FEARLESS: A guide for small groups

By Anna Robbins

When I was with you for your assembly back in 2013, and with the pastors and spouses in Banff in 2016, I engaged with people on some of the basics of relating faith and culture in today’s world. I have given similar workshops with regularly-updated material in many places before and since, and the MacRae Centre for Christian Faith and Culture at Acadia Divinity College has decided to produce this as a six-week small group resource, complete with teaching sessions and leader’s guide with discussion questions and bible studies.

FEARLESS for Small Groups
We are so deeply committed to the contemporary church in Canada, that we want to share this educational resource with your leaders for free. We have already given out over 100 copies to pastors and churches in Atlantic Canada, and we would like to offer it free to the wider Canadian Baptist family as well.

The world is changing so rapidly; we find it difficult to understand what’s happening to our churches, or where our faith fits. We can lock the doors and hide in fear, or we can engage our mission to the world with courage! Fearless is a new resource designed for small groups to tackle what it means to live out the Christian faith in an ever-changing culture. Lively introductions by Lennett Anderson, and clear teaching by Anna Robbins, together with a leader’s study guide, will equip your group to understand the relationship between faith and culture, so that they can live courageously as Christians in the world today.

CBWC churches and leaders use the CODE: CBWC-Fearless at checkout for free access.

The six sessions include the following topics:
* What is culture?
* How do faith and culture relate?
* How does culture influence faith?
* What does it mean to be in the world and not of the world?
* How does faith influence culture?
* How do we live out Fearless faith today?

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Stop. Breathe. Think. Pray.

By Shannon Youell

My daughter gave me a lovely journal for my last birthday. I have kept journals for years, mostly for thoughts and notes as I read Scripture, am inspired by Scripture,  and am inspired by sermon ideas.

These journals are very messy and I decided I wanted this one to be beautiful, which means I have to take some more thoughtful time while furiously writing my inspirations!

So I started with a sticker:

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just breathe sticker

And then I expanded that thought:

  • Stop
  • Breathe
  • Think
  • Pray

Often, with life so full and busy (who else has come to despise that word–I wonder when humanity made busy such a virtue), I often find that I have done none of those things within the waking hours of my day. Well, of course I have breathed, but not the kind of breath that brings pause.

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Ministry work is daunting at best and often overwhelming when we attempt to use our strength by which to minister. Yet, if we follow the example of our Master, we find Jesus withdrawing to a quiet place, to stop, to breathe, to think, to pray. He comes away knowing He has heard and seen God for the next segment of His journey, of His day, of His hours. Jesus practiced sitting where His soul finds home and so must we. Five or ten minutes a few times throughout the day brings focus and refreshment. It brings clarity and resolve. It invites the Spirit an opportunity to speak and for us to actually hear.

Psalm 1 in my reading this morning speaks of the wisdom of delighting in the law of the Lord and meditating on it. I have always loved this Psalm (well, to be honest, I love most of them!), as it speaks to me of stopping. Of breathing. Of thinking. Of praying. It reminds me that doing this amazing work of God’s Kingdom is not for me to do alone, or you to do alone, but for us to do alongside the God-With-Us who is always present even in the mundane tasks and the daunting to-do lists.

The promise, of course, is that we will be well-watered, refreshed and bear fruit. I am learning (still and again) that when I take these pauses throughout my day, I actually find the work a joy even in the more difficult times, for I am letting my soul find its way home for a “nap.”

Here is how I am practicing this pause in my day’s labour right now:

Stop – Stop means to “arrest” or “suspend.” In the sense of this pause in our day, I would choose “Suspend”—suspend for 10 minutes everything that has been occupying my body, mind and soul. I find notifications distracting, so I switch them off both on my computer and my phone for that time. If you can, leave the environs of what you were doing. Take your work out of your visual field.

Breathe – Deep measured breathing oxygenates the brain, calms the busy-ness, and helps us to refocus. Sue Hunter, our lovely former Alberta Regional Administrator, taught us to breathe in through the nose and count to 4, and then breathe out of the mouth counting to 4. Then to 6 and then 10, until we had a slowed, thoughtful rhythmic breathing. Then replace counting with “speak Lord” as you breathe in and “I’m listening” as you breathe out. Practice this until you sense yourself aware and alert of God’s peace resting on you.

Think – I like shaping this around Philippians 4:8-9: thinking on what is true in my day; what is right in my day right now; what is pure and lovely in the midst of the busyness of the day. Peterson’s Message translation is helpful. “You’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.”

Pray – Philippians continues, “Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.” As we’ve spent time thinking and listening to the Spirit, pray those things back: gratitude for what has been realized and repentance for the realization our thoughts that day may have been ugly, unkind, disingenuous. Follow with thankfulness that God’s grace is rich and His goodness nurturing. Approach the next portion of your day by “putting into practice” these things and see God at work weaving you into His song.

As we move into our co-labouring of living out the Gospel of the kingdom of God, these pauses are equally as necessary as the tasks before us, the relationships we live in and bring nurture to, and the sharing of God’s Big Story. This is the soul-care of our own persons, which promises to give us resiliency and joy in joining God in His work in our world.

Happy New Year!

By Cailey Morgan

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Happy New Year!

There’s something about turning the page on a new season that opens the possibility for new hope for the future. I don’t know about you but I am so ready for an opportunity to disengage from the patterns and ruts that I’ve gotten myself into over the last year and begin afresh.

I was reminded by a colleague recently, however, that as Christians, we follow a different calendar.

New Year in December
Yes, on one level I am talking about the Liturgical Calendar, which provides a way for us to live into the story of God throughout the year. The first Sunday of Advent is the first day of the Christian or Liturgical year. Anticipation of the Incarnation becomes the starting point, not personal goals for self-betterment, or stirring up willpower to achieve a better you.

No—for God’s kids, New Year’s Day is a day to cease striving and to wait. It’s a day to put all our hope in Emmanuel who is coming to ransom us, captive in our sins and in the atmosphere of sin around us that threatens to suffocate us until the breath of the Spirit comes.

Everyday A New Day
On another level, we as Christ-followers have access to New Year’s Day every day! As Lamentations 3:22-23 says, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” We’ve all messed up, some of us deeply, in the past year, month, week. Yesterday. Today already. But for as many times as we turn away from our heavenly Father, there are two arms open wide to receive us back. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:19).

If you’re looking for a way to reconnect with the Lord in this new calendar season, try opening the Psalms each morning for the next couple of weeks, looking for times when the Psalmist uses the word “morning.” There’s a strong theme of God’s unfailing commitment to us, as well as the constantly-failing commitment of us to Him, and the opportunity—daily—to re-align ourselves to the God who has covenanted with His people, promising to never leave nor forsake us.

With-Us

By Shannon Youell

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God-With-Us.  Incarnated.  Spirit takes on flesh.  The Lord is born to earth.  Christ.

All the Christmas stories have now been re-told.  The waiting, the expectation has come.

As sure as the sun will rise in the sky each morning

As sure as the God-With-Us Son walks with us,

In the midst of human-living in dark places where grief, despair, desperation dwell

in hollowed hidden crevices,

Light has come to define these deepest sorrows to shadow

Only shadow

For on earth there is peace to all peoples

On whom God’s heart is resting.

The tender mercy of God

Filling the hungry with good things,

Lifting up the humble, the rejected, the excluded

Restoring to creation intention the God-With-Us

Glory of Created walking in the cool of the day with Creator

In Thy will on earth splendor

Christ the Savior present – With-Us – 

Guiding the weary to green pastures, quiet waters

Restoring souls, hearts, hope, joy

For on earth there is peace that God-With-us-Will-Never-Leave-Us

Alone

For darkness is but a shadow

Waiting for the light

Light of the world

With-Us.

 

Merry Christmas from CBWC Church Planting!

Celebrating the Word-made-Flesh

By Cailey Morgan

Over the past month on this blog we’ve been basking in the promises of the Old Testament prophets about our King who will come and bring justice and righteousness, this humble Ruler who will hold our hand and invite us into His mission of peace and flourishing for the world.

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As Christmas fast approaches, many of us have likely also been in the first 2 chapters of Luke’s Gospel, a story rife with exclamations of praise as the words of Old Testament prophecies transform into the living reality of Word-made-Flesh before the very eyes of everyday folks like a doubting priest and a pregnant teenager.

I hope that the songs of Elizabeth, Zechariah and Mary—and the pronouncements of the angels—well up in you a new song of worship to our King like they have done for us. Here’s my take on Luke 1 that I’ve been singing lately, and next week you’ll get to read Shannon’s poetic response to the culmination of prophecies come true in Jesus.

His mercy extends His royal hand reaches 
To perform mighty deeds 
Do not be afraid He lifts up the humble 
The Holy One has done great things 
 
My soul glorifies my spirit rejoices 
In the Lord  
In God my Saviour 
For You God nothing’s impossible 
Let it be as You have said 
 
Blessed is she who has believed 
That what the Lord has said will be 
Blessed is she who has believed 
That what the Lord has said will be accomplished 
 
He remembers our children 
He is mindful of us 

He shows mercy to our fathers 
He is mindful of us

My soul glorifies my spirit rejoices 
In the Lord
In God my Saviour 
For You God nothing’s impossible 
Let it be as You have said 

Justice: Encompassing Love

By Shannon Youell

Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations.

He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his teaching the islands will put their hope.

This is what God the Lord says—the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out, who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it:

“I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand.  I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.”

Isaiah 42:1-7

A friend of mine, a recent immigrant from Iran, was telling me recently that the Muslims do not call Allah “god” in the sense that we often do, where we use it as a name.  He said that Allah is more than a name, but is a descriptor of what Allah is:  Love. In his telling, this Love is enveloping, surrounding, all encompassing.  Interestingly, Wikipedia says that the name Allah is used both by Muslims and Arab Christians. The name is the essence of Love – Love is God’s essence.

I asked my friend’s daughter why their family had converted to Christianity when they moved to Canada. She said that in reading the teachings of Jesus she saw God’s love.

“Here is my servant,” God says to the Israelites in reference to Messiah. He will not break the bruised reed nor snuff out the smoldering wick, but rather He establishes justice on earth.

This love, this incarnational love, in the shape of Jesus, looks upon us humans as bruised reeds, beautiful-but-broken sons of the good, good Father. He still has hope for us. He takes our hand and invites us to join Him as the vessels through which His righteousness and justice is delivered.

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I am moved by the imagery of God holding my hand.  Of his all-encompassing love holding onto me in the midst of the darkness so that I join him in shining a light into the snuffed-out places in humanity’s struggles and sorrow.  As noted two weeks ago on this blog,  “often the righteousness of God in the OT refers to the faithfulness with which God acts. This faithfulness is in full accordance with his commitments to his people and with his status as divine King—to whom the powerless may look for protection, the oppressed for redress and the needy for help.”  Verse 3 in Isaiah 42 says just that, “In faithfulness, he will bring forth justice…”

This is also our expression of faithfulness to the goodness of God—that we “become the expressions of his light in the world.” We incarnate the love that is beyond descriptors, larger than any one word can hold; this love crosses languages and cultures and yes, even the misguided religiosity of others and ourselves. God incarnated translates that Love into humanity in the Messiah, Jesus.  Jesus, incarnated in us, is meant to do the same.

God holding our hand takes us somewhere. He leads, we walk alongside. He reveals, we step in and act. “I will take your hand,” He says, “to make you to be a covenant for all peoples and to make you to be a light.” God leads us to participate in His mission; God leads us by the hand to be the incarnational presence “to whom the powerless may look for protection, the oppressed for redress and the needy for help.”

It is his mission to the world He so loves and it is ours as those fully encompassed in His love.

Justice Incarnated

By Shannon Youell and Cailey Morgan

“The church exists for mission, to be a sign of God’s saving presence among God’s people. This presence is not abstract but is always concrete in a particular locality.” (Emmanuel Katongole. The Sacrifice of Africa: A Political Theology for Africa).”

In Sunday’s reflection from the Canadian Baptist Advent Reader, we find the story of Paride Taban and witness the thick gospel in action, where the church lives a life of the incarnational, of being present with God’s Presence in our world as participants in righteousness and justice that restores community relationships – humans to God and humans to one another. macu-ic-60818-unsplash.jpg

Psalm 89 tells us that the foundations of the Kingdom of God is righteousness and justice. Our foundations as God’s kids are different. The pillars of this family are righteousness and justice: primary concern for other-ishness rather than self-ishness.

And somehow in the midst of surrendering our drive for making our own lives better, we find the blessing of God which is more abundant than anything we could build for ourselves. Even beyond that, as we begin to walk in the light of the Lord’s presence (Psalm 89 again), the Lord promises to take hold of our hand, mentor us in the way of the light so that we become the expression of His light in the world (Isaiah 42:6).

Reflect upon the story of Paride Taban below, asking ourselves, how are we, the church, lean into an “ecclesiology, a vision of what the church is called to be.”

Paride Taban is a fascinating and compelling figure in the African church today.  Formerly a Sudanese bishop, he recently received the illustrious United Nations peace prize for promoting peace in South Sudan. Throughout his many years of service as the Bishop of Torit (1983-2004), Sudan was marred and afflicted by civil war. Bishop Taban found himself displaced and homeless as he worked among his people who were likewise displaced by the violence. Despite all these challenges, he remained a tireless advocate for peace. 

But when peace finally came to South Sudan, instead of seeking a position of leadership and authority, Taban retired and established a new community in Kuron called the Holy Spirit Peace Village. He dreamed of a community where tribal rivalries could be set aside so that peace, cooperation and mutual respect might be the rule. He relocated to Kuron and lived in a tent as he began to share his vision and invite people of good will to join him. Families from several different tribal groups and faiths have chosen to live in this community. It has become a model of what is possible. 

In commenting on the Holy Spirit Peace Village, the theologian Emmanuel Katongole wrote “What Taban is driving at—or better, what is driving Taban—is ecclesiology, a vision of what the church is called to be. That is why relocation is not simply about a change in geography or location but a theological category, an essential ecclesiological mark – indeed, the very mission of the church. The church exists for mission, to be a sign of God’s saving presence among God’s people. This presence is not abstract but is always concrete in a particular locality.” (Emmanuel Katongole. The Sacrifice of Africa: A Political Theology for Africa). 

As we reflect on the incarnation at Christmas, it is a time to consider God’s missional calling on the church to be an incarnational people, to set aside our status and privileges in order to live out a vision of the Kingdom which brings peace, reconciliation and hope. Whether you live in South Sudan or Southern Ontario, we are called to have the same mindset as Christ, who emptied himself for others. 

Jonathan Mills 
Immanuel Baptist Church, Toronto 

This Advent season, and always, let’s remember that righteousness and justice are the foundation of God’s throne love, that love and faithfulness go before Him. And, as we will discuss more next week, let’s surrender to Him and become the ones about whom the Psalmist says, “Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, Lord” (Psalm 89:15).

Visit baptist.ca/advent to read more reflections from the Canadian Baptist family.

Justice: Restoring Community Relationships

By Shannon Youell

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

This familiar verse from Jesus’ Big Sermon in Matthew 6 finds itself right after Jesus has broken down and reconstructed some preconceived thinking about kingdom, justice, righteousness and mercy.  After He helps reframe the hearers’ understanding of these things within God’s kingdom vision, He tells them not to worry about their life (worry causes humans to become self-preservationist, self-focused, self-ish), for God is already quite aware of human needs. Jesus’ reframing language leads to this phrase inverse 33 and implies a promise from Isaiah 9 of the coming King who will be called wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace and will reign as Messiah, establishing God’s kingdom with justice and righteousness.

The Hebrew word for “justice” is tsedaqah, which means “the kind of justice that delivers from slavery and oppression and restores community relationships.”

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Justice is most often paired with righteousness in the Old Testament. The Hebrew word for “righteousness” is misphat and means “the deliverance of justice that restores community relationships.”  The text note in Psalm 4:1 of the NIV says this: “often the righteousness of God in the OT refers to the faithfulness with which God acts. This faithfulness is in full accordance with his commitments to his people and with his status as divine King—to whom the powerless may look for protection, the oppressed for redress and the needy for help.”

The combination of justice and righteousness is a strong thread that winds through the story of God and his people. It is a foundational ethos of God’s kingdom citizens and ushers in the Abrahamic covenant and Jesus’ reiterated call to his followers. Therefore, justice and righteousness are aspects of the Gospel, the Good News that Jesus as Lord and Savior delivers to us and enlists us to, for the sake of the world that God so loves.

Matthew 6:33 reminds us that our struggles with individualism, consumerism, and materialism are, as the Justice Primer highlights, “all barriers to the kingdom; thus, all barriers to justice.”i These things keep our hearts paralyzed from participating fully in our call as followers of Jesus to be deliverers of the kind of justice and righteousness that restores community relationships: human to God and human to one another.

When we do justice, our hearts are aligned with the truth of the Gospel—which is that Christ died to make things right, to make them as they should be. Restored.  When we act, participating in God’s restorational justice, we begin to realize that this Gospel is bigger than any weekend service project.  We intuitively begin to move from a ministry of relief to a ministry of restoration, from a “service project” to a new way of living, from the heart of mercy to desire for true justice…Mercy offers compassion and relief.  Justice offers an advocate and action.ii

Tim Keller has written that “The Gospel…is not just about individual happiness and fulfillment. It is not just a wonderful plan for ‘my life’ but a wonderful plan for the world. It is about the coming of God’s kingdom to renew everything. Gospel-centered churches do not only urge individuals to be converted, but also to seek peace and justice in our cities and in our world.”iii

What does this search for justice look like for us, as we enter into this season of Advent that is abundantly marked with “goodwill towards all peoples?” Often this is the time of year where we engage in mercy-motivated projects. We think of children and families and those who are homeless or lonely. We long to see them enjoy the good things the celebration of the season espouses. My work at our local food bank often highlights for me how good and generous we are towards those who struggle. Sadly, it also highlights that goodwill often ends with the taking down of the decorations.

God calls us to reorient our lives around mercy and justice, around being healers of the world. This is not a project, but—as the Primer continually points out—a transformed heart that desires good news to be good news both now and into eternity for humanity. Jesus describes His followers as the “light of the world,” those who participate in acts of righteousness that deliver the kind of justice that reveals our Go: our God who loves the world He created so much He gave His son Jesus to usher in His kingdom where peace and justice prevail.

Hatmaker notes in Justice Primer:

  • True mercy changes judgment to humility
  • True mercy changes sympathy to action
  • True mercy changes our kingdom to God’s Kingdom
  • True mercy changes selfishness to selflessness
  • True mercy changes doubt to faithiv

As we engage our neighbourhoods and our communities this Advent season, may we be ever mindful of the thick Gospel that Jesus as Lord teaches. We ourselves discover our lives in Christ when we lay them down for the least of these.

May we discover together that when we give more to those who have need than we give to ourselves, not only for a season, but as a lifestyle, we engage more fully with a Gospel that changes not only those to whom we proclaim and demonstrate God’s goodness and mercy, but ourselves as well. May we be transformed to love God and love others more robustly and generously.

PS: There are plenty of great Advent resources for personal and corporate devotion out there. Check out our tribe’s Advent Devotional here, or sign up for daily readings from waiting in the margins: an advent reader from our friends at New Leaf Network.


 

i. Brandon Hatmaker, The Justice Primer (Missio Publishing: 2016): 83.

ii. Ibid: 75.

iii. Ibid: 42.

iv. Ibid: 58.

Living Like Citizens

By Cailey Morgan

What does it mean to live as citizens of God’s Kingdom?

We’re in the middle of a series on Gospel, Kingdom and Justice. In some ways, Gospel is the biggest picture—the story of God with us throughout history and the reality that He is for all who will receive Him. Kingdom zooms in a little to explain that God is King, so living out the Gospel (aka, living in His presence with Him) means we are citizens of His Kingdom: the realm in which what God wants done gets done.

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In coming articles we will dive into Justice—an even sharper focus on one of the key ways that the Good News of the Kingdom is enacted on earth and in heaven. But today, let’s look at one of the ways the Tangible Kingdom Primer describes God’s Kingdom on earth:

“We believe that whenever you see a group of people who find a rhythm or balance among communion, community and mission, you will always find the Kingdom. It will be tangible!”i

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Communion represents ‘oneness’—those things that make up our intimate connection and worship of God. Community represents aspects of ‘togetherness’—those things we share with each other as we live our lives together. And mission represents ‘otherness’—the aspects of our life together that focus on people outside our community.”ii

I can quickly give mental assent to this description of the Kingdom. It’s chock-full of missional-incarnational-community language that I’ve been steeped in as an apprentice of Cam Roxburgh over the years. But a life of communion, community and mission—living as a citizen of King Jesus’ realm—is not just a proposition I give a nod to, or a neat box for explaining a spiritual truth.

Choosing citizenship means action. It means intentionally striding toward the narrow gate (Matthew 7:13-14). And it means shedding all other attachments and allegiances in order to squeeze through that hole in the wall.

The authors of the TK Primer explain it this way:

“Nothing good ever comes easy. For sure, nothing of God’s Kingdom comes without resistance from our personal kingdoms or the world’s kingdom. Nothing of the Spirit of God comes without a good ol’ fashioned bar fight from our flesh….

God’s ways are natural, but they aren’t easy—especially at first. New ways of life must be formed in us through hours, days, and years of intentional practice. The future of your own faith and the incarnational presence of your community is ultimately about letting the Spirit of God re-orient everything about you.”iii

A Picture of Citizenship
This citizenship process is difficult, but not impossible. In Acts 2, we get a clear and beautiful glimpse of what happens when God’s people surrender to His Spirit and His Kingdom way; the Good News that God offers Himself to all is proven when He empowers those who say yes to respond by offering their all.

 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved (Acts 2:37-47).

The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Wow. Yes please, Lord! So how does the Kingdom advance in this passage? Notice what begins to happen when hearers of the Good News let the Gospel take over in their own lives. It infiltrates every area of their devotion and action, and soon other people start to notice. And then those other people begin to surrender their all to living in the Good News of the Kingdom and the Spirit-led cycle continues.

Peter shows us the need for clear preaching and admonition, but this movement exploded because people believed what he said about Jesus with not only their minds, but their hearts and voices and wallets and calendars and homes and refrigerators. That’s evangelism.

Devoted. Everyday. Everyone. Everything.
I’ve read and prayed through this passage so many times over the years because it’s this type of abundant life that I covet for my family and my church and my neighbourhood. But when I opened again to Acts 2 the other day, God’s Spirit nudged me to consider whether I myself am living as a devoted citizen of God’s Kingdom. The conversation went like this:

Spirit: “All the believers were together.”

Cailey: “You mean, like, in the-same-place-spending-time-together type of together? Or emotionally together—like a shared purpose?”

Spirit: “All the believers were together. Every day they continued to meet together.”

Cailey: “I can dig it! With a few people. I’m kind of introverted, as you obviously know.”

Spirit: “All the believers were together.”

Cailey: “Like, the ones I get along with?”

Spirit: “Nope. All.”

Cailey: “How about the ones I know I can trust?”

Spirit: “Nope. All. Trust Me.”

Cailey: “How about the ones who have the same core value statements?”

Spirit:  “They had everything in common.”

Cailey: “You mean like they lent each other their stuff?”

Spirit: “Yes. And they shared their pain. And their joy. And their love for the place where I planted them. That’s why they sold property to give to anyone as they had need.”

Cailey: “As in, when they could afford it they gave offerings to support people who were trying to get back on their feet.”

Spirit: “No. I mean they sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.”

Cailey: “What if they don’t deserve it?”

Spirit: “What do you deserve?”

Cailey: “Touché, Lord. But what if they misuse the gift?”

Spirit: “If you’re asking that question, it wasn’t a gift.”

Cailey: “I don’t think I can do this.”

Spirit: “That’s why you have them! And Me!”

The Gospel news of God’s presence, His reign, and His constant, all-out search has been the reality since the beginning of time and is the reality today. Yes, one day we will have fully-realized heavenly life when the darkness of sin and separation from God no longer seeks to block out the warmth and light of Christ and the radiance of His Bride (us living together in the unity of the Spirit). But the Kingdom is already among us, as Jesus declared and His people have been declaring for twenty centuries.

When we—the citizens of that Kingdom—submit ourselves to the reign of the King, aligning our will with His, our very lives will point to this Good News, and our “evangelistic” declaration of truth will no longer be a hollow and awkward statement of beliefs, but a simple and natural explanation of why and how our lives are marked with contagious and brilliant Light. Sounds like good news to me!

Next week, we’ll jump into Advent by taking a look at some of the Old Testament promises and prophecies about Jesus, and the strong thread of a Kingdom of Justice that winds its way throughout history and Jesus’ teachings while He was here on earth.


i. Hugh Halter and Matt Smay, The Tangible Kingdom Primer: An Eight-Week Guide to Incarnational Community (CRM Empowering Leaders: 2009): 202.

ii. Graphic and quote from Hugh Halter and Matt Smay, The Tangible Kingdom Primer: An Eight-Week Guide to Incarnational Community (CRM Empowering Leaders: 2009): 201

iii. Ibid: viii.

A Story of Faithful Presence and Hot Chocolate

At Banff Pastors Conference last week, Aaron Hansen, Pastor of Mission, Outreach and Youth at First Baptist Church in Cranbrook, BC, shared this story with us about how FBC Cranbrook has been “stumbling” towards becoming a faithful presence in their community.

Do you have a story from your neighbourhood? We’d love to hear it and share it as we strive to, like iron sharpening iron, encourage and inspire one another towards following Jesus into the homes and hearts of our neighbours.

Halloween Hospitality
By Aaron Hansen

A number of years ago, as a church we decided that “Acting on what God is calling us to do or be within our neighbourhoods” was going to be one of our guiding statements. So, since that time, and likely before it too, we have slowly… clumsily… accidentally been taking steps in this direction towards engaging our neighbourhoods. Our latest step was to think about how to care for our neighbours during what can be a long, cold evening in our area: Halloween.

Our Children and Families Pastor, Natasha, brought forward a bunch of different ideas that we could try as a church, and one of them was Halloween Hot Spots. The idea was simple: offer trick-or-treaters and their parents hot chocolate to warm up with. So this year we tried it!

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We had about eight different stations in neighbourhoods around our city. Hosts set up tables outside their home and welcomed all who came by a chance to be warmed. They got to meet their neighbours and all who participated reported how much fun they had doing this simple act.

There were no reports of mass conversions, just the continued conversion of regular Christ followers to the message of loving their neighbour as themselves. These hosts are now challenged to continue to pray for the people who live around them and to be a faithful presence in that community.

What’s next for your congregation or small group as you look for ways God is at work in your neighbours and seek to participate? Perhaps a Cranbrook-esque “Holiday Cheer Drop-In” or a wider invitation to your New Years Eve party will be the spark that ignites friendships and care among your neighbours?