Monday, June 21, 2010

Embracing the Great Commission: Radical Living

“...and God bless the missionaries all over the world. Amen.”
As children we may have prayed something similar to that statement. Maybe as adults we elaborated a little more on exactly how God should bless the missionaries all over the world...but the “us” (non-missionaries) and “them” (missionaries) mentality still remains.
Occasionally we will be reminded from the pulpit that Christ commanded all of us to “go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,” (Matt. 28:19). I know, personally, that I believe that is true in theory, but it often doesn’t live out in a very tangible way when I have insulated my life (albeit, unintentionally) with those that are already believers. I try and give myself a swift kick in the pants, to be “on the look out” when I am at the grocery store or some other non-church sort of place (as if I need to look for the person with the big question mark floating over his or her head so I know they are the ones searching for truth). When my awkward attempt at bringing the cashier to repentance ends with an odd look of dismissal, I retreat back to my little church-y world and justify my lack of authentic witnessing with my lack of non-Christian relationships.
The last two Sundays at our church have been so very convicting. Two different speakers (not our regular elders) have issued heart wrenching pleas of centering our life around the gospel. Radical calls have gone out to look at our comfortable, American lives, so nice and neat and sterile, and do more than pray for God to “bless the missionaries all over the world.”
Along with the usual reminder that WE ARE ALL MISSIONARIES, there has been a gentle and broken urging to live a life of such radical obedience, that in every area of our lives, Christ may be proclaimed. Do we need to sell our bigger home and live simply to give the money to the poor or to fund mission work? Maybe move into a neighborhood that we normally avoid driving through? Do we need to adopt a child? Maybe a “crack” baby? Do we need to open our home in some way? Are our neighbors seeing Christ in us? Do we need to give up our retirement plan for the plans of the Kingdom?
God has not promised us retirement, comfort, or even safety. He does promise persecution, trials and rebuke. Am I willing to count the cost? Am I willing to forsake all for the sake of Christ? Am I even willing to contemplate such things? And then, do I dare to breathe such a prayer as, “whatever it takes, use me” ? What if He takes me seriously?
I can’t honestly say, “I’m there”. I like to think that I am, in my self-righteous, glossed over heart. However, I know that this awakening is merely conviction, that demands repentance, that needs to result in change. So, this is just the beginning, a little baby step of obedience. Maybe a shout out to fellow believers because there is strength in numbers and it would be a beautiful thing to see masses of American Christians living radically. Placing my own struggles in writing also calls me into accountability. 
I was reading over the Great Commission this morning and realizing how practical the command is for each of us, right where we are. Christ’s disciples were not told to preach the gospel to the ends of the earth via Frequent Flyer Miles. They had two legs and two feet just like me. THAT is the way the gospel was going to get to the ends of the earth. Walking, talking, living, breathing...wave upon wave of a Christ centered life that brought those in their sphere of influence as well as those outside of their comfort zone into a spiritual orbit, revolving around the beauty of the gospel. 

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At the Intersection of Creation and Evolution: A Dream

The alliterating story below is based on a dream I had several years ago. Please contact me for permission to reproduce.

Darkness devours me.

I am enveloped in emptiness.

Are my eyes open or are they closed? I strain against this shroud of night and still see nothing.

What is this place?

An image illuminates in front of me. A large, leafy tree streaks past and vanishes.

It deserts me to the darkness again.

In a moment, more images appear. A rapid succession of snapshots and thoughts clamor before my eyes and mingle in my mind.

I see seedlings. Several supple shoots have emerged before me and then swiftly stream away.

“The first trees on earth were not seedlings”, my mind observes. “They were not created as small insignificant saplings.”

That thought is rapidly replaced with a vision of a man.

He’s maybe 30; he is muscular and needs to shave.

He fades away.

In his place I see an infant.

A tiny bundle of pink skin upon a soft blanket flickers briefly in my brain.

“Man was created with age,” is the next statement I hear. “Adam did not begin his life as a baby, he began as a grown man.”

The voice seems like my own.

The thoughts do not.

Reeling before me now is a blur of rivers, forests, mountains and even layers of the earth. It is like a movie rushing rapidly before my retina.

The soundtrack of this epic is proclaiming a peculiarly plain concept:

“The earth was created with age. Creation and evolution are not in total opposition. There is a reason that science finds the earth to be quite old: it was made that way.”

Thoughts continue to tumble through my mind; pictures parade before me. I listen in amazement to what seems to be puzzlingly profound and yet rather apparent all at once.

“Adam was created as an adult. Trees and plants were made fully grown.”

I suddenly feel quite certain that, if I were to chop down some of the trees that had been spoken into existence, I would find a range of rings running through their trunks.

“The earth was brought to life with age built into it… just like Adam. He did not begin life as an infant. The earth came into being with what it would need to sustain the life that was created. It was old when it was young. The world was
made with maturity; it was also produced with purpose.”

These thoughts are thrilling. Why had I not seen this before? It seems so simple. Obtusely obvious. Had others not observed this correlation? If they had, why wasn’t it being candidly conveyed?

In the span of thirty seconds I have been ravaged by a radical revelation. I feel the weight of its worth resting on me; it is tantamount to tangible.

I am neither a theologian nor am I a scientist. I don’t claim that the ethics of evolution are completely compatible with the Bible’s account of creation. But certainly Science can come concurrent to creation and affirm our faith with facts.

Of course, the Omnipotent Originator of the Universe is exceedingly elusive to what our mind could ever envision. Above what science could ever extensively elucidate.

Accordingly, creation is confounding too. Each diverse discovery deems it more marvelous to grasp. Many scientists have reluctantly relented to the theory of Intelligent Design.

That’s why, alongside those facts, we also need faith.

Lying inexplicably at the intersection of those two essential elements is an exceptional endowment: the intermittent insight of our dreams.