By Frank Viola
The Mission of God

Throughout the book of Ephesians, Paul spills a great deal of ink trying to unveil the eternal purpose of God to the Christians in Asia Minor. The entire letter is a breathtaking unfolding of the divine purpose. In it, Paul puts the most sublime truths into human words. In Ephesians, the ultimate purpose and passion that God has had in His heart from ages past is richly set forth.

Ephesians teaches us that the purpose of God stands far outside the reaches of redemption. In eternity past, God the Father has been after a bride and a body for His Son and a house and a family for Himself. These four images—the bride, the body, the house, and the family—comprise the grand narrative of the entire Bible. And they lie at the center of God’s beating heart. They are His ultimate passion, His eternal purpose, and His governing intention. To put it another way, God’s eternal purpose is intimately wrapped up with the church.

As I write this book, there’s a great deal of talk about the Missio Dei (God’s Mission or “Sending”) in Christian circles. I think this can be a healthy emphasis. But exactly what is God’s mission? I suggest that it’s nothing other than God’s eternal purpose.

As long as I’ve been a Christian, I have made this simple observation: Our modern gospel is entirely centered on human needs. The plotline of that gospel is one of a benevolent God whose main purpose is blessing and healing a fallen world. Thus our gospel is centered on saving man’s spirit/soul (evangelism) and/or saving his body (healing the sick, delivering the captives, helping the poor, standing with the oppressed, caring for the earth, etc.). In short, the gospel that’s commonly preached today is “human centered.” It’s focused on the needs of humanity, be they spiritual or physical.

But there is a purpose in God that is for God. That purpose was formed in Christ before the fall ever occurred. The meeting of human needs is a by-product, a spontaneous outflow, of that purpose. It’s not the prime product.

Tellingly, God didn’t create humans in need of salvation. Go back to the creation project in Genesis 1 and 2, and you will discover that God’s purpose preceded the fall. That should lead us to ask a very incisive question: What was God going to do with human beings if they had never fallen?

Throughout my years as a Christian, I’ve been involved in movements that majored in evangelism, others that majored in social activism, and others that majored in spiritual gifts. All of these things were made “ends in themselves.” None of them were integrated into God’s ultimate purpose. In fact, “the eternal purpose” was never mentioned. The result was that those activities, though good and noble, failed to satisfy the beating heart of God.

Let me explain the last paragraph by giving an illustration. Imagine that a general contractor purchases twenty acres of land by which to build a housing complex. After the houses are built, he wishes to have a landscape garden at the entrance of the complex. This is his goal. So he hires someone to plant beautiful trees. He hires another to lay large rocks. He hires another to plant beautiful flowers. And he hires another to plant shrubs and bushes.

The person who plants the trees plants them randomly throughout the complex. The person who lays the rocks does the same. So does the person who plants the flowers. The person who plants the shrubs and bushes does the same.

When the contractor observes what they have all done, he’s very disappointed.

His goal was a landscape garden. Instead, he sees that the flowers, rocks, trees, shrubs, and bushes are all disconnected and scattered about the complex haphazardly.

Is it good to plant trees? Yes. Is the planting of flowers a positive thing? Certainly. But these things “in themselves” were not the contractor’s goal.

He wanted a landscape garden.

That describes the kingdom of God today. Many good deeds, but an overwhelming disconnection from God’s ultimate goal—which happens to be from Him, through Him, and to Him (Rom. 11:36; Col. 1:16–18; Eph. 1:5).

Overshooting the Main Point

Why is it that so many of us Christians have shot past the main point? Why have we not seen the greater purpose of God amid all of our books, magazines, Web sites, blogs, CDs, DVDs, conferences, and seminars?

If I knew the answer to that, I would be twofold a Solomon. I’ll make an educated guess, however. I think part of the reason is that evangelical Christians have built their theology mostly on Romans and Galatians. And many nonevangelical Christians have built it on the Gospels (particularly the Synoptics—Matthew, Mark, and Luke). And for both groups, Ephesians and Colossians have been but footnotes.

But what if we began, not with the needs of humans, but with the intent and purpose of God? What if we took as our point of departure, not the earth after the fall, but the eternal activity in God Himself before the constraints of physical time?

In other words, what if we built our theology on Ephesians and Colossians and allowed the other New Testament books to follow suit? Why Ephesians and Colossians? Because Ephesians and Colossians give us the clearest look at Paul’s gospel with which Christ commissioned him. These two letters begin, not with the needs of postfall humans, but with God’s timeless purpose before creation. They also introduce us to Christ in His preincarnate state.

I assert that if we did this, the Gospels, and the rest of the New Testament (let alone the entire Old Testament), would fall into a very different place for us. And the centrality and supremacy of Jesus Christ and His counterpart, the church, would dominate our understanding of everything spiritual and physical.

Contrary to popular opinion, the Gospels are not the beginning point of the Christian faith. Neither is the Old Testament. Both give us the middle of the story. Ephesians, Colossians, and the gospel of John are the introduction and the opening chapters of that story. Those writings give us a glimpse into Christ before time and what His mission is all about.

His earthly life that’s portrayed in Matthew, Mark, and Luke must be understood against that backdrop.

In this regard, we can liken the gospel that most of us heard to watching Star Wars Episodes IV, V, and VI first (which is the way they came out in the theaters). But for us to really understand what’s going on in that drama, we must begin at the right place with Episodes I, II, and III.

Again, human beings didn’t come into this world in need of salvation. Saving souls, feeding the poor, and alleviating the suffering of humanity was not part of God’s first motion in eternity past because the fall had not yet occurred.

Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not against any of these things. On the contrary, I’m strongly for them. But God has a purpose—an eternal purpose—that humans were to fulfill before sin entered the scene. And He has never let go of it. Everything else is and should be related to it. As DeVern Fromke says,

This which we see in Ephesians is what the Father intended to realize in His Son, and it has never been affected by sin, the fall, or time. It was this purpose which had previously been a mystery, that the Apostle Paul was now unveiling. For the Father from eternity had a wonderful purpose for Himself which of course included man. Redemption is not the end, but only a recovery program. It is but a parenthesis incorporated into the main theme.

Most evangelical Christians begin the Biblical story with Genesis 3 (the fall) and then go on to Romans and Galatians (salvation). The Biblical story, however, begins with Ephesians and Colossians (God’s purpose before time). And it continues on to Genesis 1 and 2 (God’s intention for humankind before the fall) and then the Gospels (in Jesus we see God’s eternal intention). If we learned the story this way, it would change everything.

Truthfully, it would require another book to unfold the eternal purpose of God adequately. (I’m in the process of writing such a book.) In this chapter, I will briefly introduce some of its major elements. They are ….

This article has been excerpted from Chapter 7 of Reimagining Church. The chapter is entitled “Reimagining the Eternal Purpose.”

FREEDOM TO ENJOY

Having fun is almost a bad word in some circles. Oh sure, it’s fine to take your annual vacation or play that game of golf on the weekends (as long as it doesn’t interfere with a church function or something equally important). And we hear lots of advice about taking time to smell the roses. But just try actually putting into practice a life of genuine enjoyment. You’re guaranteed to run into guilt and criticism before too long.

While it is true that there are people who are just plain lazy or revel to the excess, it seems far more people are on the side of work addicts. Especially in the Christian community. It’s that whole performance-driven attitude again.

I once heard an insightful Jewish saying that went something like this: When we get to heaven, God isn’t going to ask us what we’ve done; He’s going to ask us if we’ve enjoyed the life He gave us. Wow, there’s something profound in that!

The freedom to enjoy isn’t about being lazy or wasting time. It’s about celebrating life. It’s about reveling in the little things like a beautiful sunset, the smell and taste of freshly baked cookies, the laughter of children. It’s about doing the things that make your heart come alive, the things God created you for. It’s about playing with the innocence of a child to the glory of your Creator. It’s about getting rid of the excess and living simply, boiling life down to what truly matters. It’s about letting worry and performance slip away.

* Dare to have fun just because you feel like it

* Live simple and simply

* Cut loose the excess baggage of anything that doesn’t truly matter

* Take the time to relax

* Ignore the guilt attacks and don’t listen to the voices of criticism

* Celebrate life

* Pay attention to what makes your heart come alive

. Blessings to all-
Hope this finds you all continuing to give thanks for the many many blessings that our Lord Jesus purchased for us …
It is very cool here today and I am anxious to get wrapped up in a blanket and start on a new book as part of getting recharged for the new week to come but wanted to share this with you right away.
The Lord is moving in a mighty way, in many mighty ways really. You can feel it in the air and it is exciting. Wish you were here with us to experience all of what is happening in Mexico.
This morning , after worship and as Pastor Frank was starting to teach, Hermana Felipa arrived in the sanctuary, you might remember her from the videos in particular one where she recieved a winter coat…she ‘ s the one who dreamed of her conversion BEFORE she was converted, eliminating the need for translation to her obscure mother tongue. Anyway, she came in late and walked up the middle aisle and placed a grocery bag at my feet. I did not open it until after service . Inside the bag were a couple of dozen tomatoes , a Coca Cola and two bottled orange juices.  This was our sister’s offering and it truly touched our hearts.  You see, Felipa, although in her mid 70’s has been working extra hard of late, harvesting tomatoes and tying back the vines. They say it is THE HARDEST of all filed work around these parts and she has been having to work even on Sundays the last 2 weeks. She works from about 4am when she walks about a mile to meet the company transport ( a big flatbed where about 70 workers ride standing up pressed like cattle for another 45 minutes.) She will board the same truck home at around 5pm. Then she’ll trek that mile in the dark and have to get a fire going to heat up some beans and possibly tortillas. She shares one cold 10 by 8ft cinderblock room with her daughters and their husbands and their many children. The room has no electricity, plumbing or running water. They sleep on the concrete floor side by side upon blankets to make it softer. Her work days are from 12 to 14 hours long and for that time she will be paid $50.00 pesos or about $4.60 US. This morning she walked over a mile in the cold air to get to service with her granbaby strapped upon her back carrying her offering. The soda and juices cost about a dollar and eighty cents………… Almost half of what she earns in a days hard work. I was so taken aback by the generous offering, from a woman just converted a couple of months ago. Immediately the account of the widow’s mite was borne in my heart. She hasn’t heard much teaching on giving from us thus far, but in her heart she KNOWS, in her heart she is GRATEFUL and that gratitude overflows in her. Oh, and she’s a widow. I believe I got a firsthand eye witness version of the Gospel in motion today and we fervently pray the Lord’s immense blessings upon such a faithful woman that He will give her the strength of an eagle and make her aftrenoon restful and rejuvenating! And for those of us who are struggling today, with whatever might be the problem, Felipa should be our example and our standard. If she can do it we certainly can in CHRIST. I for one, will drink my Coke very slowly today appreciating it to the very last drop.
PF says he loves you BURD and that he misses you as well………
yours……

Videos from a working mission in Baja California Mexico. We minister to the extremely impoverished indigenous children in this area. we are a body of believers who offer a daily free feeding program serving 250 meals a week, weekly church services, a weekly offering of groceries to widows and poor families, advocacy for the indigenous peoples re:health care and human rights, and we hope soon to open a medical clinic in partnership with other believers in the USA.

This morning I was walking out my back door thru my garden and I noticed a particular stalk of bamboo in the patch around the door. The facet that my garden hose is hooked to pulls across it knocking it down. When the hose isn’t my bulldog puppy loves to chew it down to the ground. It is only one stalk of hundred but it seems to get picked on. The thing that struck me was that it always puts out a new shoot and grows about a foot or two in a few days before it happens again, I think my dog must be part Chinese she loves bamboo shoots. I thought you know people are like that bamboo plant they are trying to grow in Christ but they keep getting knocked down or chewed up by something or somebody. People don’t always spring back. Bamboo has no choice but to grow that’s what Daddy made it to do and He did a good job. He made us to grow too. To grow in Him and through Him into the fullness of  a standard that can only be measured in Christ. Jesus is our benchmark. A high standard but we were designed to meet it. But we can’t meet it on our own. Daddy placed His own Spirit in us to super fuel us into supernatural growth. He wants us to grow and enjoy the fullness of Christ life. He empowers us and enables us. The challenge is we have a say so in it. Our willingness to grow or quit  is our decision. Most folks quit or stop in their growth because they see the knock downs as their inability or God’s unwillingness for them to succeed. What we need to see is that life has its garden hoses that we get in the way of . And life has it’s thoughtless bulldogs that are just doing their thing and we are in the way. But we were made to grow . There is supernatural power with our willingness that will cause us to grow. Unlike plants rooted in the earth we can move. Sometimes we need to learn and get out of the way of things that want to stop our growth. We need to get away from some folks or places that set us up to get knocked down. More importantly we need to be willing to keep on growing. The only thing that can truly stop you is you. The enemy o f your life knows that. He uses the weapon of hopelessness and discouragement to influence you to quit. He has no power over your growth . He only has influence on your decision. If he can get you to a place where you decide to give up then you have defeated yourself.  He secret is not to look at your abilities. Focus on His supernatural strength. I like to confess this” The Lord ( Yahweh) is the strength of my life whom will I fear. The Lord is my light and my salvation of whom shall I be afraid, It helps me focus and it releases my faith. You know what you say or don’t say releases or keeps the power of God from being activated in your life. That shoot of bamboo spoke to me. Daddy in creation spoke to me today and said don’t give up. The tougher it gets the tougher he is in you. His grace which as I understand is His divine empowerment to do what I can’t do is enough to put me over. Be willing and obedient and you will eat the good Daddy has for you.