Have you even been in a conversation with another person and sensed they really weren’t listening to you? Maybe they responded with the staccato “yeah-yeah-yeah” as their eyes drifted around the room. I doubt I’m the only one who has experienced this. In those awkward moments, I always think of Jim Elliot’s famous quote: “Wherever you are, be all there!”
We can become so preoccupied with our everyday activities—think smartphone—that our surroundings fade from our conscious thinking. To make matters worse, we often focus on yesterday or tomorrow, forgetting that God has given us today. And today is taking place in a particular setting, a place where God has positioned us and foreordained for us to live for His glory and love those sharing that space with us. Created by God, the place we inhabit is important. It is here that we engage with or disengage from others.
Missions is really just faith working itself out in love in our everyday spaces, whether here or on the other side of the world. It all begins by directing our dislocated hearts to the location or “place” where God has put us and being 100 percent there.
Jeremy Writebol, campus pastor of Woodside Bible Church, has lived all over the world and given a lot of thought to “place.” His book everPresent: How the Gospel Relocates Us in the Present raises the gospel lens and focuses on the everyday places we live, work, and play. You can easily read the book’s 132 pages in an afternoon, but you’ll want to set aside time to think through the questions at the end of each chapter. everPresent is published by GCD Books.
The book is divided into two parts—The everPresent Gospel and The everPresent Gospel in Every Day Life—each with 4 chapters. The second chapter held greater importance for me because so many today (and probably since the fall) feel lonely. Loneliness plagues our culture and leaves many feeling hopeless and despairing.
Truthfully, I believe we all have a sense of dislocation at some level since our first parents chose to rebel against God. As a result, they lost both place and presence for themselves and their posterity and set in motion the never-ending hunt for something to dull the pain. Like Adam, we are afraid, we recognize our nakedness, and we are searching for a place to hid. Writebol describes the futility of the search for “place” outside of Christ this way:
Every religion in the world is constructing systems and paradigms to get us home. The reality, however, is that none of them work. None of them can adequately do the job of restoring the dislocating reality of our sin. They put all the requirements for salvation on us. Shouldered with burdens of religious performance to either satisfy a deity that can’t be satisfied or to find a state of transcendental enlightenment, it is no wonder no one feels that they can make it to the heavenly paradise they so desire.
But there’s good news! The way home can be found in God Himself. He has sent His Son to reconcile us back to Himself by providing the righteousness we need and taking the punishment we deserve. In Christ, we can be reconciled to our Creator and Father.
I found myself highlighting a lot of passages in the book, so I thought I would share some of these to give you a feel of the book’s flow and direction. I think the author does a good job of presenting his case and provoking thought in the area of “place” and the importance of our presence in it.
Quotes from everPresent
Place or location is created by God for his glory. That means that everywhere we go, every location we inhabit, every neighborhood where we dwell is made for God.
He’s everywhere. He’s in your house. He’s in your car. He’s at your job. He’s present at your local coffee shop. He exists in the slums, ghettos, high-rises, and cathedrals of this world. There is no place where he is not. That means the place you are right now is God’s place.
We still haven’t stopped trying to self-medicate the pain of our own soul dislocation either. We might not be as obvious as trying to hide in the bushes from the ever-present God, but we hide in other ways. Our preferred anesthesia is diversion. We have created various forms of soul distraction to keep us from facing the reality that we are dislocated.
Nothing in this world, not one place, seems to be free of this awkward uneasiness that we really are not at home. We go to work and there is some sort of pressure and turmoil. We have yet to find that singular relationship that is always happy and perfect. Our homes and family life, even the best of them, are not perfect. Life is frustrating, vague, discordant, and broken. Even the best of days can be laced with the frustrations of our brokenness.
If we are estranged from God, it is because we lack any righteousness to be with God. Our rebellion is an exercise in our own self-dependence. We’ve written off God’s standards and, instead, created our own. When we stand before God, we fall short–bankrupt. Furthermore, rebellion requires justice. As God told Adam, “in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:17). So death has been the natural and perpetual consequence of our sins. God is right to send us to death.
In the atoning work of Jesus on our behalf, we have a substitute, a reconciler, and a brother (Heb. 2:10-11, Matt. 25:40). The restoring work of the Son is to bring God’s children home. It’s to bring us into his family. Theologically, this is the doctrine of adoption. By faith in Christ, we are no longer rebels, no longer estranged, but sons and daughters. The gospel of God’s grace is a complete restoration.
Our homes, our workplaces, our social environments become little embassies of the King we represent, Christ. The kingdom of Christ is embodied in the physical places we inhabit. Furthermore we are designated as ambassadors of Christ into the surrounding places.
As God’s people are indwelt with God’s presence, we are sent out to live under the authority of the King, reflecting his reign in every aspect of our lives. We want to show the world what the Kingdom of God is like. As all things are being made new, so it is with our places. They are transformed from just boxes with walls to real places where we live transformed lives under the authority of the king.
We are pursuing a life of the Kingdom. It won’t be a perfect life; it won’t be a life that fully realizes the transformation that the King brings about. It will be a life of tension, living in the already of being in the kingdom that has not yet been fully realized. And yet, through little glimmers and acts and deeds, the places we live will begin to more clearly reflect the renovation of the King.
In homes where the gospel is ever-present, children aren’t merely conceived; they are cultivated as Kingdom citizens.
The missionary strategy of the church is first played out in the home itself.
Being someone who works is part of our created structure. It is a role we’ve been given to play in the theater of God.
Instead of living to fulfill the identities we find in our work, Jesus gives us a new identity, his brothers and sisters, so that we can go to work, not to earn an identity but to rest from identity seeking.
As such, the renovating work of the King brings us to our offices (or classrooms or kitchens or laboratories, or whatever we call the space we work in) to work hard and to work for him. He calls us into every sphere of life and vocation to develop and deploy our gifts to show His authority and dominion over all things. He must have workers in every vocation to demonstrate all things are for his glory, even the offices that we spend our days working in. By our work we display an ever-present King in every place.
What began in the seed-bed Garden of Eden and was dislocated and distorted will finally be relocated and renovated in the City-Kingdom of God. The dwelling place of God will once again be with man “and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them” (Rev. 21:3). But while we wait for this vision to be fully consummated, we are sent as exiles into the world to live and bear witness to the King. He sends us to every place, to every people to demonstrate a life with him leading our way. Our lives are temporary and finite. We’re fixed in space and place so that in this unique, one of a kind place we can display his glory.