Missions Class

I was in a Missions Class last night at the NP, and we were learning about better understanding a specific culture quite different from the culture of us present at the class. The class has been fascinating and has stretched us as a group in many powerful ways, and some things have been put on my heart. Now most of these things are thoughts and concepts that the majority of believers have likely wrestled with before, but in this missions meeting, we were forced to full on WWF-Hulk Hogan wrestle with them. Wait, that kind of wrestling is fake, so not the best example… but I think you get my point. I’ll speak for myself in saying, I was very convicted and very challenged at a new level in regards to certain things I’ve wrestled with before.

1) How do we treat the Gospel? The Apostle Paul says this about the Gospel: “…it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes… for in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed…” (Romans 1.16-17; TNIV). So, obviously the message of the Gospel carries some serious weight. And yet, somehow it is often presented in a kitschy and corny way. Now, this may come from good intentions- for instance trying to get peoples’ attention and so forth, but there is nothing corny about which Paul says, “the righteousness of God is revealed.” It is a helpful reminder that the Gospel is powerful and doesn’t really need a dog and pony show, (sorry, but I love that expression) a bait and switch or to be used like a bad pick-up line.

2) This goes along with #1. Does everything have to be about ourselves? Evangelism is the active sharing of one’s faith with the purpose being God. But I’m going to use what I think is a new term here:
i-vangelism. i-vangelism is similar to evangelism, in many ways. It involves a person talking about her faith. It involves a person convicted about what he believes. It usually revolves around good intentions. The difference is that i-vangelism is ultimately about the person who is talking about God instead of it being truly about God. Let’s be honest, this is difficult because we are prone to make things about ourselves. It’s part of our condition, found both in our nature and nurture from childhood. But, the Gospel is not about us being heroic or slick. The Gospel is about God, and we are not to give ourselves credit for its success or discredit ourselves at apparent obstacles. God is glorified when the gospel is spoken and lived out. There are plenty of opportunities in our culture to credit ourselves and garner attention. The Gospel, however, is not that place.

3) The Gospel is not American. Certainly, I love my country and cherish my freedoms. When the US played its opening match in the World Cup, I got goose bumps from the National Anthem. But American culture and Christianity are not the same thing. When one realizes that other cultures view Christianity and American pop-culture as the same thing, one quickly gets a perspective on the difference. In sharing the gospel with people of other cultures, it is a big mistake to assume “westernization” needs to occur or is a necessary part of the process. The good news is that God loves his creation and ultimately reveals his truth in Jesus, and this stands on its own.

In reflecting on these things, I am continually humbled by a God who is greater, more loving, and beautiful than I could ever imagine. In that line of thinking, it makes it easier to look outside one’s self towards his glory.

Record Collection

Recently, I started collecting my top ten favorite music albums…. on vinyl. In other words, instead of logging on to the Steve Jobs audio warehouse known as iTunes and picking out individual songs on mp3, I’m searching for 33’s. I do occasionally search amazon.com for them, but I honestly try and find them first at the local record store (360 and Mayfield- if you’re familiar with Arlington). OK, some might be asking, “What’s a record?”  Well, back in the ancient days, songs were recorded in groups, called albums.  Often these albums had a meaning or a purpose all of their own, like a book or a story.  These songs were recorded on a record (like a CD but bigger and vinyl) and sold with pictures and notes on the inside pages of the packaging.

Now, before I get too pretentious about all of this, I must admit, I am a child of the 90’s.  The first piece of music I ever bought with my allowance money was digital- a CD. Over time, I garnered a giant CD collection and never once thought about buying vinyl.  But even with my generation’s neglect of vinyl, vinyl records never actually went away.  And unbeknownst to me and many of my peers, even current bands continued to release a small, limited number of their albums pressed on vinyl.

And so a couple of months ago, I stumbled upon this intriguing article about present day bands releasing albums on vinyl because of the quality of sound.  Without going into too much detail, basically, a song is recorded on vinyl in analog form.  It’s basically the original sound wave being written into the record.  When a CD is made, they are taking thousands of digital pictures of the sound wave.  So, while CD quality is incredibly good, and it’s a trustworthy replication, the record contains the exact sound wave in the most original form.  Thus, people actually have a basis for the often said, “Records just sound warmer and richer” or “I can’t explain it, but I just like listening to vinyl.”

So, I bought a second hand turn-table and receiver and bought my first record which was an album that I had owned on CD for years.  I put it on and listened. And I actually REALLY listened. Closely. In all honesty, I enjoyed the songs more than I ever had before.  I picked up on a few new things, and was very motivated to focus closely.

Of course, digital has its advantages.  For instance, I just recently downloaded an audio reading of the New Testament on mp3.  It’s great because I can listen to it anywhere, at anytime. I love reading Scripture, and I study and read as much as possible, but listening to it was a very challenging and fresh experience.  I focused in more closely.  I picked up on some things which I might gloss over when I read. I thought intensely about the weight of what it means that Jesus is the Word of God,[1] especially as I listened through the Gospel of John.

Certainly, the written Scripture is:

God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that all God’s people may be thoroughly equipped for every good work;[2]

But Jesus spoke His message before it was written down by the Gospel writers, and listening to the Gospel of John has directed my focus towards hearing his words as the people following him and spending time with him would have heard it.  It has directed my focus to Jesus Christ, the eternal Word being in very form God, coming to speak good news to the world[3].  Also, the early church in the beginnings of Christianity did not have an efficient way of copying the Scriptures, and many people couldn’t read, so often in worship the Scriptures were read aloud as people listened.  The message was truly listened to, taken in, and absorbed. It’s been helpful to me to take in the Scripture this way.

I love reading Scripture.  It is a true blessing to read and study the inspired and true words and testimonies of the prophets, Gospel writers, and apostles. And most certainly the message can be “heard” by reading it. But listening to the words has challenged my focus and furthered my passion for the message it testifies to.  I can only imagine what was like to be there when Jesus said,

Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.[4]

[1] John 1.1-2,14

[2] 2 Timothy 3.16 (TNIV)

[3] Philippians 2.6-11

[4] John 5.24 (TNIV)

Psalm 67

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Seasoned With Salt

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Dying To Submit

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