We all have pain. It’s one of the strings that run between us. Tied in an infuriating knot around each of our hearts. So, when we encounter someone else pulling away from the sensory overload of life in pain, it should tug us toward them. But we run from our own pain. We pretend it doesn’t happen. So what then happens is that when we feel that tug, we ignore it, explain it away, or minimize it. Because we refuse to deal with our own hurts, our hands are empty of the gold we’ve mined digging through our own suffering. At best, we give stale platitudes. At worst, we shame the other for feeling what we have so politely hidden away: 

You should get over it. 

      You should be glad it’s not worse.  

                      If you’d just have more faith. 

I think part of us believes that acknowledging the pain of others somehow diminishes our own. Or it could be that your loss, your hurt, your depression, reminds me too much of what could be waiting around the corner for me. We’re afraid acknowledging another's pain might break the fragile peace we have with the universe, reminding it we’re past due for a beat down. Whatever it is, the others' pain makes us uncomfortable more than it draws us in. 

Can’t Hold Back 

An interesting thing about Jesus is that he didn’t seem to want to do a lot of miracles. I say that because when he did them, he regularly asked the receivers of raised daughters and eyes that could see to keep it between them. He probably knew that if he became known for miracles, people would start following him for the wrong reasons, and he wouldn’t be able to do what he needed to do. But I don’t think he could help himself. 

When he saw tears, nothing could keep him from wiping them away. He couldn’t help himself. He wouldn’t hold back. He was too much in love. 

Who Jesus is, is who we become. God said he’s conforming us into his image. We’re becoming like Jesus. That means we’ve gotta dive in when we see pain. Suffer with one another. Be covered in one another's tears. Dare to step into the shadow at the risk of exposing our own raw wound. We’ve got to be like our savior. I mean, that’s not our nature, so I don’t imagine it’s that easy to do of our own strength. But we’re a new creation, with a new nature. And we need each other. I don’t think we’ll be able to help ourselves.

-Chad West
I stood on the beach, the sand like velvet under my feet. The sun was high above, but the clouds kept it from blinding us. The sea air kept the heat from stifling our fun. My friend stood next to me, watching his daughter paddling to a suitable wave on her board. She was sixteen. Her body gave an instant response the moment she decided to go from flat to standing on the board. She rode the wave in back and forth motions, then followed the board sideways into the frothing waves. A moment later, she was flattened out on it again, paddling once more to find another wave. I asked my friend if it was weird. If seeing her only a few years away from being an adult was strange for him. He looked back out at her, up on a wave again, her arms out for balance, doing the closest thing to walking on water.

My friend and I made our way back to the patio, washed the sand off our feet, and slipped into the pool. His other two kids pointed at something at the bottom of the pool, and his son managed to get the fist-sized crab into a net. I suppose it had made its way from the ocean a few hundred feet away to this concrete island, with its chloride oasis. It scurried out of the net and into a corner, behind a green plastic bucket, and stayed there for the next several hours as we laughed, swam and ate. I wondered what would happen to it if it couldn’t find its way back out to the shore.

The sun began to dip into the ocean and we began gathering our things. My wife looked at me to see if I were ready to leave. I started to go, but frowned, thinking about that stupid crab. “Hold on,” I said. I walked over and picked up the bucket the crab had been hiding behind and held it up. “I’m going to take him down to the water.” My wife laughed and said she’d go with me.

The crab scurried behind a rock, under the table, and finally against the wall where I managed to tip him inside the bucket. When I drop him into the sand, I thought, he’ll understand. But as I looked down into the bucket, as we walked along the beach, I realized how na├»ve that thought was. He was curled into a fist, tucked as far into the bucket’s bottom as he could. I knew that he’d never understand. He’d only ever fear me. He’d only ever think, in his crabby way, he’d somehow managed to escape some giant overfed predator. And, as I let him tumble from the plastic bucket onto the beach, he proved me right. He scuttled away, turning after a safe distance, and raising his claws, ready for a fight if need be.

“I probably saved your life, you ungrateful sucker,” I said, smiling.

Earlier that day, watching my friend’s daughter surf, he'd said to me that it wasn't easy. He talked about how difficult it was to let them make mistakes. How difficult it was to get them to understand that sometimes you’re trying to save them from themselves; save them from becoming you. How, sometimes, you even want to give up so you won’t get your heart broken, but you can’t. 

I think of me. I think of God. I wonder how many things I'd seen as his judgment and anger that I’d unwittingly brought on myself; the consequences of my own arrogant actions. I wonder how many times I’ve fought him as he saved me from myself.

-Chad West
As a Christian, we can’t quite bridge the divide between sharing our faith and living it. It’s like a playwright wondering if advertising for actors to be in his play is as important as putting it on. James get a bad rap as a theological wet blanket, but this is all he was saying. Faith without works is meaningless. Not that works earn faith, but that they are a natural evidence of it. Because of God’s Spirit working in us to will and do, we will do. But what does that look like?

For some, their faith is a very personal thing. It’s about them being angry less, gossiping less, reading their bible more, or sharing their faith more. That’s all good stuff, but faith isn’t a straw through which we sip ourselves into morality. It is a non-stop fire hose that fills us to running over. In other words, love soaks us, but it also gets all over every nearby. Being around a Christian should be like sitting in the first three rows at Sea World. You should expect to get wet. 

The Mysterious Answer 

God’s love in us creates not only an empathy and kindness toward the needs and hurts of individuals, but a growing passion for anyone in need. The oppressed, the defenseless, the poor and the lonely. The marginalized, that can’t do anything for society, will generally be ignored by society. But our eyes should be locked onto them, our feet running toward them. Why? Because love is alive.

The message of the gospel—which is Jesus’ death and life for all sinners—shouldn’t be something we share out of duty. It should be the but, of course outcome to lives of love. It is the mysterious answer to our lives of hope. It is the truth that snaps the chains of our bondage to serve ourselves, so that we may serve God in serving others. 

Overwhelming Need 

There’s so much need out there that it’s overwhelming. Who do I help? How can I possibly help one without helping them all? To bring it home: which starving child’s mouth do I feed to the neglect of another. I feel Foer’s words: “Sometimes I can hear my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I'm not living.” But instead of running away because we know we can’t possibly carry the entire weight of the world, we can stand right where we are.

We can love those we come into direct contact with. Those in the first three rows of our lives. Not only should we give to organizations or individuals who are working on those larger problems as we have the ability, our love should spread like a vine, holding those around us. We have family, friends, co-workers and total strangers we pass by daily to whom we can open our hearts. A helping hand, open ears, hearts that are willing to enter into the pain of others, and eyes willing to stay open in the midst of the uncomfortable reality of the others hurt.

It’s all, we will find, part of sharing the gospel. The literal saving message of Jesus for sinners is primary, but the loving works it produces as an example of the type of love that we’ve learned from God is unavoidable. And they will create questions that can only be answered by the gospel.

-Chad West
Scripture is about as ubiquitous on social media as first day of school pictures and political rants. Before Facebook and Instagram, our grandmothers framed cross-stitched verses, and purchased various knickknacks emblazoned with the ones that touched their gray little hearts. That's cool, I guess. But the temptation is to rip words from their context, misconstruing their intended meaning to warm our souls. 

In the late 1800s there was a movement by people like the famous Dwight L. Moody and R.A. Torrey to reject traditional church interpretation. The well-educated clergy were the guardians of truth at the time. Men like Moody believed the bible wasn’t so complicated that any Tom, Dick, or Rodrigo couldn’t find meaning there. But, not necessarily the meaning. Just meaning. 

The clergy was known for boring sermons chock full of theological particulars that the average church-goer didn’t understand. Dissatisfaction with what must have felt like a kick in the blue collar to many was one of the things that fed the religiously uneducated Moody’s movement. And it created a monster in the process. 

While having a dogmatic theology doesn’t protect Christians from huge theological issues, the practice of giving willy-nilly meaning to random verses certainly isn’t a problem-solver. The idea never occurred to me that everyone didn’t treat the bible this way. That it wasn’t a collected list of do’s, don’t’s and promises. I wasn’t unaware that I was reading letters, poems, and history. But I was taught to think of them as God’s dictation. Each verse was its own metropolis of meaning as much as each chapter or book.

For instance, I could take God’s specific promise “to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon” (Jer. 29:4b) as my own. The promise that:  “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope” (v. 11). Instead of seeing it as a bit of history, I could carefully excise it from its context. I take a promise expressly given to Israel in their exile and pluck it like a flower to display on the table of my circumstances. I steal what is at most a glimpse into the loving nature of God, and make it about me and my failing marriage, or choice of college, or new job.

You might wonder why that’s such a bad thing. Even though that verse isn’t for me, it’s still a nice thought that represents what God probably thinks about his children, right? Sure, except maybe my life has a bit of Cancer in it, or my wife leaves me for TVs John Stamos? What do I think of this God who promises welfare and not calamity then? How do I take a promise given to an entire nation that this wasn’t the end for them and make it about me without things getting a little strange?

Last week, someone posted a verse from Galatians which—by itself, in this translation—could be construed to make a political statement that Paul wasn’t making. In fact, when placed in its context, the verse was actually saying the exact opposite of said political thingamajig. Now, imagine that’s it’s not just a life verse or a political position we get wrong. Imagine all this rolling around in the verdant pastures of scripture, plucking this verse and that, we make a daisy chain of bad connections that define our spiritual lives.

I’m not saying the highly educated are the only people that should handle the bible. I’m definitely not saying religiously uneducated people can’t read and understand scripture. (That would be ignorant of me). What I am saying is that many of us have been taught a dangerous way of viewing the bible. I still run across verses, finally in context, and wince at the fact that the real meaning hadn’t even been in the same area code as the meaning I had given it. I’m saying truth matters.

We rip scripture apart so that, to ironically appropriate Nietzsche, “the text has disappeared under the interpretation.” The books of the bible aren’t made up of a long list of adages we can pick at random. (Except maybe Proverbs. I'll give you Proverbs.) Each book is written in a specific context. 

You’ve got letters to churches covering specific topics, responding to letters we don’t have, directed to certain people in certain circumstances. You’ve also got poetry, songs, stories, and personal letters. Too often, we look at the bible as if it was a book of magic, and its words were holy incantations. Instead, God chose to use the weirdness of all these methods to deliver the message throughout the ages, and it’s our responsibility to understand the message as a whole. To work out our faith in fear and trembling rather than superficially applying the words we like to ourselves. Scripture should always end up defining us, not the other way around.

-Chad West
We adore being lied to. Well, as long as it’s the lies we want. I'll admit that we've certainly become a jaded culture. It wasn’t that long ago that we trusted every word that came out of the mouths of newscasters. We believed our government would do the best thing for its citizens. Yeah, we were aware that advertisers were trying to sell us their doodads, but we would have been shocked to imagine one of them might poison us for a few extra pennies. But, in a way, we’re over that now. Not that we’ve become wiser, just bitter. Our trust is smaller now: in specific denominations, and political parties. We’re still apt to fall for almost anything, it’s just gotta come from the right mouthpiece.
Jesus said that his followers are to be a city on a hill; a light that’s not hidden (Matt 5:14). He goes on to define that light as good works that bring glory to God (v. 15). We, however, love to redefine that light as other things. Things that don’t bring all that much glory to God.

The Light of My Self-Righteousness

We pick on the Pharisees a lot. But they aren’t there to point at and shake our heads in arrogant dismay. They’re a picture of what we humans do to the message of Jesus. We make it about us.

Christians, as do all broken humans when presented with an area in which we’re failing, will look at the sins of others as an excuse. Like the holy roller praying in the temple who saw the sinner next to him and thanked God he wasn’t like him (Lk 18:9-14), we are “confident of [our] own righteousness and look down on everyone else” (v. 9).

I don’t want to face the areas in which I fail spectacularly, so I point to those outside the church and talk about the sins they commit. I make a show of how I’m not a drunk, or an addict, or gay. None of that, if you think about it, accomplishes anything except to prove how "righteous" I am compared to another.

And the light goes out.

Talking a heck of a lot about what we’re against isn’t good works. It isn’t anything, in fact, but a smokescreen of pride.

The Light of Our Good Example

The whole point of being light isn’t that non-Christians will see our good works and do likewise. It isn’t to foist our niceness on the ignorant masses of mean. I know lots of people that are nicer than me, and you, too. The light is meant to bring glory to God.

We have this mixed-up idea that our faith is about sharing good morals with an immoral world. While Jesus changes the hearts of his followers, we don’t change anyone's hearts. No matter how hard we try, we can’t force anyone to love. And—and this is the important part—even if you did, it wouldn’t bring them one step closer to salvation.

Light... snuffed.

Paul is hopping mad at the Galatian in chapter 3 of his letter to the church there because they’ve started making their faith about them instead of God. He says, “I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?” (vv. 2-3).

If I guilt you into acting better or even emotionally manipulate you into saying a prayer, what have I accomplished? Is salvation mental assent to the idea of being a good person or even believing there’s a god? No way! The demons know that much to be true (Jas 2:19). Salvation comes from faith in Jesus alone for our salvation.

True Light

The light of our love toward our neighbors doesn’t come from us. It is a side-effect of being a child of God. People do nice things all the time—some because they want to be seen as the kind of person who does nice things, others because they want a pat on the back, and others still because they’re just actually nice people. But the kind of love that Jesus is talking about is supernatural.

Supernatural love that brings glory to God is self-sacrificial, expects nothing in return, and gives simply because God has changed the heart of the giver into one more like Himself.  

(Excuse me... I need some sunglasses.)
I know a guy who can’t help but straighten every crooked picture he sees. He has a brilliant mind, is good at winning arguments and uses those skills to engage every wrong he perceives. He really bugs me sometimes. I think what bugs me most about him is that he’s often right. The second thing that bugs me is that he reminds me of myself. A part of myself that, well… annoys me.

The first time I ever fully realized that being right might be a vice was in a response I got on Facebook a while back. I had posted on my personal page that not everyone believes what we believe and to expect non-Christians to act like Christians was counterproductive. Someone responded, “Well, that makes them wrong, doesn’t it?”

He was right, but something about the way in which he was right felt very wrong. I couldn’t put into words what it was that I was feeling, but I knew that the way he’d responded wasn’t Christian, even though he is.

Since then, I’ve come to a deeper understanding of how my tendency to want to fix everyone’s bad theology often negates their ability to accept any love from me. It also invites them to pick me apart; find everything nasty about me, and throw it in my face. It obliterates any chance at deep relationship. 

Truth matters. I want to be clear that I believe that. But knowing truth, and being wise about when kindness and mercy matter more than correcting theological error or ignorance, is an important skill to hone. Because I want to be right. I want to fix you so much it’s literally painful at times. I’m a sick, sick puppy who’s not near as smart as he thinks he is. But I’m learning that the need to be right on every little thing—even when it comes from noble intentions—obliterates my ability to speak the ultimate Truth.

-Chad West
I stood behind my grandmother’s house staring across an unplanted field to the tree line at its distant end. Our house was beyond those trees. During the winter you could make it out through the dark, bare and mangled fingers of the trees. The bus had dropped me off from elementary school a few minutes before and I’d decided, for some reason, I wanted to go home. She asked me to be careful and I left.

The hard, upturned earth crumbled under my feet, the occasional clod sending me stumbling. I was hot when I got to the trees, but fine. The canopy of green blocked the direct sun, but the heat had seeped in, settling down on top of me. After only a few feet, the first drop of sweat fell from my nose.

The further I got in, the softer the earth became until my shoes were making sucking sounds as they were released by the mud. But I knew it wasn’t far. I told myself I could make it. Then, I stopped at the sight of a trench that was full of dim water, too wide to jump over, as far as I could see in either direction. I walked its edge for a long time, looking for a narrow spot to cross, making fists, cursing it, looking back the other way, praying for some way home.

There’s a future in my faith that I anticipate.  It’s the pie in the sky portion at which those who don’t believe tend to roll their eyes. It’s a time when cheeks will be brushed of all tears by the hands that made them. War, that red gaping sore, mended; violence, bigotry, racism, and hate itself will be so distant we won’t think of them. Death will wither from lack of use and I’ll be made whole. My broken mind, my weak spirit, my tarnished soul.

But now I stand here in these woods, covered in the filth of my best intentions and my worst impulses. My brash choices stinging my pride like mosquitoes blanketing my bare arms. In this in-between, however, we are permitted sparks of the divine. Moments of transcendence. I am daily formed by deft righteous fingers to look more like Him—lying across that wretched muddy ditch so that others might walk across his back to the other side.

That day, my clothes soaked through with sweat, mud climbing up my legs like old vines, my shoes heavy with filth, the darkness faded as the light grew, and I saw the first glimpses of home though the trees. As I entered the front door, the stained clothes peeling away, I felt lighter. I was home, where the cool air pushed the sweat from my cheeks like a consoling hand.

-Chad West
The air tasted of salt. It was bitter in his mouth. He hadn’t known how tired he was until he stepped off the ship. His arms ached and his legs felt empty, the stubbornly still dock strange under his feet. He closed his eyes against the sound of the sail flapping in the wind behind him, frowning in disgust at the familiar deep flutter that had accompanied him for so many hard months. He imagined he would hear the phantom sound of waves crashing against the hull in his dreams for weeks. Then he saw her.

She’d already seen him and her face had broken open into a smile. Her eyes glinted with tears in the bright sun. Her hands were clasped in front of her, but she shook as if she might explode into a run toward him at any moment. He felt himself move quicker, his empty legs threatening to buckle. But he’d crawl to her if they did. 

He thought he’d never reach her, never see her face, feel her embrace, and then he was there, holding her tight, feeling her shudder against him. 

Her eyes were red when he looked at her again. Her cheeks damp. His smile broadened, and he pulled his wife close to kiss her. There was no premeditation. It was just the thing to do. Love demanded it. Who would begrudge a man pulled from his wife by the sea for so long a time a simple kiss? But he saw the disapproving eyes, and heard the whispers the moment they were apart. He was aware of them watching for the first time since he'd seen her. He swallowed hard, regretting the reckless act. And he was right to. It wouldn’t be long before he’d be put in the stocks by his Puritan brothers for his crime.

The Crime of Kissing

Was it a crime? Um, yeah. The Puritans had all sorts of laws based on their religious beliefs. Laws on clothes, and sports and, you guessed it, kissing your wife in public. (Wouldn’t want to stir up the lust of the hapless standers-by now would we?) It was a strange time where moralism got people executed, “witches” burned, and wore out the hinges on the stocks from constant use.

A Solid Biblical Case

While such laws may seem far-fetched to our modern ears, they seemed downright biblical and necessary to those who followed them. While we aren’t ruled by the Church anymore (thank heavens), and our petty moral rules aren’t law, we do feel the weight of them in our religious communities--like stones for our backpacks. 

Like the lady who told my wife I must not be much of a Christian because I chose not to identify with a specific political party. The friend who told me I shouldn’t say freaking because we all knew it was just a substitute for that far more insidious f-word. Even, at the risk of raising dander, the logic that one shouldn’t smoke because our body is the temple of God.

I could make a solid biblical case for some of those (and a myriad other righteous rules if that's your kink), because they often seem to make sense. (Our body is the temple of God, after all.) But I could also, retroactively, make a strong case for why one shouldn’t kiss their wife in public when it might cause a brother or sister to stumble. See how slippery a slope this can be? (You're composing your rant on the smoking thing, aren't you?)

I See Your Point

It’s not that we shouldn’t have personal ethics or convictions. It’s not even that some of these types of rules aren’t good ideas or maybe even smart or healthy. I'm not against rules. The problem is when we universalize our personal opinions, or stretch the logical conclusions of a biblical principle to its breaking point. These so-called righteous rules can pile up to the point that we feel stagnated in our interactions with others, constantly guilty about not meeting all of them, feel self-righteous when we have, and—most disastrously—more focused on these pulled-out-of-thin-air laws than on Jesus.

Not to pick on the Puritans too much, but they also had folks running around town making sure the citizens were pious enough in their behavior. The Piety Police, if you will. This kind of rule-based righteousness causes us to become curators of our brothers and sisters personal morality. We feel like we should remark on every slightly askew comment, correct even the tiniest error, and shame those other sinners into shape. We beat them to death with the log in our own eye over the speck in theirs.

Love, the bible says, covers over a pile of sins. That doesn’t mean we don’t also lovingly and humbly correct the brothers and sisters who've stumbled into the quicksand of sin--those whose lives in which we have earned the right to be heard. But it does mean that we aren’t walking around with a moralistic magnifying glass, inspecting the every action and word of the other as if that was the be-all end-all of the faith.

Spur one another in love and good works, not harass one another until they snap in two and you win. Our peacock tails of self-righteousness might seem impressive, but they will wilt in the holy presence of God. Instead of adding to the burden of ourselves and others, creating rules that seem like good ideas, but are really just self-righteous indulgence, let us live in love, and preach the gospel of Jesus for sinners to one another. In this way, our message won't be that we’re better people than the world, but that there is One who is good, and there’s enough forgiveness for all. That's like, well, a kiss on the lips.

-Chad West
We Christians want to change the world.

We feel as though it’s our calling, nay, our right to give this butt-ugly planet a makeover with our sterling religious principles. And I don’t disagree that the world is a mess. It’s an entire bottle of grape juice on an expensive white couch in your boss’s house. Your ex-boyfriend calling because he wants his Zeppelin album back when the serial killer is just about to walk past you unawares. A disaster of tremendous proportion with terrible consequences. 

Problem is, no one can seem to agree about what that change should look like, or how to accomplish it.

Well, Jesus, people answer. And it’s a tight Sunday School answer, I’ll give you that. How can a religious-minded person of the haloed variety disagree when another Christian plays the Jesus card. You don’t, is what you do. You fold. …But, before I do that—at the risk of lightning to the face—I’ll ask you the question of what Jesus looks like.

I only ask because I hear so many varying views. Sometimes he’s cackling as he runs down the street with a posse of angels, cold-cocking the wicked, and other times he’s too busy telling his followers how to be happy and successful to bother with sin. He’s all about each man owning his weight in weapons and wiping out his enemies, or wiping the sweat off his brow after a long day of turning AK’s and scimitars into plowshares.

Exactly which Jesus do we want the world to look like?

The Problem of People

Then there’s the other people. I’ll be honest here and tell you that I’m not that big a fan of people. I mean, I like myself pretty well, and can occasionally stand people who are like me, as well as people who agree with my profundity as a general rule. But I don’t like you all that much. That’s kind of our thing as Americans—individuality. Heck, it’s kind of our thing as human beings. Even people who belong to the same group, with vastly similar beliefs—such as Christians—can’t seem to get along well enough to decide on a new color of carpet, let alone solving the puzzle of a complex society steeped in sin.

Everybody Wants to Rule the World

People like me want to make the world into people like me. We think it would be a better place where others had logical conversations and cared about whether their opinions were based on fact or low-rent rhetoric. We’d also be more civil than you jackholes. (Even now—even though I know I’m being sarcastic—that sounds like a grand place.) But, that’s how deluded I am in sin.

In reality, I flatter myself. It would truly be a world full of neurotic, apologizing citizens who would rather read a book or watch a cartoon than interact with one another. Fixing potholes would get put off until tomorrow, school would be mostly art classes with no sports or math, and the world would be ruled by a counsel of gingers who were too polite to disagree with one another. Chaos.

That’s you too, by the way. So there’s no wonder we can’t change the world. We may all look at ourselves, and the crowd of heads nodding in agreement that we’ve surrounded ourselves with, as stable people with good ideas. But as good as those ideas may be, they’ll be forever tainted with our self-righteousness, indecision, and anxiety over what those nodding heads will think of us if we go against the grain even once. We can’t even implement God’s good and loving laws without corrupting them with our agendas, selfishness, and arrogance.

So, how do we change the world? Good question.

Living a Radically Normal Life

Maybe we let Jesus speak for himself. Tell us who he is. Jesus talked about loving our neighbors, and our enemies. His disciples learned to think of the needs of others as just as important as theirs. There was talk of giving with no expectation of return. Not showing preference to the rich or powerful, but treating everyone as equals. He even died for the ungodly, offering his righteousness to his unrighteous enemies (us).

I feel guilty because I’m not a missionary or whatever. But it could be that what I do every day, keeping in mind what Jesus and his followers did and said, I’m doing my part in changing the world. If I faithfully care for those God puts in my daily life, do my job as if I were working for God, and treat my enemies like dear friends, I will have the opportunity to share the good news—Christ for the sinner. Sinners like me.

I’m not trying to do the impossible task of making heaven on earth by passing laws to adjust the behaviors of all to my liking, but I’m living out the love of Jesus. In the job I have, in the town in which I live, among the people I naturally encounter, I reach out to the needy, the hurting, the poor, the lonely, and the angry with the love of God. Speaking it is finished into the lives of all who will listen. That's the mission.

-Chad West