Holiday Ministry Update!

I hope that this letter finds you well as you recover from the Thanksgiving feast and look forward to the Advent season, Christmas, and the new year, which all seem to be appearing just above the horizon. It is a joyous time for sure, and I truly hope that you have the opportunity to give thanks, rejoice, and spend time with close friends and family during this season.

The premier thing that God has been revealing to me throughout my time spent support raising thus far is his faithfulness to his promises. I have learned patience and trust and am continuing to learn dependence and desperation for the Lord in prayer. Ultimately, I have learned how to trust him as the righteous, covenantal, and faithful God – and for this I am extremely thankful.

I think that God reveals to us similar aspects of his character as we reflect on the incarnation this advent. I have been reading Deuteronomy and Joshua lately and in Joshua 21:45 it reads “Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled”. God is the one who made the covenant with Abraham, chose Israel to be his people for the sake of the nations, rescued Israel from Egypt, and gave them the land that he had promised them. God was utterly faithful to Israel in these ways and ultimately we see God’s faithfulness in the face of Christ. Israel often waited waveringly for this promise to become a reality, but God was of course faithful to this promise and Paul says it best when he writes “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ” (2 Corinthians 1:20).  All the promises that we long to be fulfilled are met in the Christ who came in human form.

I am so thankful for the gift of Jesus. God has given generously in Jesus and we can only respond with thanksgiving and rejoicing. I hope and pray that joy and celebration of the incarnation are characteristic of your advent season this year.

I am thankful and captivated as I recall this reality, but also burdened when I contemplate all the false promises that our culture feeds young people. College students tend to gravitate towards all the counterfeit promises that our culture promotes . Our culture promises life through the mediums of sex, power, and greed, but these created things were never intended to be faithful to those promises. It is only when we lose our life that we find the abundant life hidden within the majesty of the Messiah and it is this trustworthy promise that I hope to promote as I respond to God’s call in my life to give my life away to college students.

ERIN’S STORY

I am consistently reminded of God’s covenant faithfulness to his people as I hear about God’s power in the lives of the students I know and care about. One of these students who our congregation recently heard from is a woman from New Zealand named Erin Hawe. Here is some of Erin’s story that reminds me why we do what we do:

Freshman year, one of my teammates encouraged me to attend H20 with her. I didn’t know anything about Jesus but out of love for my teammate Sarah, I started attending. It was a challenging time but by the end of Fall semester I was so compelled by the life & love of Jesus and the kindness extended to me by his people, I ‘gave my life’ to Christ. The next two years of my life here, despite having ‘given’ my life to Christ I wasn’t living in such a way that suggested what Jesus said was actually true. – I was deeply lonely, and so often led by my feelings – I thoroughly exhausted everything that presented immediate gratification; namely drugs and sex…I was made so aware of my impuissance, my brokenness and need for a Savior.  And so patiently in the midst of my wandering, God so gently asking me if I lacked anything. He placed an in-escapable truth at the forefront of my mind, which was the reality of the hurt and need and suffering of close to 30 million of my neighbor’s worldwide who are held as modern-day slaves. He lay on my heart the testimonies and stories of the oppressed, the brutal realities of their lives in brick factories, in rice mills, forced by the share power of violence to work on fishing boats or as slaves in the sex trade; with girls as young as five and six, who are sold and raped for profit. And this brought me to my knees both in repentance and prayer. I don’t think that God gives us an appetite in vain; I knew that He was calling me higher. I heard about the work of International Justice Mission, this group of Christians who with noble hearts follow Jesus into the darkest places of the world to shine His love – by seeking justice, rescuing the oppressed, defending the orphan and pleading for the widow. I’ve been fortunate enough to secure an internship with International Justice Mission next year, serving for a year in their Bangalore field office in India. I believe I have been given this opportunity not because my heart is so awesome, but because I serve an awesome God of justice, who is ready to move in power, if I am willing to move in obedience.

These are the stories and the reasons that continually convince and captivate my heart for the ministry that God has called me into. I am convinced of God’s utter faithfulness in the Messiah and I am captivated by stories like Erin’s that exemplify God’s faithfulness to his people. Stories like Erin’s remind me that God truly is Immanuel even as we go out into the world to make disciples of all nations. This season I am utterly thankful that God has called me into ministry alongside you and I hope and pray that you are as captivated by this call as I am.

God has been providing for me in amazing ways as I am actively in the process of full-time fundraising. I am starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel! As the end of the year approaches, I am so thankful to God for providing people like you to support GCM on my behalf! However, I still have unmet needs that I wanted to ask you to prayerfully consider:

  • A special year-end gift. An additional gift of $500, $300, or $100 is a tremendous blessing at the close of the year to help cover some of the lacking funds from 2013.
  • Increasing your regular giving amount. I still need to raise an additional $1,500 in new monthly support to be fully funded.
  • Giving via LifeLink. If you give regularly by mail, would you consider a switch to this automatic and secure service? It saves on administrative costs, ensuring that more goes to gospel work.

Any of the above can be accomplished at www.gcmweb.org/anthony.giambroni or check out the enclosed slip for further instructions. As always (but even more so now during the holiday season), I am so thankful for your heart for our church and His Kingdom! Your prayers and financial support help make stories like Erin’s possible!

With Love, Anthony

The Dynamic of Deuteronomy

As I referenced in my last post, I was privileged with the opportunity to travel to Grand Rapids, Michigan in order to attend a tremendous conference entitled A Missional Reading of Scripture. I am thrilled to report that this conference exceeded my expectations and I am confident in expressing such excitement because I am still (and will continue to do so in the coming weeks) processing through the all the insight, stories, and concepts that were presented throughout the course of the two-day conference.

The conference was a nice vacation for me (which sounds strange to some of you, I realize). Thankfully, I was able to travel with some dear friends with whom I laughed and maintained a consistent dialogue about all that we were learning/grappling with. It was a great conference because each speaker enfolded their hearers into different aspects of the biblical narrative – keying in on different moments, situations, and stories that all participate in this greater story, which they might call The Mission of God in History.

I was thankful to have the chance to meet some of these speakers and even talk to them ever-so-briefly. The main argument (perhaps the assumed argument) of the conference was that the mission of God is the main lens through which we look in order to understand and experience the entirety of the biblical narrative. All of the speakers are convinced that the mission of God is the premier narrative of the Bible and thus gives form and understanding to every story, situation, and crevice that the Bible puts forth. I have previously been slightly skeptical of a “one – main – narrative” reading of Scripture, but this conference has furthered my assurance about the mission of God being the main lens through which we read all of Scripture. If you have questions or comments about this, please let me know – I would love to discuss this with you (and it would be helpful to me)!

As I stated before, there were four main speaker sessions and there were three workshops and for each workshop slot there were three options from which we chose. I chose the following workshops: Church for the Thriving World: Preaching Deuteronomy Missionally, Missional Plurality: A Hermeneutic of Christian Witness, and Missional Spirituality. I enjoyed all of these workshops thoroughly and they were all equally challenging in different ways. I especially appreciated the workshops on Deuteronomy and Missional Spirituality mainly because I felt that they spoke specifically to the season I currently inhabit.

A guy named Mark Glanville  taught this workshop and I sincerely appreciated the combination of his tender personality and academic rigor that were apparent during the course of the workshop. He supplied all of the attendees with an outline for a sermon series on Deuteronomy and other notes for which I am very grateful. The main thrust of this workshop was about framing Deuteronomy in a particular manner. Glanville explained a three part dynamic that we see in Deuteronomy that, he argued, is evidenced throughout Scripture and directly applicable to the church at large today. The three part movement that he explained was as follows:

  1. God has given generously
  2. His people with respond with thanksgiving and rejoicing
  3. Thanksgiving results in generosity, justice and inclusion

    Famous painting of Moses by Rembrandt

    Famous painting of Moses by Rembrandt

This was the three part movement that Glanville proposed as the central theme to Deuteronomy and the rhythm that our churches need to recover. This dynamic is expressed in Deuteronomy through a fulfillment of God’s promise to Israel concerning land, the flourishing of Israel, and ultimately that God would “bless Israel to be a blessing” to the surrounding nations. This is evident in Deuteronomy and in a lot of ways, evident in the rest of Scripture too! Deuteronomy is all about Israel being put on display for the sake of the nations. The law, the land, and God’s blessing were not an end in themselves, but instead were for the sake of the nations. God’s intention was that the nations might know God through Israel’s witness to him as the one, true God… Amazing stuff.

I am now reading through Deuteronomy once again (by the way, when I first became a Christian, I remember pronouncing this book as “Dutronomy” – things like that are funny to look back on) and I am continually finding the themes that Glanville proposed. Today I read this verse in Deuteronomy 12:

There in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your families shall eat and rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the Lord your God has blessed you.

In verse 7 of chapter 12 we see God’s blessing, Israel’s rejoicing, and Israel “putting their hand” to justice and generosity. This verse is a timely message for our holiday season. As we approach the eve of Thanksgiving and draw near to the season of Advent, be sure to meditate on all that God has blessed you with so that you might respond with rejoicing and generosity.

Ever Been to Grand Rapids??

I – along with a few dear friends – am traveling to Grand Rapids tomorrow evening until Thursday evening for a conference that is entitled A Missional Reading of Scripture. I am particularly excited for this conference and hoping for encouragement, refreshment, and a greater and deeper engagement in regard to how I understand and interpret Scripture in light of the Missio Dei (perhaps I should lower my expectations a bit?… nah :)).

Missional-Header

One of the speakers is a Pastor/Theologian named N.T. Wright. Wright is one of three or four writers who has remained a consistent conversation partner for me in matters of Scripture, Theology, and simply learning how to follow Jesus. Wright has helped me along in the tumultuous task of engaging in Scripture in ways that I could have never attempted alone. He has helped me to honor the book that Christians deem to be “the Word of God” and I am deeply grateful to him. I will look forward to hearing him speak (and hopefully meeting him)  especially now that I have heavily engaged with six or seven of his books in the past three or four years. There are three other main speakers that are brilliant in their own right, but I have not engaged with any of their writings at the level I have with Wright’s works. But still, I look forward to hearing helpful and challenging perspectives from Darrell Guder, Christopher J.H. Wright, and Michael Goheen.  In between these four (actually five because Wright will be having another lecture the night before his main lecture at a church about 15 minutes from the conference space) lectures there will also be workshop tracks to engage in after each lecture. This is the structure of the events that will unfold during the conference and if you can’t tell, I am very excited to hear from these scholars!

Alright, that is the conference, and I will look forward to writing about it when I return, but here is where you can participate: If you have ever been to Grand Rapids, what are places that you would recommend (to eat, to drink coffee, to visit etc…)? Our group has a couple of places that we wanted to check out (granted we don’t have a ton of free-time to explore), but I wanted to here if anyone out there had any worthwhile suggestions for us to consider! Comment on my blog to let me know your ideas so that we might pack our stay in Michigan with some local-to-Grand Rapids experiences. Thanks in advance for your input!

Bonhoeffer and the Word of God

But to deviate from the truth for the sake of some prospect of hope of our own can never be wise, however slight that deviation might be. It is not our judgement of the situation which can never show us what is wise, but only the truth of the Word of God. Here alone lies promise of God’s faithfulness and help. It will always be true that the wisest course for the disciple is always to abide solely in the Word of God in all simplicity.

-Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dutch Chocolate and the Ministry of Presence

I was recently challenged and encouraged by a dear friend of mine who, by his own volition, decided that instead of only receiving on his birthday that he was going to subvert that cultural assumption and give verbal affirmation and gifts to those  close to him. Pretty cool, right? I sat down for breakfast with him and he met me with a verbal articulation of a quality that he admired about me and then we had dutch chocolate-this was my favorite part. I was not expecting any of this, but I really was encouraged and challenged when I heard the quality that he affirmed about me.

My friend described me as one who has been present in our friendship-and no, not just physically present. He recalled the moments in our friendship when I was present to counsel, rejoice, or simply listen. At this point I assumed he was trying to make me cry, but thankfully he stopped before the first tear fell. I was encouraged and challenged all at the same time. (Side note: This could be read as someone who just trying to toot their own horn, and I guess you could read it that way, but let’s be honest here, if anyone’s horn needs some tooting, it’s my friend who went outside of himself on a day that is supposed to celebrate him and all he has done. That is a horn worth tooting, folks :).)

Presence is an interesting quality that I don’t feel I ever have ever really thought about explicitly, but it seems to be something we all want in a friend. When we meet with them we want to know that they are listening to what we are saying and that they want to be there with us. That’s presence. Presence is trying to find the moment that your friends are in and then inhabiting that emotion or situation alongside them. Job’s friends were present…at first. Read an old post here to see what I mean. Being present is a ministry in and of itself and I have a long way to go to figure out what this actually means, but I am humbled to know that some around me have experienced this quality at times.

For further reading on this subject,  I would recommend Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together.