Still Trending: #Urbana15

January 8, 2016 |

#Urbana15

From the day after Christmas until New Year’s day, five of us from SAM were in St. Louis for Urbana, a missions conference held every three years by Intervarsity.

We rubbed shoulders with over 10,000 college students, high schoolers, thousands of additional Intervarsity staff, and thousands more representatives of missions organizations and seminaries around the world. The five of us attended sessions and seminars, and staffed a booth where we met with individuals interested in serving overseas in South America.

Though there was no shortage of big-name speakers and challenging teaching, what spoke most deeply to me came from our morning Bible study in the book of Matthew.

One morning, a few of us from the SAM Urbana team met to study Matthew 20:1-16, a parable Jesus uses to describe the kingdom of heaven. Jesus uses a parable not to be cryptic, but because the reality of heaven is so beyond our comprehension that we can only understand even the smallest facets of his Kingdom by comparing it to something we already know.

In this parable Jesus tells of a landowner who goes early to town to hire workers for his vineyard. They agree upon a salary and get to work. A few hours later, the landowner sees more workers milling about, and offers them a job in his vineyard. He does this two more times during the afternoon. Towards the end of the workday, the landowner goes into town once more and, seeing yet more empty-handed workers, he offers them a job in the vineyard as well.

At the end of the day, the vineyard owner goes to pay his workers. He tells his foreman to first pay those hired last, and each worker gets his wages. The catch is that all the workers are paid the same—the rate agreed upon by those hired first. The ones who worked all day are understandably indignant, but the landowner gently reminds them that they had already agreed on their pay, and that it is his own choice to pay the other workers generously.

Something about being in the diverse, global context of Urbana made the text come alive in a new way.

Usually I identify with the first workers. After all, I have been a Christian since birth. Surely that counts as an “early in the day commitment.” Those who live life without God, coming to the Lord late in life are the late workers. But today the story read a little differently.

Urbana Director Tom Lin, our opening speaker, encouraged us to stop thinking about how to tell our own story, encouraging us to participate telling God’s Story. This Urbana centered around the question, “Whose story will you tell?” If we take up the Great Story as we read this passage, could this parable not be greater than my own puny fable? Greater than the span of one lifetime?

What if we read the parable of the workers within the context of church history?

I am the late worker. I have come to the field in the cool of the evening to put away tools and help carry bunches of grapes and bundles of weeds laboriously cut by those who worked since dawn. I did not choose the tools of the Biblical Cannon or sharpen the knives of reformation and doctrine. I did not cultivate swaths of land untouched by the gospel. Perhaps I have laid a hand to the few remaining patches or gleaned those few fruits left behind. But I certainly have not risen before dawn and missed the comfort of bed and meals. I have not labored in the heat of persecution, and any sweat marking my brow is from shaking off the lethargy and ease of the morning. I only lend the smallest aid and take part in completing what began long before me.

Yet in my small perspective I like to think that I am an early worker. I like to suppose that I deserve a full day’s pay, looking with condescension on those late workers arriving a step behind me.

Are we not a late-in-the-day generation?

But we share more than simple chronological similarity with the late workers. We share the attitude. We spend our extended youth and adulthood waiting for a personal invitation from the landowner, unwilling to step forward with the other groups, or finally “ready” to work long after the true start of the workday. The landowner stands calling workers, but we assume he is talking to someone else. The landowner stands calling workers, but we wait in uncertainty for a personal address and a more appealing offer.

“I’d go Jesus, just make it clear beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is me you are calling and not the guy standing next to me. Make me an offer I cannot resist.”

At Urbana, OMF Director Patrick Fung recounted to us how Jesus invited Matthew to leave everything, including a wildly lucrative business and “Come, follow me”. He observed that as terrifying as it would have been to obey the call, it would be much more terrifying to sit in uncertainty as the Son of the Living God turns to walk away.

“Make me an offer I cannot resist, Jesus, then I’ll know you have truly invited me to work in your harvest.”

Christ has called us. The landowner is calling all workers to the field. Are you listening? Will you choose as Matthew did to follow the one who calls us into storm and glory, or will you risk waiting too long and being left in the dust.

Never is it too late. Even late in the day workers are embraced and given their wage. You are not guaranteed a personal call. You are not guaranteed ease and comfort. But you are guaranteed the company of the author and finisher of The Great Story.

Do not tarry, for this might be the 5 o’clock call. Join in the harvest and taste His good fruit.

God With Us

December 23, 2015 |

God with us

Come, Lord Jesus.  Come.

Our plea for God to come reflects our anxiety over the brokenness of the world. It’s an expression of our wanting desire for the culmination of redemptive history in the Messiah. Come, Lord Jesus, come to rescue us. Come to heal us. Restore sight to the blind. Declare the epoch of the Lord’s favor. Set the world aright through your Kingdom here on earth. We wait. Patiently we wait for him.

And then we celebrate the Light of the world who did indeed come…The night, though, was silent. There were no horses. No chariots. Only quietude in a manger. There were lowly shepherds in the distance who knew first. Wise men were on their long journey, following the star, but it would be weeks before the gold and incense and myrrh arrived. There were no gifts or trumpets sounding that night. No fireworks. The King had slipped into the world to be with us. Quietly and humbly. There was no bursting forth on the world’s stage.

At Christmas, we celebrate the arrival of our humble King.

Sent into the world to become man, to be with us, to pound the pavement with us, to suffer with us, incarnate.

To walk alongside us, as close as burrowing under skin.

God. With. Us…three words that should not be able to merge together into one coherent sentence. But they do in Christ. We look our King in the face. He is there. Present. Sent to be present, to know every suffering of humanity so that he could bear the suffering, one day. God is with us in Christ Jesus the Messiah who came to deliver us.

God is indeed with us in Christ Jesus born this day in Bethlehem. He is with us. As we go out into the world we carry the very presence of God with us.

 

Our greatest gift, really the only gift we can give to the world, is God with us in Jesus, so that others may see and know.

Leteveryheart

 

Redemptive Community

December 16, 2015 |

Redemptive

 

“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake, he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

—2 Corinthians 5:18-21 (ESV)

We are “redemptive” because of our redeemed state in Christ, and because he has made us redeemers.

It is a privilege that God makes his appeal through us, for all creation to be redeemed unto the Creator. It is also a calling for the maturation of our faith. For God to rightly use us to make his appeal to mankind, we must be rooted in Him, abiding in him, joined to his redemptive purposes for the restoration of righteousness, for the healing of brokenness.

As a community of missionaries who actively participate in cross-cultural ministry, we have the opportunity every day to sin against our brothers. We have the opportunity every day to misunderstand, quickly judge, and write-off the opinions and actions of our colleagues. In some ways, it may be easier to forgive the sins of someone outside of our missionary community, as they are the people whom we serve. But to forgive the sins of our fellow missionaries who we assume align with our goals and our expectations is often a humbling and agonizing process.

As we bear the image of God and are ambassadors for Christ, we must emulate His love, authentically in community, such that we “bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7, ESV). In the light of the gospel and God’s love for us, we must be agents of redemption: simple preaching will never be enough. We must live out the reconciled way, representing it to the world and building for it.

Being ambassadors for Christ is as much to do with who we are and how we live than what we do and the words we speak.

Year-End GIFTS DOUBLED

November 25, 2015 |

Visit www.southamericamission.org/givingtuesday2015 to give: On December 1, generous donors will help further SAM’s passions for the church “on mission” in the world by matching dollar-for-dollar every gift to SAM’s Vision Fund, up to $5,000.

Would you donate and help us meet our $10,000 goal for this day? All gifts made to SAM on or before Tuesday, December 1, using this URL link will qualify for the match.

#GivingTuesday has become a platform to launch some of our year-end giving campaigns to meet our ministry budgets for the year.


About #GivingTuesday: The first Tuesday after Thanksgiving now has a new name, a new purpose. #GivingTuesday has grown over the last four years into a day to actively resist the precedent for the season otherwise set by Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

That’s right, a day to change the tone, to see the season through the light of a different necessity—what if we busted down doors to find the quickest path to generosity—to swim upstream against the current of our culture, which, finds its downstream momentum this time of year in retail sales benchmarks and in the acquisition of things (that are prone to moths and rust destroying).

How do you actively resist on #GivingTuesday? It’s not easy. It might even feel like your setting up an outpost in the culture wars, but trust that your outpost will be a beacon of hope in the battle, an eventual stronghold that will have its place in turning the tide.

In short, on #GivingTuesday, give it away. Give your money away, your time, give the gospel of grace. Be about sacrifice. Believe that it will matter. Believe that it will change you as much as it makes a difference to others. But you have to get ready now. You have to figure out how you’re going to navigate Friday and Monday in order to be poised for Tuesday. Join the movement. Give it away on #GivingTuesday.

Give It Away #GivingTuesday

November 23, 2015 |

December 1, 2015: the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving now has a new name, a new purpose. #GivingTuesday has grown over the last four years into a day to actively resist the precedent for the season otherwise set by Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

That’s right, a day to change the tone, to see the season through the light of a different necessity—what if we busted down doors to find the quickest path to generosity—to swim upstream against the current of our culture, which, finds its downstream momentum this time of year in retail sales benchmarks and in the acquisition of things (that are prone to moths and rust destroying).

What if we busted down doors to find the quickest path to generosity?

How do you actively resist on #GivingTuesday? It’s not easy. It might even feel like your setting up an outpost in the culture wars, but trust that your outpost will be a beacon of hope in the battle, an eventual stronghold that will have its place in turning the tide.

So instead of feeding yourself, feed others. Respond to the ringing bells and red tin pots. Choose the 40-inch instead of the 52, and give the difference away. Reconcile the debits in your personal ledger to credits in the ledgers of non-profits who are healing brokenness, not artificially preserving some fleeting sense of wellness.

In short, on #GivingTuesday, give it away. Give your money away, your time, give the gospel of grace. Be about sacrifice. Believe that it will matter. Believe that it will change you as much as it makes a difference to others. But you have to get ready now. You have to figure out how you’re going to navigate Friday and Monday in order to be poised for Tuesday.

Join the movement. Give it away on #GivingTuesday.

Loving Community

November 19, 2015 |

Loving

We’ve been praying recently through the aspects of our Identity: whom we desire to be. We’re Abiding, then Loving:

“Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:33-35 (ESV)

Christ speaks this to his disciples immediately after Judas leaves their presence at the Last Supper. These are the last moments that Christ has with his disciples all in one place, and he begins to speak to them with this message: love one another, so that others will know you that are mine.

Love is not only the command, it is also the branding of Christ—it is the means by which others know we are with Him and sent from Him.

Love is the source of our strength, the root of our hope, and the inspiration for our ministry.

We have the blessing to be ambassadors, but with that privilege comes a grave responsibility. As the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have no love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have no love, I gain nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (ESV)

In praying through being a “loving community”, it is our question: what could life be like if the people we are sent to knew us only by our love? To what extent would the gospel advance further if we were known as the community of sent people who embody Christ’s love for others?

We have the wonderful opportunity to be beacons of hope and a people who lift others out of sorrow through the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ. Our first priority in response to Christ’s command is to find all avenues by which to spread His love.

May God be glorified in all that we do so that others will know we are with Him because we have loved them as He has loved us.

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