Why missions? Three more reasons

When we consider the reason behind missions, often we first think of the Great Commission, and we should. When Jesus gives us a direct command, we listen and obey. Otherwise, according to him, we are foolish and cannot count ourselves among his followers (Matt 7). Therefore, the words which we have in Matthew 28 ought to be quite clear in our minds:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (ESV)

But there are other reasons why. As Piper points out in his book Let the Nations Be Glad, “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man.“ We participate in missions as a form of worship and to point others to the One worthy of worship.

There are many such reasons why we ought to participate in missions, but I would like to outline three others. These are not the primary reasons. These are not forgotten reasons. These are not the three reasons which will forever transform your future. They are just three more which I can forget if I don’t take time to consider them periodically. And really, these are three lessons I have learned from our overly generous support team (and that is not hyperbole).

Here they are, in no particularly theological order.

– We are investing in our future. The answers to tomorrows theological questions will most likely come from Africa or Asia, not from North America. Not all of them, but many of them probably will. Most likely your children or grandchildren’s future will be shaped by the ideas from those continents.

Consider history. The most influential theologians of all history have not come from North America, but from all over the world. This is for several reasons, one of which that there was very little writing going on in North America in the early years of the Church, no matter what the LDS try to say. But also because Church History teaches us that there has not been one continent, nation, or cultural group which has provided a consistent witness to Scripture. I don’t know all the reasons, but it appears to me that there is a natural growth from acceptance of God’s revelation, transformation of individuals, then the culture, a time of prosperity, a falling away from God and embracing other gods, and then a return to an apathy or outright rebellion. That was the path of the Israelites, and that is a simplified version of the path we have seen worked out over the past two thousands years.

So investing in missions is participating in our own spiritual future. We are recognizing that God’s family is multi-colored and we are part of that. We need what our brothers and sisters in Christ can teach us about Him. So we invest our time, our money, our Christian workers, and our own energy into taking the Gospel to places that today seem spiritual dark, but in time might be where the light is brightest.

– We are investing in our hearts. When you are part of what is going on around the world, you will see it and that will change your heart. In the financial world we call it diversifying. Give time, prayer, money, encouragement to those who are ministering in other places and you will be blessed. That is what the Philippians learned from Paul (Phil 4). When things are going really well in your local church, your foreign workers rejoice and are encouraged, especially so when they are going through a discouraging time in their sphere of ministry. And when the churches around the world are flourishing and people are coming to know Christ, you will be encouraged and be able to praise God, even if you feel like things have stalled back home.

– We are investing in our souls. Giving is a form of unshackling my soul from the love of money. Whether locally or globally, I need to regularly give out more than what is comfortable in order to keep my soul from feeling the effects of “filthy lucre”. Some days it feels like I spend my time just trying to unravel that constricting serpent from my soul, and an effective way to do that is to grit my teeth and give. And an odd thing happens, what starts as a sheer act of the will turns into a blessing (Acts 20).

Book Review: A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Mary

De Chirico, Leonardo. A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Mary: Mother of God

Point: The Roman Catholic teaching about Mary ultimately leads one’s attention and heart away from Jesus and the Gospel.

Path: De Chirico, in this concise work, walks the reader through the Biblical teaching of Mary, the Early Church’s teaching about Mary, a historical theology of the Catholic belief of Mary, and the current developments in Mariology. He then highlights the crucial problems and points us back to a biblical view of Mary.

Sources: The author cites numerous councils, sermons, commentaries, and prayers within the Catholic faith.

Agreement: This was a very helpful resource to see the basic view of what Catholicism teaches, not necessary what every Catholic believes. I think the two essential components for me were: 1) What we pray we eventually believe. And 2) the summary of the principles of singularity, fittingness, eminence, and analogy or likeness to Christ. Those two concepts were worth the read.

Personal App: I must recognize how liturgy fashions belief, in my friends who are Catholics, and in my own.

Favorite Quote: “Is there a way to bring all these Mariological strands together? Condensing entire libraries of books, and distilling centuries of reflection and observation, here is a list of principles that need to be taken into account if one is to understand the logic of Mariological development. They are provided by Gabriel Maria Roschini (1900–1977), a Roman Catholic professor of Mariology, author of a four volume standard Mariology in Latin, and a twentieth century leading authority in this field of study. Here they are: Being the Holy Virgin an altogether singular creature, belonging to a specific order in herself, she rightly claims altogether singular privileges that are precluded to any other creature (principle of singularity). All those perfections which are fitting to the dignity of the Mother of God need to be attributed to the Holy Virgin provided that they can be somehow traced from revelation and are not contrary to faith nor reason (principle of fittingness). All the privileges of nature, grace and glory given by God to the other saints must have been given also to the Holy Virgin, being her the Queen of the saints (principle of eminence). Privileges analogous to the various privileges of the humanity of Christ are possessed correspondingly by the most blessed Virgin and according to the condition of the one and the other (principle of analogy or likeness to Christ).21 Singularity, fittingness, eminence and analogy to Christ. Each on its own terms, and interwoven together, they form the Mariological quadrilateral that moved the development of the combination between devotion and doctrine.”

Stars: 4 out of 5

It would be worth another read and I would recommend it to someone who:

has come out of Catholicism

Is interested in what Catholicism teaches

Quotes Sampler

Here is a selection of independent quotations from books I am reading. I hope they offer as much food for thought for you as they have for me!

“Jesus didn’t run projects, establish ministries, create programs, or put on events. He ate meals. If you routinely share meals and you have a passion for Jesus, then you’ll be doing mission. It’s not that meals save people. People are saved through the gospel message. But meals will create natural opportunities to share that message in a context that resonates powerfully with what you’re saying.” (Chester, A Meal With Jesus)

“There is no need to be worried by facetious people who try to make the Christian hope of ‘Heaven’ ridiculous by saying they do not want ‘to spend eternity playing harps’. The answer to such people is that if they cannot understand books written for grown-ups, they should not talk about them.” (Lewis, Mere Christianity)

Tactics Read Through: Chapter 9

TURNABOUT Defending against Columbo

Summary: When others ask questions, determine what the purpose is before you fall into a trap that they might be laying. This is done by seeking clarification and by being willing to think about it.

“There should be no risk when someone asks us either of the first two Columbo questions. We welcome the opportunity to clarify our views and then give our reasons for what we believe. The danger we need to guard against is the misuse of the third application of Columbo—leading questions meant to make a point against us.” (Location: 1,957)

Note:Clarifying questions are good. We should accept and encourage them. The difference between leading questions meant to trap and clarifying questions meant to make a point is the intent behind it. Are you trying to encourage a thoughtful consideration of one’s beliefs, or are you trying to confuse and belittle?

“Someone once said if you word the question right, you can win any debate. Dr. Chopra’s challenge was a classic case in point. A simple yes would have been the correct answer (properly qualified1) but would have sent a distorted message, as you’ll see in a moment. Further, Chopra’s words subtly suggested that I thought hell was the punishment people deserved for disagreeing with me.” (Location: 1,977)

Note:In cases when a short, truthful answer will confuse even more, it is better to not answer the question until it is clarified.

“The moment you feel like the questions might be designed to manipulate you, stop the conversation and ask for clarification before you go any further.” (Location: 2,028)

“For example, “What gives you the right to say someone else’s religion is wrong?” can be restated as, “No one is justified in saying one religious view is better than another.” “Who’s to say?” means, “No one could ever know the truth about that,” or, “One answer is just as good as another.” “Who are you to say?” usually means, “You’re wrong for saying someone else is wrong.” This last one is obviously contradictory, but you might not notice that problem if the claim remains hidden behind a question mark.” (Location: 2,113)

Note:Answering a statement as though it were a question isn’t helpful to either party.

“If you remember only one thing from part 1 of this book, remember this: whenever you get in a tough spot, always ask questions.” (Location: 2,187)

Quotes Sampler

Here is a selection of independent quotations from books I am reading. I hope they offer as much food for thought for you as they have for me!

“There is an entire psychological substructure that, due to the fall, is a near-constant manufacturing of relational leveraging, fear-stuffing, nervousness, score-keeping, neurotic controlling, anxiety-festering silliness that is not something we say or even think so much as something we exhale. You can smell it on people, though some of us are good at hiding it. And if you trace this fountain of scurrying haste, in all its various manifestations, down to the root, you don’t find childhood difficulties or a Myers-Briggs diagnosis or Freudian impulses. You find gospel deficit. You find lack of felt awareness of Christ’s heart. All the worry and dysfunction and resentment are the natural fruit of living in a mental universe of law. The felt love of Christ really is what brings rest, wholeness, flourishing, shalom—that existential calm that for brief, gospel-sane moments settles over you and lets you step in out of the storm of of-works-ness. You see for a moment that in Christ you truly are invincible. The verdict really is in; nothing can touch you. He has made you his own and will never cast you out.” (Ortlund, Gentle and Lowly)

“There are three ways the New Testament completes the sentence, “The Son of Man came . . .” “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45); “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10); “The Son of Man has come eating and drinking . . .” (Luke 7:34). The first two are statements of purpose. Why did Jesus come? He came to serve, to give his life as a ransom, to seek and save the lost. The third is a statement of method. How did Jesus come? He came eating and drinking.” (Chester, Meal with Jesus)

“Lord, you have given us your Word for a light to shine upon our path; grant us so to meditate on that Word, and to follow its teaching, that we may find in it the light that shines more and more until the perfect day; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” Jerome

Celebration of Life

This week has been our Celebration of Life Week. It is an observance we keep each year. It is something we started seven years ago on the first birthday of Tanzen. We wanted to celebrate her special day of course, but for us there was a lot more wrapped up in it than a birthday party.

Tanzen’s birth was surrounded by a series of events which shook us deeply. The day before she was born we were driving to the mall to do some walking, hoping it would induce labor. We never made it however, since we were involved in a car accident on Highway 169. It was not a life threatening accident, but we were told we needed to go to the hospital because of Crystal’s pregnancy. While there she went into labor and Tanzen was born safely.

However, hours later, Crystal suffered a massive stroke. She lost control of the right side of her body, lost consciousness, and was immediately rushed through a series of tests to determine what to do. While family and friends prayed for us around the world, God used the expertise of many doctors, nurses, and specialists to treat the blood clot in her brain. Crystal began to make her recovery in the days and weeks following the stroke.

Those moments changed how we view life, birth, death, and ourselves. Each year we think back to those days in the dark and praise God for his protection.

And then we added Grant. Six years later he was born on the day after Tanzen’s birthday. His birth was filled with its own set of difficulties. High risk pregnancy appointments with specialists in Minnesota and Spain. Daily shots. Fear of the unknown. There were many times of weeping before he appeared. We had no idea what would happen.

And then we added Mia. She was born three years before Grant, and just two days before Tanzen’s birthday. We were not there. We don’t know where she was born. We do not know the joys or fears that surrounded the event. Even if we had been in the room we would have never been able to know what was being said or what was going. And then we missed her first birthday, and her second, and her third, and just barely got her before her fourth. We missed so much time.

It is a strange celebration, this week. We celebrate God’s protection and goodness. We thank God for another year. We remember anew his care for us.

But we also grieve. There are the normal songs and gifts, cake and laughter. But behind those good things there is a sadness. Every day is like a heavy weight around our souls.

I wake up each morning and write a letter to the person whose day we are celebrating. Mia on the 8th, Crystal on the 9th, Tanzen on the 10th, and Grant on the 11th. I try to tell them their story again, and point out how I see Jesus at work in it during the past year. I weep. And yet I hope. There is a grief which I feel for each of them, but a great relief when I look to Jesus who loves them more.

Maybe in some way that weight we feel on our souls is a rich treasure. Perhaps it is a chest of gold wrapped in dirty rags. We feel it. We grieve its presence and resent its reminder as we haul it around, day after day. But when we stop and examine it we realize we are rich.

This week is a strange week. We laugh and celebrate. But each day begins, and normally ends, with tears. It is our yearly reminder to number our days (Psalm 90:12).

Tactics Read Through: Chapter 8

Chapter 8 PERFECTING COLUMBO

Summary:Being thoughtful and reasonable in dialogue with others over differing views is not something that comes naturally, but we can practice! And that practice will move our discussions along in a better direction.

“In any encounter, there are two times when the pressure is off: before the conversation begins and after it’s over. Those are perfect times to focus on improving your technique. Peter reminds us to always be “ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). There are three things you can do to ready yourself to respond. You can anticipate beforehand what might come up. You can reflect afterward on what took place. And in both cases, you can practice the responses you think of during these reflective moments so you’ll be prepared for the next opportunity.” (Location: 1,773)

Note:If I want to love my neighbor to the best of my ability, it is worth my time to think about our conversation after the fact in order to evaluate how I might be more clear in my questions or comments in our next interaction.

“When I ask myself about the three skills of an ambassador—knowledge (an accurately informed mind), wisdom (an artful method), and character (an attractive manner)—I have something specific to focus on. Did I know enough about the issue, or do I need to brush up on something for next time? Could I have maneuvered with more tactical wisdom in the conversation? Was my manner attractive? Did I act with grace, kindness, and patience?” (Location: 1,802)

Note:Good review of the first chapter.

“Sometimes I practice this way when I’m alone in the car, listening to talk radio. After hearing a few comments by the host or a caller, I turn the volume down and then pretend it’s my job to respond to what was said. It’s almost like being on live radio, except if I say something foolish, no one hears.” (Location: 1,814)

Note:Or with books. If we take time to stop and try to respond to an author, we can begin to think for ourselves.

“As a general rule, go out of your way to establish common ground. Whenever possible, affirm points of agreement. Take the most charitable read on the other person’s motives, not the most cynical one. Treat them the way you would like others to treat you if you were the one in the hot seat.” (Location: 1,912)

Note:This is all part of loving the other person, which is extremely hard to view when we feel as though we are being attacked, not our views. One of the reasons we have gotten to such a point as unable to have reasonable dialogue in our current situation is because we have not enabled a culture of interacting with ideas. We need to offer this to others, explaining that we can disagree with them and their ideas but not hate them.

“In this chapter, we focused on refining your tactical effectiveness as a Christian ambassador by exploring three ways you can improve your skill at Columbo. First, try to anticipate objections you might face, and then think of questions in advance. This allows you to formulate responses before the pressure is on. Second, take some time for self-assessment after each encounter. Ask how you could have phrased questions more effectively or conducted yourself differently in the conversation. Enlist a friend in the process, especially if he was with you during the dialogue. Finally, if you think of anything new, work out the details in advance. Write your ideas down, construct a tactically sound dialogue, then role-play your response—and potential pushbacks from the other side—out loud, by yourself or with a friend.” (Location: 1,936)

Quotes Sampler

Here is a selection of independent quotations from books I am reading. I hope they offer as much food for thought for you as they have for me!

“Every one says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive, as we had during the war.” (Lewis, Mere Christianity)

“Resting in the love of God doesn’t squelch ambition; it fuels it with a different fire. I don’t have to strive to get God to love me; rather, because God loves me unconditionally, I’m free to take risks and launch out into the deep. I’m released to aspire to use my gifts in gratitude, caught up in God’s mission for the sake of the world. When you’ve been found, you’re free to fail.” (Smith, On the Road with Saint Augustine)

“O Lord, the house of my soul is narrow; enlarge it that you may enter in. It is ruined, O repair it! It displeases your sight; I confess it, I know. But who shall cleanse it, or to whom shall I cry but unto you? Cleanse me from my secret faults, O Lord, and spare your servant from sin.” Augustine

“Lord Jesus, you are light from eternal lights. You have dissolved all spiritual darkness and my soul is filled with your brightness. Your light makes all things beautiful. At night you give rest to our bodies. By day you spur us on to work. May I work with diligence and devotion, that at night my conscience is at peace. As I lay down on my bed at night, may your fingers draw down my eyelids. Lay your hand of blessing on my head that righteous sleep may descend upon me.” Gregory of Nazianzus

Tactics Read Through: Chapter 7

Chapter 7 COLUMBO STEP 3 Using Questions to Make a Point

Summary:With a target in mind, we can ask questions which will help both parties understand the issues at stake and realize the truth about our own beliefs.

“In the third step of our game plan, you are going to use questions to make a point. Think of yourself like an archer shooting at a target. Your questions are your arrows. The point you want to make is the target you want to hit. The target is key. If you’re going to use questions to make a point, then you must be clear in your mind on what point you want to make.” (Location: 1,431)

“In each of these situations, every time you ask a question and get a favorable response, your question accomplishes two things that a mere statement cannot. First, the person is telling you he understands the point. Second, he’s telling you he agrees with it, at least provisionally, and is taking a step forward with you in the thinking process.” (Location: 1,438)

Note:Getting agreement along the way will help us deal with the real issue (the target at which we are aiming). Thinking far enough ahead to ask the right questions is hard though!

“There are different ways this third use of Columbo works out in application. Generally, your leading questions will be used to inform, persuade, refute, or set up the terms of the discussion.” (Location: 1,447)

Here they are:

– TELL THEM SOMETHING THEY ALREADY KNOW

– TURNING THE TABLES

EXPLOITING A WEAKNESS OR A FLAW

PUTTING THE PIECES ON THE TABLE

– FINDING THE FLAW

“If you are placed in a situation in which you suspect your convictions will be labeled intolerant, bigoted, narrow-minded, or judgmental, use Columbo to turn the tables.” (Location: 1,488)

“You know, this is actually a very personal question you’re asking. I don’t mind answering, but before I do, I want to know if it’s safe to offer my views. So let me ask you a question first: do you consider yourself a tolerant person or an intolerant person on issues like this? Is it safe to give my opinion, or are you going to judge me for my point of view? Do you respect diverse points of view, or do you condemn others for having convictions that differ from your own?” (Location: 1,492)

Note:I absolutely love this preface to a response. I need to use this more often because it helps both of us be honest.

“You’re intolerant.”

“Can you tell me what you mean by that? Why would you think I’m an intolerant person?”

“Because it’s clear you think you’re right and everyone who disagrees with you is wrong. That’s intolerant.”

“Well, you’re right, I do think my views are correct. Of course, it’s always possible I’m mistaken, and we could talk about that if you like. But what about you? You seem to be disagreeing with me. Do you think your views are right?”2

“Yes, of course I think I’m right. But I’m not intolerant like you.”

“That’s the part that confuses me. Why is it when I think I’m right, I’m intolerant, but when you think you’re right, you’re just right? What am I missing here?”

Note:The intolerance of “tolerance” on display.

“The quickest way to deal with a personal attack is to simply point it out with a question. When someone goes after you rather than your argument, ask, “I’m a little confused at your response. Why did you change the subject? Even if you’re right about my character, could you explain to me what that has to do with this issue?”” (Location: 1,531)

“Since science only measures natural causes and effects, it’s not capable of ruling out supernatural causes, even in principle.” (Location: 1,582)

Note:As he will state later, you cannot prove that invisible men do not exist merely because you haven’t seen any. This is different than the Burden of Proof fallacy. That fallacy is when I say, “Invisible men do exist! You can’t prove they don’t exist, so they must!” Putting science in its rightful place is not the same. We are merely saying that science cannot measure what it cannot observe. The supernatural is, by definition, beyond nature and therefore not able to be measure within it. We need other tools in order to do that.

“PUTTING THE PIECES ON THE TABLE”

Note:The story that follows is a good example of asking questions instead of making assertions.

“Remember, an argument is like a house whose roof is supported by walls. In this step of Columbo, you want to find out whether the walls (the reasons or evidence) are strong enough to hold up the roof (the person’s point of view). Look, observe, reflect. Maybe your friend’s comments have tipped you off to some problem with his view. Is there a misstep, a non sequitur,14 a fallacy, or a failing of some sort? Can you challenge any underlying assumptions that might be faulty? Whatever flaw you discover, be sure to address the problem with a question, not a statement.” (Location: 1,659)

Note:This, for me, needs time. I need to listen, think, and then much later respond.

“We may spend hours helping someone carefully work through an issue without ever mentioning God, Jesus, or the Bible. This does not mean we aren’t advancing the kingdom. It is always a step in the right direction when we help others to think more carefully. If nothing else, it gives them tools to assess the bigger questions that eventually come up.” (Location: 1,679)

Note:This is loving our neighbor.

“One of the reasons this approach is so attractive is that it shows respect for the person you disagree with. First, you make an effort (with your first two Columbo questions) to understand her viewpoint. Next, you ask, “Do you mind if I ask a couple of questions about what you’ve told me?” or, “Would you consider an alternative or be willing to look at another angle if there were good reasons for it?” By soliciting permission to disagree, you make the encounter more amicable. You also stay in the driver’s seat.” (Location: 1,719)