Monday, March 26, 2007

A Global God

This past weekend I was in Boise, Idaho visiting a friend of mine who is one of the pastors at the Boise Vineyard. On Friday morning as we were walking through the office, Tri – the Pastor of the church – stopped me and asked me to step into his office. (I met Tri about 2 years ago when he led a team down to New Orleans to help with Hurricane Relief.) As I sat down on the sofa in Tri’s office he proceeded to explain to me that the guest speaker he had scheduled for the weekend was extremely sick and was unable to make the trip from Australia. He then told me that it just so happens that four different people from four different parts of the world - where the Boise Vineyard is involved in missions - were in town. He asked me, along with the others, to each talk for about 10 minutes at all three of their Sunday morning services about the things that God is doing through the church in the places where we live.

The other speakers included Savve from Fiji, Chris and Cathy from the Philippines and Shelton and Rebecca from Zimbabwe.

As part of the morning worship set we sang ‘Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble’ by Martin Smith. The bridge and chorus to the song sing:

And we can see that God you're moving
A mighty river through the nations
And young and old will turn to Jesus
Fling wide your heavenly gates
Prepare the way of the risen Lord

Open up the doors and let the music play
Let the streets resound with singing
Songs that bring your hope
Songs that bring your joy
Dancers who dance upon injustice

Following worship, one after another we stood on stage to tell about the things that God is doing in our parts of the world. It was such an amazing experience that showed just how small our world is and how big our God is.

To hear the stories of those around the world bringing heaven to their piece of the planet was an incredible picture of dancers dancing upon injustice. From the hurricane ravaged streets of New Orleans to the Zimbabwean villages that have no drinking water to the tribes in the Philippines that have no toilets, we heard story after story of the Kingdom of God coming to these places through the church. One Church. One God. Many different faces, places and cultures.

Coming on the heels of my last post, I am absolutely convinced that God is alive and well and he is concerned and connected with all of humankind. He is a global God and his Kingdom is powerfully and forcefully advancing through the love, lives and commitment of his followers.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Image is Everything

“So, God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him.”

What an extraordinary idea – the Creator of the universe choosing to create every single man; every single woman on the planet in his own image.

Once when asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus replied, “Love God with all of your heart, mind, soul and strength. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: love your neighbor as yourself.”

As I have pondered these words over and over again, I am continually intrigued with the fact that Jesus did not separate the two. The man asked, “What is the greatest commandment?” It seems to me that Jesus could have stopped after saying, “Love God with all of your heart, mind, soul and strength.” But he didn’t. He felt the need to take it to the next level. And not only did he take it to the next level, but he actually said that the second commandment was like the first.

It’s almost as if in the eyes of Jesus, you can’t have one without the other.

It’s almost as if Jesus is saying, you don’t really love God if you don’t love people.

I feel that God has really been stirring something deep within me in this area of loving others over the last year or so. I seem to be a pretty slow learner, so I can’t say that I’ve got it yet, but I do believe that I’m on my way.

For so many years I have tried so desperately to love people. I have read the words of Jesus – “love your neighbor” – and I have tried to do this very thing. At times I have been successful. At other times – I have not.

Only recently however, have I really begun to understand why Jesus tells us to love our neighbors – to love others (other than the obvious reason that God just loves people). As the great poet wrote thousands of years ago, “God created man in his own image.” We are created in the image of the Creator. The King of the universe has chosen to make us in his very own image. That means that the guy at the gas station pumping gas next to me is created in the image of the same God as I am. That means that the girl waiting on us at Houston’s restaurant is created in the image of the same God as we are. That means that the SUV driving next to you down Interstate 10 has an entire family in it who are created in the image of the same God as you are. These people are our neighbors. It’s easy to see. We live next to them. We eat next to them. We shop at the same stores as they do.

And, although this is true – it is really much larger in scope. Because it also means that the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa people who are being driven from their homes and slaughtered in Darfur are created in the image. It means that the thousands of children in Africa who are infected with the HIV/AIDS virus are created in the image. It means that those who are being sold into slavery and prostitution around this world are created in the image.

I have never really been much of a global thinker. I have always taken the mindset that I just need to focus my time, energy and attention on those who are close to me. I know that there are people all around this world going through there own trials, but honestly I never thought that it really affected me because I am so far removed.

Over the last couple of weeks however, I have been incredibly stirred by reports of slave trade, sex trafficking, the Darfur genocide, AIDS in Africa, extreme poverty and more.

I have come to the conclusion that these people and these situations should concern me, because they certainly concern God. I have come to realize that all people are created in the image of God. All people are created in the image of my God. All people are created in the image of the same God that I am created in. We live on a planet that is full of people with different color skin, different education, different language, different socio-economic status, different cultures…same image.

The one thing that the entire global village has in common is that we all bear the image of the Creator who formed us.

When there is an atrocity against any human being, it is an atrocity against all humankind. It is an atrocity against God himself. Whether a young 16 year old boy is gunned downed in the streets of hurricane ravished New Orleans or a woman is raped and beaten along the borders of the Sudan – these are sins against humankind – sins against God. As part of the global village, these acts affect me. They affect you. They affect all of humanity because we are all in this thing together.

Rob Bell* writes, “When a human being is mistreated, objectified, or neglected, when they are treated as less than human, these actions are actions against God. Because how you treat the creation reflects how you feel about the Creator.”

We belong to a community which extends far beyond state or continental lines. We belong to the global village. We are called to love. Not just those in our home or neighborhood. Not just those in our city or state. Not just those in our country. But we are called to love – all people. We are commanded by God to love our neighbors because – there is inside of every single person on this planet – an image – the image – the image of our God.

It is not until we learn to love the creation that we can truly say that we love the Creator.

*This quote was taken from the first chapter in Rob Bell’s second book, Sex God. If you have not had a chance to sit down with this book, I strongly encourage you to do so. This book certainly ranks in my top 10.