As many of you know, I recently took a trip to Glasgow, a city which I affectionately referred to as “The Birmingham of the North”, or perhaps Birmingham is “The Glasgow of the South”. Either way, throughout that time my goal was to learn how G, an IMB missionary, and her team do life on mission in an urban deprived area. I must say, I was surprised and pleased to find out how God was pushing forward in His mission through the everyday stuff of life.
At OIKOS we talk about mission in everyday life a lot—how in embracing our identities, rhythms, etc., we really don’t need to change what we’re doing, but only need to think about how we can use these things intentionally for the gospel. I don’t know if you’re like me, but I still struggle to understand what that means, especially in regards to what that would look like for me. Getting to see and take part in intentional everyday life in Glasgow was quite helpful. The aspects of this type of life that stood out to me the most were community, longevity, faithfulness, and prayer.
As I walked from the bus toward G’s house, I heard my name being called from above. I looked up, and G was grilling from her balcony and chatting down to her neighbour below. This set the tone for the entire week. Everywhere we went G knew someone or chatted to people she didn’t know. She said “Hiya” to nearly everyone we passed. Several times she helped older people with into cabs or down stairs. We spent time visiting her friends who work in shops or hanging out where the people of the area often intersect, like the school gates, the park, and the town centre. It became clear to me that G was familiar to so many residents in the Springburn area. It was almost like walking around with a celebrity! This rapport that she has built with her community leads to countless opportunities to serve and share with the people around her. Look around you. How can you be a more integral part of your community in your everyday life?
Longevity (with integrity)
G has been living in Glasgow for nearly 20 years and in Springburn for almost half of that time. Throughout that time, she has gotten to know her neighbours and the members of her community. She has seen kids that she met in the park grow into adults and has continued pursuing them in love for the sake of the gospel. The relationships that she has made were always on the foundation of what is most important—that they hear the life-changing and soul-saving truth of Jesus Christ. Just by living in the same community for so long, G has a platform for the Gospel. What area or relationships can you commit to for the purpose of loving, serving, and sharing?
Not only has G been faithful to living in the same city for so long, but she is also faithful to doing what she enjoys. Even in doing the activities that she loves for leisure every week, she is showing faithfulness and building relationships. Much to my despair (just kidding, sort of), G loves basketball. Every week, she co-coaches a girls’ basketball team and plays in a recreational league. Through her faithfulness to enjoying her favorite activity, she is building relationships with people not only in her area, but also across town. How can you be faithful in your everyday life and the things you enjoy?
This is key. G is not only faithful to the people to whom she is trying to minister, but she is also faithful to come into the presence of God, knowing that she can do nothing to save people apart from Him. While G and I did serve the nearby school and did do some preparations for incoming summer interns, we probably spent more time in prayer than doing any other activity. Each day we prayer walked through different areas of the community, entrusting the people and the potential opportunities to the Lord. We prayed as we were traveling to different activities; we prayed for missionaries who were stopping through town to grab a bite to eat with us; and G and her team spent Friday fasting and praying for the area and for wisdom. Prayer is definitely something that we can be implementing into the everyday stuff of life, trusting that God is pleased with the prayers of His people and that He will be faithful to answer them in the best way possible. How can you pray as you go along your way?
I hope that these reflections have encouraged you. These four themes are most likely already a part of your daily life without making any changes. How can you be more intentional in each?
Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.
We have much to celebrate regarding Jesus’ death and resurrection. Already we have celebrated His beauty and majesty, His grief and sorrow, His faithfulness and restoration, His silence and meekness, and His plan and prosperation. In all these dwell the fullness of the glory of God and the greatness of His character.
Now we come to the end of the Lenten season and our gazing upon Christ in the prophecy of Isaiah. In this last bit we find that Jesus’ death was both radically inclusive and absolutely complete.
Jesus did not come to rescue the religious people or save those who cleaned themselves up. He didn’t ask His followers to bear their own punishment. No, Jesus Christ took on the sin of the world, drinking the full wrath of God against rebellion, so that He could save the transgressor. His worst enemies were the very ones for whom He suffered and died. His anguish not only led to His death, but also led to His pleasure. He is pleased to see the rebel made righteous. He is satisfied because He looks out on a myriad of people from all tribes and tongues and nations whom He has saved by His death.
Jesus’ work is also absolutely complete. He suffered the full punishment for the sins of the world in His death. Then God raised Him from the dead, showing that His death had accomplished all that was needed to bring us to Him. And now, He sits in glory at the Father’s right hand interceding for the sinners He saves. His eternal resurrection life intercedes for us by showing that He has paid the price for our sin once and for all.
Let us celebrate the radically inclusive and absolutely complete work done by Jesus Christ in His death and resurrection!
And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
Before time began, God, in His three parts—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—planned to create a people for Himself. Before the earth was formed, God knew that His people would rebel against their Maker and give themselves over to the slavery of sin. Before the first man was given breath, God knew that He would send His Son to His death in order to redeem His people. Yes, it was the will of the Lord to crush the perfect, sinless Jesus.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Our brains cannot comprehend the mind of God. If we had the choice to stay away from pain, discomfort, or even inconvenience, we would choose it. But God is not like us. He chose to separate Himself from His Son, pouring out His righteous wrath against the sin that His people had committed, to the point of Jesus’ death.
The Word of God tells us that because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, He has been exalted to the highest place. One day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of the Father. There is great reward from this sacrifice that God made and His will shall prosper forever.
So even though our brains are too small to fully understand why God chose this road of pain in order to bring Himself glory, we can rejoice that we are His chosen children for whom He chose to suffer in order to save us. We can rejoice that God’s plan to crush His Son has bought our redemption. We can rejoice that Jesus, our Saviour, will be glorified forever!
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
At our Sunday Gathering last week, Jez explained the many ways that Jesus’ trial was illegal—the Jewish Law was not followed in the setting of the trial, in the interrogation, or in the sentence. But Jesus, from a young age, would have studied the Law. He would have known how to defend himself before this kangaroo court, but He chose not to do so. He remained silent, like a sheep that before its shearers is silent.
Kenny described to us the meaning of the term “meek”. It means to have power under restraint. Jesus—the one by whom, for whom, and through whom the universe was created; the one who spoke and demons fled; the one who holds all things together by the word of His power—this same Jesus, chose not to speak, chose to restrain His power. Why?
Jesus’ face was set to the cross. He knew that it was for this reason that He had come (John 12:27). He knew that His death would bring glory to God (John 12:28). He knew that if He died, He would bring forth much fruit in the salvation of those who would believe (John 12:24). So, Jesus remained silent—even though He could have saved Himself through His words and His power—and humbled Himself to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:8).
Jesus was silent out of obedience to the Father. Jesus was silent because He loved the world and gave Himself up for His people. Nothing could keep him away from his death that would save us. Celebrate his silence and meekness.
But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
This past week at our Sunday Gathering, Jez preached on the betrayal and arrest of Jesus. As Jesus had quoted the prophecy from Zechariah 13:7, “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered,” so it came to pass. When He was arrested, all of the Great Shepherd’s sheep—Jesus’ disciples—fled. Even Peter, who said, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you” (Mark 14:31), abandoned Jesus and denied Him three times.
We are not so different from Peter. Jesus has promised to provide for us all that we need, to lead us by still waters, and to walk with us through the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23). He is always faithful to us and always keeps His promises. But when we face trials, persecution, or even discomfort, we are so quick to turn and run away rather than remaining faithful to our Shepherd.
Our unfaithfulness to the One who is called Faithful and True (Revelation 19:11) is cause for us to be punished. We are the ones who should be crushed by the wrath of God. But God, in His great love and mercy, saw fit to punish His Son—the only perfect one who could be sacrificed for the sins of many—so that we could be restored.
This morning around the breakfast table, we were reading in John 21 about when Peter saw the risen Jesus standing on the beach and jumped into the water to swim to Him. Instead of rebuking Peter for abandoning and denying Him, Jesus restored Peter. Jesus was crushed so that Peter could be restored.
We, like Peter, are the straying ones. Let us celebrate the pierced Jesus, who was faithful to us to the point of death so that we could be restored to God.
Questions for Reflection:
a. Are you straying from the Shepherd? How can you keep near Him?
b. How can you celebrate Jesus this week?