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A ROAD MAP FOR THE JOURNEY
For from Him and through Him and to Him are
all things. To Him be the glory forever, amen.
The tropical sun beat down on my van as my wife and I wound through the dusty roads of East Java, Indonesia. For an hour I had looked for a village on the unmarked road. Finally I stopped and asked a man where the village was.
He replied, "Kesana," which, loosely translated, means "that-away." He pointed down the road with his thumb in the polite Javanese manner. I followed up with questions about how far it was, how I would know where to turn, and how I would know when I got to my destination.
After reiterating, "Kesana," several times, he said, "I'll show you," and hopped in the car. I protested that he would be stranded several miles from where he was going. He insisted that he could get back. Now it was easy. All I had to do was to turn when he told me and stop when we arrived. I had asked for a road map, but instead, I got a personal guide!
When you ask God for a road map for your life, He replies, "I am the way. I will personally lead you. Follow Me, obey My commands, and I will get you to the destination." On the way you discover that you may not get to the destination you first had in mind, but you will get to His destination for your life—a much better arrival point than you had planned.
That's what it means to be on mission with God. You let Him be your guide and direct you becauseyou believe that He has a purpose for your life. That purpose is not just for your own personal benefit but for His purpose and His mission.
As you look at the diagram on page 19, you see that you experience God as you obey Him and join Him on mission. This diagram answers the question, What is the mission of God? God's mission is that the "earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea" (Hab. 2:14). As you read this book, think of God's mission as what He does—His purpose. Think of God's glory as who He is—His presence. Put them together in your personal experience, and you will be living God's purpose for His glory.
God does not merely sit on a throne in heaven. He is always at His work everywhere to fulfill His purpose. Jesus said, "My Father is still working, and I also am working" (John 5:17). This book is about God's mission. God is moving to accomplish His mission that all peoples will know His glory (Hab. 2:14, Phil. 2:10-11, Eph. 1:9-12, 1 Cor. 15:24-28). As you join Him on mission, you experience God and the glory of His presence.
Make no mistake, there is a difference between mission and missions. By mission, I mean the total redemptive purpose of God to establish His kingdom. Missions, on the other hand, is the activity of God's people—the church—to proclaim and to demonstrate the kingdom of God cross-culturally to the world.
This book focuses on God's mission rather than on our missions. God isn't interested in merely giving you a missions experience but in your being on mission with Him. This book does not attempt to call you to be a missionary. Our desire is to help you understand the heart of God and His mission.
God reveals Himself to you so you can adjust your life to Him and join Him on His mission. Where He takes you is His doing, not ours. He wants to reveal His glory to a waiting world through you. He can do that anywhere He chooses when you allow Him to manifest Himself through you. As you experience God on mission, you do not choose your experiences, your assignment, or your location. He does. Your ultimate goal is to allow God to reveal Himself to you and then through you to others.
When I was looking for the East Java village where I planned to share the gospel, I was on mission with God. My family and I were the only missionaries living among eight to nine million people. I thought I would be on mission there for years, but God had other plans. Within months He directed us to Central Java to teach in a seminary, where I eventually became president as part of God's purpose for me in His mission.
Being on mission is not a profession, a vocation, or a location. I was nineteen when I committed my life to be on mission with God. I have since worked in a variety of professions—laborer in a milling company, salesperson, volunteer director of a rescue mission, pastor, missionary, professor, author, director of adult discipleship for my denomination, and currently, overseas vice president of my denomination's International Mission Board leading our more-than five thousand missionaries. When was I most on mission with God? Actually, in every case. No doubt, I followed closer and obeyed God more at some times than others, but still I was on mission with God all the time.
Henry Blackaby, my coauthor, had a similar experience, as you will learn later. However, Henry and his wife, Marilynn, committed themselves to be missionaries, only to be turned down because of their son's health. They ended up back in Canada, Henry's birthplace. Henry was pastor of a small church there. During that time Marilynn experienced difficulty in understanding what being on mission with God meant. Marilynn recalls, "Henry traveled a lot; I was at home with our four boys. I remember asking myself after a long day of washing dishes, cooking meals, and running after kids: Is this being a missionary? Later, as I was vacuuming, God answered my question: 'Yes, Marilynn, it is. This is your mission field.' And with that realization my daily work took on a different meaning because I knew without a doubt that it was what God had given me to do."
Our hope is that this book will bring you face-to-face with God and what it means to glorify Him by being on mission with Him before a watching world.
The Bible is a book about God. Why then is 60 percent of its stories about people? Because God has chosen to reveal Himself through people. The Bible includes stories of people who interacted with God and His mission, either for good or bad. God included only the stories that reveal Himself and His ways as He interacted with them. God reveals Himself in the Bible as He interacts with people so that you can know Him and join Him on mission.
God also knows that we learn best through stories of real people who experience real problems in a tough world. The Bible pulls no punches—it tells about the warts, sins, and failures of its heroes along with their victories.
You experience God as you meet Him and interact with Him in real life. You do not have to base your experiences on capricious circumstances or emotional highs. Base them on the eternal truths of God revealed in the Bible. God reveals Himself, His purpose, and His ways through the lives of the people He has included in the Holy Book. You can depend on God's revelation to you through the Bible.
Let me ask you another question: Since God reveals Himself and His truth through people in the Bible, if you understood what God revealed through the seven most significant characters of the Bible, would you have a standard for understanding God's mission? We believe you would.
When God is about to do something, He takes the initiative and comes to one or more of His servants. He lets them know what He is about to do. He invites them to adjust their lives to Him, so He can accomplish His mission through them. Since we can't examine the lives of everyone in the Bible, we will look in depth at the lives of the seven most significant people in the Bible—Abraham, Moses, David, Jesus, Peter, Paul, and John—to see how God used their lives to shape His redemptive mission to all peoples. You might want to include others as we do, but we choose these when limited to seven. Each moved and reflected God's kingdom purpose in his day. They joined God on mission, and through them the Holy Spirit helps us understand what God is doing today.
When I think of a bird's-eye view of the whole Bible and its most significant persons, I think of a trip my wife and I took to Nepal to visit missionaries who were experiencing a tremendous response to the gospel. I had always wanted to see the Himalayan mountain range at the "top of the world" that extends in a massive arc for about fifteen hundred miles and includes more than thirty peaks rising to heights greater than twenty-four thousand feet. We took a small plane and saw a panorama of eight of the world's ten highest peaks, including Mount Everest, the world's highest peak at 29,023 feet! Mount Everest is awesome! When I compare this mountain range to the main characters of the Bible, I see Jesus as the highest peak. But ascending toward Him from either side are other peaks that point to His grandeur—men and women of the Bible through whom God revealed Himself and His mission. In addition to studying Jesus' life, we will examine three persons from the Old Testament and three from the New Testament, each of whom points to Christ.
Each year Time magazine designates a Man or Woman of the Year. In the year 2000 Time gave a Person of the Century award. That person was Albert Einstein. But Time also gave a Person of the Century award to one person in each of the preceding nine centuries: Thomas Edison, nineteenth century; Thomas Jefferson, eighteenth; Sir Isaac Newton, seventeenth; Queen Elizabeth I, sixteenth; Johannes Gutenberg, fifteenth; Giotto, the Italian painter, fourteenth; Genghis Khan, thirteenth; the warrior Saladin, twelfth; and William the Conqueror, eleventh.
Time said these were the greatest nine men and one woman of the last thousand years—the most famous people of the last millennium. Many other people have lived and died in the last thousand years, but I would put the seven characters in this book ahead of any of them. Through them God revealed His eternal mission. Just think how many lives these persons have influenced! After this I will refer to them as the Seven—your mentors on mission with God.
If you have other characters you would like to learn about, you may use the pattern we will show you to study how God works with people. Our thesis is this: If you know what God has revealed through these seven biblical characters, you will understand God's heart and mission. Look what God revealed through the Seven:
Through Abraham God revealed Himself as the Lord, the Almighty Provider who wants to bless all the peoples of the world through His people.
Through Moses God revealed Himself as the I AM THAT I AM whose plan is to show His glory to the world through His people who are to be a kingdom of priests to all peoples.
Through David God revealed that his seed would rule all nations and His kingdom would be for all peoples.
Through Jesus God revealed His love and His purpose to reconcile the world to Himself and to send His disciples as ministers of reconciliation to all peoples.
Through Peter God demonstrated how the Holy Spirit would empower His people to be His witnesses to all peoples.
Through Paul God revealed the mystery of the ages that He includes all peoples in His redemption and sends missionaries to all nations, tribes, tongues, and peoples.
Through John God revealed that all nations, tribes, tongues, and peoples will worship and glorify Him forever in heaven.
As you look at God's mission through the eyes of His servants, be assured that it is God who is on mission. It is His mission, not ours. But He has determined to accomplish His mission through His people. He is actively working to involve His people with all the peoples of the world so they may know Him and worship Him. God's mission will be accomplished when Christ delivers the kingdom to the Father. Meanwhile, He gives us the opportunity to be on mission with Him so He can exalt the Son and draw all peoples to worship Him.
We will look at each of our seven mentors from four different perspectives. In each case you will be able to evaluate your own life from each of these same perspectives:
The Close-up Perspective. In the first perspective we will examine each character's initial personal experiences with God using the Seven Realities of Experiencing God represented by the top of one peak in a mountain range.
The Wide-Angle Perspective. Next we will back up so you can view the entire mountain which represents the character's lifetime of experiences with God and note the Seven Spiritual Markers that God uses with His people.
The 180-Degree Extra Wide-Angle Perspective. Come on up higher and get an extra wide-angle view of how this character will influence the people of God to be on mission with God.
The 360-Degree Eternal Perspective. The fourth perspective gives us an eternal view of how God sees His mission being revealed through this character from eternity.
Now let us introduce to you what we mean by each of these perspectives so you can anticipate how they will be experienced by the Seven and by you as God carries out His mission through each of us.
THE CLOSE-UP PERSPECTIVE OF
EXPERIENCING GOD PERSONALLY
All through the Bible God reveals Himself to you so you can know Him personally. If you've studied Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God, you already know the Seven Realities in the diagram on page 9.
You may have wondered if the Seven Realities in Experiencing God are eternal truths that apply to all people—or apply just to Moses. In this book you will see how God uses these same Seven Realities to reveal His glory in the lives of the Seven. And you will see how these Seven Realities also apply to your own life.
As we begin our journey on mission with God, let's review the Seven Realities taught in Experiencing God. God is at work all the time, and He initiates a personal, loving relationship with you and invites you to join Him in His work. As God speaks to you, you experience a crisis of belief that calls for major adjustments in your life so you can relate to Him and His mission. As you make the adjustments and obey Him, He moves you into the middle of His activity. You then are a part of God's mission.
God took the initiative with the Seven featured in this book. They did not come to God saying, "What great thing can I do for you?" Instead, God came to them and told them what He was about to do and invited them to be a part of it.
God encountered each one and told him what his role would be. God promised Abraham that he would begin a race of people who would bless alt peoples. This same pattern is true for the other characters. God told Moses that he was to deliver His people from slavery and guide them to the promised land. God introduced David to the idea of a kingdom that would have no end. God told Peter that He would empower His people to witness to all peoples. Likewise God led Paul to break out of Judaism and take the gospel to all peoples. God showed John that He wants representatives of all peoples someday to worship Him. In each case God's activity was not the person's agenda. God revealed what He was doing and invited the person to join Him.
You may have thought you were saved just to go to heaven when you die, but God says, "I saved you to be on mission with Me to redeem a broken world. I'm bringing you back to My original mission, where you will participate in My purpose of redeeming and reconciling a lost world to Me." As you follow Christ, the Master sets the direction and tells you where He is and where He is going. Where the Master is, the servant must be. The servant responds—not initiates.
As we were taping the videos that accompany the interactive edition of this book, Henry spontaneously said: "When I was a nine-year-old boy, I had an encounter with God that was unique to a nine-year-old in which He convinced me beyond a question that He was God and I was not. That encounter changed the rest of my life. I never enter into His presence without that awareness. He is God and I am not. So He has access to my life. I don't tell Him what I want to do for Him. When God places me somewhere, it never crosses my mind to question. Or when a circumstance comes to my life, I recognize that He is God and I am not. I don't demand why. I just say, 'If you want to tell me, you will. You are God, and I am not.' After that encounter, everything in my life was changed, and I have never gotten over it."
Heeding God's invitation and responding positively will require major adjustments on your part. When God is about to redeem the world, what should you be doing? Can you imagine what the Seven would say if you could eavesdrop on them at the Starburst Coffee Shop on the corner of Praise Avenue and Hallelujah Boulevard up in heaven talking about the major adjustments they were asked to make back on earth? It might go something like this:
Abraham: My family and I were happy living in Ur of the Chaldees. I didn't ask God to send me to another country. He encountered me and told me this was what I was to do to reveal His glory to all the peoples of the earth. Can you imagine how I had to explain that to Sarah?
Moses: I was content to be living in the desert far away from my troubles in Egypt. I didn't go looking for that burning bush and the glory of God's presence. I certainly did not want to go back to Egypt for any sort of showdown with Pharaoh. God had to do a job on me to get me to join Him.
David: I was the baby in my family. Nobody ever took me that seriously until Samuel came to our home one day. I would have loved to spend my days tending sheep, playing my harp, and writing songs. I could never have imagined what God was going to do in and through my life.
Jesus: I had to leave my throne in heaven and empty Myself when My Father said I needed to give Myself to demonstrate His glory and to redeem all peoples. It would have been easier to stay there permanently. But I knew that the cross was ordained for Me before the foundation of the world.
Peter: I had a lot of trouble learning to be on mission with God. How could God use a brash fisherman like me to impact the world? Even self-confidence got in my way. I later learned that it was only with God's strength that I could really do anything. But when I finally caught on, God was able to do far more through me than I could have imagined.
Paul: I thought I was on mission with God on the road to Damascus trying to stamp out the spreading Christian wildfire when You, Jesus, encountered me and showed me Your glory. You turned me around, and the rest of my life was a whale of an adventure as I discovered what it really means to be on mission with God.
John: My mother wanted the best for me and for my brother James. And she taught us to strive for the best, also. What Jesus taught me was—he who is the greatest among you must be the servant of all. I would never have written the script for my life that He wrote, but I realize now He really did know best.
When God encounters you, He wants one thing—for you to join Him on His mission. God is not some genie in a bottle to grant your every wish and desire. He doesn't enter your life to pamper you or indulge you. He comes to involve you in the greatest adventure of life—experiencing His glory as you accompany Him on His mission. By joining Him on His mission, you will experience God and be forever changed in the process. You are not just a channel through which God does something, but you are a transformed part of His eternal purpose to make you and all peoples of the world like His Son for His glory.
Now let's review how God reveals Himself and His glory from the three other perspectives.
THE WIDE-ANGLE PERSPECTIVE OF YOUR
After you have examined a character from the close-up initial experience with God, then we need to step back and see how the Seven and your life look to God from a lifetime perspective. With this Wide-Angle Perspective we'll use the mountain-range analogy to see the whole mountain of your life, not just a single experience. Most of the time we are so involved in what is happening at the peak of our experiences with God that we have only fleeting thoughts about the impact of our whole lives on others. I have noticed that when people talk about persons who have impacted their lives, they talk more about the life message of the person even though they illustrate it with specific experiences.
Being on mission with God means experiencing God all your life! When you someday step back and look at your life as you complete it on earth, you will find it fascinating to see what God was doing with you throughout your lifetime. The Lord wants to show you more of His purpose—not just for today but for all of your life.
Looking at the Spiritual Markers in your life can help you see the direction God is pointing your life. A Spiritual Marker is a time when you knew that you experienced God and did His will. When I asked T. W. Hunt, a spiritual giant, to move to LifeWay Christian Resources and lead in prayer ministries, he had a difficult time leaving the seminary where he had taught for twenty-four years. I knew he was about to visit Vancouver, B.C., where Henry Blackaby was serving. "Henry has helped a lot of people know God's will," I told him. "Why don't you talk to him?" He did. Henry told him to look at his Spiritual Markers—times when he was sure that God had spoken. Then see if these Spiritual Markers lined up to point to a decision in this matter. Even though it was a radical vocational change for T. W., the Spiritual Markers did line up, and for many years he served powerfully in that role at LifeWay as a prayer leader for his denomination and many others.
I want to introduce to you Seven Spiritual Markers that all people experience if they follow thorough on God's initiatives. The diagram below pictures these. The Seven Realities that you studied earlier in this chapter may be repeated over and over during each of these Seven Spiritual Markers as you have a continuing relationship with God.
Spiritual Marker #1: God chooses you to involve you in His mission to reconcile the world to Himself. When you read the Scriptures about God choosing the Seven, would you say God's choices were accidental, coincidental, or providential? Every time you see God's choice in the Bible, you become aware that it is providential and relates to what He wants to do through that person.
Spiritual Marker #2: God calls you to Himself so you can be on mission with Him. What do we mean when we say a person is called? To many modern Christians, called means that one is to enter a Christian vocation. To God, called means your life in Christ is your vocation no matter what you do to earn a living (Luke 9:23; Eph. 4:1). At salvation God calls you to a relationship with Him; He also calls you to service; and He calls you to fulfill His mission for your life.
Spiritual Marker #3: God initiates a covenant of promise and obedience with you in order to accomplish His mission. God makes covenants with those He calls. God initiates a covenant of promise, obedience, and blessing with you. In this book you'll discover that God made covenants with all of the Seven. He made promises to them dependent on their obedience. Look at the equation below. If you leave out one of the components, what happens?
COVENANT = PROMISE + OBEDIENCE = BLESSING!
All parts of the equation must be in balance for the covenant to work. God writes all covenants. They are not negotiating sessions. You can't bargain with Him and fulfill His mission. He wrote the covenant and asks you to agree to it. God's covenants are permanent—for His glory and your good and the good of all peoples.
Excerpted from On Mission with God by Henry T. Blackaby Avery T. Willis, Jr.. Copyright © 2002 by Henry T. Blackaby and Avery Willis Jr.. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
|1.||A Road Map for the Journey||1|
|2.||Abraham on Mission with God--A Blessing for All Peoples||25|
|3.||Moses on Mission with God--A People Responsible for All Peoples||59|
|4.||David on Mission with God--Establishing a Kingdom Without End||93|
|5.||Jesus on Mission with God--A Savior for All Peoples||127|
|6.||Peter on Mission with God--A Church for All Peoples||159|
|7.||Paul on Mission with God--The Gospel for All Peoples||189|
|8.||John on Mission with God--All Peoples Worship God||223|