Friday, January 15, 2010

Burning the Right Way

Last night I received a short and sweet revelation.

As the workout run morphed into prayer walk, that numinous* communication cable inevitably reached a new signal.

You see, the past few months, I’ve been inundated with a fresh hatred of sin. Words cannot express how much I loathe moral failures, selfish endeavors, indulgences, satanic plots, etc. Not to sound as if this is a recent development, but the level of repulsion has indeed raised lately, no doubt due to an increase of awareness concerning its sly and destructible nature.

But I wonder if a righteous passion should ever be primarily rooted in hating sin, hating hate - even if that hate owns necessary property within. Should there exist a healthy unsettlement that overtakes us when disgust seems to be dominant over love? Should we live our lives with the burn set more in the direction of adoration and grace as compared to the despising of wickedness?

In other words, which should be the leader: A love for faithful righteousness, or hate of its opposition? Well, certainly the correct answer is the first option, with the latter branching off of it. Clearly finding a holy balance is key. We should always detest transgression, but we shouldn’t let a hatred of past iniquity be the driving mechanism to why we live the way we do. If we do, how are we not avoiding the rear-view mirror perspective?

We’re called to abide by grace and allow it to transcend our actions. Otherwise we run the risk of dwelling mainly on how we do not want to be. This can bear more serious consequences then we realize, such as missing out on hearing the voice of God, reaching out to another (potential self-centered struggle), or experiencing a manifestation of the Holy Spirit.

Bottom line: a seemingly appropriate odium of sin can venture the edges of shame and take pieces of our focus away from God. And shame should not be underestimated, as it joins with pride as the top two byproducts of the self-absorbed lifestyle. Please note I am not advocating taking sin lightly by any means, or suggesting we do not take seriously the call to analyze our hearts. But where lays the brunt of our burn? Where does grace fit in concerning our approach to loving the new life in Christ versus the dead version Jesus died for?

As David Nasser says in “A Call to Die”, “Our motives for obedience are clarified. Grace turns a teeth-gritting, ‘do or die’ attitude into a thankful, ‘do because He died’ gratitude. We obey out of love, not because we’re afraid” or because we’re furious with ourselves or another. We live out of love, not hate. Dealing righteously with sin in our personal lives does not mean we have to let it dictate our motions and steps.

May you realize how to prioritize love and hate in your life, keeping love as the forefront, the desktop, AND screensaver of our lives. Let the handling of sin rest in the light that God still loves us in spite of weakness. As Nasser continues, “The more we are aware of our sinfulness, the more we will be aware of God’s grace! The law was added so that the trespass (and our awareness of sin) might increase (Romans 5:20).”

~ Cameron

* In the divine sense of the word

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Vision vs. Mission

Whether within a church, business, or at the epicenter of one's personal life, understanding the difference between mission and vision is imperative. Today's Gate leader/staff retreat touched a bit on the comparison, thus signaling the research guru to come out of the shell temporarily.

Vision, in essence, is not measured by what is achieved as compared to what is eternal. V. Vision "always is." It's the happy place, a source of refuge and firm foundation. The vision should NEVER change. Contrarily, the mission is the means the vision is carried out. A mission should be allowed breathing room to transform according to newness of vision, as it certifies to what is real by God's standards. The mission WILL often change. So attempting to find permanent criteria to a mission statement could open the door to future discouragement. The reality is often times the methods of carrying out vision require tweaking or refining down the road; however, this does not translate into some form of spiritual failure necessarily.
So perhaps
the initial split-off between vision and mission is knowing what should remain the same versus what should be subject to collaboration, while understanding the mission is simply the tactical strategy in arriving at/reaching the base of vision.

A convenient place to start in discerning the dichotomy is analyzing the life of Paul the apostle. Paul's mission, as the case with any principal, pro-Jesus character in Scripture, needs to be realized apart from the broader vision. Yes, vision and mission must be seen in their interwoven relationship, but separating the entities is a crucial step in comprehending such a link.

In the book A Vision for the Church: Studies in Early Christian Ecclesiology , Markus Bockmuehl and Michael B. Thompson mention the following concerning Paul's vision:

"Paul’s vision for the communities that he wrote to can be summed up quite succinctly. He sees them as being a new creation in Christ, filled with the Spirit, possessing gifts of the Spirit and overflowing with the fruit of the Spirit, controlled above all by love; they are communities that should be pure and holy, mutually supportive and interdependent, completely united, transcending the oppositions and tensions between different groups within the community, and with every kind of barrier that would divide them in normal society broken down." (105)

Furthermore, an abbreviated version of Paul's calling can be found in Acts 9:15 when the Lord reveals the blueprints to the disciple, Ananias:

"...he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name's sake." (NKJV)

Paul's mission, at least some facets of it, can be found only a few verses later beginning in v. 20 (scattering to v. 31):

"Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God...confound[ing] the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ...[and] spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus and disputed against the Hellenists...then the churches throughout all Judea, Gallilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were mutliplied..."

Paul's story provides a clear-cut example of how mission yields to vision. Often, the Lord will grant vision while placing the ball in our court. The subsequent and proper response on the receiving end is simply aligning to His Word and call in order to see/hear clearly how the vision should be carried out. Sometimes frailty and weakness interfere initially, which might trigger a retreat down the road to "square one." The joy of the vision-mission model lies in the existence of hope in knowing the vision stays the same and never changes.

To be continued...