment, therefore is to go into all the world, my task is to preach the gospel, and my target is all of creation.  Blackaby and Willis rightly remind us that “Jesus was on a mission with the Father, and He calls every one of His followers to join Him in that relationship of love, power, and purpose.  Nothing could be more precious than to follow God on mission in the same way that Jesus did.”[6]
     We are not called to exercise a carbon-copy of Jesus’ ministry, but His practice of ministry is to be normative for us: “our task is simply to imitate him” even though what He did was “unique, climactic, decisive.”[7]  Since a commitment to Jesus is also a commitment to His mission, our missions must take a primary and inescapable place in our lives.  In considering Jesus, the most important things to note are not what He said or what He did, but who He was and the relationship He had with his Father.  His entire ministry flowed from this self-understanding and relationship.  Wright’s assessment of Jesus’ self-understanding as a key issue is largely accepted, even by his critics.[8]
     Yet it was not merely Jesus’ ministry that demonstrated interconnection.  The whole of the New Testament is primarily about relationships.  Doctrines matter because they affect how we live; how we live matters because it affects our relationships.  Jesus concisely summarizes the Law of Moses in terms of two relationships:  love God and love your neighbors (Mark 12: 30-31).  Again, the redemption/atonement is paramount as it restores a broken relationship:  “you are no longer strangers and aliens, but…of God’s household” (Eph. 2:19).
     Perhaps most significantly, we see in John 20:21 that Jesus “makes his own relationship with the Father” the basic paradigm for the disciples’ relationship with Jesus in pursuit of their mission.[9]  Jesus’ own ministry was about encountering other people, even and especially the original disciples, and serving them in appropriate ways.  His focus was not solely on His own spiritual life and health (although these things clearly mattered significantly to Him) but on the concerns and needs of the people around Him, including both His disciples and those who did not follow Him.  Jesus saw His relational role as that of a servant (Luke 22:27) and always put the needs of the people He happened upon before his own agenda of teaching and demonstrating the Kingdom.
     When a person claims to be a Christian, the one component they cannot overlook is Jesus.  A commitment to Jesus is a commitment to His mission.  This statement has major implications for not only our doctrine of salvation, but our practice of evangelism and what we mean when we say “mission.”  Once we know what we are saying, it is then that we can begin to understand what we are doing.
     Redemption and relationship are the missional keys to unlocking the door of the main mission at hand, a Hand solely responsible for our creation.  Jesus demonstrated His relationship to God; God’s primary relationship is to the world.[10]  And it is exactly that world for which we are on a mission - one which God redeemed by sending His only Son, and the same one He expects us henceforth to reject the deceit and pleasures of, in order that we may continue to be effected by, and affective in, a completely transformed community. 

Works Cited
Blackaby, Henry T. and Avery T. Willis. “On Mission with God,” in Perspectives on the World
Christian Movement:  A Reader, eds. Ralph D. Winters and Steven C. Hawthorne. Pasadena:   William Carey Library, 2009.

Coleman, Robert E., The Master Plan of Evangelism, 2nd ed.  Grand Rapids: Spire (By Revell), 2010.

Eby, Kent.  “Developing a Beginning Theology of Mission.” The Chapel, Fort Wayne. 5 May,      2016.  Lecture.

Gallagher, Sarita D. and Steven C. Hawthorne. “Blessings as Transformation,” in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader, eds. Ralph D. Winters and Steven C. Hawthorne.  Pasadena: William Carey Library, 2009. 

Hawthorne, Steven C. Perspectives on the World Christian Movement.  Pasadena: William Carey Library, 2009.

Hill, Graham. Global Church: Reshaping Our Conversations, Renewing our Mission, Revitalizing Our Churches.  Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2016.

Kostenberger, A.J. and P.T. O’Brien. Salvation to the Ends of the Earth.  Leicester: Apollos, 2001. 

McNight, Scot. Kingdom Conspiracy:Returning to the Radical Mission of the Local Church. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2014.

Newmann, CC (ed).  Jesus & The Restoration of Israel. Carlisle: Paternoster, 1999.

Stott, John and Christopher J.H. Wright. Christian Mission in the Modern World.  Downers Grove: IVP Books, 2015.

Wright, Christopher J.H.  “Mission and God’s Earth” in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader, eds.  Ralph D. Winters and Steven C. Hawthorne.  Pasadena: William Carey Library, 2009.

Wright, N.T.  The Challenge of Jesus.  London: SPCK, 2000. 

[1] Eby, Kent.  “Developing a Beginning Theology of Mission.” The Chapel, Fort Wayne. 5 May, 2016.  Lecture.
[2] Wright, Christopher J.H.  “Mission and God’s Earth” in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader, eds.  Ralph D. Winters and Steven C. Hawthorne.  Pasadena: William Carey Library, 2009.  Page 28.
[3] Hawthorne, Steven C. Perspectives on the World Christian Movement.  Pasadena: William Carey Library, 2009.  Page 4.
[4] Gallagher, Sarita D. and Steven C. Hawthorne. “Blessings as Transformation,” in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader, eds. Ralph D. Winters and Steven C. Hawthorne.  Pasadena: William Carey Library, 2009.  Page 38.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Blackaby, Henry T. and Avery T. Willlis. “On Mission with God,” in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement:  A Reader, eds. Ralph D. Winters and Steven C. Hawthorne. Pasadena: William Carey Library, 2009. Page 77.
[7] Wright, N.T.  The Challenge of Jesus.  London: SPCK, 2000.  Page 140.
[8] Newmann, CC (ed).  Jesus & The Restoration of Israel. Carlisle: Paternoster, 1999.  Page 110.
[9] Kostenberger, A.J. and P.T. O’Brien. Salvation to the Ends of the Earth.  Leicester: Apollos, 2001.  Page 260.
[10] Stott, John and Christopher J.H. Wright. Christian Mission in the Modern World.  Downers Grove: IVP Books, 2015.  Page 18.