Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2

It is easy in life to get discouraged, and to lose heart. You might have a hard time, face strong opposition, or be battling to be productive and you just feel defeated or discouraged or ready to give in. At these moments it hard to see a way forward, a way through the fog but the author of Hebrews here is speaking directly into this problem of losing heart, of being discouraged and he is showing us the way out. How does he do this? He does it by pointing toward the “great crowd of witnesses” and toward the “author and perfector of our faith.” Let’s start with the great cloud of witnesses? Who are they- they are people mentioned in chapter 11. People like Abel, and Enoch, Abraham and Moses. What is special about them- they lived their lives “by Faith.” They did extraordinary things based on nothing but bold active faith in an invisible but powerful God. They banked everything on his, trusted his word and did as they were directed by him. They are a witnesses in the sense that their lives of loyalty, faithfulness and endurance over the long haul are a witness to us of the possibilities of a life lived by faith. Their lives resound with the lesson- God can be trusted, he is faithful so throw your whole life in with him, Don’t be discouraged, don’t look down but trust in God.

Of course that is not the whole story. We are also invited here to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of our faith.” The whole life of Jesus was an example of unbroken and unquestioning faith in his heavenly Father. This of course found it ultimate expression in Jesus prayer- “not what I will but what you will” and Jesus’ willing walk toward the cross without faltering or flinching from the path- simply because God the Father had said to him-“this is the way walk in it.

Grace and peace from Marcus

It’s not so much the case that God has a mission for his church in the world, as that God has a church for his mission in the world. Mission was not made for the church; the church was made for mission- God’s mission. Chris Wright- The Mission of God page 72

So it’s May Missions Month again- a time when we as a Baptist Church Movement choose to focus on missions in a special way. Perhaps it’s also a time in which we ask ourselves again- what is the mission of God’s people or for what purpose do those who call themselves the people of God exist?

To answer that question perhaps we have to go back one step further and ask- “whose mission is it anyway?” Of course, the answer to this question must be that the mission belongs to God. God himself has a mission- he has a goal for all creation, a purpose for all that he has made. And as part of that mission, God has chosen to call into existence a people who will participate with him in accomplishing his mission. Mission arises from the heartbeat of God himself- a God who is on a mission.

All that to say- mission is about God. He is the one who owns the mission, inspires and sustains his mission in the world, he is the one who will ultimately bring about its completion. So in this May Mission Month, ask yourself; “what is God’s mission and what is my place in it- what is our churches place in it?” In what ways can I truly become a sent one- so inspired by nothing less than the mission of God in his world that everything in me wants to know and to engage in the Mission of God?

Grace and peace from Marcus

(Some exerts from The Mission of God’s People by C.H Wright)

Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”- 1 Peter 2:12

Do you feel as though, your faith in Christ prompts you to live in ways that mark you out as a disciple? Do you think people would be intrigued by the way you work, the way you deal with conflict, the way you love your family, by the way you respond to criticism, and think there is something about you that is different? It would seem to me from reading Paul, and Peter for that matter, anyone in the New Testament, that they assume that a believer in Christ would live in some fairly distinct ways and that their lifestyle would be different from the average Jew or Gentile. Michael Frost exhorts us to live “questionable lives.” That phrase is normally put forward in a negative sense- so that a questionable life is a dubious or suspect life- but in this case, it has a positive bent.

A questionable life is a life that is so beautiful, so generous, so gracious, so forgiving, so loving, so pure that it raises questions in others. Questions like; “why do you live this way?” Peter talks about that in 1 Peter 2:12. In this instance- he admonishes believers to live such good lives that even those that would slander them, would in the end have to call themselves into question because of the beautiful way in which we live. Of course- in order to live beautiful, questionable lives- there are going to have to be some distinctive habits in our lives- habits like listening to the Spirit, and learning Christ, like being generous and hospitable. After all, we are the blessed ones, shouldn’t our lives be a blessing.

Grace and peace from Marcus

God waited patiently while Noah was building his boat. Only eight people were saved from drowning in that terrible flood. That water is a picture of baptism, which now saves you, not by removing dirt from your body, but as a response to God from a clean conscience. It is effective because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ." 1 Peter 3:20b-21

Bruce Milne says baptism is an act of faith by which we are “bought into” and experience the benefits of God’s grace, justification and salvation.

Alister McGrath says the physical element (water) is authorised by Christ to represent salvation and which is “capable of conferring the benefits to those who partake.”

Wayne Grudem says that baptism symbolised the astounding truths of passing through the waters of judgement and having our sins forgiven and washed away.

Joseph Nally says “spiritual realities occur in conjunction with baptism, but the Scriptures do not explain in detail how baptism and divine grace are connected.”

Nine times in Acts baptism immediately followed conversion (Acts 2:38-41, 8:12, 8:36-38, 9:18, 10:48, 16:14-16, 16:33, 18:8 & 19:5). Thought spot: Is there something about this intimate connection of the visible sign and the invisible grace (that is signified) is lost when there are often a considerable number of years between conversion and baptism, whichever may have come first?

Have I quoted something that does not sit comfortably with you or that you have not thought of? My aim is just to prompt you to think more deeply about what baptism means or could mean for you.

Grace and peace from Paul

The Lord said to Abram.... “I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” (Gen 12:1-2)

We don’t often associate the Old Testament with mission. We tend to think of mission in terms of Matthew’s great commission or the Pentecost event and the action found in the book of Acts. But God’s mission of redemption and recreation has its origins in the earliest parts of the story of scripture. Certainly God announces his mission and commissions Abraham to it in the book of Genesis in chapter 12. When you think about it, the skeleton of Genesis 12 is like a great commission:

“Go”, ...I will bless you... And all nations will be blessed through you.” (Gen 12:1-3)

“This missional calling has implications of course for us today, not just to Abraham then and there. When God set about his great project of world redemption in the wake of Genesis 12, he chose to do so not by whisking individuals off to heaven but by calling into existence a community of blessing. Starting with one man and his barren wife, then miraculously transforming them into a large family within several generations, then into a nation called Israel, and then, through Christ, into a multinational community of believers from every nation. All through the story God is about moulding a people for himself, but also a people for others.”*

All that to say, this year our vision is that we might be a people who, having experienced the blessing of God, into the task of being a blessing- that is God’s calling on us, on me and on you.

Grace and peace from Marcus

* Page 73 of “The Mission of the People of God” by C. J.H Wright