Part II – Our God is a Missionary God

Have you ever wondered why our savior is a Jewish man from Nazareth?

In Peru, I sometimes get the question: “What religion are you?” And while the person asking the question is usually just wondering if I’m a Catholic or a Christian, I answer: “I follow a man from Nazareth who was killed 2000 years ago and who I believe was raised to life.” That usually raises some eyebrows. It also gives me a chance to have a more meaningful conversation.

In the beginning God created the universe and wanted to fill it with God’s presence. God decided to share that mission with humanity, so God gave humans the capacity to reflect God into the world. Seeing a world full of people who did not know God, God chose the family of Abraham and Sarah to bring the blessing of God’s presence to all the families of the earth.

In Jesus, God doubles down on the bet to redeem the earth through the family of Abraham and Sarah.

In the most startling missionary move of all time, God joins the story in a new, unexpected way. Heaven and earth meet as God becomes human and lives with messy, broken people. Jesus of Nazareth travels from town to town broadcasting the good news that God is now in charge. God’s reign breaking into darkness and death means salvation, reconciliation and life.

Jesus, in startling continuity with God’s mission from the very beginning, confronts the power of death, destruction, shame and accusation. And by lovingly accepting evil’s very worst, defeats death. The resurrection marks the beginning of the new world as God had always intended. In Jesus, God redeems the mission to bless all the families of the earth, taking the worlds’ sins on himself and bringing reconciliation to all things, enabling love, hope and healing.

Fast-forward to the end of the story. Finally: people from every nation, tribe, family and language worshiping God. They experience the fullness of God’s presence in a new heaven and new earth, where there is no more chaos. God will actually live in this New Creation with humanity, and there won’t be any more death, mourning, crying or pain. New Creation is full of people who would know and love God, reflecting the image of the Creator.

Mission. Accomplished.

Now, back to our chapter of the story.

Brokenness still dominates. Despair oozes. Death looms. The world’s wrongs have not yet been made right.  What Jesus began hasn’t been finished. The mission to reconcile the ends of the earth continues.

Through whom does the mission continue? Someway, somehow: through Jesus’s followers.

Wait a second.

That’s us.

Because of Jesus, reconciliation overcomes brokenness. Hope overtakes despair. Wrongs are righted. And it’s the church that carries on the mission. Christians are to be conduits of God’s presence. Jesus is still the one sustaining everything, and it’s still God’s mission, but Spirit-led people are called to live out the New Creation in the midst of an old one.

Will you join me?

Jeremy Daggett

P.S. – This Sunday’s sermon in the second half of a story I started two weeks ago. If you want to catch up, you can watch here.

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Wherever I stay, wherever I go

Because of my faith in Jesus, I find great fulfillment when my daily life brings glory to God. When I was a nurse at Arkansas Children’s hospital, I thrived on a day of work when, by the grace of God, I was able to move beyond my selfish desires in order to show the light and love of Jesus to my patients, their families, and my co-workers. I would arrive home energized and made stronger by my God-given purpose.

Looking back on those years of my life there were also times when I found myself looking to the future when I should have been focusing on the present. There were seasons of life that were so caught up in imagining a more fulfilling future nursing career (where I could “serve God better”) that I neglected to fully love those I was there to serve at that moment.

Now, as a foreign missionary, I find myself looking back at my career as a nurse and regretting those lost opportunities to show light and love to those around me at the hospital. At times, I even feel like I could “serve God better” as a nurse at ACH than I can here in Angola. I can see once again that I only thrive and find fulfilment when I am able to move beyond my selfish desires in order to bring glory to God.

So, as I sit in the passenger seat of our pick-up on the roads of Angola with my laptop typing and reflecting, God reveals truth to me through his word. Whether I stay as Timothy did or I follow a call to another place like Paul (1 Timothy 1:3), I have a daily responsibility to advance God’s work by faith (1 Timothy 1:4). By faith I must allow God to overcome my weaknesses so that my daily life brings Glory to God wherever I stay and wherever I go.

Teague Meyer

Starting Where You Are!

The sermon this past Sunday was entitled “Start Where You Are;” the preaching passage came from I Timothy 1:3-7 where the apostle Paul admonishes his young son in the gospel Timothy to make full proof of his ministry!

Paul understood that the young preacher, Timothy, had a tall order in front of him. He was being asked to go in as a young man and teach, instruct & organize the church. This would be a tall order for any man, but especially difficult for a young man who would be teaching some who were definitely older if not wiser than himself.

Yet, Paul tells Timothy to simply be himself, have faith in God and to do the things that he knows are right and true. You know, that’s pretty good advice for any of us. The danger is often seen when we look at the task in front of us and feel overwhelmed and inadequate. The thing that we should be looking at is the ‘Opportunity’ that we have before us to use what we have for God. Before you know it God will open even more doors of opportunity for us to use our unique ability to make a difference for good!

The temptation is often to think that one day, somewhere, somehow you’re going to do this great & wonderful thing for the Lord! However, the sad truth is that too many times we let multiple opportunities slip by while waiting for that ‘one day’ to arrive. I want to challenge you instead to start where you are by sharing your faith with family & friends you interact with day by day. Before you know it you’ll find yourself encouraged and motivated to reach out into greater areas of work and service for the Lord.

Someone once joked, “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer of course – “one bite at a time!” The same is true for growing God’s Kingdom; we must simply start where we are by building relationships and sharing our faith, ‘One person at a time!’

John P.

Not Just

Leon brought us a great message on mission in this past Sunday’s lesson “Start Where You Are”. If you didn’t get a chance to be with us, you can view the lesson on Facebook or on the Central website. Sunday, we were once again reminded of the charge we have been given to be lights where we’ve been lit, and to shine the light wherever we go, or “as we go” as Leon likes to say.

Too many times, we as Christians are subject to the dangers of diminishing our calling to serve where we are.

I read an article several years back called, “The One Word Leaders Should Stop Using”. The article was referring to the dangerous word “JUST”. Now there are harmless versions of this word such as, “He is a good and just man”, or even “I just left the supermarket and I’m on my way.” The “just” we’re talking about might be used to say, “He’s just a member” or “She’s just here to help.”

The word “just” used in these ways acts as a detractor, a diminisher, a place-holding word that we say without thinking, but communicate something dangerous.

Leon mentioned in his sermon that often we might see mission as a way of serving God overseas, or if I were only the type of person that could go to this place or that place instead of “JUST” being here…in Arkansas…in Little Rock. Perhaps we think we’d be able to be more effective if we were a full-time missionary or a minister instead of “JUST” a teacher, or a salesman, or a stay-at-home parent.

Even subconsciously, we minimize our worth and value as Christians by playing down the role we play where we are, with the people we are with, in the community we are in. One could even say that such a devaluing of one’s potential communicates a lack of faith in how God is working in our lives.

I listened to Tammy Beck stand in front of the congregation asking for servants for this week’s Trunk-Or-Treat. There may be some in our number who might say, “That’s just a kid thing”, or perhaps “I just hand out hot dogs”. Can you hear it?

I guarantee that the Becks don’t consider this “just a kid thing”, because they’ve made lasting relationships with families that they met by handing out Halloween candy. And I’m glad that we have people like Toni Spears who don’t consider her role “just handing out hot dogs”. Instead, these people and many others are tapping into the ministry of service, and take on the opportunity to serve each and every person at each and every opportunity, and do so joyfully, lovingly…no just about it.

Join with me and let’s try and take this word out of our vocabulary. Look at the life you’re living and see what opportunities God has put in your path to serve others, and then let us serve joyfully with love and compassion where we are.

Chad Tappe

Stay Where You Are

This month we’ve been talking about our work in spreading the good news of Jesus to people everywhere. It is pretty common for us to speak of a person we support to preach and teach in some other part of the world as a missionary, which simply means one who is on a mission. It is great to think of the Meyers in Angola, the Daggetts in Peru, the Hines at UALR or Kyndra Thomas at Rivercity church as missionaries, but it is only a small part of a very big picture. Every Christian is on a mission for God and is therefore a missionary to their world, their family, friends, neighbors or fellow workers. Many times those whom we support financially and who work at the mission fulltime are more focused on their mission than others. But it is a huge mistake to limit the concept of being a missionary to those who are fulltime, financially supported workers.

When Paul wrote the letter we know as I Timothy it was both very personal and a blueprint for him to fulfill the mission he had been sent to fulfill. Timothy had traveled with Paul all over the place for years. But now, Paul has sent him on a mission to Ephesus where the church has been in existence for years and the elders of the congregation are older in the faith than Timothy. But the church had problems and needed him to help them solve them. You get the feeling that Timothy wasn’t thrilled to be there. He may have felt overwhelmed with the job. He definitely was struggling with some health issues that Paul will talk about in the book. It may well be that he was really longing to be with Paul and was facing the reality that his mentor was nearing the last days of his life on this earth since it wouldn’t be long before he appeared again before Nero to be tried. Whatever the reasons, Paul’s plea to him was to “Stay in Ephesus.”

Being God’s missionary isn’t always about going to some far away place or even some place that isn’t that far away. Quite often God’s call to us is to stay where you are and use the opportunities He opens to us where we are. Too often we are like the apostles who were with Jesus outside the Samaritan town of Sychar where Jesus had met a woman at the well who had a terrible background but to whom he gave an amazing present and future. As Jewish men they didn’t like the idea of spending time in Samaria. They were ready to hurriedly eat their food and get on the road back to Jewish territory. Against that background Jesus said, “Quit saying there are yet four months until harvest comes. Lift up your eyes and look on the fields for they are white already for the harvest.” The opportunity for a great mission effort was right in front of them. But they were so consumed with the plan to get to the next place they couldn’t see the door God was opening right where they were. How many times in our own lives are we thinking of what we could do for God in reaching someone if we were just in some other place or the people were just different from what they are.

God certainly calls some to go to other places to share the good news of Jesus with others. But He NEVER calls us to overlook the opportunities right in front of us while we are thinking of what we will do somewhere else at some other time. I often hear people talk about God calling them to go somewhere in some very different part of the world. But I seldom hear anyone talk about knowing God is calling them to stay where they are and reach out to the people they already know. Yet, that is the call God gives to most of us. Remember the demon-possessed man called Legion out of whom Jesus cast a multitude of evil spirits. He wanted to go with Jesus when he left that region. But Jesus said, that he couldn’t go with him but to go back home to his own people and tell them what great things God had done for him. Listen carefully at God’s call for you. If it is to go to some other country or different part of the world then certainly prepare to go. But don’t miss the call of God that says, “Stay where you are.” That call may be to work with people you know or can meet today that need Jesus and you are the one God calls to share that gospel story with them now. By the way, God’s call to another place is never such that we become so sold on there that we do nothing to share the message of Jesus with the people we see every day here and now.

I hope you can be here this Sunday as we focus on the mission to STAY WHERE YOU ARE.

Leon Barnes

My place in God’s story:

Where do I see my place in God’s story?

It all depends on how important I think God sees me in his story – it depends on what role I think he has assigned me in his story.

If I only see myself as an audience member watching other people who are God’s chosen leaders, voices or actors, then my place is just to watch and maybe applaud or perhaps offer critique or criticism of what’s going on.

But if I see myself as a part of the story in which God is acting in and through my life, I’m not a passive observer, watching others do “the important stuff”.

Jeremy’s message yesterday launched out of Habakuk 2:14 and reminded us of the role that we all play – to make great the name of the Lord among the nations, over all the earth.
It’s so easy for me to look at the stories of people in the scriptures and forget that they were just people like us, like me – and God called them to join him.

We know their names because they stepped out in faith to join with God in what he was doing. They could have gone on their way and kept doing life as normal, but they decided to join God’s story.

And because they joined God’s story, they were a part of the chain of people and stories that brought the message of God to you and me.

That’s an amazing thought – because others stepped into God’s story long ago, you and I know God’s story today.

It’s a powerful reminder to me that my role isn’t just to observe or critique. My role is to step out in faith and trust that as I follow him, he will use my faithfulness and my story so that others will know Him as well.

And stepping out in faith doesn’t always mean “big things”. It means being faithful to the Lord, to my family, to love people at work and in my neighborhood.

It means all the little things I do in faith so that others will see his image in my life, so that seeds might be planted that might grow into faith in the lives of others.

Lord, remind me to day that I can choose to partner with you today and that through your leadership in my life and in the lives of others who trust you, your name will fill all the earth.

Wade Poe

Good News is Never Old News

The bad news is that this post is late. But the good news is that Leon preached the Word of God 8 days ago on Sunday morning, and that Word from God applies just as much this week as it did last week! We STILL live in a world that desperately needs Good News, and we can NEVER STOP thinking about ways to share the hope we have, this Good News about redemption (being bought back from our slavery to sin) and restoration (that God is making all things new)!

I have been trying to apply the sermon’s truth to the young people I minister to on a daily basis. The question I believe we all have to answer is this: “How can I present the Gospel in a way that my friends, family, coworkers, or acquaintances will be likely to receive it?”
It almost seems like I’m planning some kind of deception, like I’m crushing up medicine in ice cream to get my child (or dog) to take it. But I am convinced that it’s a question I have to keep asking, looking to the Holy Spirit for answers.

In preparation to teach math, for example, people spend years learning techniques and creating lesson plans that will best relay the dreaded math principles in a way that math’s TRUTH and VALUE can be understood. Why shouldn’t I apply the same dedication and strategy to the truly invaluable message of the Good News?
With that in mind, I’d like to relay a conversation I could see myself having with a student at UALR.

My goal in this conversation would be to point out the need for the Good News about the salvation Jesus brings to someone who: (1) Doesn’t seem scared in the least by the prospect of hell (2) Believes this world lacks justice and (3) Is far from optimistic about the America they will live in after the 2016 election. Here goes:
Me: How’s your week going?

Student: It’s alright I guess. Pretty stressful. Work and class stink, and I’m not too hopeful about my future after watching last night’s debate.
Me: Well I can definitely understand the pain of class on top of work, but why would this election make you feel hopeless?

Student: Haven’t you been watching?
Me: Sure. But fortunately for me, my hope isn’t in the success of this country. I believe in a God who promised that he is making all things new, and I still trust that promise.

Student: Well he’d better hurry.
Me: He’s already started! There’s always hope because of what Jesus did on this earth. No matter who is president, I have a mission to be a part of: one that began all the way back with a promise God made to Abram. God promised to bless ALL nations through his people, and because of Jesus I’m part of that people called to share God’s blessings! And no president can change that.

Morgan Hines

Our God is a Missionary God

Where does “the mission” in the Bible begin?

Does it begin in Matthew 28, when Jesus commissions his followers to “go into all the world and make disciples…”? If so, what’s the point of Genesis, Exodus, and (God help us!) Leviticus?!?

No, the mission begins on the first page of the Bible, when God—the main character of this whole shebang—creates the heavens and the earth.

Have you ever asked yourself: Why did God up and decide to create the earth? Did God need to for some reason?

The Bible tells the story of a God who will stop at nothing until the whole earth is full of the blessing of God’s presence. God creates the universe, and then God creates humanity as God’s representatives—in God’s image—and says: “Go, fill the earth, take care of it.” From the beginning, God intends humans to be ambassadors of God’s love, blessing, and presence. And God won’t stop until the whole earth is full of people recognizing they are God’s image-bearers and are reflecting God into the world.

Habakkuk, a spokesperson for God many centuries ago, put it this way:

The whole earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of Yahweh, as the waters cover the sea.

It’s the story of Yahweh, a missionary God. That’s the story we’ll walk through together on Sunday morning.

Do you have a favorite passage that gets to the heart of God’s obsession with blessing the whole earth? Share it in the comments below!

By the way, Katie, Adileen, and I are so excited to be with you the next three Sundays. Let’s grab a cup of coffee (will there be anything good, Spencer?) and swap stories about how God is at work in the world. See you Sunday!

Jeremy

The World Desperately Needs the Good News

A couple weeks ago, a friend asked us if we would be willing to listen to a sales pitch for new windows for our house. Just for listening, we were told, we would receive a $100 gift card to a local store. Well, that was easy! Of course we would give up a few minutes of our time to help out our friend AND get a gift card. We ended up buying those windows – not a purchase we had planned to make, but a good one nonetheless – and now, we’re telling everyone we see about these great windows. We’re asking people to listen to the sales pitch because it is a win-win situation – I mean you get a $100 gift card for Pete’s sake!
If we go to a restaurant we like, we’re telling everyone about it – we want others to enjoy it as much as we did. If we get great service somewhere, we shout it from the rooftops because we want to help them get more business because of their good work. If I read a great book, I want everyone else to read it too.

So wait, why am I not that way about the gospel? Why am I not telling everyone who will listen the amazing story of God’s love for us? Why am I not telling everybody to read the most amazing book ever written?

These are the questions I have been asking myself since the sermon at Central on Sunday. I’m not really sure of all the answers – I feel sure that it is more complex than just one simple answer – but here are some possibilities I’ve considered.

• Do I not really get how great the news is? Like with telling people about a good restaurant, am I just not sure it’s good enough to recommend?

• Do I not see the pay-off? Like with the windows, do I not think it’s worth their time?

• Do I not believe in the everyday value of living with and for Jesus? Like with telling about great service, do I not think people will get what they’ve “paid” for?

I don’t think so. The news is beyond great. God has made a way for us to live here on this earth while being a part of His kingdom—a kingdom that is full of His good and perfect gifts, where the blessings are pressed down and running over, where we don’t have to worry because He holds us in His almighty hands—that’s great news!

And the payoff—it’s well worth shouting about. Luke 18:29-30 says, “Truly I tell you, no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.”

And the everyday value of living life with Jesus? It’s beyond comparing. Spending life with the One who created us, knows us better than we know ourselves, and loves us more than we can even imagine sounds perfect, almost too good to be true.

So what then? Why am I not making lists in my head of who I can share this good news with next and when? I think the sad but very real truth for me is that I’ve forgotten how hard and sad and hopeless it would be to live without my precious Father walking next to me. I assume that everyone who claims to know Him really doesn’t need or want a reintroduction. But the biggest truth is that I’m comfortable in this phase of life, in a way that makes it seem as if it will go on forever, which removes any sense of urgency to making sure that everyone I come in contact with knows that there is another phase of life that requires that I know Jesus while in this one.

Tammy Beck

Do Right

First of all, I still marvel at the strength and fortitude shown by Leon Barnes to address our family after such a distressing and painful week. It’s obvious to me that it’s not because he has to or is made to, but because he wants to, he feels compelled to. In our discussions recently on sharing the gospel, I’m reminded how transformative the good news is and how NOT sharing the love of God should hurt us more than getting up the nerve to share it. What are we waiting for?

Yesterday’s message doubled down on this idea as well. Leon’s words on righteousness stuck with me yesterday. Or rather, we might say that Scripture speaks very strongly about UN-righteousness, which Leon described as not simply the acts of doing wrong, but also the vacancy of doing right.

History is a powerful teacher, and certainly over the years our churches have historically taught long on the sins of mankind, the wages of sin, and what actions make up a sinful lifestyle. It’s possible that this emphasis may have even distracted us from seeing that our call to righteousness is actually asking for much more than simply removing the undesired actions from our lives.

James 4:17 “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”

As Paul suggests in Romans, James recognizes that “sin” or unrighteousness may not only comprise of those unwanted behaviors but also the lack of good coming from each person’s heart.

Our LifeStage groups discussed the core value of “Disciple” this week, and I think the words of Jesus echo what being a disciple means. He doesn’t say, “you will be known by the good face you put on when you gather together.” He doesn’t say, “you will be known as my disciples by how many sins you DON’T commit or the wrongs you don’t do.” He doesn’t say that disciples will be known for who they DON’T associate with or for what activities they DON’T partake in. Jesus, for whom each of us follows, says, “for they will know that you are my disciples by how you LOVE ONE ANOTHER.”

There is an assumption then addressed by Jesus here in John 13 and it is similar to that of Paul in Romans 1 and Romans 7 and then by James in James 4. The assumption is that you are in the wrong if you are not doing right by one another. Jesus wants his followers to be distinguished by their LOVE, by doing RIGHT, by being made RIGHTEOUS.

None of us are perfect. We all have things that we have had to remove from our lives or things that still weigh us down from being able to realize the fullness of the life God calls us to. And it’s that life, that ABUNDANT, FULL LIFE which is what we are called to live, a life where (as disciples of Jesus) we are known by our LOVE.

• Who is someone in your life whom you need to bless instead of doing nothing?

• Are you showing love to others in a way that people KNOW you are a disciple of Jesus?

• What is one good thing that you’ve felt like you should be doing that you could start doing this week?

Chad Tappe