Archives For Mission

Depending on your background and personal convictions, Halloween is either really exciting or really dark. Or something in between. Though most people tend to feel strongly one way or the other, there are actually important issues involved in the way we celebrate Halloween, and developing a clear-cut biblical response to this complex holiday is not as simple as we sometimes make it seem.

In the spirit of thinking theologically about everything (which is more or less what this whole blog is devoted to), I’m linking to a few blog posts that we ran last year at this time. In these three posts, I explained why I was cool with my kids trick-or-treating, my colleague and friend Chris Hay explained why he wasn’t, and our friend and colleague Matt Swaney made us both look foolish (jk, jk, jk—but seriously…) by explaining that he decides the issue “missionally.”

If this is something you’re wrestling with at all, I encourage you to take a few minutes and read three different approaches taken by three people who are committed to honoring God on October 31.

 

Trick or Treat Yes

Trick or Treat No

Trick or Treat Maybe

 

 

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This entry is part 13 of 20 in the seriesHomosexuality in the Bible

What does Jesus’s love for harlots, tax-collectors, and other outcasts tell us about how He would approach the issue of same-sex love today? Put differently: Since Jesus loved sinners unconditionally, does this mean that Jesus would be (or is)

thelatterdays.blogspot.com

thelatterdays.blogspot.com

frustrated at Churches today who oppose same-sex relations?

The reverend John Spong says yes: “the church…cannot claim to be the body of Christ if it fails to welcome all whom Christ would welcome.” And since Christ welcomed harlots and tax gatherers—the sinners of the day—so also the body of Christ should welcome the LGBT community, especially since they have been emotionally (sometimes physically) beat up by the church.

Part of what Spong and others say is correct. I too condemn as unchristian the hate speech and abuse that some so-called “Christians” have hurled at anyone made in God’s image. A good chunk of the Evangelical church has gone about this issue all wrong, and I have a genuine pain for anyone—including several friends—who have been hurt by the church over this issue, and I want to learn how to mediate Christ’s love to all areas of our broken world.

I also cherish, embrace, and promote—sometimes amid much criticism—the radical, counterintuitive grace of Jesus, which I have blogged about here, here, here, and here. And here and here. And here. I’m certainly not some crusty curmudgeon who wants to put grace on a leash to protect our churches from being overrun by gay people, or other sinners like smokers and drinkers and dancers. The more the merrier, I say. I genuinely hope that our churches become filled with gay people. After all, Jesus wasn’t born in a feeding trough in order to attend some plastic church in the burbs. He came to seek and save the lost, heal the sick, and chase down wayward sons.

But what does Jesus do when He finds sick people?

He heals them.

This is the main problem I see with the logic of those who enlist Jesus’s radical grace in service of unconditional support of the LGBT community: Christ-like love does not demand unconditional acceptance of behavior.

We celebrate Jesus’s healing of the sick, finding of the lost, and cherish both Jesus’s acceptance of the woman caught in adultery and His life-given command to “go and sin no more.” That’s because Jesus’s love, though not conditioned upon behavior, does not endorse sin any more than a righteous physician would ignore an infection.

If we take the rhythm and pattern of Jesus’s life seriously and swim with the same ethical current, Christians today should hang out with, build relationships with, listen to, have drinks with, and show compassionate love toward LGBT people who have been beaten down, marginalized, and outcasted by society.

But such unconditional, counterintuitive, scandalous love does not demand an unconditional acceptance or approval of behavior. When Jesus embraced the sinner—the one in need of healing—He didn’t applaud their behavior: He proclaimed “Go and sin no more,” not “go and turn a few more tricks tonight, and I’ll buy you a cup of coffee tomorrow.”

Jesus reached out to and befriended tax-gatherers, but he didn’t endorse extortion.

He hung out with prostitutes, but he didn’t sanction illicit sex.

He admired the faith of Roman soldiers, but he didn’t endorse violence (or the paganism that saturated the Roman military).

I’m not trying to smuggle homosexual love in the back door of Jesus’s prohibitions. I’m only trying to make a larger point that Jesus’s radical love for sinner does not mean that He was indifferent to sin, even though his love was not conditioned upon us fixing our behavior. Indeed, the physician doesn’t expect the patient to come to the hospital with a head start. “Here you go, doc! I went ahead and ripped out my tonsils; you can take it from here…” The Physician joyfully works on patients in a coma with no health care (eat your heart out, Obama!). But…He works. He operates. He heals. He takes old pieces of His beautiful creation and restores and transforms, spinning out masterpieces of new creation.

Could it be that our culture has defined “love” as unqualified and unconditional toleration and affirmation? But Jesus, being true to His first-century Jewish context, never saw love and behavior as incompatible: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 13), not “If you love me, you can live however you think will bring you the most earthly happiness.”

Marriage, sex, and children are gifts given by the Creator, not inherent rights demanded by creatures.

“Yes,” you may say. “Love the sinner and hate the sin!” But I’ve got one better. How about we “love the sinner and hate our own sin.”

When heterosexual Christians seek to love LGBT people, they should hate their own greed, pride, self-righteousness, and the lack of love shown to their heterosexual spouse. Let’s put to death our own deeds of the flesh with humble, relentless passion before we reach out to the “other sinner” in some clinical fashion. Heterosexual Christians are sinners plugged into the life-support of grace. Remember that.

Now, you logicians out there have noticed that this entire post begs the question: “Is homosexual sex a sin?” So far in my study, I’d say yes. But stay tuned for the rest of this (rather long) blog series. We’ve still yet to cover the most important passage in the debate: Romans 1:24-27.

Eternity Bible College is not your typical college. It’s not even your typical Bible College. It’s a place where students come—according to our mission statement—“to live and die well.”

chan-EBCThere are several things that make Eternity unique. Most people who are familiar with us know that we offer courses at the most affordable price possible—$175 a unit. What would cost you a semester at most schools can get you an entire 4-year degree at Eternity.

But Eternity is more than an affordable Bible school.

Another thing that stands out is the relational atmosphere. Most students get to know their professors very well here, and there are no thick walls between teacher and student. Students borrow our cars, share our meals, or sometimes live in our houses. Even our president will have a couple students living under his roof every semester.

But Eternity is much more than just a relational school.

Consider the nature of our classes. We believe that both heart and mind are essential to living out the Christian faith. If we cranked out students who were all heart and no mind, then they will be like engines with no rudders. If we create students with large heads and small hearts, not only would they look funny but they’d probably do more harm EBCthan good for God’s kingdom. This is why every professor, every class, every assignment at Eternity seeks to challenge both heart and mind so that we can produce graduates who can think and live well—and die well.

But Eternity is more than just a well-balanced educational institution.

All of these are important factors that make Eternity a unique school. But one thing stands out the most to my mind.

Eternity exists to further the mission.

Jesus told His disciples to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt 28:18-29). A few days later, He said: “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). And thus began the impossible mission; the mission of a rag-tag band of Jesus-followers, who against all odds, in the face of persecution, with the prospect of political upheaval, would take the good news about a risen King to the ends of the earth. The disciples would multiply and be persecuted. And the more they were persecuted the more they multiplied. And the more they multiplied the more they were persecuted. Through it all, the King demonstrates His power through the Spirit working in these outcasts to penetrate all areas of culture with the good news that Israel’s Messiah reigns over the earth.

And that’s what I love about Eternity. We’ve taken the baton from Jesus, the Apostles, and the early church in equipping unlikely heroes in “turning the world upside down” (Acts 17:6). And I love it!

Many people don’t think of “mission” when they think of theological education. They probably assume that Bible Colleges exist in order to make Christians smarter about doctrine and theology. Maybe they do—but we don’t. If giving knowledge to college students were the goal of Eternity, I wouldn’t be here. No way. I’ve got better things to do than make 20 somethings, who already struggle with pride, puffed up with more knowledge.

As an Old Testament professor, I long to take my students to the Garden of Eden, to Mount Sinai, through the Red Sea, and into the sands of the desert order that they come face to face with the Holy One of Israel. I want them to feel the heat from the burning bush, cry out in agony with ebc 2Jeremiah, and feel the pains of death as they walk across the valley of dry bones with Ezekiel. Why? Because such an encounter with Yahweh generates and sustains a holy passion for mission.

We’re not just training college students. We’re raising up martyrs.

Quite honestly, the front-line ministries excite me the most. I’m involved in a ministry called Touch Nepal, which supports indigenous pastors in a Hindu nation. My church supports another ministry called Zoe International, which rescues children out of the sex-trade industry and saturates them with the gospel. I love these ministries. They excite me more than any other ministry I’m involved in.

But if the kingdom of God is like a garden, then Touch Nepal and Zoe International—and a host of other ministries preaching and living the gospel in the hard to reach areas—are the fruit. They’re the tomatoes, the cherries, the 20 pound watermelons sprawled out over the earth. But a garden’s soil needs to be fertilized, tilled, churned up, and revitalized. That’s where Eternity comes in.

We are the rototiller, the shovel, the bag of nutrients spread over the ground. Eternity nourishes and revitalizes the soil; otherwise, there may not be any fruit next year.

Historically, this has been the mission of Bible colleges. They were originally planted to stir up the soil in order to further the mission, and that’s the heart of Eternity. We exist to train students to live and die well—both near and far, local and global. We raise up artists to reach the art community, public school teachers to transform education, business owners to construct gospel-centered, counter-cultural businesses. And we raise up pastors and missionaries to evangelize the nations.

By teaching at Eternity, I’m digging graves for aspiring martyrs, whose blood will be redeemed by the King whose blood saved the world.

Come die with us, whether as a student or a partner in enabling us to fulfill our mission.

The Foot-Washing God

Mark Beuving —  September 11, 2013

“Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” – John 13:3–5

FootwashingThis passage has fascinated Christians throughout church history. Jesus washing his disciples’ feet has been an enigmatic gesture. We duplicate it from time to time at weddings or in church services. Other times we try to get at the heart of servitude behind it, imitating the spirit of foot-washing.

We all seem to recognize that this is a powerful act that Jesus performed.

Consider what Jesus did here. Foot-washing isn’t what it used to be (nostalgic sigh). At the risk of sounding vain, you could wash my feet without being too repulsed. But I don’t walk consistently long distances over consistently dusty and pack-animal fecesed roads wearing only sandals like everyone in the first century. I can say with confidence that Jesus bent down and washed some nasty feet that day.

And then think about John’s wording. With the realization that “the Father had given all things into his hands,” that “he had come from God,” and that “he was going back to God,” Jesus took the natural next step. He got up, swapped out his clothes for a servant’s towel, and did a servant’s duty.

Jesus wasn’t performing some symbolic gesture to identify himself as the kind of person who serves. No, Jesus actually did what a servant does. He was a servant in that moment. And in that moment, he had the full realization that all power belonged to him. He worked as a servant knowing full well that he came from the universe’s throne and was heading back to it shortly.

And here’s the craziest part of the whole thing for me. Judas was at that dinner party. John carefully explains that this foot-washing scene took place “when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him” (v. 2). Which means that this is a bit different than a husband washing his wife’s feet during a wedding ceremony (are a wife’s feet ever cleaner than on her wedding day?). Jesus (in the moment he knew he had all power) literally became the servant of his most bitter enemy (in the moment Satan was most influencing him).

Dante placed Judas in the worst circle of hell. Jesus washed his feet.

Why did Jesus do this? Here’s his explanation:

“If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master” (vv. 14–16).

Jesus became a servant—actually performing the actually degrading actual work of an actual servant—so that we would learn to do the same. “A servant is not greater than his master.” But how many of us are “greater” than Jesus in this regard? Maybe we would perform a symbolic foot-washing of already clean feet. But no way would we actually do what an actual servant does. No way would we degrade ourselves to help the fully capable churchgoers around us. And NO WAY would we do anything to bless our enemies, especially not a sacrificial act that puts us to shame even as it brings them honor. We’re better than that.

But Jesus wasn’t. And he tells us not to be.

 

Money

The rich young man in Mark 10 approached Jesus with the most important question imaginable: What must I do to inherit eternal life? With so many in our modern world caught up in fleeting pleasures and superficial pursuits, this man’s question is refreshing. This guy knows what’s important in life and he’s looking to the right source to find the answer!

But take a closer look. Perhaps this young man isn’t on the right track after all. He approaches Jesus as the “Good Teacher.” He has a theological question to discuss, and he approaches Jesus as a noted theologian.

Jesus’ first step is to correct the young man’s view of him. Jesus is indeed a teacher, but he is not interested in merely satisfying theological curiosities. Jesus points to his deity (“only God is good”) and in doing so draws attention to his right to make demands of this young man. He lets the man know that he can teach him the truth, but he will also call him to follow. This is more than the rich young man bargained for.

Jesus points out that the answer to the man’s question is simple: “You know the commandments.” What this man needs is not further instruction. He needs to obey. He needs to follow. “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

Jesus statement here might seem odd. Is he calling this man to perform a good work and thereby obtain salvation? Of course not. Jesus is cutting directly to the heart. This man is not ready for salvation. One thing is lacking. And it has nothing to do with knowledge. It has everything to do with his allegiance.

Jesus effectively points to this man’s wealth as his god. If you want eternal life, it comes from only one source. So get rid of those things that tie you to the false god, and follow me instead.

The rich young man’s response shows that he was not ready to follow Jesus. He knew he wasn’t ready—that’s why he walked away disheartened and sorrowful. But before we take too harsh a view of this young man, we have to look at the response of Jesus’ disciples.

Jesus explained that it is very difficult for the rich to change their allegiance from their wealth and power to follow instead the humble Jesus. We might be tempted to ask how wealthy a person has to be before he falls into this category. But the disciples understood what Jesus was saying. They were “amazed at his words” and “exceedingly astonished.” They asked Jesus, “Then who can be saved?”

They didn’t ask why the rich couldn’t be saved or which rich people he was referring to. They saw the broad implications: who can be saved? The disciples felt the sting in Jesus’ words.

Our churches are filled with the rich young man. We are all the rich young man. If the one thing this man lacked was an absolute devotion to following a Person rather than intellectual agreement with theological beliefs, then we can all identify with him, regardless of our assets. We all find it impossible to let go our commitment to our goals, commitment to our dreams, commitment to ourselves.

But Jesus’ answer to the disciples’ question gives us hope: “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”

If Jesus were to walk up to you today and tell you, “You lack one thing,” how would he finish that sentence? If Jesus looked beyond your intellectual fascination with Christianity and pointed to that one thing (or those many things) that hold you back from following him—not in intellectual curiosity but in actual obedience—what would he be pointing at? And would you be ready to let go and follow?

 

 

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