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Continuing my 2013 Year in Review series, I want to share some of the Bible verses and passages that defined my year. I spent most of my time (as did our little house church gathering) in the gospel according to Luke – therefore a few come right from there. Like many of you readers, my year ran the gamete in terms of highs and lows and success and struggle – I am so thankful we have a God who loves us through it all. Without further ado…
2 Corinthians 12:9
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
This made my list last year and it stays on this year, because, well, I live in Kolkata! Wow. I have never been so sick and weak in my life. If it is not food poisoning it is cultural stress. If it is not the pollution it is trying to figure out how to start a business in India. Ever since we landed in Asia 22 months ago, this verse has become SO real in every facet and area of my life. Thankful for your grace, Father, that carries me through daily.
The Song of Mary.
Our little house church gathering has spent a good amount of time in the early Luke passages. The Song of Mary has long been one of my favorites for many reasons. Here a unwed, pregnant teenager is speaking BOLD about the powerful and rich being brought down from their thrones and the lowly and hungry lifted up… about the new King and the new Kingdom. Mary was a prophet, indeed.
“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
A multitude of heavenly host and the angel were praising God with this statement at the coming Christ. Amen!
2 Peter 3:9
“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”
I am thankful for this verse on many levels: the first being, patience… I love that we dont understand God’s timing and have all sorts of views on how we think things should be done, but God promises to fulfill His promise – and it probably won’t be how we expect. That is good news for me. The next part is good news for all of us! He wants ALL to come to repentance. Yes!!
I John 3:18
“My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.”
Man I love John… a. lot. I can sit with his books everyday! Why? Because he gets it… because he can’t stop talking about love and what that looks like. Go ahead – read his letters. When you do, you will get a clear picture of what he means when he says we need to “love in deed”. Think – the lost, widow, orphan, and alien.
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
This passage will be the inspiration for my next tattoo – stay tuned!! Oh snap! You know how John couldn’t stop talking about love? Well, that is because he got it from Jesus! Love is the new Torah – the New Law. The whole Old Testament is fulfilled by love. Which is another way of saying, the whole Old Testament is fulfilled by Jesus. God is love. And we can only love God insomuch as we love our neighbor – the two are inseparable!
I have always wanted to title a blog entry like this, because as the great Will Ferrell once said, “It gets the people going!” Besides, at the time of this writing, I have basically two options in front of me for penning an open letter: either one to Phil Robertson and the New Crusaders or one to Bobby Brewer. I think everyone would probably agree with me that I am making a wise move by going with Double B! An “open letter” usually comes from someone pissed off about something or someone calling out another to the carpet – but this is not that. This letter will be my little humble and feeble attempt through the www. to tell the world what type of man you are, to reflect my gratitude and thankfulness for your life, and because I need a venue to process all of what has happened since I am so many miles away from you. I might even start to trend #GoogleBobbyBrewer in hopes people might stumble across this blog and get to know an unsung world changer like you a little bit better!!
Ever since I moved to India, I receive most hard information via email and facebook. It’s like every day I wake up and open my computer, I subconsciously have to brace myself to possibly receive some type of life-altering news. And it sucks. I found out my grandmother died this way. It’s disheartening and feels so lonely and formal and isolated. So when I stumbled across an unusual looking picture of you posted by Nate Hughes, reading, “Pray for Bobby”, my heart sank right away because I knew inside my soul – something isn’t as it should be.
I hate that it takes these kind of moments – you know the drastic and sometimes fatal times – to reflect on people who have impacted your life in such powerful ways. But of course, here I am anyway… When will I learn…
World, I want to tell you a little about Bobby – a man I love and respect and cherish.
Bobby is a guy that has room for all people. Remember how we met, Bobby? I do and will never forget. God gave me 180 orders and I found myself enrolled at Phoenix Seminary only a year after I was known for being the one “everyone was praying for,” (by the way, thanks everyone!). I was told I needed to find a spiritual mentor as part of my course study. I was attending Scottsdale Bible Church and was able to hear you speak and attend classes you led often. Moreover, I had many friends who knew you and were being mentored by you – people who I know will agree and gladly affirm everything I am about to write. Anyway, I knew I wanted you to be the guy… I approached you in some fear, thinking… Bobby is way too busy and popular to take on yet another seminary student for mentoring… but in hope I moved forward anyway and asked you, “Bobby, so you know, I need to have a mentor for seminary and, like, I was wondering…” and before I could even finish the sentence, we were planning our first meeting at Barnes and Noble in Scottsdale (oh, how we love that place!).
I was pumped! Jacked! I couldn’t wait to get Bobby downloads into my heart and head about Jesus. I would arrive a bit early, have my Bible out, and a notebook to record all I would hear so I could later post it on Facebook as my content! Ha! You see, reader, Bobby Brewer was the guy that guys like me – the postmoderns and the younger generations of Christians – were looking to for leadership and guidance. Bobby has always had a keen sense of culture and the ways of God that makes him the go-to guy for matters on faith in the 21st century – you can take that to the bank. So, Bobby would show up, but our mentorship/friendship went nothing like I was expecting.
Bobby loves all people. Bobby is first and foremost relational. He loves people. All people. And even especially those who don’t know Jesus. He mentors in such a way that it makes your love for people and Jesus grow. He never turned out to be the mentor that would dive in to the 5-points of Calvinism or end times debates as his primary way of shepherding (though we did talk about these types of things). Rather, we would instead sit with our Starbucks and just talk and talk and talk about real life and real issues. The good stuff, ya know – the real grind where life is truly lived. The things that matter. The dang guy even asked me what I thought before he would give his opinion! Then he would affirm my opinion! I always left empowered and loved. Bobby would thrive off of quality time and presence – and thus so would I. I have heard/read of this type of mentoring before. It was the way of Jesus – who instead of penning 1,000 page volumes of systematic theology, had dinner with folks and hung out at a well.
To highlight this even further, at times Bobby would bring a few of us “disciples” together to meet. So me, Bobby, and people like Wendy Meredith would all sit together and fellowship, eat Thai food, and talk about life. Because of this, I got to know and grow to love Wendy like a sister and Bobby would be just sitting there all smiles. This is what the Kingdom of God is all about… about love, and fellowship, and relationship. And Bobby is so gifted at making people feel loved, connected, and valued.
Bobby the Kingdom builder. Speaking of the Kingdom of God, I was blown away by the response of social media when Bobby’s heart attack news broke. Countless people posting pictures, stories, prayers, and pleas.
I thought to myself… My God, the impact this brother has made…
If you hung around Bobby long enough, his desire to see Jesus go forth into a broken world was evident – even contagious. He has a missional heart like few I know. The guy is always looking to share the Good News and even for a brief public moment, these stories and the measure of his impact has been put on display. In a time in my life (during seminary) when I was hearing a chorus of voices telling me I was crazy to move overseas, Bobby was continually encouraging me forward. I am indebted to him.
I have no doubt Bobby’s life has impact the world – but perhaps most importantly in the way of subtleness and the unseen. You see, the many of us who Bobby has touched and impacted who are trying to proclaim Jesus are doing so largely in part because of what Bobby has given of himself and Jesus to us. I am talking about all around the world folks. People in Latin America. Central America. Asia. Africa. This is what I LOVE about the body of Christ at its finest – that is, how that we are only what we have become because of what others have done and given to us. Bobby has done and given a lot to a lot of people – and it is changing our world.
Bobby the empowerer and encourager (in the big and the small things). When I occasionally come back home to the USA, Bobby is always the first person to contact me – without fail. He puts me on his radio show, gets me in front of church gatherings, we catch up, share stories of the fight for good, our struggles and doubts and questions, and of course, PF Changs. He always tells me, “Grant, let me know if you need my help in getting in front of people or sharing your work – I will make it happen. I believe in you.” Even once he took the time to take me out moutainbiking in the foothills of the desert – though he almost killed me (I think my quads are still burning). He waited patiently for me as I struggled along and still found time to buy me a Jamba Juice afterwards… Bobby has time for the big and small – all of it matters to him. This is what sets him apart.
And of course none of my letter includes the impact he is making in his current church ministry, the people he is mentoring and leading now, and every other thing he is doing (think overseas work). This is a remarkable man, friends.
Lots of joy and happiness flooded my heart, my dear brother, as I learned that were surgery was successful and you are on the mend. Still, my prayers wont stop. I hope God is thinking, “Whoa – check out all the prayer action coming out of Kolkata today!” Ha! As Christmas nears, I was a bit saddened to realize that you would not be “doing ministry” as you normally would on this important day. But then I realized the truth… that your life is a testimony and a ministry even without a pulpit. And knowing God and knowing you, I figure you will probably even be used as a catalyst for a mini-revival at Scottsdale North Hospital.
I could have simply forgone all of this letter and written only this today: Men like Bobby are rare and hard to find. That is, men who live and love like Jesus. Today, God has stirred my heart in appreciation for this man’s life. Bobby, if you are reading, I hope this letter touches your heart and soul even if but a fraction of how you have touched my life. I am so thankful you are getting a second chance and if there is anyone who is going to take advantage of that for the sake of Jesus – I know it’s you.
I love you, my dear brother. Sorry I didn’t write this letter earlier. Cant wait to see you again and to dig into some lettuce wraps and long for the Kingdom together.
The corporate and cosmic scope of the gospel: King Jesus is not merely saving us out of the world, but saving a people to be sent as his renewing and transforming agents of this fallen and broken world. We have a gospel that reaches “far as the curse is found”.
The missional purpose of election: The pattern of God’s dealing with man from Abraham through Israel, David and the church, is to call a particular people for his universal purpose. We are not elected instead of the world, but for the world.
The church as the sign, instrument and foretaste of the Kingdom of God: We are called into the blessings of that final shalom of the consummated kingdom, to experience and embody it in advance in communities of grace, love, embrace acceptance, unity, and joy and celebration.
In light of this glorious and exhilarating purpose of God for the world and the church, we then began to address the other side of the story, that there are forces of sin and darkness still very much at work both from within and from outside of us. Given the intense opposition of the world, the flesh and the devil, we began considering:
- The necessity of lifestyles of repentance. We spent considerable time considering the subtle self-serving, self-reliant depths of the flesh and of the need to practice repentance: the constant reorienting of our lives around Christ and His kingdom, and regular rejection of self-dependence by returning to Christ to find grace through faith-dependence on Him.
- The necessity of seeking grace for lifestyles of peacemaking, reconciliation, and forgiveness and love. To paraphrase Leslie Newbigin, a gospel of cosmic and corporate shalom must be communicated in and by communities which are embodying (“if only in foretaste”) that reality.
- The utter appropriateness of lifestyles of joy, celebration, and acceptance and embrace of one another. Again, we saw the need of repenting of Self and seeking grace to see and relate to others in light of the great love, welcome and embrace we have known in Christ (Col 3:12ff; Rom 14:17, 15:7).
- Finally, we considered our prayer lives in light of the gospel and the present state of the world. Reflecting upon the parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18 (with the help of David Wells’ “Prayer: Rebelling Against the Status Quo”), we saw that we must seek to cultivate a mindset that will not accept the suffering, injustice, oppression, idolatry, sin, selfishness, materialism, brokenness, sorrow, misery hopelessness, bondage, apathy, compromise, division, sorrow, … that we should not accept this world in its fallenness as natural, normal or inevitable. Passionate, persistent intercessory kingdom prayer dies when God’s people become insensitive or reconciled to the fallen world’s status quo. We saw we must nurture a proper faith perspective about our Father in heaven. He is not like the unjust judge. His passion for reversing the effects of the fall is evidenced by the cross where His own Son bore the full force of its evil. Our God and Father wants to rid this world of sin and its consequences.
Jesus’ question at the close of the parable is, essentially, “Do we really believe it?” Lord, I believe. But there is so much contrary evidence. Help my unbelief!