Jude's PassportWe’re now three days over living in the Netherlands for one full year and I’m still trying to wrap my mind around it.  If I could sum up the last year in one word, I think that word would have to be “learning”.

Its not just that I’ve been reading some great books and articles or that I’ve been hearing some great messages–though both are true.  Its like I’ve finally hit some sort of wall where what I’m learning is forcing its way out in to life.  Where learning apart from living has come to be fraudulent.

Learning, or learning that I’m proud to share at least, usually says something to the world about my having mastered something.  “Let me share with you what I have learned.”  The learning of the last twelve, and especially the last eight to ten months, however

has demonstrated anything but mastery.  And so, it is not mastery to which I now call others, but learning and journeying along with me.

“How do I incarnate Christ?  How would his life come infiltrate my parenting, my finances, my time management, my leisure, my work?  How does this newly implanted identity in Christ work its way out in to the corners of my life?”

Though maybe at one time I had thought my purpose in coming to Holland was to train a youth pastor, I’m now finding my purpose to be more faithfully expressed in planting these kinds of questions in the minds and hearts of others.  Then it is my job to continue journeying with those in whom the seed germinates and takes root.

And that, quite simply, is how I would sum up this year’s progress: we have found some with whom we can journey.  Some with whom we can be inadequate.  Some with whom we can seek, ask and knock in search of the One who will answer and seed more questions himself.

-JW

PS – Enjoy my favorite video of Jude laughing and pics from the four seasons. 🙂

Sunday on the Ice

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Just after sticking her tongue out :)

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What is a Missionary?

October 29, 2009

A great question with many answers.  Its an especially good question considering every follower of Jesus, if they’re really following him, ought to live in like [missionary] form.  So if all Jesus followers are missionaries then again, what is a missionary?

Reading more of Len Sweet’s So Beautiful he mentions this definition: “A missionary is someone who lives on someone else terms.”

Amazingly someone has made a game called Missionaries and Cannibals where you shuffle the two groups between shores all the while keeping the cannibals from eating the missionaries.  My offering for a new game: How many faulty ideas about all parties can you find?

Amazingly someone has made a game called "Missionaries and Cannibals" (click picture to play) where you shuffle the two groups between shores all the while keeping the cannibals from eating the missionaries. My offering for a new game: How many faulty ideas about all parties can you find?

What a great way to view myself as a Christian.  What a great way to view Jesus’ coming to earth, being wrapped in flesh and living among us.  I picture Jesus in the womb or lying on Mary’s lap crying for his next meal and I think, “Wow!  That is meeting people on their terms.”

The Gospel didn’t change–again look at Jesus!–but everything about it was brought to bear in a place that formerly could not see, hear or touch him.  And he so fully dwelt there, that they could not only see him, but kill him.

Please choir, don’t think I’m preaching at you.  I’m really searching for how our missionary identity in Christ would shape my life as well as those around me.

(For more on the Christian’s missionary identity in Christ check out Soma Communities’ page and audio on the subject–really good stuff!)

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Belong/Believe/Behave

September 18, 2009

Thinking a lot about churches and how they grow, when I ran across a blog post, now buried deep in my browser’s history, on the order one journeys through belonging, believing and behaving in to the church.  Which comes first?  And what follows?  In what order?

Is it behave-belong-believe?  Believe-belong-believe?  Belong-believe-behave?  There are six options to choose from.  Let’s take a look…

When Behaving Comes First…

I don’t really think it matters what follows when behavior is the gate in to Jesus’ kingdom.  I simply cannot imagine how it doesn’t lead to some sort of moralism.  When behaving comes first my belonging is always at stake and I will become an awesome Pharisee.  On the other hand, if belong proceeds believe, then it leeches the potency inherent in the life altering Truth I have come to know in Jesus.

I Believe Therefore…

Though I’m relatively certain there are plenty of people who have come to faith this way, I’m afraid it leaves me with one major question: Why is the Church here?  If belief comes apart from the church as sign, first-fruit and foretaste of the Kingdom, then what’s God thinking keeping us around?

On the other side, belief coming before behaving, seems like a really good idea.  If Jesus is who he says, and God is telling the Truth when he tells us his story, then I must capitulate, I must change.  If I do not change, then I have missed something of the story, because the story (which spans from creation to new creation) demands that I live in it.

Belong/Believe/Behave

Keeping the believing-behaving order, belonging is the only “B” yet to take its turn at the front of the line.  Of the options listed, this one seems to be the only truly viably incarnational approach.  Since belonging is not based on the prerequisites of believing or behaving, Jesus’ followers are finally allowed to love those around them freely.

One thing about this ordering however is that I think many will confuse it with behave-belong-believe.  Only the Jesus followers who follow him out of the holy huddle on to the streets will truly ever preach a gospel where belonging is not preceded by behaving.  In other words, if you must come to me to belong, then belonging will always only happen on my terms.

Again, this is not meant to be preaching at the choir, so much as it is intended to be preaching at my own heart.  More often than not, I stray back to moralism because I want a savior who saves me because I’m a great guy, or I find Truth has moved to the backseat where it sits helpless to steer anything.  I’d love to hear your thoughts as this is something I am only beginning to explore myself.

The Sending God

September 10, 2009

I believe it was in the book Adventures in Mission the Point by Brian McClaren and Tony Campolo that I first became acquainted with the idea that “all theologies are heresies in that on one level or another they all fail to accurately describe our infinite God” (forgive the paraphrase if you know that actual quote–or better yet, add it in the comments!).  The reason this quote does not lead me to despair is that I find it a constant catalyst for me to return to my Lord to be renewed daily.  I will never “arrive”, and so I continue to journey onward, elated that how far I have come is not how far I will go.

Circumstances in recent days have demonstrated again the validity of the above quote.  And so, let me add my some simple commentary to an already lengthy conversation exploring the God who goes (Blessed are those who persevere to the end…)

When God creates he is hovering over the surface of the waters (Gen. 1:2) and he “sees” that his creation is good (Gen. 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31).

When God creates man he forms him out of the “soil of the ground” (Gen. 2:6) and breathes life in to him (out of himself Gen. 2:7)

God himself plants and orchard (Gen. 2:8) and tells man to do as He has done: to go out so that he might fill the earth with His image through multiplication (Gen. 1:27-28)

After the fall God comes down and searches for Adam and Eve, even calling out to them as He goes out (Ge. 3:8-9)

As Cain struggles with his anger towards Able God speaks to him (Gen. 4:6).  Later after Cain has murdered his brother, God again goes out and meets with Cain, again pursuing him with questions (Gen. 4:9).

Prior to the flood, God goes down and sees the wickedness of humanity (Gen. 6:5), instructing Noah oh escaping judgement (Gen. 7) and blessing him after the flood (Gen. 9).

When mankind denied God’s command for them to fill the earth with his image, congregating at Babel, he went down and confused their languages (Gen. 11).

At Abram’s calling God tells him to go where he leads, so that through him the whole world might be blessed (Gen. 12).

God calls himself Abraham’s “shield and protector” as he again talks with Abraham (Gen. 15).

Hagar, the mother of Ishmael, comes to know “the God who sees me” as he intervenes in her situation to keep her alive (Gen. 16).

In Abraham’s interactions with Melchizedek (Gen. 14) and with the kings of Egypt (Gen. 12) and Gerar (Gen. 20), he is surprised to find that God is known in placed he did not think God to be active.

God comes down and talks with Abraham on his way to judge Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 18).

The Lord is called “the Lord provides” when he steps in and provides a sacrifice in place of Isaac (Gen. 24).

Stopping short of going all the way through the Old Testament, let’s just suffice it to say that our God is not just a God who goes out–he is always outwardly mobile.

Imagine “God is love” if God is primarily inwardly mobile.  Or think of the doctrine of the trinity–it cannot be conceived in anything other than outward terms!

Moving in to the New Testament, Jesus is perhaps the most blatant outward movement of God.  What is Jesus coming as a man besides the natural movement of an outwardly, downwardly mobile God?!  Over and over again, he goes out during his earthly ministry to bear our sickness and our burdens  (Is. 53).  He comes proclaiming healing, liberation (Lk. 4 quoting Is. 61) as the Light of the world (John 8:12) come down in to darkness.  Finally, at the crux of the Gospel story, Jesus victoriously proclaims “It is finished!” as Jesus’ coming to bear of our sins is finally accomplished (Lk. 24).

As Jesus’ body grows and expands following the outward movement of the Spirit (John 20:23; Acts 2) to accomplish the Great Commission (Mt. 28:19-20) and Acts 1:8, we again see a stalled people, pre-occupied with Jerusalem at the expense of the rest of God’s command in Acts 1:8.  So, the outwardly mobile God moves to bring his people back in line with His heart through the persecution of Paul (another Joseph story–“what you meant for evil, God used for good”).  And the results are staggering as the gospel comes to spread across the entire world in a matter of years (growing from 120 believers to an estimate 20 million!) through the dispersion of Spirit-led, dependent followers of Jesus! Paul at least is convinced that this is the same outward movement that should typify Jesus’ church as well (Phil. 2:5-8)

Under Jesus’ good and righteous reign from the clouds (Acts 2:32-35) the Gospel of Jesus goes out unchained (Acts 28) bearing fruit in all the world (Col. 1:6; Gen. 1:28), even finding its way in to Caesar’s household itself! (Phil 4:22)  One day our King will come and make his permanent dwelling with man once again as the New Jerusalem descends on Jesus’ renewed earth and we will all worship the going-out God who did not stay in his heavenly confines, but who goes out to seek and to save the lost multitudes.

As light in darkness, sheep among wolves, and salt that has found its way out of the salt shaker, ours is to bear our crosses and to go out where he leads us, like the Samaritan woman, the Gadarene Demoniac and the Ethiopian eunuch, out on mission with the going-out God.  What are we waiting for?!

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