How About Today, eh?

Highlights from the various teams from Thursday:

Leadership: Early this morning, Palmer and the Leadership Team went to a town called Karnpleh to encourage and minister to over 50 pastors and church leaders from the surrounding villages. It was a great time of ministering to the saints and helping to equip them to stay strong and stay focused.

Dirt Bike Squad: Leaving early this morning, the DBS made it to 3 different villages today with deliveries of shoes. They came back with incredible stories of being welcomed like dignitaries. The local people would sing and dance for them, and present them with gifts of food. The DBS guide (a student from ABC) would go in to the villages and go home by home to gather everyone, and tell them what we were doing. There is also rumor of a couple spills on the bikes (one even caught on camera, but that hasn’t been released to the public yet), but everyone is just fine. This new, crazy hair-brained idea for a ministry is turning out to be Continue reading

The Calm before The Storm

Rain? Check.
Heat? Check.
Humidity? Double check.
Bugs? Check.
Potential for deadly snakes? Check.
Good food? Check.
Amazing scenery? Double check.
Smiles and laughter? Check and Check.
Incredible people with unbelievable stories? You got it.. check and check.

These are but a few of the experiences our Liberia team has engaged with these past two days while on the campus of Africa Bible College. Let me update you on what the teams have been up to: Continue reading

The Journey TO Liberia

(Edit: originally written last night, Tuesday night, but the Internet never came back to life, so I’m uploading this morning)

Well, after over 50 hours of travel (28 in the air, the rest in airports and layover cities) our team of 30 has arrived in Monrovia, Liberia. For the most part, all travel was smooth and enjoyable… Okay, at least smooth… Here’s a few highlights from our traveling escapades:

- we managed to check almost 60 pieces of luggage, all between 49.5 and 50.5 lbs. The over/under for how many would get lost was 3.5 and most people were taking the over (more on that in a bit). Sidenote: shout out to Michael Effinger for overseeing this endeavor

- on our first flight, to D.C., the flight attendant came on the loud speaker and announced, “we’d like to welcome our special guest flight attendant this morning, Mr. Dustin Nelson!” Who knew he had such skills in rolling a cart and handing out beverages??

- no matter what seat is originally assigned to Shane Jones, he never ACTUALLY ends up there. One flight saw him switch six different times before he found a seat to his liking.
Continue reading

The Gospel for all… Creation?

Recently our Life Group (Small Group, Bible Study Group, etc) wrapped up a study through the Gospel of Mark. The concluding chapter (16) is unique in that the final 9 to 11 verses (depending on translation) are debatable as to whether or not it is the original ending written by Mark. I don’t intend to try and answer whether it was actually written by Mark or by copyists in later history, but what I am struck by is the language found in verse 15.

“And He (Jesus) said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” (emphasis mine)

At first, you might just read right on by this, or right on through it, and not catch the nuance. But notice that Jesus said to “preach the gospel to all CREATION.” Not, “to all creatures,” not, “to all peoples,” rather, “to all creation.”

Curious, I pulled out my Greek New Testament and searched for which word was being translated here as “creation.” It is the Greek word ktisis, which literally translated actually is “creation, or anything that is created.” It is used elsewhere in Mark’s gospel twice, in 10:6 “from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female,” as well as 13:19 “For those days will be a time of tribulation such as has not occurred since the beginning of the creation which God created until now, and never will.”

Both other instances of ktisis imply the whole of the created order, or the sum of all creation… heavens, earth, sky, dirt, trees, animals and yes, people.

Where else does ktisis show up in the New Testament?

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen… -Romans 1:20

For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature (could also be translated, creation) rather than the Creator… -Romans 1:25

For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. -Romans 8:19-22

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old things passed away; behold new things have come. -2 Corinthians 5:17

He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. -Colossians 1:15

If indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the GOSPEL that you have heard, which was PROCLAIMED in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister. -Colossians 1:23

Ktisis (creation) can be both “that which was created by God,” as well as “that which followers of Christ become,” or rather, a new TYPE or KIND of creation.

But what is interesting to me, going back to Mark 16:15, is that Jesus instructs his followers to declare the gospel, the message of the Kingdom of God, to all “creation,” to “all of that which has been created by God and for God.” Paul himself, in Colossians 1:23, picks up this thinking when he talks about the gospel being proclaimed in all creation under heaven.

So what is Jesus wanting? Is he hoping that Peter would begin to witness to trees? Is he expecting John to start a discipleship class with squirrels? Shall Matthew convert some rocks while he’s at it?

I think this would be a very silly and shallow way to think about “proclaiming the gospel to all creation.” Rather than thinking about it in these terms, what if we took a step back and asked a bigger question, “what IS the gospel… the message of the Kingdom of God?”

If you start there, and begin to grasp a more holistic view of the gospel, then this issue of “proclaiming to all creation” actually makes a whole lot of sense. The modern/evangelical view of the gospel is fairly limited in scope, often times reduced to “getting souls in to heaven.” The “gospel” becomes only about people, and only about their fire-insurance after death. However, I believe the gospel, the good news, the Kingdom of God is much bigger and more inclusive. I believe the gospel is about the restoration and the reconciliation of ALL things.

For it pleased the Father that in Him (Jesus) all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile ALL THINGS to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of the cross. -Colossians 1:19,20 (emphasis mine)

Read again that incredible passage above from Romans 8. Creation itself is groaning, waiting, hoping to be set free. The gospel is about and for the whole world, not just the humans (and not just their souls).

Therefore, Jesus’ instruction to proclaim the gospel to all creation makes sense in this light. For when we truly live out the Kingdom of God, when we actually begin to grasp what it means to live out the gospel, we are being ourselves “new creation,” and we are bringing about the Kingdom and Will of God ON EARTH just as it is IN HEAVEN. All creation benefits when we become true followers of Jesus (or at least, it OUGHT to benefit). We are the stewards of the earth, invited to care for it and partner with it in the praise of God (read the Psalms). The proclamation of the gospel is for the good of all creation. The Way of Jesus is the best way for humans to live AND for the earth to be its fullest and truest.

Many Christians tend to shy away from things pertaining to the earth and the stewardship of it, and I find this saddening. God’s work through Jesus is to restore and renew all things, to make his final dwelling place HERE as Heaven and Earth merge. How sad for us if our gospel is only for and about getting people’s souls in to “heaven” when they die.

Let’s broaden our perspective of the gospel.

Let’s proclaim a message of hope, renewal and restoration for all things.

Let’s share the gospel for the sake of all creation.

Nine Days Away…

Nine more days until my journey to Africa begins. I am overwhelmed with details and packing lists, and assuming that we will arrive for our first concert and realize, “ah snap! We forgot __________ and now the whole show is ruined!!”

Okay, so THAT probably won’t happen… but it doesn’t mean I don’t think about it.

As our band (In Between) has been preparing for this trip, we thought it was important to articulate exactly why WE were going. We could understand big picture, why the whole team of 90+ people were travelling to Africa from our church, but on a micro-scale why is a band of musicians from church travelling halfway across the world to play music?

So after some prayer and processing, here is what we came up with… I’d love to share it with you.

_________________________

I N   B E T W E E N

The Love Liberia Project: 2thousand10

Our band, called “In Between,” is comprised of six musicians from The Grove’s worship ministry. We will be travelling to Liberia, Africa in June (along with 90 other people from our church) on a 2 week missions trip to bring pieces of Heaven to places of Hell on earth.

The following is the Mission Statement and the Goals of what In Between hopes to accomplish while there.

O u r  M i s s i o n:

Through the art of music, we go to broken places on earth and invite people to the place “in between,” where heaven and earth meet.

O u r  G o a l:

To take part in 4 city-wide events, where we will play a concert and serve in tandem with the spoken Word. Through these events, we hope to expose the Liberian people to the person and works of Jesus Christ.

W h y W e  W i l l  G o :

We, the band members of “In Between,” will go to Liberia: for the glory of God, to simply show up and love the people, and to become better followers of Jesus.

W E    G O    F O R    G O D

“God needs people to do his work,” or so says Rob Bell in Jesus Wants to Save Christians. His point, I believe, is this: While God may posses the power or ability to affect change in the world supernaturally, he chooses not to exercise that power. Instead, he is looking for faithful men and women, people with physical bodies, to be his hands and his feet.

The Way of Jesus is the best way. It is the way of love and forgiveness, not hate and bitterness. It is the way of peace and reconciliation, not war and revenge. The way of the Kingdom is what Jesus came to establish. “May your Kingdom come and your will be done on EARTH just as it is in HEAVEN.” These words that Jesus taught us to pray are not just some ideal distant hope. No, they are a reality now that we seek to bring to this world.

We go to Africa because God’s Glory will be shown through us.

We go to Africa because God needs us to go… more so, he WANTS us to go.

We go to Africa because the Name and Way of Jesus is best and only way.

W E    G O    F O R    T H E M

Liberia is in the stage of rebuilding their entire country after years of civil war. Not even a generation has passed since the war ended. War is devastating to society. It destroys people, relationships, infrastructures, systems, government. Maybe worse, though, it destroys hope.

The people in the cities we will travel to need someone to come along side them and tell them that though they felt abandoned and alone during the war, or though they may feel discouraged now as the country rebuilds, that God has always and will always love them and want them. Our smiles, our songs, inject hope and encouragement.

Music is the universal language of the soul. It has a way to cut right through the fears and worries and pierce the heart. The right song can bring healing and hope like no ordinary words can. Music stays with people, and the concerts we go to perform will stay in the minds and hearts of the Liberian people long after we leave.

We go to Africa to plant seeds of hope, love and peace.

We go to Africa because music is important and can change a person.

We go to Africa because if WE won’t, then WHO will??

W E    G O    F O R    U S

“When we go, when we give our lives away in the name and work of Jesus, then we ourselves are changed.” (Palmer Chinchen in True Religion). Something mysterious happens when the people of God leave the comfort of their homes to go to the uncomfortable and broken places. The world becomes both larger and smaller in our eyes.

Larger because we begin to see that the small corner of our world that we live in is not indicative of the world at large. There is so much more on this planet. More culture, more people, more nature and life. Also more hurt, more pain, more poverty, more war and disease. When we go, our perspective is enlarged.

Also, the world becomes smaller. In a way, we are more connected to other people than we realize. We see that they are just like us. They have the same hopes and dreams, the same fears and anxieties. They like what we like, they hate what we hate. In all, they are really not that different from ourselves.

We go to Africa because we need to deepen our perspective.

We go to Africa because it will CHANGE us, and honestly, we need CHANGED

We go to Africa so that we can become “better” followers of Christ.

So Why the name “IN BETWEEN”?

The Celtic Christians talked about “thin places,” places where the divide between Earth and heaven was thinner, places where it was easier to meet with God. (Punk Monk by Andy Freeman).

As I was thinking about a name for our band, I kept coming back to this concept of “thin places.” I think that when the people of God are living out the Kingdom of God, that in that moment, that place becomes a “thin place.” When we do things representative of God’s Kingdom, when we live out the Way of  the Christ, we engage in and interact with “thin places”, where the realities of Heaven and the realities of Earth overlap.

“In Between” is about creating those sorts of moments. It’s about ushering people into the thin places. It’s about the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. We play music to invite people to the “in between” place of God’s home and ours.