In Jesus’ first recorded sermon he said that, “the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”  When his disciples asked him how to pray, he instructed them to pray, “Father, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come…”  And right before he leaves, the disciples ask, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” 
In Acts 1, Jesus leaves the disciples waiting. It was just a few days, but I’m sure that for a few of them it seemed like it would never happen. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would come on them, so now they waited. No Jesus, no Holy Spirit, just waiting.
It can be hard to wait, but here we find out that waiting on God is essential to the mission of Jesus.
I found myself waiting in seminary. I knew that my time in school was wrapping up, so I started looking for ministry. After perusing online job listings for hours upon hours, and sending my resumé to various churches, I found myself at graduation with no prospects for ministry. So Lindsay and I waited. Over the next year I had a few promising interviews, but nothing turned up until the summer of 2013. That’s when I started interviewing at Westbrook, where I am now serving in ministry. The few years that I waited felt like a long time. On top of that, those years came with their fair share of disappointment.
While the disciples did not wait for the Spirit with disappointment, I’m sure it wasn’t easy for some of them. Jesus didn’t say how long, he just said to wait. And then when Holy Spirit comes, they would be his witnesses, but not before. Continue reading →
I think most of us would say that we want to make an impact in our community. Whenever we hear the stories of those who have, we are inspired and wish that we could do the same. The story of McFarland, USA is one of those stories. The struggling coach moves with his family to what seems to be the last place he can get a job and makes a discovery. He discovers that some of the students are amazing runners. So he decides to start a cross country program and the rest is history.
When I watched this movie, I left feeling inspired and after reflecting on it realized that Coach White lives a missional life in the community of McFarland. He makes certain decisions, whether he realizes it or not, that increase his ability to impact his community. As a followers of Christ we can do some of the same things that he did and make an impact. Here are 4 lessons that we can take away from McFarland, USA. This isn’t a magical formula by any means, but there are definitely valuable lessons to be learned. Continue reading →
Of all the stories that Jesus told, the Parable of the Shrewd Manager in Luke 16 is probably the most difficult one to understand. Most of the others are somewhat straight forward. This one, however, is tough because Jesus seems to be siding with the bad guy. He picks the guy who does wrong and is dismissed by his employer. The point of the story, however, isn’t that the manager was bad, it was how he used his master’s money to make sure he still had friends after he was let go. Jesus says that the lesson in the story is to, “Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your earthly possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home.”  Continue reading →
“You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” 
Last week, I talked about asking the right question about discipleship. This week I want to talk about mission. There are a lot of things that we ask about getting involved at church and getting involved in our communities and I’m not sure we’re always asking the best questions. If we’re trying to get involved we are usually asking good questions, but I want all of us to ask the best questions possible so that we can get involved in the best way possible.
One of the phrases that I hear a lot is “plugged in,” as in “How can I get plugged in at church?” Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a bad thing to say, but is it the best question to ask? It’s good to get connected to the church and it’s ministries, but getting plugged in only half the question. If we are concerned with finding the mission that God has for us. Continue reading →
Last year I heard Dr. Phil Kenneson speak at the slow church conference. His talk (which you can listen to here) was deeply impactful to me. He talked about presence and one of the most impactful things he said was, “We don’t have anything more precious to give each other than our own presence.” He didn’t say our gifts, abilities, or wise words, but simply our presence. This doesn’t just mean that we are physically in a room or shared space with someone, but instead he means present with that person being attentive and devoting time to that person. The final challenge of being present is being present is being present in the world. Continue reading →
As Scot McKnight explains, there are basically two schools of thought. One says that doing “kingdom work” is all about doing good works and bringing social justice. The other says the kingdom is all about the redemptive work about God. In his new book Kingdom Conspiracy, McKnight describes a third way for understanding the Kingdom of God. That way is through the church. Essentially he writes that the Kingdom and the Church are one in the same. When you talk about the kingdom of God on earth you are talking about the church. There are many out there who would cringe at this thought. I used to be one of them. Just the word kingdom seems so much more grand than the church. As McKnight points out though, kingdom seems so much better because we look to the end of the world to define the kingdom and we look to the here and now to define the church. In this light the church looks bad and the kingdom looks great. In reality, Jesus is already king and his people are the church. Continue reading →
I heard the bells on Christmas Day Their old, familiar carols play, and wild and sweet The words repeat Of peace on earth, good-will to men! 
The 2014 Winter Olympic Games began on February 7th and they ended on February 23rd. By the end of the month Russia, the host of the Olympic games, had invaded Ukraine. The Olympics have become widely seen as a picture of peace on earth. Instead of wars, countries send their best athletes to compete in friendly athletic events. In a strange turn of events, Russia went from hosting the Olympic games as a symbol of peace and good will to invading another country in a show of force. Continue reading →
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.1
The world is broken, and in my last post I wrote about the broken relationship between people. When we look at scripture, however, we also see that the earth itself is damaged. In Genesis 3, the ground was cursed and began to produce thorns and thistles. Paul tells us in Romans 8 that all of creation is waiting for redemption and to be restored at the return of Christ.
In the beginning, God made all things good. All of creation was good. When we sinned, all of creation fell under the curse of sin and death. When Jesus came into the world not only did he bring hope to humanity, but to also to creation itself. Paul calls Jesus the second Adam. He is the firstborn of the new creation, his return will not only bring about the restoration of humanity, but all of Creation. Revelation 21 and 22 gives a picture of a world that has been made new. Jesus says in chapter 21 that he is making all things new, and chapter 22 tells us that there will be no more curse.
The world is a beautiful and wonderful place. I haven’t travel outside of North America, but I’ve been enough places to know that this world still is beautiful. I’ve seen the beauty of the ocean in California, Maine, and Florida. I’ve seen the beauty of the mountains in Colorado and the beauty of the plains in the midwest. This world that God created is amazing, and I am waiting on the restoration of all things. If our world is this beautiful under the curse, I cannot even imagine how beautiful it will be when Jesus makes all things new again.
In the meantime, we need to be a people of restoration. Restoration began with the first coming of Jesus. He loosened the grip of the curse on this world. When we choose to follow Jesus we become new creations. We live to help bring about the reconciliation and restoration that Jesus’ second coming will complete. Jesus is already king, he is at work reconciling, and, as he says in Revelation, he is making all things new.
O King of nations, your reign spreads through all the lands,
you defend the cause of the poor and plead for the wretched of the earth.
Fashion us into an obedient people, that we may spread the good news
of your reign of perfect peace and justice, until all creation will finally rejoice in your perfect will,
until all bend the knee to the King of kings and Lord of lords,
in whose name we pray, even Jesus Christ, your Son and our Savior. Amen. 2
1 From Joy to the World
2 The Worship Sourcebook (Grand Rapids, MI: Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, 2004) 463.