Rubruck and the Khan

Late in the year of 1253, William of Rubruck (a Franciscan monk), arrived at the court of Mongke Khan, the grandson of Genghis Khan and ruler of the largest empire on earth. After spending more than a year at court and enjoying the opportunity to have perhaps the first true scholarly debate with Muslim and Buddhist clerics he was brought before the Khan to be given a message and sent back to the king of France. Amazingly tolerant of world religions, the Mongol ruler had this to say in his closing remarks about Christianity:

To you God has given the Scriptures and you Christians do not observe them.


Rubruck was an educated man, well-learned, well-traveled and well-versed in the worldviews of his day… and none of that mattered. What mattered was the consistency with which the followers of Jesus lived out their claims to faith, and there we failed. How much has changed in750 years?

“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. James 1:22

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Common Notes 4.25.17

Sometimes it just feels like life is out to get you, like you’re just living under siege. There’s a reason for that. According to the Bible, the world is a corrupt place and hates you. Yes, hates you. On top of that, your own body, your flesh, is weak and inclined to be self serving even to the expense of others in general and God in particular. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, the devil is real and really does want to do you harm. Besieged? We haven’t even gotten to finals week, relationships or social obligations yet!

The good news is, there IS good news. The apostle Peter in his second letter was writing to a group of people who were besieged themselves. They were being persecuting for the faith in Jesus and had been fed bad information by some false teachers (people who claimed to follow Jesus, but for one reason or another were teaching doctrines contrary to Him). Now THAT is living under siege. And what Peter say is, essentially, there is hope!

He starts off in the beginning of the letter assuring his listeners that their faith in Jesus Christ is as good as his own, that they can trust Christ for salvation and (don’t miss this) that they have everything they need to experience “life and godliness.” Woot! One of the big lies we face when we live life under siege is that maybe we aren’t in the right place spiritually to begin with. And there are certainly times when that is true (as Peter points out later), but if you’re being faithful and obedient to follow after Jesus, you’re doing just fine. See, good news!

After that kind of assurance though, Peter continues in a rather unexpected way. He offers advice on exactly how to experience a little more of that “life and godliness” he mentions at first. In fact, he gives a laundry list of things to work on that all sort of work together to help you walk closer to Jesus.

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with goodness, goodness with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with godliness, godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being useless or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:5-8

It starts with faith and it ends with love. How beautiful is that?! But the point is that when we take the time to focus on working through these qualities in our lives, we stop living under siege and take the fight back to the enemy, back to the world, back to the flesh that so often beats us down. Stop living under siege, start thriving instead.


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Common Notes 4.18.17

What do you call someone who’s first impulse when life gets hard isn’t to look for God’s help, but always to take care of problems themselves? Stubborn? Defiant? Prideful? Perhaps. But how about human? After all, Hezekiah was like that and he is remembered as one of the greatest kings in the Bible.

“Hezekiah relied on the Lord God of Israel; not one of the kings of Judah was like him, either before him or after him. He remained faithful to the Lord and did not turn from following him but kept the commands the Lord had commanded Moses.”      2 Kings 18:5-6

That a pretty good obituary! But what makes it truly noteworthy is that it is recorded of a man whose instincts weren’t always to choose God first. If you take the time to read about his life in 2 Kings 18-20 you’ll find that virtually every picture we have of his life is questionable at best. Faced with an overwhelming army at the gates of Jerusalem, he tries to buy his way out first (by stripping everything of value from the temple no less!). Promised an extra fifteen years of life because of his faithfulness, he demands a miracle to prove it. And when he sees a chance to lean on Babylon to help him deal with Assyrian tyranny, he shows them the treasury.

Are these really the actions of a spiritual giant? According to scripture, yes. What’s encouraging about the life of Hezekiah isn’t his overwhelming spirituality, but his constant devotion in spite of himself. He doesn’t always make the right first choice, but in every instance he ultimately chooses God and at the end of his life he is remembered for it. That’s inspiring, isn’t it? Alexander Pope famously wrote, “To err is human; to forgive, divine.” Maybe he read about Hezekiah. With all the mistakes and errant first choices we make in life, it is hopeful and helpful to know that God still cares and is willing to redeem us anyway if we’ll just remember to turn back to him.

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Vandalism at the BSU

At some point during Spring Break a graffiti artist tagged the storage shed behind the BSU. “Ethos” covered two walls facing away from the building and our trash dumpster. When it was discovered, The Joplin Police department were informed and an officer came out to take pictures and file a report. Last weekend, “Ethos” returned and tagged the south wall of the shed and the phone meter. He was, apparently, in a hurry the second time out because he obviously put much less effort into it. The second incident was also turned in to JPD and added as an attachment to the original report.

West wall

North wall


South wall, round 2

Phone meter, round 2

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Spring Break 2017: St. Louis, MO Pt.5

Our last day in St. Louis. We had so many positive conversations from Monday through Wednesday that we decided to add a special event to the Thursday afternoon calendar, a meeting with some of the students who showed an interest in starting a new ministry at Washington University. We made the decision on Wednesday night, before spending our 4th day on campus, so hopes were high, but even if we weren’t able to pull it off, the fact that we had enough response to try was a victory in and of itself.

Students from NMSU, MSSU and WU gathered to talk and pray together about starting a new ministry on the WU campus.

Clearly, there is a hunger, a desire for something more that burns in the hearts of many of Wash U’s students.

In our final briefing, we took time to summarize our impressions of the week and personalize the experience by asking questions of ourselves.

MBC Collegiate Strategist Travis Hamm leads students through the final debrief.

What did we learn? What will we take home? How will we use this later? The responses were great to hear as students talked about the ways they were challenged, stretched and grown by their time on campus. Overcoming interpersonal conflicts, personal fears and physical limitations, they did everything they were asked without grumbling and complaining (at least, not complaining too much) and along the way laid the groundwork for a possible new campus ministry.

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Spring Break 2017: St. Louis, MO Pt. 4

Our second day on campus. More information gathered for the Missouri Baptist Convention to use as they work on establishing a campus ministry at Washington University. More gospel conversations. More contacts with interested students. It was a success. There are always challenges on trips like this, physical exhaustion, logistical problems, personality conflicts… but so far we’ve been blessed with a minimal amount of drama. Pray that continues!

Besides spending more time on campus, the only other activity on this day was the college worship service at FBC Arnold. Brad Russell taught from Matthew 24-25, leading the group to stay focused, be faithful and serve continually.

Spider-Man showed up at the church, but why is the webbed wall-crawler using a ladder?!

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Spring Break 2017: St. Louis, MO Pt. 3

Our first day on campus went well. Students were sent out in small groups on the Washington University campus to engage in conversations about the culture and context there. After some initial hesitation, everyone really got into it. Several groups were even able to share the gospel in the course of their conversations. Once we finished, everyone came back to the church for a debriefing and to compile whatever information they were able to collect. And there was cheesecake for dessert.

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