God’s No Stranger to Small

God’s No Stranger to Small

In my last post, I left you with this question:

Is it possible that the church of Jesus, in cultural exile today, has done the same thing? Shrunk her vision to returning to Yesteryear, to getting back to the culture of yesterday, recovering all that we have lost?

I say yes and here’s my explanation.

I was at a gathering of pastors who were invited to share the most exciting thing that had happened in their congregation the previous year. Many shared about transformation in the lives of people and ministries having an impact on their community. One pastor shared that his congregation had broken the Guinness World Record for the longest banana split. God had, he told us, provided a good price on bananas and ice cream. Maybe it was a community outreach or a morale booster for the church, but I could not help thinking about the Servant of the Lord. Given the mission of lighting up the world with the message of Jesus, why are we looking for bargains on bananas? The saddest thing is that this probably was the most exciting thing that happened in that church that year.

Has the church of Jesus become narrowly narcissistic? Do we even see the dark world around us and speak into it with the confidence of the Servant of the Lord that our news is worth sitting up and paying attention to? Or are we people who gather in our churches and care mostly about ourselves?

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Too Small a Thing

Too Small a Thing

“Afghanistan, listen to me. Russia, France, Zimbabwe, pay attention to what I’m saying. Singapore, open your ears. Australia, this is something you need to hear.”

You would think me strange to call the nations of the earth to pay attention to what I am about to say. Truth is, they aren’t paying attention to me or you. They have no clue we’re even here, or who we are. They perceive us as neither blessing nor threat.

But that is exactly how Isaiah 49 begins. The Servant of the Lord says,

Listen to me, O coastlands,
Pay attention,
You people from far away!”
—Isaiah 49:1

Who is this strange speaker who believes his work is so important that all the nations ought to sit up and take notice? I’m glad you asked because he gives us his bio in the following verses.

The LORD called me before I was born,
While I was in my mother’s womb he named me.
He made my mouth like a sharp sword,
In the shadow of his hand he hid me;
He made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me away.
And he said to me,
‘You are my servant, Israel, in whom, I will be glorified.’”
—Isaiah 49:1b-3

This “Servant of the Lord” reminds us of other characters we have known.  Jeremiah, the one called while still in the womb. Sarah’s baby, born to a mother and father far past child-bearing years. The prophets of Israel given sharp tongues.

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A Tale of Two Cities: Yesteryear and Exile

A Tale of Two Cities: Yesteryear and Exile

I’d like to invite you to come with me to a place where some of us have lived before and some of us, the younger ones, have only heard of. The name of the town is Yesteryear.

In Yesteryear:

  • Laws were rooted in the Judeo/Christian ethic.
  • Families were stable, and divorce was rare.
  • Living together unmarried was even rarer.
  • Our military was superior, crime was minimal, and poverty was held in check.
  • Terrorism was not on the radar.
  • Savings accounts were common.
  • Debt was manageable.
  • The economy was growing.

Have you ever lived in Yesteryear? Do you still live there?

My guess is, you’ve moved – or been moved – to a new place.

The name of this new place is actually found in the Bible.

It’s called Exile.

In Exile:

  • We have religious pluralism – lots of gods.
  • Law is rooted in personal rights instead of personal responsibilities.
  • A family is almost any assortment of humans.
  • Our massive military cannot stamp out tiny terrorist cells.
  • Crime has caused us to secure our cars, homes, credit cards, and identities.
  • Poverty has millions living on a government check.
  • Terrorism is a daily color-coded warning.
  • Companies have downsized, shut down, or gone overseas, and the people who own them make 200 times more than the people who work in them.

Exile. Is this where you live now?

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Beginning With the End in Mind

Beginning With the End in Mind

As Christians, it is our calling to participate with God in the formation of the world God imagines, desires, and wills. In other words, we do our work with the end in mind. We envision God’s desired future, and then return to the present to enact it through our work.

We receive the kingdom of God into the present by our Godly work. If the kingdom of God is coming toward us from the future, we can be opened to receive it here and now as an expression of the reality of God’s in-breaking reign. This is how the ministry of Jesus is interpreted in the gospels. As Jesus speaks and heals and casts out demons, the kingdom of God comes among them. This is why we pray, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done.” It is the prayer that we might be the place where God’s future is being lived out.

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