More than Tourists

I am a tourist. I got my passport and fist full of Euros. For years I have been watching Rick Steve’s Europe preparing for such a time as this. I am reminded of my status every day as I navigate the greater Brussels area.IMG_20160701_185422598_HDR

But something happened during my walk back to the apartment in Diegem with my family. I had an epiphany. I realized that I was not living and commuting in a tourist trap, but rather in someone else’s hometown. Belgian streets may have postcard appeal, but ultimately they are home to ordinary people just like us. From that moment on, it all suddenly became ordinary — mundane. The thrill was gone.

But we don’t depend on thrills (as much as missionaries are ready for adventure). Ultimately we need to live by faith and not by sight nor by feelings. We need to see the world through kingdom eyes. More than anyone, we should be able to enjoy our Father’s world, even in its fallen condition. Still we should be able to recognize all the good culture has to offer, while searching for opportunities to communicate the gospel.

Seeking God’s Glory in the Mundane

IMG_20160629_150959022In God’s grammar of redemption, the Lord has chosen the mundane things to point us to heavenly realities. In 1 Peter 2:5, Peter draws upon the common building material of his day to describe the people of God, calling us “living stones…built up as a spiritual house.” God, our “architect and builder” (Heb 11:10) is building a dwelling place for himself amidst his people.

The common building material in Belgium is brick. As you walk the streets, behold the abundant variety of colors, shapes, sizes, and patterns. Each brick has its own character. In every wall there is a story. Consider the ZavCenter where we are currently training. Originally a factory, there are parts of the building that date back to circa 1248 A.D.  From then until now, there have been additions, demolitions, renovations, and repairs. The 13th century brick layers had no idea their bricks were being used for a missionary training center nearly eight centuries later. Today the story continues.

Living Bricks

I don’t think we would be stretching Peter’s metaphor to compare us to bricks. Unlike Pink Floyd’s popular refrain, we are not “just another brick in the wall.” Our God knows who we are. We are not numbered but named, and he has carefully placed us exactly where we belong. Much of our work in missions is mundane. We may feel insignificant at times, but we have no idea how the Lord will use us as he builds his church.

IMG_20160709_153445543_HDRAs we walk the streets of Europe captivated by the great cathedrals and other architectural achievements, don’t let your wonder get snagged in the spires — however high they may reach. Let your wonder ascend into praise and adoration as you remember that God is building us into a “spiritual house” in which he will dwell forever.

Patrick Lennox

Note: This was written while we were in Belgium for cross-cultural ministry training.  More than Tourists was originally posted in our weekly newsletter for our fellow MTW missionaries.

Bridges

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious,  you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. — 1 Peter 2:4-5, ESV

Dead Stones
When I was growing up in New England, I used to walk along the top of dry-stacked, field-stone walls that seemed to weave through the woods for miles. I never knew why they were there nor was I curious. They were simply fun to walk on. I later learned that they were once border fences for cow pastures in the east end of Woonsocket, R.I., now overtaken by neighborhoods and a few patches of maple and oak. The walls are badly dilapidated and breached. The stones have become more and more disorganized through the years, and their purpose has been reduced to a mere silent witness to a time forgotten.

Living Stones
I love stone. I love all the shapes, sizes, colors, and textures. I even love the smell that is produced when you bang two rocks together. The uses of stone are endless. God used it as the foundational material for our planet, and as his image bearers, we follow suit and use it for nearly every facet of life: dwelling structures such as homes and temples, property markers, grave stones, walls, bridges, roads, tools, jewelry, and the list goes on.

In God’s wisdom and artistry, he has chosen to use stone as a metaphor throughout Scripture for who he is, who we are, and our purpose. There is so much in 1 Peter 2:4-5, but I would simply like to focus on Peter’s identification of Christians as ‘living stones.’ Think about that metaphor for moment. We are stones that are living — not cold dead material, but living, breathing, personal stones that make up the ‘spiritual house’ in which God delights to dwell. We live, move, and have our being in Jesus Christ, ‘the living stone rejected by men.’

Building Bridges, Crossing Boundaries
Jesus is the name that will be known by every tribe, tongue, and nation. His kingdom is transnational. Boundary markers and walls cannot stop it. As I watched the video below, I pondered how the Lord puts us together and uses us to expand his kingdom to new territory. In his plan, God the master builder uses his living stones to reach cold dead stones from all over the world. As the church, we are multiethnic and multicultural–all colors, shapes, and sizes. All of us are carefully placed, interdependent, bearing the load together. None are insignificant. Each of us has an important role in missions to cross barriers and reach those who are lost that they may know the Living Stone who died to reach them.