Monday, October 25, 2010

Mission 1: What is God up to?

Perhaps certain words or images come to mind when thinking about the mission of the church:


We could say that a mission is basically the reason for one’s presence and the difference one hopes to make. For much the same reason the Canadian government created the Afghanistan360 exhibit seen around the country, there are important times when Christians must revisit the reason why we’re here and what difference we are hoping to make.

The mission frontier is no longer neatly divided between “Christian” parts of the world and non-Christian. Nowadays, the missionary frontier runs round the world. It crosses barriers which separate belief from unbelief, maturity from immaturity, justice from injustice, mercy from cruelty, and community from isolation. Mission takes place from and to all continents and within each nation, city, and town.

Still, it’s crucial to start with the assumption that God’s mission is greater than the activities of His church. Borrowing from Grenz’s (1994, p. 114) definition, “We may summarize God’s intention for the world by employing the term ‘community.’” Just as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit share this, so also God’s mission is to bring the world to participation in “community.”

One of the most notable Greek words in the Bible is koinonia, which is often translated as “fellowship” or “community” in English Bibles. This term is generally thought to accompany the idea of participation in mutual, caring relationships. In the New Testament however, koinonia is also seen in the company of another important concept – partnership, specifically, “participation with another in some enterprise or matter of joint concern” (Louw and Nida, 1989).

Therefore, it appears that God’s ultimate intention or mission is to establish an eternal social reality for humankind. Currently, he is about this work by gathering people into and through the Church. God invites us to become involved with Him in this work – that’s koinonia, otherwise known as partnership!


Grenz, S. (1994). Theology for the community of God. Grand Rapids, MI: Broadman and Holman.

Louw, J. P. and Nida, E. A. (1989). Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains. Vol. 1, New York, NY: United Bible Societies.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Learning to listen to God

1 Samuel 3:1-10 introduces Samuel, the beginning of the leadership of prophets, and the judgment of God on the house of Eli. But my fascination with this passage has more to do with a moment of discernment seen in this story. I am so drawn to the fact that it was Eli who recognized what God was doing – that God was speaking to Samuel. Moreover, he doesn’t step in to take over the situation (after all, he was the priest), rather he directs Samuel on how to cooperate with what God was saying.

God Samuel

The writer of this story says “the word of the Lord was rare in those days” and excuses Samuel’s ignorance by saying that he did not yet know the LORD. Which most people believe to mean he did not know God experientially - that he had not received any revelation. But it seems as though Eli did know God, or at least he knew how to recognize Him and direct another to do so. In today’s terminology, this is known as spiritual direction or spiritual friendships.

Throughout church history and several traditions, groups of people would come together to exhort each other in godliness and devotion to the LORD, often seeking to hear from the Holy Spirit together. However, Holmes (2002, p. 136) points out that these groups “did not prevail in the general order of things, and one finds in evangelical Christianity to this date a kind of “do-it-yourself Christianity.”

I wonder, is the word of the Lord rare for you these days? I bet some of you know how precious it is. If God is up to some kind of transformation that you are having difficulty making sense of, I would encourage you to seek a friend to help you recognize his presence and listen for his voice.


Holmes, Urban T. (2002) A History of Christian Spirituality: An Analytical Approach, Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse Publishing.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Place your trust well

I suppose we tend to be most thankful for the things we most trust in. This has caused a dilemma for Christians to know what to trust or have confidence in – the resources God provides or God himself? Or both??

There’s an irony in that the older I get as a follower of Christ, the more I become aware of new temptations. In specific, a temptation to trust in things God gives rather than God himself! Put another way, moving from a thanksgiving for resources to a misplaced trust in resources.

The life of King Asa, the third king of Judah, is recorded in 2 Chronicles 14-16. In short, Asa appears first in the strength of reliance on his relationship with God and the Lord’s resources, then later in the weaknesses of reliance on his relationships with others and their resources. In fact, the writer goes so far as to point out Asa’s drifting away from trusting God by stating: “In the thirty-ninth year of his reign, Asa developed a serious foot disease. Yet even with the severity of his disease, he did not seek the Lord’s help but turned only to his physicians” (2 Chronicles 16:12).


WHAT WENT WRONG WITH ASA?! Why would he break his own covenant (cf. 2 Chronicles 15:12-16)? I believe a key insight appears at an earlier challenge Asa faced when he cried out to God, “O Lord, no one but you can help the powerless against the mighty! Help us, O Lord our God, for we trust in you alone” (14:11). You see, I don’t think King Asa thought of himself as all that powerless after a while.

Power and resources are important features highlighted throughout the narrative of Asa’s life. Power is created when someone controls a resource another person desires or depends on. In verse 14:11, it was God who had the power; he had the resources to meet King Asa’s need. But ironically, King Asa gets resources, then over time I think the resources he gained for trusting God later become a snare for him. He trusted in the resources (plunder, alliances, etc.) instead.

Questions for self reflection: Are there any resources I am thankful for and trusting in instead of God lately? Am I keeping an appropriate, humble attitude toward my resources, power and dependency on God?

King Asa’s life reminds us that a person can start well but finish poorly. As you get older in your faith, and the more resources you accumulate, make sure your trust stays with God!

16No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength.

17A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save.

18But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine.

20We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.

21In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name.

22May your unfailing love  be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you. (Ps. 33:16-22)

Picture courtesy of

Thursday, October 7, 2010

More waiting…

"So, be silent, my child, and in time you will see, that the greatest of gifts is to truly know me. And though oft My answers seem terribly late, my most precious answer of all is still . . . Wait."


Waiting is a common experience for God’s people but the virtue of waiting is less common. Although the modern world often characterizes waiting as tedious, the biblical image of waiting for God is a strongly positive image.

Throughout the Bible we see important clusters of passages that address waiting. Some associate waiting with patience, acceptance, and contentment with unwanted circumstances. Other passages show that waiting for God to act requires withholding of human action. Some scriptures join the virtue of waiting on God with hope and expectancy. Finally, certain verses cast waiting for God into an eschatological light, such as when we read about waiting for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ (Chamberlain and Opperwall, 2002).

Overall, waiting on God requires faith in his working in unseen ways. Thus we read: “From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait for him” (Isa 64:4 NRSV).

What kind of waiting does God require of you in right now? How will you respond to it? Is it producing in you a capacity to tolerate something unfair or forgive someone? Is it testing you to withhold human means or action? Or does it require you to trust even more and wait for the time when God will bring his plans to completion?


G. Chamberlain and N. J. Opperwall. (2002).“Wait” in Geoffrey W. Bromiley, Ed., vol. 4, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised, p. 1003.