Missing Missional Opportunities

[photo via http://www.flickr.com/photos/clintjcl/4457294321/ ]
[photo via http://www.flickr.com/photos/clintjcl/4457294321/ ]

We just had a huge snowstorm last night. There's a ton that goes through my mind when we get snow in our area. Will my Jeep start so I can get home from work? Does my wife have to travel in this? How's my Grandmom in all this?

Fortunately, my car did start, my wife stayed home, safe and sound, and my Grandmom is just fine.
This morning, I was fiddling on the computer completing some tasks for my up and coming design business. I noticed my neighbor snowblowing his yard. I watched for a few moments (to see if he was doing it right), then went back to work. It wasn't til about an hour later as I was talking with Hannah that it hit me: Why wasn't I out there helping him, showing him Jesus? Did I really just completely miss a missional opportunity?

The more I invest in Missio Dei, the more I encounter situations where I can be missional. What will I do with them? Will I take the chance and be Jesus to my neighbors? Or will I sit tight in my comfort zone and be selfish? The more opportunities I encounter, the more opportunities I turn down. What do I do about missing a missional opportunity? I think there can be three steps to rectifying a missed missional opportunity:

  1. Get up and do something- I don't mean this is a harsh way, but in such a way as to provoke us to action. Rather than wallow in our failure, we can often still redeem our missed opportunity before it's completely gone. If you realize in enough time, get in the ring!
  2. Apologize- This might seem like a weird step. After all, it's not like we "sinned" necessarily by missing an opportunity. This step is to create a new missional opportunity to rectify the one you missed. For instance, as soon as I'm done composing this post, I plan on Facebook messaging my neighbor to let him know I saw him out there in the snow, as well as to apologize for not helping out. This could open up good Gospel dialogue with him.
  3. Repent- This looks like remembering this missed opportunity, and taking steps to not miss it again. Next time it snows, I'll make sure I'm up early to help my neighbor shovel his yard.

Have you missed any missional opportunities recently? What's your plan to get back in the game?

Innocent of the Blood of All

The great commission is given to all believers of Christ. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."  (Act 1:8) It says we will be witnesses but it seems that day in, day out for most (me included) the gospel doesn’t go out. There is a struggle to declare the “reason of hope that lies within”.  Is there really hope that lies within? Have we idolized the lives we live over the reason we live? How does one become, like Paul, “innocent of the blood of all”?  Paul meets with the elders of the church of Ephesus in Acts 20:17-38 to have one final conversation with them before he went to Jerusalem. We find here some points that if we would listen too (ears that hear) and apply to our hearts and actions, I believe we would be able to combat the struggle to proclaim Christ. Paul draws these elders to remember how he lived his life, of which, they all witnessed. He's serving the Lord in humility even through trials and persecution, but yet he didn’t shrink from declaring Christ to everyone. Not just Christ, but repentance towards God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. (17-21).

 Is there really hope that lies within? Have we idolized the lives we live over the reason we live?

Let’s stop here for one second. The trials and light afflictions we face do they hinder the truth of the gospel in our lives. When life is tough do we shrink from declaring Christ?  Do turn inward and begin to self focus? In my head I think, I’m struggling to see this hope that is within me at this moment, so what am I going to share with someone else. Have I made my God smaller then my problems? Am I blinded to what He is doing around me? Could it be that by sharing Christ in the midst of struggle with all humility someone might believe there by strengthening our faith? It seams Paul’s focus was on sharing faith no matter where he was, no matter the trail, no matter if that same faith was drawing him to more persecution and affliction in Jerusalem. Let’s read on. (22) Paul, constrained by the spirit with no doubt in his mind says “I am going to Jerusalem” This same constraint caused him to count his life as valueless. (24) Ok let’s pause again.

What are we constrained to do in our lives?

Constrained, great choice of words don’t you think. What are we constrained to do in our lives? Work, eat, watch tv, hang with friends…..what about sharing the gospel?  Are some of these things idols that have constrained us from a focus on the gospel and the sharing of it? I’ve become constrained by my work and other things and you know where it shows up? In my speech. Funny how speech is needed to declare Christ. Wow so my idols keep me from sharing the gospel because I am running my mouth about less important stuff. Acts 1:8 had it right: “I will be witness,” but not always for what I should be. Paul goes on to say “I take no account for my life…. If only I may finish my course….to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”

Might that be our prayer, may our lives be characterized by a focus on our course set by God to share of his love. Our lives, jobs, families… are a part of our course but should not be idolized or hinder our testifying of the gospel. He then says that he is innocent of the blood everyone, because he didn’t shrink away from the gospel. (26-27) This brings us to the reason we are having this conversation.

So far, Paul is innocent of the blood of all because the gospel was always going out of his mouth and in his actions. If we could ask each person he came in contact with, they probably would testify that Paul told them about repentance towards Christ, The Gospel. Some would even say that he was extremely hurting and as they saw it struggling in life but had a hope in Christ which caused them to take a hard look at this person Paul called Christ. This brings up the question, if day in, day out I don’t open my mouth about Christ when all is said and done, what would the people I came in contact with say about the Christ I have hope in? See it doesn’t matter what they say about me and what I’m doing. It only matters what they say about the Christ I love. Do they even know I love him? Do they know he wants a personal relationship with them also? So at times I find myself sharing my Christ, my relationship with him and sharing about what he is doing at my church and in my community but never extending the opportunity for the person I am sharing with to also know Christ for themselves. Too much about me and what God is doing for me, need more of what Christ has do for them. Less talking more listening to make that connection! Let’s read on.

 See it doesn’t matter what they say about me and what I’m doing. It only matters what they say about the Christ I love. Do they even know I love him?

(28-32) Paul warns the elders of the church of Ephesus. Pay close attention, Be Alert!! First to your self then to the community Christ has called you too. There are those who seek to attack you and the community. They are fierce as wolves and they come from outside and inside of the community. They seek to distort the truth. Ok let’s talk for a second. There is only one source of truth the word of God. By listening to and applying that truth we know how to pay close attention to ourselves, our community and can help guard against distorted truth. This same message of kindness and love of God is what helps us grow. So Lets wrap this conversation up. (33-38) Paul says “I never wanted anyone's silver, gold, or clothes.” He worked hard to provide for himself, those who were with him and most importantly to be able to help the weak. At times I am so absorbed with my life and what I am doing that I don’t even give thought to those that don’t even have hope around me. This whole thing boils down to the phrase “Innocent of the blood of all”. When all is said and done, can I say I have done all that I can do, said all that I could say. Do those around me know of repentance towards Christ? Am I determined or constrained to the Gospel or to the things in my life? Is my focus for working for me and providing for me or for the sake of the weak? We are called to be disciples who are making disciples but do we live a life that doesn't shrink from that responsibility.


Legacy and Ladies

Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: "Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all."-Proverbs 31:28-29

Legacy is not just for dudes, it's also for the ladies. We are predominantly a young church. That brings with it a lot of opportunity and a lot of work too, sometimes Legacy feels like a masculine topic and we don't translate into the world of femininity well. But we are just starting out and I realize that we can get it right, right out of the gate...but again it's gonna take work. Most forms that we fill out give us some simple questions to fill out like Gender: Female, Marital status: Single, Married, Married with children...and sometimes I personally don't connect all those possibilities for the ladies. Guys I get. I yell at the guys, because I know how I need to get yelled at. I understand the need for Men to rise up and lead their culture, community, church, workplace, home, wife, and family well. To walk them towards their relationship with Jesus and see their lives poured out like Jesus' on the cross, and the ladies sit back and say uh-huh, thats right, get em...But since God's Word is an equal opportunity offender when it comes to our selfish desires, Ladies I wanted to take some very specific steps so you can understand that you need to get Legacy, your Legacy depends on it.

Look ladies, it's going to come up, so lets get this submission thing out of the way early. Ladies, Jesus submitted. He submitted to His Father, and He willingly went the way of humanity and the Cross. Jesus knew that His Father knew what was best for Him and His glory, so he willingly followed, submitted to Him. The Scripture asks ladies to follow in the same way to be submissive to their husbands. Not blindly or blanketly, but in faith wisely helping, questioning, communicating, and submitting. Now I know some of you are thinking "I have no faith in men, my husband, my boyfriend, my father, etc... they are certainly not Jesus." The Bible does not leave opportunity for such a simple cop out, it's true intention is to question whether or not you have faith in the God who asks you to submit, not in the messed up man standing before you. One very clear caveat, please do not see this as a place to allow abuse and neglect to be swept under the rug of "submission", God is not ok with His daughters being abused and mis-treated by a dominant, smug, and foolish man. He has put Godly men in His church to help you in such cases, He has also given you the police and other agencies to help step in where there is help needed to ensure the safety of you and the community as well as the correction of the man foolish enough to pursue such cowardice. I hope this is sufficient enough for us to move forward in the submission conversation.

All that ground work, now lets crack a Bible. 1 Peter 3:1-6 is my favorite place to see how this should play out...It starts out with this very awesome statment which says that a wife should be subject to their husbands even if their husbands don't know the Word, so that with out a word their wives would win them over by their Godly conduct. I love the call to women here, Peter actually assumes that a wife may be called first to Jesus, and need to live and love a man that does not know God or His love. Peter does not assume that ladies will meet a Jesus loving dude that will redeem them, nor does he assume that they will be called to salvation while single. In fact he assumes the most difficult of the 3 scenarios, mainly that a wife would be called first to the Lord and after need to live with a non-believing husband. This is incredibly hopeful because rather than starting with simple issues the passsage dives right into life; real, hard, messy life.

Godly conduct, or mode of life (I like the mode of life definition, it really captures the idea of an all encompassing modus operandum) is the living out of the Gospel in the absolutely enormous, yet very minute, hum, drum of everyday life. Paul Tripp rightly asserts that the giant moments of life are actually the everyday choices we make, rather than those seemingly big "life decisions". For example, my wife Becka moving all the stuff that I unwittingly just leave by the front door, and putting them away, choosing a later, more restful and peaceful moment (a rare moment in our house indeed) to communicate and ask me to help her by putting my stuff away instead of blocking the main entrance to our home, is a way that the gospel flows through her conduct and calls me towards Jesus. In the same way the wife of an unbelieving husband will point towards her Saviour as she lives out this lifestyle, and worships God through prayer, teaching in the home, time spent with her Family of New Birth, and Bible study. Oh and coincidentally ladies that are married to believers should conduct themselves the same way, it sanctifies their husband towards Christ. Oh, and single ladies should conduct themselves in the same way, it redeems the world around you back to the cross and will help you to be content in Christ (and will have the side affect of showing the dudes around you that you are God's daughter and need to be treated as such cause you aint gonna just roll over to some dumb boy that doesn't got his stuff together...but I digress).

How bout modesty? vs. 2-4 says that God's ladies should be known by their gentle and quiet spirit and not by their flaunting of their appareal. BUT is that all? I have a slight observation...Ladies that don't care that much about modesty also don't care that much about how much, or how loudly, or how harshly they act or treat others including their husband. God's word is not subscribing to some shut up and sit down mentality here, instead it is simply continuing it's counter cultural push and highlighting what God desires His daughters do, as opposed to what the cultural norm might suggest. 

Our culture has empowered women to take hold of their equality, yes, you can be like men...you can get trashed at the bar and snag some dude for a one night stand and then wake up and take the morning after pill with a gallon of water, and give half the day away to last night just to do it all again.

It will be really easy especially if you wear that certain V-neck that is so low it reaches your belly button and your skirt couldn't get any shorter if it was made for a smurf. Tight/Short clothes tend to indicate loose woman...if you are God's daughter don't let someone mistake the former for the later, dress in a way that the most visible attribute about yourself is your spirit, or more specifically The Spirit.

Our last (I promise really our last) thing to talk about is the reference to Sarah in verses 5-6. The short of it is that even in a seeming moment of extreme emotion (this quote in 1 Peter refers back to Genesis 18:12) she still refers to Abraham with respect. The long of it is a bit more interesting. Verse 6 tells us that the major thing here is not calling your husband by a particular respect term, but rather not letting fear control you. No seriously that is the big communication. See, if you have faith in God you move towards Him in love and life, and you make your decisions based more and more upon His leading. And He desires good for you, He will bring about His glory in your actions. So by putting your faith in God, there is little to fear from a mere mortal man or temporal situation, because God is Lord over them. AGAIN, don't however let this concept of fear push you to allowing sin go unchecked and unaccounted for. There is no room in God's kingdom for his daughters being abused by foolish men, do not let some sense of blind and foolish faith allow you kingdom ladies to trust God and let a man be abusive and sinful thinking that that must be what God wants for you...it's not. He desires you to live boldly and fearlessly for Him. For additional reading check out 1 Tim 2:9-15 and Prov. 31:10-31, write down questions and grab a good commentary, especially for 1 Tim...and discuss it :-)

 -Justin Gruber