Tag Archives: mission

Two Prayers for America

America is not a chosen nation, but she has many chosen people praying and living with integrity that have helped her be a blessing to the world. Our story also includes horrific compromise of our highest ideals, especially our treatment of the indigenous peoples and African Americans. We can love our land and lament our sins. We can improve our nation without destroying her ideals. And prayer must be underneath the laments and longings for justice.

Prayer is God’s invitation to participate in his divine mission to reconcile and redeem, renew and restore all things. Our almighty, sovereign Lord has decided that our humble petitions, compassionate intercessions, and persevering supplications matter in fulfilling his will on earth as it is in heaven.

Here are two short prayers for our nation. There is no pretense here that just the right words will somehow manipulate God – that would be pagan superstition. Instead, our prayers, in alignment with Holy Scripture and empowered by the Holy Spirit, become a force for good in a world enmeshed in evil. In these days of pandemic and polarization, political passions and personal animosities, humble prayer may make the difference between mercy and judgment for our land.

Prayer for Peace of Mind and Divine Presence in Our Land

O God, you are transcendent and immanent. You are totally other; totally different from us. But you are also Immanuel, God with us. You were delighted to dwell among us in the person of your Son, Jesus Christ. What grace! You are the God who comes close. Lord, come close to our national leaders. Come close to the justices that sit on the Supreme Court. Come close to those in the Senate and in the House of Representatives. Come close to our local leaders – our police departments, mayors, and governors. Come close, dear Master, to those in laboratories that are feverishly developing a vaccine for this virus. Come close, Dear God, to peaceful protestors, the abused, the hungry, the bewildered, the outraged, the motherless, the fatherless, the dying, the mourning, the widow, the disabled, the oppressed, and the immigrant. Lord, come close to us, in cul-de-sacs, hamlets, towns, rural areas, cities, and suburbs.  Come close, dear Lord, to those who are easing back into the workplace with trepidation. Omnipresent Lord, please share your closeness with all of us, everyone on the face of this globe. In Jesus’ majestic and mighty name, Amen.

Prayer for Humility and Wisdom

O Lord, you are infinite and intimate, and the Source of all that is good. You promised wisdom for the humble who seek you and search for truth. You promised wisdom as we pray and trust you. Your wisdom is pure, peaceable, and leads to peacemaking and righteousness. Lord, we need your wisdom as we confront the injustices all around us and the unrighteousness in our own hearts. We need wisdom to lament and repent well. We need your wisdom to cultivate new relationships across all the barriers in our world. We need wisdom to reform social structures that keep millions from flourishing. We need wisdom for our businesses, churches, families, communities, cities, and nation. We humbly plead that you will grant wisdom. We also accept your wisdom from the mouths of the marginalized and oppressed, the voices of history, and the prophets calling us to holiness. And we thank you in advance for your generosity toward us, even when it means surgery in our souls. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Americans, indigenous , African Americans, justice, Holy Spirit, mission, nation, prayer, Senate, House of Representatives, virus, police, wisdom

Are We in the End times?

In recent weeks, several friends and leaders have asked about the current circumstances and their relationship to biblical prophecy and the “end times.” Space does not permit analysis of all the perspectives, books and videos, and many voices vying for attention. I have prayerfully distilled some insights that I hope will be helpful. I am synthesizing biblical, historical, and contemporary voices:

  • We have been in the “final hour” since the Resurrection of Jesus and the outpouring of the Spirit. There have been many antichrist figures and movements and many amazing awakenings and missionary advances. Such will be the case until the Lord returns in glory. We will see great apostasies and great awakenings, global advances of the church and tragic unfaithfulness from many.
  • The natural disasters and supernatural warfare are all previews or precursors of the final Day of the Lord. Other generations of believers have suffered greatly and advanced the kingdom under severe persecution and economic challenge. America is not the center of biblical attention – we are one of the “distant lands” and must humbly accept that we are both blessed and subject to divine judgment.
  • God has called us to occupy well until Jesus comes. The Lord wants us alert and prayerful, on duty for him…as we do our everyday assignments on the frontlines of mission. Our daily work – home or office, field or factory, labor or leadership, paid or unpaid – is not merely a means to an end…it is part of the divine economy and providential provision for our community as well as our families. “Watch and pray” is a clarion call to intercession and discernment.
  • We must be ready at any moment to give an account to God (Luke 12). Rather than speculate or live selfishly, our Lord has called us as exiles to live faithfully as missionary believers and communities, seeking the good of our communities and nations (Jer. 29). We may feel alienated or marginalized, but we have great power through humility and loving service.
  • We are not to run to our bunkers or head to the hills, but be salt and light (Matthew 5), and shining stars in a wicked world (Philippians 2). We are the mustard seed and the yeast in Jesus’ parables of the kingdom (Matthew 13), influencing all facets of our world for the God’s glory and the good of others.
  • It is not wrong to wonder if we are very close to Christ’s Return – we are!  It is the next great event in God’s restoration calendar. We should have a sense of anticipation – and plant trees for our grandchildren. We should be urgent about sharing our faith – and earn the right to be heard by how we live.

Jesus saves the whole person – body, soul, and spirit. Jesus is also redeeming all of creation and every community. There will be continuity between our current work for him and our future work in the new heavens and new earth (Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright and Randy Alcorn’s 700-page work on heaven give solid insights here). We can reject apathy and triumphalism, keep fear away and allow faith to inform our vision invite others to the Gospel journey of faithfulness.

Advent and Work: Insights from the Nativity for Pastors

Jews and Christians celebrate the good works of the Creator, from the macro- and microcosmos to the intricacies of the human person being shaped in their mother’s womb (Psalms 19 and139). Ancient Israel was encouraged to remember the works of the Lord (Isaiah 40-43) and Christians are focused the central work of Jesus: his death on the Cross and victorious resurrection (I Corinthians 15). 

The Advent story reveals three further attributes of God’s work that can help us in ours. The first is God’s motivation for the Incarnation: love. This agape disposition of desiring the highest good for others and sacrificially laboring for their welfare is the foundation for all of God’s works (John 3:16). As we go to work, do we love our colleagues and customers, even the nasty ones? God does. Do we offer our labor as worship, or merely getting by until the weekend (Colossians 3:17-24)?

The second attribute is humility. As Pastor Justin Buzzard has said in a recent article at Made to Flourish (www.madetoflourish.org/resources), humility is the one thing God honors. In contrast, pride brings divine resistance! As we go about our work, are we celebrating others, helping advance the mission apart from our position, and seeking god’s glory and the good of others? Humility is not self-hatred; it is sober reflection on ourselves and warm affection for others (Romans 12:3-8).

God’s Advent work teaches us another lesson for our daily duties: The Lord loves using all kinds of beautiful and broken people to accomplish his work in the world. Matthew and Luke’s Nativity narratives display humble women, poor shepherds, aged prayer warriors, and an overwhelmed couple willing to accept the Lord’s word in the midst of familial and social misunderstanding (Matthew 1-2; Luke 1-2). Can we see past status and learn from anyone, even helping others realize their potential at our expense?

Love, humility, and a willingness to learn from anyone will help our daily work be infused with adventure and meaning, even as we wrestle with boredom, repletion, imperfect systems, and selfish people. God is the First Worker (Genesis 1-2; Psalm 33) and he models actions and attitudes worthy of our aspirations. Practically, we can live these principles as we pray for others, model good teamwork, and encourage all around us. 

Discovering Personal Vocation

Every person is more than their current job description or social role. God’s gifts and grace allows a new sociology as we discover deeper purpose than mere survival.

Being alive to God, emotionally healthy and enjoying healthy relationships are foundational to our sense of purpose and doing good work in the world.

Vocation in history and 21st century expression

The term “vocation” comes from the Latin, “vocare” – to call or receive a call. For almost two millennia in Christian-influenced communities and cultures, vocation referred to a religious calling: a monastic order, missionary work or parish labor. During the medieval era, vocation expanded beyond the clerical and embraced medicine (the doctor), the law (the attorney) and teaching (the professor/teacher). Other occupations were respected, but not given the same status.

The Reformation rekindled the priesthood of all believers (Exodus 19 and I Peter 2) and started honoring everyday work as a calling from God. Martin Luther’s delightful observation that Christian shoemaking is not about adding crosses to shoes but making good shoes was a breakthrough for workers in all classes. In most gospel-centered communities we are seeing better elevation and empowerment of all believers, without despising the important callings of those set apart by Christ to nourish the Body and make him known locally and globally (Ephesians 4).

Toward Clarity: Understanding Our Vocation(s)

With this context in mind, let’s define vocation and occupation – each in one sentence.

Vocation(s): General and specific callings from God that edify the Body, enhance the world and transcend current occupational assignments.

Occupation(s): Everyday labor for the glory of God and good of others that expresses our vocation(s) while not itself being the full expression of our callings.

A key text for integration: Colossians 3:17-24: Whatever our current role in the family or society, let’s do all for the glory of God as a servant of Christ.

All believers have three or four vocations – callings from God that supersede job descriptions, class, gender, race or national identity.

The first and greatest vocation is God’s calling to enter a relationship with the Triune Lord through Jesus Christ. This is the “general calling” to repentance and faith (Acts 2-3, Romans 10) unto salvation, with Spirit-infused faith, hope and love engendering security about identity and destiny (Romans 5-8). Obedience to this vocation begins with the Great Commandment of Jesus to love God with all our being and love our neighbors unselfishly as ourselves (Matthew 22, John 13-17). This vocation – our “first love” (Revelation 2) – is also demonstrated in obedience to the Great Commission as God’s people share their faith across the street and around the world (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8).

The second vocation consists of discovering and doing the “good works” designed by Jesus Christ for each believer (Ephesians 2:8-10; 3:3-10; 4:1-16). These works include our daily tasks but are more than job assignments. These works include discovering and expressing our gifts (Romans 12; I Corinthians 12-14; Ephesians 4; I Timothy 2) and wisely investing the resources our Lord has entrusted to us (Matthew 25). Some of these good works are found within Christian gatherings. Others are expressed in and through the public and private work done all day. Here is where integration of vocation and occupation occur. I may be called as an elder and teacher in my church. My daily job as a customer service manager will allow me to use my vocational gifts for the business while not allowing the business to define my life. Conversely, I am no less as elder, pastor, apostle or prophet if I sustain myself and my family with daily labor outside the largesse of the church!

A third area of vocation: God calls his people to specific domains that are part of God’s providential ordering of society, from labor to leadership, intellectual and cultural domains and all sorts of jobs. We should never rain on the parade of a believer excited about any kind of daily work! What we can do is expand their sense of calling while affirming the goodness of their daily work. People may discover this calling accidentally or deliberately learn about their field(s) of impact for God’s kingdom.

Quoting Christian thinker Francis Schaeffer, when we see God’s activity in all of life, there are “no little people” – only particular assignments. For example, there are people gifted with concrete artisan abilities and others with abstract intellectual gifts…and many with various combinations of desires and abilities. Shaping personal and family mission around God-given capacities (which can grow) and dreams makes life richer and more adaptable.

An aside: While awaiting the fullness of one’s calling or dream job, it is vital that women and men wake up each day and offer their work as worship. We are all more than our job title, but we never outgrow daily labor and serving people with excellence and integrity.

The fourth vocation is for married couples: God’s calling here includes covenant fidelity, shared mission and, if so blessed, the nurture of the next natural generation in the ways of God. Single women and men have advantages and challenges in their estate (I Corinthians 7) and married spouses must sacrifice for each other’s good (Ephesians 5:22-33). The biological family designed by the Creator is the norm for most. Today, this norm is now questioned, rejected and scorned by many, regardless of countless studies as well as biblical affirmation. For believers, marriage and family constitute a true vocation.

In sum, believers have four vocations or callings, even as (demonstrated below) they work at many occupations:

  • Called to Christ and his kingdom and mission – making disciples
  • Called to specific good works designed by God for the church and society
  • Called to specific domains of influence for God’s glory and the good of the world
  • If married, called to family fidelity; and if with children, called to nurture the next generation

The above order is not placing work over family or ministry over care for spouse or children – it is movement from general/universal vocations to more particular ones. These are not a list of priorities, but facets of a beautiful life God has designed.

Next week we will connect this detailed understanding of calling/vocation to our everyday work – and discover great peace!

Certain Predictions for 2015

As 2014 ends and 2015 begins, prognosticators are hard at work, offering their insights on everything from fashion to global politics, cultural mores to economic opportunities.

If history is any guide, predicting the future is an uncertain science at best, though trend analysis and evaluation of the past can help us anticipate what may happen. The divine gift of freewill coupled with our global connectedness keeps certainly out of reach.

With these qualifiers, including my non-omniscience (a fancy way of saying only God knows everything and I am not God.), I do offer the following as “certain” predictions for 2015. They are general enough to keep me from being stoned and sufficiently specific so that future assessment is possible.

Here are my certain predictions for 2015:

  • Millions will come to faith in Jesus Christ and thousands of new Christian churches of all traditions will be planted – most in the Global South.
  • Almost under the radar, the Christian churches will grow in the West and the USA through compassionate, insightful outreach, church planting and revitalization and the awareness among thoughtful people that science and technology will not usher in Utopia.
  • Political and social leaders will continue to struggle to find consensus on shared principles and vision for America’s future.
  • The new Discipleship Dynamics Assessment from The Assemblies of God Theological Seminary at Evangel University will help thousands of individuals and hundreds of communities celebrate progress in their relationship with Christ.
  •  The Acton Institute’s new video series, “For the Life of the World; Letters to Exiles” will grow in fluency as thousands catch a new vision of human flourishing.
  • Hollywood will continue its march toward mediocrity.
  • The Oikonomia and Made to Flourish Networks will increase in influence as seminary leaders and pastors help their students and parishioners grasp 24/7 whole-life discipleship that integrates faith, work and economics.
  • Missio Alliance’s evangelical and egalitarian vision will inspire creative missional enterprises among diverse Christian communities.
  • The Institute and its sister organization REP will equip hundreds more for business-as-mission and the transformation of all spheres of society.
  • Messenger Fellowship will advance a mission of Kingdom vision and the ways of God as many more leaders learn to think kingdom before institution and mission before preservation of tradition.
  • Jihadi Islam will find resistance from two camps. The first will appeal to base passions of nation and race. These will gain momentary influence, but do not offer compelling principles for peace. the second will be diverse people of all faiths choosing resistance to evil and active peacemaking, calling on Muslims to accept philosophical and religious plurality as part of a free society.
  • Israel will resist all unilateral attempts by the EU, UN, USA and others to shrink her borders without the guarantee by a new Palestinian State of full diplomatic recognition as a Jewish nation.
  • Their will be new voices attempting to restore civility to public discourse and offer solutions instead of slogans.
  • New African-American voices will be heard, offering an alternative to the Jessie Jackson-Al Sharpton narratives and shakedowns. Hopefully they will be heard for their substance and not labeled/libeled for being different. By today’s standards, MLK was not “truly Black” with his appeals to Christian principles, non-violence and the Declaration of Independence and US Constitution!
  • China and Russia will continue their militant ways, trying to intimidate smaller neighbors and blackmails nations dependent upon their resources and wealth.
  • Republicans in the US Congress will have to choose between capitulation to totalitarianism from the White House and serious confrontation with policies detrimental to America’s future.
  • And in the midst of all this, Dr. Charlie and Kathy Self will continue to love God and each other and serve productively with our callings and gifts. All of this is possible because of God’s grace and the prayers and support of so many friends!

A very Happy 2015 to all!