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Archive for the ‘Missions’ Category

God calls us to participate in God’s mission, and we should respond in worship and obedience. However, we can get distracted by concerns that hinder our right responses to God.

In Jonah 1:1-16, God comissions Jonah to carry a message to a city called Nineveh. Jonah travels by ship in the opposite direction because he doesn’t want to preach to people he doesn’t like. God responds, and people on the ship respond, but Jonah ignores. The people on the ship cast lots and question Jonah, who admits his identity and responsibility and tells them to throw him into the sea. They try to avoid that by taking other actions. After praying to God, they reluctantly toss him. Then they fear, worship, and vow to God. (Note that the sailors are not members of Jonah’s religious community.)

God wants us to worship. When we lose focus on God and worship our own desires instead, God is not without worship. Others can worship God. Our preferences for our own groups and our prejudices against other groups can blind us to that beautiful truth, which calls us to embrace diverse people who worship God.

Instead of focusing on our own desires or worrying about who is or is not worthy to worship God, let’s just worship and obey God! Worship and obedience lead us to recognize and live out God’s love for all people groups in the spirit of Jesus, who died for the whole world.

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“The church has left the building.” Yesterday we began a series of group discussions with that title. My preparation of the discussion guides is assisted by the work of John Grant. Here are a few reflections from yesterday’s conversation.

In the first chapter of Acts, Jesus leaves some parting words with his followers who are still expecting a restoration of their nation. In 1:8 we find these words: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (NIV).

Instead of residing in a temple, God’s Spirit lives in God’s people and empowers them to be witnesses of Jesus (testifiers of his death and resurrection and life and teachings), not just in their current city but into the surrounding areas and even “to the ends of the earth.”

The kingdom of God into which followers of Jesus are called is more than a set of beliefs proclaimed from pulpits in church buildings. It is a way of life (both actions and words) that blesses the world far beyond the walls of worship places, beyond Sunday and into Monday through Saturday, beyond the sacred and into the secular.

How will you allow God’s Spirit to empower you to live out that kingdom way of life in your everyday contexts? Your home, your workplace, your neighborhood, your sports field, your grocery store can be holy grounds, contexts of the Holy Spirit’s moving through you into the world beyond church walls.

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“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away” (Rev 21:1).

As I wrote in yesterday’s post, “Revelation shows an ancient vision of an ancient understanding of an eternal reality beyond/behind the one we most tangibly experience.” Despite the gaps of time and culture between us and the last book of the Bible, we can rejoice in a belief that God will ultimately bring universal renewal. Sadness and sickness and death and divisiveness and all evil will vanish.

That is God’s mission. That is our mission. God is accomplishing it; we get to participate in it.

(Day 363: Revelation 20-21)

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We Christians need to be engaged with the world. Isolating ourselves in religious cliques renders us inactive in God’s mission of transforming the world. We need to be out in our communities, developing friendships, living out the way of Jesus, touching lives in moments of pain and confusion, and inviting people to this life of faith.

We also must be careful not to lose our identities as God’s children. In Jeremiah 51 the Lord tells people of faith to run away from a sinful context:

Flee from Babylon!
   Run for your lives!
   Do not be destroyed because of her sins.

Sometimes we need to move in that direction to avoid destruction. Choosing when to embrace and when to flee requires wisdom. Let’s ask God to guide us as we love the world.

(Day 238: Jeremiah 51-52)

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In the midst of divine wrath, we find hope for the world.

On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare
   a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
   the best of meats and the finest of wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
   the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
   he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears
   from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
   from all the earth.
            The LORD has spoken.

The Bible again and again returns to this theme first announced in the promise to Abraham (Gen 12:1-3): God is working through people of faith to bless the whole world.

We get to participate in that mission. Will you serve the banquet? What role will you play in removing the shroud? How will you partner with God in wiping tears?

(Day 213: Isaiah 23-27)

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The campus ministry here began three years ago, and God has amazingly blessed it. The ministry’s first international mission trip is this summer!

We’re scheduled to fly to San Diego on July 11 and return the following Monday. We plan to meet other groups in San Diego on July 12 and caravan to El Zorrillo, Mexico, where we’ll build five houses for families in need, encourage local ministry workers, and spend time in fellowship and worship. The experience will open students’ eyes to God’s work in another culture, assist in the Mexican church’s outreach to the community, and reinvigorate the campus ministry and its supporting congregation upon our return.

Some facts about the trip have changed since my previous post about it. Our team now has six members–five students and myself. Due to some excellent cost-cutting research by a kind Christian, our financial needs for the trip have decreased by $400 per person. The total cost for the team is now $6,600. We’ve already received many generous donations, and we only need $600 more! We’re so close.

If you would like to contribute to this worthy cause, please make your check payable to Central Church of Christ, write “Campus Ministry Mission Trip” on the memo line, and mail it to OASIS Campus Ministry, Central Church of Christ, 2052 North Church Street Place, Spartanburg, SC 29303.

If you have any questions or concerns about this trip, feel free to call my office at 864-582-7453. You also can access the trip organizers’ website by clicking here.

Whether you can support the students financially or not, please pray that God will be glorified through the trip, will use the experience to bless and transform lives, and will keep all the travelers safe. Thanks!

FYI: If the team receives more money than needed, the surplus will help students go on future ministry trips.

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“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve…” (Mark 10:45, ESV).

This morning, at the worship assembly of Central Church of Christ in Spartanburg, SC, Ernie Thigpen mentioned my blog in his sermon. He recommended the post I wrote a few days ago about Mr. Beasley’s funeral. If you’re looking for that, you may access it by clicking here.

Ernie also referenced the campus ministry’s upcoming mission trip to Mexico, so I thought I should post some information about that event.

We plan to fly to San Diego, meet groups from other churches throughout the USA, and caravan to a city that’s about a 3-to-4-hour drive beyond the US-Mexico border. There we’ll spend the days building houses for families in need and spend the nights in tents at a campground near a beach. After spending about 8 hours a day in manual labor to build 4 or 5 houses in 4 days, we’ll return to San Diego, where our group and at least one other (from Clemson) will stay one or two nights for recreation and relaxation before flying back home.

In addition to serving people in need of adequate housing, we also plan to spend quality time with people in fellowship and worship activities, where we’ll share God’s love. The group from Clemson Church of Christ has been involved in this trip for several years, and our group is sure to benefit from this experience of cross-cultural service in the name of Jesus Christ.

We need to raise a total of $10,500. So far, we’ve received $466 for the trip. That’s a great start! Our current financial goal is to have 25% of the total needed amount by March 21.

If you would like to contribute financially to this mission trip, please make your check payable to Central Church of Christ, write “Campus Ministry Mexico Trip” on the memo/note line, and send it to Central Church of Christ, Attn: Campus Ministry, 2052 North Church Street Place, Spartanburg, SC 29303. If you have any questions about the trip, you may call the church office at 864-582-7453.

Ten people from Spartanburg are planning to participate in this trip. They are Parker Anderson, Randy Carpenter, Julie Cobb, Kaity DeHaven,  Steven Gaines, Ansley Glenn, George Glenn, Susan Glenn, Samantha McSwain, and Cammie Parks.

Below are photos of four families for whom we plan to build houses in Mexico this summer.

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