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Great idea! But there seems to be some disagreement about how...

Great idea! But there seems to be some disagreement about how to…

In Christian mission, you have three choices: you’re primarily a goer, you’re primarily a sender, or you’re primarily disobedient.

A few days ago, me old mate Eddie Arthur discussed the missionary saying which appears above in bold. Like many other “popular” missionary sayings, says Eddie:

…this is pithy, memorable and has a grain of truth in it. However, as with all of the others, I’m not entirely convinced that it is helpful.  [my italics]

He has a couple of comments to make:

Firstly, I’m not entirely convinced that guilt is a great motivation to anything in the Christian life. Saying that if you don’t do X you are being disobedient may well be true and it is certainly a classic strategy of many evangelical teachers. However, in my experience, saying this sort of thing just makes people feel bad and doesn’t do much to change behaviour. It is far better to demonstrate the joy, and privilege of being involved in mission work than it is to make them feel guilty for not being involved.

Next he takes a look at arguably one of the most abused verses in the Bible:

Secondly, the saying is all about going – something that isn’t actually central to the New Testament teaching on mission. I know that many people will want to point me to Matthew 28:19, where the text says “Go and make disciples” or something like that, depending on what translation you use.  The problem is, that in the original Greek, there is only one command in this verse and it isn’t “GO!” A better, but not very idiomatic translation would be “going, make disciples…” Essentially, the command is to make disciples wherever you are. Some people go to the far corners of the earth, others go to the office; but we are all called to make disciples.

And adds:

If you don’t believe me, read this.

I just did – and it’s a very clear discussion of why thundering the imperative “GO!” from the pulpit is not really what Jesus actually said to his disciples.

The rest of the post (and it’s well worth reading it all) discusses what Eddie thinks it really means to be a disciple of Jesus discipling others – and suggests a re-writing of the misleading bold statement above

“Serving Jesus by making disciples wherever you are is the greatest privilege you can have; you’d be daft not to do it.”

I like it!

If you are interested in helping every language group in the world get an accurate translation of Matthew 28:19 – and the rest of the Bible – check out Wycliffe Bible Translators UK & Ireland or search for the Wycliffe office where you live.

 

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Jesus had a habit of answering questions with his own rather challenging questions.

But then God has given us a lot of clues about how to live our lives in relationship with him – and in community.

In the Bible, starting with Genesis, where we find the Ten Commandments we find a good starting point…

  1. You shall have no other gods before Me.

  2. You shall make no idols.

  3. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.

  4. Keep the Sabbath day holy.

  5. Honor your father and your mother.

  6. You shall not murder.

  7. You shall not commit adultery.

  8. You shall not steal.

  9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

  10. You shall not covet.

And then throughout the rest of the Bible!

Which is why Wycliffe Bible Translators exists: to enable all peoples to engage with the Bible in a language which speaks to their heart. It’s how God shows us humans how to live in his creation.

So when the young man got up from his bench, saying goodbye to Jesus… I wonder what he did next?

 

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BBC one week Sep15 Kairos flyerI have now been a facilitator (a politically correct term for teacher) on four Kairos World Mission courses and every time I come away with the same phrase ringing through my mind – Blessed to be a blessing!

It starts in Genesis and reverberates throughout the Bible all the way to Revelation.

‘I will make you into a great nation,
    and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
    and you will be a blessing…
and all peoples on earth
    will be blessed through you.’   Genesis 12:2-3

‘After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.’   Revelation 7:9

As you can see from the image above, we have recently finished a preterm Kairos for students at Belfast Bible College. Personally I felt blessed, not just by re-visiting the mind-blowing Biblical overview of mission, but also by the super bunch of 22 students with whom we worked for five intensive days.

Here are some images from the week…

M&Ms inspired interest for Kairos Ch3

Day 4 started with prayer for Buddhists in cambodia

Day 4 started with prayer for Buddhists in Cambodia

Worshipping the everlasting God on Day 5

Worshipping the everlasting God on Day 5

On the last day, students were invited to reflect on the week with the options of writing a letter to God or making a drawing. My group shared moving and encouraging extracts from their letters while Amy produced this impressive sketch.

God's heart for the nations

Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Psalm 51v10

Amy’s message was that she was handing her heart over to God as a symbol of her desire to serve in his mission to his world. As I look at the drawing, I am forcefully reminded of God’s heart for the nations of the world that he created. Perhaps other people will identify their own layers of meaning as they apply the image to themselves. My thanks to Amy for allowing me to share this.

Finally here is the photo of my group (and me) with their Kairos certificates. Thank you to all of you. You’ll probably never know how much you encouraged me throughout the week. God bless you.

My Growth Team

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St Patrick's BreastplateA few days ago I went off on a retreat to a peaceful rural house in County Down to get my head showered (as we say in N. Ireland) and to read and write and think and pray about work and life and things in general. This booklet was on the coffee table…

Patrick more than a legend… it was written by the late Derick Bingham and was much more enlightening and uplifting – and accurate – than the stuff I blogged about earlier.

In my student days at Trinity College Dublin studying History and Politics, I had a course in medieval Irish History which included Patrick. Ever since I have been impressed and fascinated not just by Patrick’s life and mission, but by the incredible influence of the Irish Celtic Church that he founded and which became a mission movement that can still be learned from today. Celtic missionaries worked within the culture and translated the Scriptures into the local languages as they spread the Gospel throughout Ireland, Scotland, the North of England and deep into Europe ravaged in the years after the fall of Rome. And after all, wasn’t it the Irish who saved civilisation…  see Thomas Cahill “How the Irish Saved Civilisation

At the end of the booklet, Derick Bingham included St Patrick’s Breastplate.

Patrick's BreastpalteThe notes say this…

The original, though traditionally ascribed to Patrick, is thought rather to be an 8th century compilation of his Christian faith and beliefs written in the form of a Druidic incantation for preservation on a journey. It shows the power the Gospel had to spiritually transform the thinking of the Irish.

 

It is still today a wonderful meditation on the spiritual journey of the Christian life.

Unlike the very popular penultimate verse in the illustration at the top of this post – and much Facebooked and Tweeted in the past few days – I have included the fuller version below for readers to enjoy.

I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this day to me for ever.
By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;
His baptism in the Jordan river;
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spicèd tomb;
His riding up the heavenly way;
His coming at the day of doom;
*
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of the cherubim;
The sweet ‘well done’ in judgment hour,
The service of the seraphim,
Confessors’ faith, Apostles’ word,
The Patriarchs’ prayers, the Prophets’ scrolls,
All good deeds done unto the Lord,
And purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the starlit heaven,
The glorious sun’s life-giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea,
Around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward,
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours,
Against their fierce hostility,
I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan’s spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart’s idolatry,
Against the wizard’s evil craft,
Against the death wound and the burning,
The choking wave and the poisoned shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity;
By invocation of the same.
The Three in One, and One in Three,
Of Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.

Source: http://www.prayerfoundation.org/st_patricks_breastplate_prayer.htm

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MH370

Friday Night Theology from Evangelical Alliance arrives promptly in my e-mail inbox every Friday afternoon around 4pm. It is almost always well worth reading – thinking about the topic oneself or with friends. In fact, that’s the whole point of it.

So I want to share some extracts from Chas Bayfield’s thoughts with blog friends this evening…

Since the plane’s disappearance on 8 March, I have found myself becoming quietly (and slightly morbidly) obsessed with the story. But what I’ve been reading and hearing was not news, it was conjecture; assertions from anyone qualified to have an opinion which, for the record, appears to be anyone who has ever flown a plane.

Know-it-alls from the aviation world have bestowed upon us the benefits of their expertise, each one confident enough in their own speculation to have it published in an international news journal.

Add to this the plethora of opinions from bloggers, the Twitteratti, rock stars and our friends and families and you really have quite a smorgasbord of different theories. The plane was hi-jacked by pirates. The pilot was suicidal. A meteorite hit it. Aliens stole it.

In the last 24 hours, there have been enough articles on flight 370 to fill 70 pages of Google. The simple fact that a plane can disappear in this ultra modern hi-tech age has left people baffled and awed. I am encouraged that so many men and women who do not think themselves religious, still have the capacity to be ‘certain of what they do not see’.

Christians see God as an anchor; a safe mooring. Belief in God grounds us and helps us make sense of the world in which we live.

Our mandate today is to pray for the families and friends of those onboard flight MH370. But it is also is to keep God at our shoulder, in our eyeline and close to hand.

I have found the endless theorising frustrating. The dogmatism of “experts” too often self-promoting. Much media coverage intrusive and insensitive. And yet, as Chas says, wanting to know becomes almost obsessive.

I have almost wept with the relatives trying to come to terms with this terribly sad story by hoping beyond hope. I have applauded the efforts of governments and flight crews to search for the haystack and then for the needle. My prayer is the same at that expressed by Chas above: to pray for the families and friends that somehow they will experience God’s peace in closure.

Chas Bayfield is creative director at Noah advertising agency and secretary of Cricklewood Baptist Church

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Radovan Karadzic

Driving to the office this morning, I listened to a report of the opening of the Radovan Karadzic trial at The Hague. Karadzic denies 10 charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity during the war in the 1990s.

The genocide charge against him relates to the deaths of more than 7,000 Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) men and boys in Srebrenica in 1995. It was the worst atrocity in Europe since the end of World War II.

Later in the office, I read this morning’s episode of the account of Joseph’s life in Genesis 42 on SU WordLive. One of the commentaries referred to comments from the Croatian theologian Miroslav Volf’s memories of the 1990s in the Balkans.

Croatian theologian Miroslav Volf has explored deeply the theology of forgiveness and reconciliation. His book Exclusion and Embrace grew out of his own experience of the brutal wars that engulfed the Balkans after the collapse of communism. In the Introduction he writes:

‘After I finished my lecture Professor Jürgen Moltmann stood up and asked one of his typical questions, both concrete and penetrating: “But can you embrace a četnik?” It was the winter of 1993.

For months now the notorious Serbian fighters called “četnik” had been sowing desolation in my native country, herding people into concentration camps, raping women, burning down churches and destroying cities. I had just argued that we ought to embrace our enemies as God has embraced us in Christ. Can I embrace a četnik – the ultimate other, so to speak, the evil other? What would justify the embrace? Where would I draw the strength for it? What would it do to my identity as a human being and as a Croat?’

(M Volf, Exclusion and Embrace, Abingdon, 1996)

The Joseph story in Genesis is about lots of things: about how God was working through one family to prepare a people who would ultimately have the responsibility to bless the surrounding nations and point them to God; about how God was working through others including Ishmaelite slave traders and the Egyptian Pharaoh to bring his plans to fruition.

But at the personal level, God was teaching Joseph about forgiveness and reconciliation… and reading this story prompts us to consider the importance of forgiveness and reconcilation in our own lives.

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At look!2012, the Wycliffe Global Gathering last May, Christopher Wright gave three talks. (See here.) Today I was listening to one of them entitled Holistic Mission.

Whatever we might think of the term mission; however we may define the term – it is God’s mission, not ours. It’s not about Christians in need of a mission looking to develop our own strategies and ministries. Chris argues, as he does throughout his book The Mission of God, that from Genesis to Revelation, we are learning about God’s mission and that God is calling his people to be involved in his mission to his created people in his created world.

Yet so many of us continue to argue for and against our own definitions. We debate the relative merits and priorities of evangelism versus social action.

Many may think that Bible translation is firmly in the evangelism sector, but nothing could be further from the truth.  Currently I’m preparing for a seminar on 13 October at Emmanuel Church in Lurgan, entitled What’s the point of translating the Bible for hungry people?

Friend and colleague, Dave Pearson, doesn’t do Bible translation, but he is a key member of our organisation. Dave is one example that I could use in Lurgan. This is what he posted on Facebook on Friday 28 September.

Five Marks of Mission

This week I spent three days in Machakos, Kenya leading an Advocacy Workshop. 24 participants from 12 NGOs applied the principles I taught to four issues: access to education for pastoral people groups, empowering parents to advocate for quality basic education, quality vocational training and cultural practices that damage sexual and reproductive health (such as female genital mutilation and widow inheritance). It was hard work but a lot of fun. I learned a lot too.

So in which of the Five Marks of Mission is Dave’s work as a member of Wycliffe Bible Translators?

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