Review: Finish the Mission: Bringing the Gospel to the Unreached and Unengaged

Finish the Mission: Bringing the Gospel to the Unreached and Unengaged
Finish the Mission: Bringing the Gospel to the Unreached and Unengaged by John Piper
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was one of those books, that I’m very much glad I took the time to have read, but it left me a little wanting. I agreed with the overarching premise; that to narrow too specifically the Great Commission is to short change God’s global mission. Instead the Great Commission is in fact intended to include all persons, and since that is true, we cannot ignore those unreached people groups living within our world today. I felt the book did a good job setting up this point, and I enjoyed the use of different voices to state and argue the point. Yet, I felt as though the application side of the coin was a bit lacking when compared to the argument side. Still, Finish the Mission is an important and likely necessary book as it relates to the topic of global Christian mission. It’s a book that maybe in actually is meant to focus more on establishing the argument, rather than providing for application. After all, until we believe the argument for joining with God on his global mission for all persons to hear and have opportunity to respond to his Gospel, it’s of little good to write a book that focuses on an application of putting the argument into practice.

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Three Words

the_end“I am done.”

Three words that cut through the air like a crack of lighting ripping through a Mid-western summer sky. The weight those words hold is nothing short of immense, yet in the same moment, they seem as light as air.

It has been a little over a month since I first uttered those three words, which forever changed the course of my history. I have started many times to try and put words to the reality of which I’m now living, and time after time I’ve come up empty with exactly what to say. You see, it was with great peace and confidence that I was being led; dare I say called to quit my job. A job that provided a great deal of comfort and security for me and my family.

I have been, for the past thirteen years, a youth pastor, loyal to a single church, called not to a job, but to a life of service to teenagers. That is until the call no longer came in one winter day. That morning I woke up as usual, but in an instant, the length of time it took me to silence my alarm, I knew I would be quitting my job. It wasn’t quite as sudden as it may sound. The truth is God had been applying great amounts of molding pressure to my heart for quite some time. And the more I sought his will, his plan, his purpose… the more I realized this day would eventually come and I’d be released from my present calling, only to be ready to receive the new call for my life.

The quirky tidbit in the storyline is that while God in fact did remove one call on my life, he hasn’t yet replaced it with a new one. That’s not to say that I don’t fully believe he will; he simply hasn’t yet.

As word of my resignation spread, the inevitable questions about what’s next began to surface. Each time, I honestly had to say that I wasn’t sure; God hadn’t yet revealed his next steps. Interestingly, through the whole of this process, my wife and I have been both on the same page (that’s important), and oddly at peace (also important). The reality of the situation we’re in is that what we are doing doesn’t honestly make sense; outside of God’s economy. No one willfully quits their job, the job that is the primary financial means for their family, without having a back up plan locked in place. And by back up plan, we all know it’s supposed to be something bigger and better. Why else quit if it’s not?

Yet here we are, without any sort of back up plan. No bright white Dave Ramsey envelope tucked safely in the center desk drawer. Rather I feel very much like what it may have felt like for those who experienced the scene that took place in Joshua 3. I feel as though we’re at the edge of the Jordan River and we’ve just been told that once we step foot in the water, God will stop up the current and we’ll cross on dry land. It’s a great promise to be sure, but difficult to believe fully when looking out at the water rushing by. None the less, the priests caring the Ark had faith enough in the word of the Lord and followed through with what they were told. The result?

17 The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.

God made good! It’s right there in black and white. While I don’t yet know what God has in store for us; what the next chapter of our story is to be. I do know that he’s faithful and true and will provide for us the space to live out whatever the next chapter is. I can’t explain, except for the grace and wonder of God, how we are at such peace in the midst of such uncertainty, but we are. I don’t know what will happen a month from now if nothing’s changed and I’ve drawn my final pay check. But this much I know. I’m a child of the King of kings and the Lord of lords and while I call him Father, he calls me his own. The care he displays for me is greater than the care he shows over the lilies of the field and look how they flourish. I trust that as he knew me intimately well in my mother’s womb, he knows what’s next and he is the God who goes before me. I trust him because I have nothing else strong enough to trust. I hold tight to him because he’s the only thing which is unmovable. I cry out to him for he’s the only one who can interpret and understand the groans of my soul.

With everything that is in me, I completely believe that this is not the end, no it isn’t.

Review: Wrecked: When a Broken World Slams into your Comfortable Life

WreckedWrecked: When a Broken World Slams into your Comfortable Life by Jeff Goins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It seems as though our world today is filled with all sorts of warnings. Caution! Hot coffee. Warning, smoking may cause cancer. Beware of dog! I’m not quite sure how Wrecked, by Jeff Goins was allowed to be published without so much as a read at your own risk! label. Goins has a way with words that not only tells a captivating story, but pricks the soul of the reader, drawing them in to the story itself. The beauty of Wrecked is that Goins shares from a place of personal, raw honesty. A quality that allows the reader to believe the words on the page and be emotionally, mentally, and spiritually impacted. The impact is nothing short of a gut check at the deepest level. Goins holds back nothing, as he pushes the reader to the point where a choice must be made; stay the same or become wrecked. As much as instinct begs that everything stay the same, many will find it too difficult and costly to do so; opting instead for the necessary pain and discomfort of becoming wrecked and making a world shaking difference.

This is not a book for the faint of heart however, as your heart will be challenged to consider the thing that’s been pushed to the dark recesses of your thinking. Wrecked is not a book to be read while on vacation, or casually while passing the time between your kid’s soccer and basketball practice. However, if you know your life is begging you to shake the dust from its dry old bones, then I’d encourage that you read with reckless abandon. Read with your heart and mind wide open, and brace for impact, as impact will most certainly come your way. To state it another way, to read Wrecked is to play a game of Chicken with the status quo. Who’ll flinch first? Go get wrecked, I bet you’ll look back and be glad you did.

Wrecked is a must share with a friend book, no doubt.

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Beard Theology

I just so happened to be poking around Scot McKnight’s blog today; something I don’t do nearly enough. And while there I happened to have my attention caught by this post displaying the various beards found in ministry.

Being a beaded man myself, and in ministry, I decided to check it out further. While there were several styles that came close, none nailed it quite like the Neo-Reformed. See for yourself:

Neo-ReformedIf you look close enough, you’ll even notice I have the beginnings of the white streaks beginning to establish themselves. Referencing the description, and it’s a lock for sure. I suppose it goes without saying that from here on out I’ll be referring to myself in theological circles as a Neo-Reformist; but then again any well trained theologian will already know that just by noting the beard.

Mentoring, Realizing the Win

Realize the WinOnce a week, for the past two-and-a-half years, I’ve spent my lunch hour eating and spending time with Murray (not actual name) a some what typical fifth grader. We generally talk a great deal about his weekend and what he’s been up to since we were last together. The conversation eventually gets around to talking about video games. Murray spends a lot of his time wrapped up in a virtual world, closed off from the actual world around him. Given what he’s shared about life at home, I can’t say I much blame him.

Not the best of students, Murray and I will some times spend our time together working on an over-due class assignment. I dread when he has his math book in hand. I’m certainly not the person Murray needs to be relying on for math help. Far too often though, when we do end up spending time working on his assignments, it’s a short-lived, fleeting opportunity. He doesn’t much have the attention span to hunker down and focus for too long.

I won’t lie, there are times I leave the school feeling as though I’ve had very little impact on Murray; let alone any sort of positive impact. It’s hard to fight off the questions of doubt that roam in the depths of my mind. The one’s that suggest I’m not doing this kid any good, or that I’m not doing anything to improve his situation of life. Some times, more than others, I’m able to fend off what I know isn’t true. I know simply by showing up week after week I have an impact. I know that by offering Murray an hour of my time, that’s just for him has an impact. But let’s face it, when it comes to mentoring realizing clear wins can often times be very difficult.

The other day however, I realized a huge win. Murray bounded down the hall toward me, as I waited near the cafeteria  this time instead of his Math book, Murray had a composition notebook, folder and a slew of loose papers of various colors. Oh, and a smile nearly as wide as the hall itself. I greeted him in typical fashion, “Murray, how’s it going dude?” His reply, “Good, I’m gonna surprise me teacher and get my writing done!” I’ve been here before with Murray. We’ll eat slowly, as he picks at his food, making small talk about the weekend and video games. I’ll try and glean as much as I can about the assignment due, and he’ll avoid talking about it as best he can.

This time it was different. He had a genuine excitement about his writing project, and judging by the speed in which he downed lunch, I’d say it was at the top of his to do list for our time together. The assignment was simple, craft a story about someone you had researched, using facts about this person’s life. As Murray showed me his rough draft paper, I couldn’t help but notice there wasn’t a single word legible enough to read or even take a guess at. It’s heartbreaking, how lacking Murray’s writing skills are. I couldn’t ignore it, the moment was right in front of me, and so I asked the hard question. “Murray, can you read what you’ve got written there? Your writing looks to be a bit rushed and sort of crazy.” His candid reply, “I some times get in a hurry and my writing gets sloppy.” “Why don’t we work on that,” I said, “I’ll help you try and slow down; we’ll write your story together.”

For the next twenty five minutes Murray and I wrote a story about Jimmy Johnson. I decided that I’d too write the story on my own piece of paper; sort of as a way to try and help Murray pace himself, I suppose. Composition errors competed with grammatical errors, and while those things jumped out at me right away I realized the win for Murray wasn’t writing a perfect story (although his teacher may believe otherwise). The win for Murray was that for twenty five minutes he stayed focused on a single task, and in doing so ended up writing a story that while compositionally was all over the place, was legible.