Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Some recent prayers answered

The past month has been a whirlwind that saw me in Atlanta Georgia for the National Missionary Convention, up in Pamlico County helping with clean-up efforts from Hurricane Irene, and also preparing to move out while seeking a new roommate and apartment.

This semester I've been challenged in more ways than I ever previously would have imagined. I've come to realize that I have to seek solely from God the joy that I need to remain encouraged, joy to remain positive, and joy to fuel my trust in him to provide. I've come to realize a lot of heart issues, areas where I was hurt deeply in the past, and insecurities I still have today because of those wounds. I want to spend Christmas break heavy in prayer which I've found provides peace as of recent as Philippians 4:6-7 promises. I want to spend time listening, allowing God to speak words of healing into these wounds, and to become more reassured of the promises He's made, and to clearly see the blessings I still have, and often overlook.

Let me now share some recent prayers answered that have lifted immense weights off my shoulders and is allowing me to return to my more positive self:

1) God has provided a living situation for the spring semester! In moving out as Bryan and I head in different directions living wise, my biggest need was to find a roommate because every 1 bedroom apt I was finding was out of my budget as a ministry intern who raises his own support through the partners God brings to my side. As of this week I've found a roommate through craigslist, a man who also loves God, wants to be in ministry long term and desires to grow in his walk with Him. He's moving from Oklahoma here to NC. We've had several conversations on the phone, and also video skyped to allow each of us to get to know each other more. I've also met his girlfriend who lives here, and she's also a cool sister of the faith. We'll move in together around the end of January into an apt. We're leaning towards a condo I know is owned by some friends at the church I attend, but we're still finalizing details.

2) I've been asking God to take away areas of pride in me, and to erase expectations of entitlement. Specifically I refer to expecting friends who I deeply care about to care about me in return or to desire to hang with me, as I desire to hang with them. I've come to realize that this entitlement is not something I should expect. Friends are a blessing from God and I should trust in Him to bring friends alongside me who He will use to be a joy to me, and myself a joy to them. And even as some of my friendships change, I myself am changing too. And God is reconciling the differences that have risen between my friends and I. This is all still a work in progress but something I'm praying to see more of God working in me to change.

Seeing these being answered encourages me and draws me closer to God through quiet times.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A story that blows my mind (Part 2)

In my last post, I broke down one of my favorite stories and shared thoughts I've been chewing on this semester. I'd like to continue that for one more post.

We were looking at the story of the Lost Son, aka the Prodigal Son. I've been reading a book called "Prodigal God" by Timothy Keller that a good friend of mine got at a bargain sale. I've wanted to read the book for 2 years now. It's been a really good read so far. I'd recommend it.

Last post I focused on the younger son, and now I want to focus on the older son.

In the story we discover this about him:
-He felt like a servant, and not like a son (notice he never addressed his father as father)
-He was consumed by a life of duty, and toil, with no joy
-He had never experienced real grace, and like the rest of us, believed in "eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth" system of justice.

Jesus told this story to an audience, half of which consisted of Pharisees. The older brother represented the Pharisees, and sadly I believe the older brother represents many Christians today. Not experiencing the joy of the Lord, they are slaves to serving God because they are supposed to, not out of any true desire to bring Him glory.

This semester one UNCW student and I have had many conversations on various road trips and many of them have revolved around grace. We confess that often we feel like we aren't doing enough, we aren't being Christian enough to be at peace with God. And it is peace that we are seeking.

But peace and reconciliation cannot be found by working for them. Grace is a gift and therefore must be received as a free gift. Romans 1-8 breaks this down.

And so we wrestle with receiving God's grace and resisting the human nature to save ourselves by our own means. We remind ourselves that Jesus calls us friends, and God calls us sons.

"I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you." John 15:15

Father I pray that you would be revealed to the millions of servants around the globe who faithfully serve you, but know you not as their Father. I pray that they would realize the good gifts you offer, and the grace you provide. That you accept us as we are, and not for what we do. In the name of your son Jesus I pray, Amen.

Monday, November 14, 2011

A story that blows my mind (Part 1)

This fall I've been dwelling on grace a lot, and a lot of my thinking centers around the story in Luke 15:11-32. Some call it the Lost Son, others the Prodigal Son. I myself think it should be called the Prodigal Father. Prodigal means extravagant, just in case you didn't know.

Instead of summarizing I'd encourage you to read the story in your Bible, or you can read it here.

The story amazes me for several reasons

1) The father is waiting for his son to return, even though he was considered dead to his son. Once he sees him returning, he runs to him, which in the days of Jesus would have been humiliating for a man of his status to do.

2) The son comes in repentance and asks to be a servant of his father. The father instead takes him back as his son, and extravagantly shows his love as a father by asking for the best robe, shoes, and a ring to be put on him. He also throws a huge celebration, killing the fattened calf. Now my friend Ryne pointed this out to me. The fattened calf would have only been used for a community wide celebration, a block party if you will. To use the calf for anything less was to waste an enormous amount of meat. But this is what the father does.

3) When the other son returns and finds the celebrating going on, he becomes jealous and demands to know why his father's son (note he refuses to acknowledge him as his brother) deserves such treatment.

God's grace isn't fair. Let me repeat, God's grace isn't fair. Think about that, and let the implications sink in. Check out Matthew 20:1-16 and don't be afraid to think and feel that some of the workers got a raw deal.

We don't deserve God's grace, but that is what he offers us. The same grace he offers to us, he offers to all, even those we think don't deserve it. Even to our most hated enemies. Even to Osame Bin Laden and Adolph Hitler.

There are times where I feel as the younger son. I know I have turned from God, but cannot fathom the grace he offers me. And there are times where I feel like the older son but I'll get to that in the next post in a few days...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Demolishing Concepts of Prayer

September 23-25th we took our students on a fall retreat to a camp near the mountains and joined students from NC State, ECU, and UNC Chapel Hill. The theme for the weekend was Worship in Unexpected Places. Our speaker, Neal Alligood, a former campus minister at NC State, shared about worshiping God at different moments in our lives.

During the retreat, I also led a breakout session that students could choose to come to, and shared some thoughts on prayer. Over the past 3 years, I've been really passionate about speaking on, teaching on and leading prayer ministry. For the first half of the workshop, I set about to in some ways demolish how the students viewed prayer. Instead of focusing on what they're praying about, I encouraged them to focus on who they're praying to. We looked at passages of scripture where ordinary men encountered God and they're reaction was fear and awe.

I also asked students "What would their prayer lives look like if they didn't ask God for anything?" For many, they said they wouldn't have a reason to pray. I defined prayer for students as "realizing that we are in the presence of God." Because God is always with us, but we aren't aware of it. How we respond once we're aware I believe is prayer, whether its worship, praising Him, thanking Him, listening to Him, pouring out our hearts to Him, etc.

Don't you want to have a richer prayer time with God? A time where you're eager to pray and might even go for hours on end? Seek to discover more of who God is, and seek to spend as much time with Him as you can, without treating Him like a vending machine and going to him when you want something.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Let's save ourselves some trouble

One sin caused a 3rd of the angels to rise up in rebellion, leading to a civil war that since spilled out of heaven and onto all of creation.

The same sin led God to disrupt the work of a tower constructed to reach into the very heavens, scattering the people into different nations and languages.

The same sin also led man to reject what God offered as good, and ushered in the greatest fall of all, the separation of creation from creator.

The desire to be of equal footing with God.

Satan desired to be above God. The people who built the tower of Babel strived to be seated on the same playing field as God. Adam and Eve both ate of the forbidden tree to be “like God knowing good and evil.”

Created trying to become the creator. God is God for a reason. How on earth or in heaven above could we be God, when we can’t even begin to comprehend him? And if somehow we could, “A comprehended God is no God at all.” Gerhard Tersteegen. I can comprehend how to make a peanut butter and honey sandwhich, but not even touch how God works.

Why do we as humans strive for that which we cannot be?

I believe its because as humans, we despise having something over us that we can’t control, something we can’t influence. We want control of our own destiny; to be the one to make the rules, decide how things go. Except none of us are perfect, no matter how hard we try, we cannot give out perfect justice. We can’t even provide food and clean water to the rest of our own world.

Although it goes against our human nature, we are better off trusting in God. Trusting in his justice, in his order of things. After all we didn’t set the earth in motion, or establish the various cycles found in nature.

Let’s let God be God and save ourselves the trouble of trying to be divine.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Might need a dog to answer this

The past three weeks I've been waking up most mornings and doing some daily devotional reading out of Crazy Love by Francis Chan. This is my second time going through the book, this time I'm reading tidbits and meditating on them.

Last night and this morning I've spent some time looking at how "God is all powerful." This is something I know yes, but Crazy Love took a different angle and asked this question, do we recognize his authority over us?

How often I question the way God works, how often I expect him to accomplish something in a different way. How often I ask why must my plans come to ruin?

He is God. He was not created for me, but I was created for him.

"For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him." Colossians 1:16

It's the difference between cat and dog theology as I call it (taken from a great book by Bob Sjogren). Are we a cat (believing God exists to serve us) or are we a dog (believing God exists for us to serve him)?

But even as I try to be a "dog Christian" and live a life that is all about God, I find myself in conflict with Matthew 7:9-12. Where does one draw the line with receiving for oneself and giving to the glory of his owner? I've essentially spent the past two years pondering this very question. I can't say that I've made any progress.

Maybe I should just get a dog, and spend my time observing how he goes about this.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Dynamic Community

Sorry for the blogging hiatus recently. Been on the road, here and there, been in the middle of leaving my job at Bluewater to transition into a ministry internship with Campus Christian Fellowship at UNC-W, and just busy with life in general! But here's something I was chewing on earlier as I sat on the beach around sunset watching the waves crash on the shore...

Been dwelling a lot on community lately. On what dynamic community looks like. Earlier just before hitting the beach, a friend and I went over to Port City Community Church to see if Overflow (a college ministry that meets weekly) was happening. We got there to find a few cars in the parking lot but locked doors and no one in the lobby. We decided to wait because we were 20 minutes early. Three other people showed up and waited with us, all hoping Overflow was happening tonight, but none of us having been for a few weeks to know if it was still happening while classes were out.

Eventually a lady came to the door and let us know that Overflow was off this week but happening again next week. Even though we hadn't been connected for a few weeks we all showed up, knowing Overflow happens on Tuesdays at 7.

That's a dynamic community. We weren't told by friends, reminded by twitter, fb, or email. We were free to come, and came hoping to find it happening and join in. Community fueled by desire, not by reminders of "come out tonight."

So while on the beach I turned to Acts 2:42-47 a passage I could quote you by now as many times I read it at ECU while a part of their CCF. But this time I noticed something new. Instead of seeing what the church did, I finally took notice of the effect.

"Everyone was filled with awe...all the believers were together and had everything in common...every day, they continued to meet together in the temple courts, they ate bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people."

Is your community filled with awe? Are your people together, desiring to come together? Are they sincere? Glad? Captivating the attention of the people around them?

If not, then they need to see what the early church was devoted to. That's the formula to follow.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

To the ends of the earth (Iceland?)

Jesus I believe in you
And I would go
To the ends of the earth
To the ends of the earth
For you
Alone are Song of God
And all the world will see
That you are God
That you are God
"To the ends of the earth"-Hillsong

Here at UNC-W CCF has been praying for countries through Operation World. We started a couple of years ago and have currently prayed for every country through Ireland (Began alphabetically). One of the countries we prayed for this past spring really jumped out at me.


It's remote. No one ever thinks about it. The same goes for Greenland, Canada, and Alaska. Remote places so north that they never cross most people's mind, and when they do, they come with the tagline "Why would you want to go there? It's frigid."

And yet I found out there is a great need in Iceland...

Within Iceland, there exists a significant Buddhist population among the Thai,Northeastern people groups. There less than 2% of the population are Christians. Also there exists no complete Bible translation for either groups.

I can't say why God has laid these people on my heart but He has. I can't say whether I'm called to reach them long term, short term, or to help support work there, but this is something I'm beginning to pray about and research. When I consider God's heart for the nations, I cannot ignore the people of Iceland.

I'm starting by researching Iceland's history and culture. While I do that, I'm also going to begin looking for any organizations that are seeking to meet the need there.

I'm not sure where this will take me, or how all this fits in with my heart for college students, but I'm going to be praying to find out.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

How does one teach on prayer?

Watching a young child is so fascinating. Do they come into the world with a clean blank slate or already intelligent and already hardwired on some basic levels waiting for their body to catch up? One of the few questions that I recollect from Developmental Psychology 4 years ago, a class that proved almost too much for me. I can't say which is true, but this I know, a small child learns by mimicking others.

Talking, walking, eating, opening a door, all actions that are seen verbally or heard and imitated over time. Learning by doing.

How do you teach someone to pray who has never really prayed before? I would say the same way you teach a child how to talk or walk. You spend lots of time around them in the act of walking and talking or praying.

We have scripture yes, Matthew 6 tells us prayer should be personal, not at all flashy or religious. Luke 11 shows us that the disciples did not understand prayer, they needed to be taught. We learn there too that prayer should not be wordy, drawn out, but sincere, honest, and expressionate. And we see in John that our prayer should be a conversation, sharing our heart and hearing God's heart in reply. Prayer should be listening.

But even still all these teachings can fail to make a connection when the receiver has never grown up around the terminology or seen prayer as habitual.

I find then that prayer must be taught by example. This spring I've been drawn together with a student here at UNC-W who not very long ago encountered God and decided to pledge his life. As I'm guiding him through scripture and showing him the way, I've also been modeling prayer.

I started by praying with him as often as possible, allowing him to hear my prayers, to see prayer as a habit for me. Then I slowly began to ask him to pray. First as we were alone, then later in public before our meal. I've asked him to pray in group settings, all this of which he first approached nervously and with a "not sure what I'm doing but ok I'll give it a try" mindset.

He's made progress. He's growing more comfortable with praying in public and is beginning to volunteer to pray for others. We're still just beginning with everything it means to follow Christ, but one thing is clear to me which I have learned in this. The Way can only be taught so much, but really, it must be shown through our actions and how we live our lives.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Got __[Blank]___?

Sitting on the back deck this late lazy May afternoon, I gaze up through a tree, though I'm not taking in the tree at all. My eyes don't even catch the clouds in the sky above rolling by. Coming out here after watching some television episodes on Netflix, I decide to enjoy the remainder of the beautiful afternoon before the sun sets. I bring my Bible with me, and after flipping it open, I began reading Psalm 39-40. Different verses speak to me, and I store them away as little treasures.

But as I sit here, having read, outwardly I'm looking up at the sky, but in reality I am looking deep within me, struck by several realizations.

If this moment were captured in a single snapshot, one would describe it as perfect. And yet I know there is only peace on the surface. Within me needs, insecurities, hopes, and dreams all wait, anticipation building, but for now smothered by contentment.

Yet I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me. Psalm 40:17

As men, we are taught to be self sufficient. Expected to live independently and by our own means, reliant upon nothing. And yet David, a man after God's own heart, is found all throughout Psalms crying out for God. In Psalm 42, David poetically describes his need for God like that of a deer that pants for water. David, a king, who had everything he wanted, still needed something more.

While I live, and work for the food that I eat, pay for the shelter over my head and other expenses, I still have needs that can only be met by the Father. And when I try to find purpose, and fulfillment of my own provision, I become miserable, a shell empty and hollow.

We see this captured in Jesus, who fasted for 40 days and afterward said "Man does not live on bread alone." We see this in Messiah who often went off to lonely places and prayed, who had no place to lay his head. He knows what we all must know, that we must draw close to God, to receive what we truly need. His life, in us.

Maybe this is the secret Paul referred to knowing when he wrote "I have learned the secret of being content in every situation whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." Philippians 4:12

Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Jealous God

The other week I was having a conversation with Matt about Genesis 3. We'd been looking at sin, how Adam and Eve responded when they sinned, how God responded, and began to dive into the consequences etc. As I was talking with Matt I explained how in the story we can tell that God was angry with Adam and Eve.

Throughout the Bible, God's response to sin is anger and wrath. He does this because he sees his creation rejecting him. With God, his anger is righteous, deserving. Where as we often think of anger as an emotion we shouldn't hold within us (James 1:19 encourages us to be slow to anger, and Ephesians 4 tells us not to hold any anger within us) anger can be righteous as we see with God (See John 2:13-22).

God is also a jealous God which is where my conversation with Matt went next. Again we saw an emotion accredited to God which we normally think of in negative terms. God is called jealous? Say what?

As I was talking with Matt I felt that there was a distinction where there was a good form of jealousy and a sinful form. Glen later filled in the picture which I had the frame for. Jealousy is desiring something that you should have. Envy is desiring something that doesn't belong to you. A man should be jealous for his wife, and a wife jealous for her husband. God is jealous for us, because he created us, and is the only being worthy of our worship.

And thus we sing "He is jealous for me." We have to be careful to realize what is ours and what is not, because in that determines whether we are in sin or in righteousness. I found myself full of envy this past week, and it threatened to tear apart some friendships I'd made. I realized by the grace of God that I was wrong in that, and I've since repented and reconciled the differences and the situation.

I pray that you will be jealous for your time with God daily, and jealous to see him receive Glory!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Praises and Prayer! And imported Cherry Sun Drop

Hey everyone!

First I'd like to share that I will be moving forward with an internship with Glen Titus, the campus minister here at UNC-W beginning next fall! I will be joining Glen alongside Chris Brandenburg (A graduating NC State Student) as one of two interns here! I am beyond excited to be taking the next step in my discipleship and being discipled more with regards to leadership and ministry!

I will begin the year-long internship in August. Meanwhile I will continue working at Bluewater Grill and Restaurant over at Wrightsville Beach until the end of July. Some days I go into Bluewater a little frustrated because I'm thinking about how I'd rather be meeting with students and having more intentional conversations about Jesus. Other days I enjoy working there and sharing my life with my co-workers. The experience is what I wanted it to be though, I'm learning how to interact with people who aren't living for the kingdom.

Praise God for:
Fellowship-Bryan and I hosted a potluck dinner here and most of CCF came and brought food. It was a great night of fellowship, building unity and many of us went out to the beach later were we walked for about an hour and talked/laughed more.

Wingmen-I've been especially excited to see the Guys becoming wingmen for each other, watching each others' backs, supporting one another, and growing to trust one another and be vulnerable.

A friend who made it safely to Africa where she is moving into a new phase in her life as she brings glory to God abroad and makes him famous there.

Cherry Sun Drop-I requested some through Tate's family to be repaid fincancially and they delivered 4 cases free of charge out of their love, and I've yet to meet them in person. God is good!

Please be in prayer for:
Pre-internship items. I have to figure out a budget of how much support I will need on a monthly basis to support myself. I also have to begin preparing and sending out letters for support, and seek from God to provide out of his love and the love of others the financial means to step into an internship. Thankfully after the past three months, I've seen God prove himself to be faithful as I came to Wilmington so I'm more capable of trusting in him now for this aspect.

Maintain a good attitude at Bluewater. I find myself constantly proving myself and showing that I know the duties of the job, gaining the trust of my co-workers etc.

Prayer discipleship-I've come alongside of a student who is new to the faith here at UNC-W and I've been seeking to help him take up a regular life of prayer and become comfortable praying. He's never spent much time before so often his prayers are very short and awkward. Pray that he will continue to get to know God better and find prayer to be a sweet spot for fellowship with Him and a source of peace as I do.

Stepping Out-Pray for the men here to take more hold of the calling God has placed in our lives and we would continue to step up more as leaders and especially examples in the ministry.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Kicking myself right now

I've been haunted by a question recently. It's come about through my quiet times, through worship, through a recent trip to NC State where a friend and I joined their CCF for worship one night, and through a documentary I watched earlier tonight called "Beware of Christians."

Click here for the website where you can also find a trailer. It's not out officially yet, but I have DVD copies. They did an advance screening at UNC-W.

"Am I truly following Christ?" I declare that I am, and voice such as my religious views. I avoid the Christian term, because so many claim to be Christian but don't truly believe or live out the life style. But deep down, I know at best I'm only playing at following Christ. I see what he calls me to, but I lay back and say I'll take action later. I'm finding myself not being transformed in any way.

No wonder so many people in the world look at the Christian life and keep walking down the street. I reflect on my own face in the mirror and ask myself "Is this the life one man came to die for, to set me free to live?" Somewhere in the past year or so, I've misplaced the consuming fire, the abandon I lived with before. I was realizing earlier how where I am now in life and ministry is a dream come true situation wise. And yet I've not truly taken advantage of it! Aside from working to support myself (and even there I can let loose and shine) I'm free to be follow the Spirit as I feel him willing!

I'm mentally and spiritually kicking myself for remaining passive with this gift God has given me (I consider the gift above the opportunity). Well I'm waking up now, and once again I'm tearing off the clothes of mediocrity I spiritually find myself wearing.

I'm looking for a return to basics, with less emphasis on deep doctrinal study, and more emphasis on simply living, and looking hard at scripture and what that means for my life.

Will you join me?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

God provides

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?" Matthew 6:25

Back at the end of last fall, after a process taking several years, I came to a decision of where I would go, what I would do. Within there was reason to answer the why.

Now there is a how.

Friday night, the culmination of many prayers prayed upon my knees, requests made to many friends, ministers, and nights spent in anxious waiting came to a conclusion with a simple phone call. A call that offered me a position with a local upscale restaurant here in Wilmington, a call that has now provided the financial means for me to continue in ministry here.

The journey to this point required more risk than I'd previously undertaken. Risk that meant total reliance upon God, or certain failure. Risk that required me to push all my chips forward and on the line. Thankfully God is a provider in our greatest time of need.

Now all the closed doors I previously found are clear. The other places I applied to that continually dragged their feet with considering applications I now know was divine provision that led me to the opportunity before me.

And a close friend also received employment at the same restaurant. Considering we applied and interviewed together, the odds of this were slim, even more evidence of the Spirit's provision in this matter.

Coming to Wilmington required me to go out on a limb of faith, trusting God wanted me here after receiving confirmation. God has since proven faithful, and my trust in him has increased.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Where is God found?

Since the second generation from creation, men have needed to call on the name of the Lord (Genesis 4:26). Since then we've needed to pursue him to find him. "God's presence is everywhere, but why can I not find him, and stand in his presence?" Because our paths wandered away from him. Our hearts turned away from worshiping a God who is creator, warrior, lover, and many other attributes. Our hearts turned to worshiping ourselves and seeking to satisfy our own desires.

We became so consumed with ourselves that God grieved even making us. He flooded the earth, wiping the slate clean, save for a few who followed his heart (Genesis 6-9). Men began to multiply again and we chose to build a tower to place ourselves in the heavens as high as God (Genesis 11:1-9), the desire that caused the first rebellion with Satan when he chose to rebel as God's holy angel (Isaiah 14:12-15).

Finding God requires setting aside ourselves.

"Why have we fasted, they say, and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?" Isaiah 58:3

Isaiah goes on to explain the words of the Lord. The people fast and seek God, but they turn on themselves. They seek him for their own means. Fasting is more than a discipline of setting something aside to spend time with God. Fasting is setting aside self, of placing God and his heart over anything else in our lives.

Isaiah 58 outlines that true fasting is caring for people the way God cares. Enough to take action. People like to remain ignorant of the downtrodden. I don't believe this is out of greed so much as it is to avoid the uncomfortableness of facing those less fortunate and being faced with a choice to change our agendas, to give up something so that others might have.

Truly finding God requires setting aside self. The friends I think of who are more filled with God's presence are those who have committed themselves to those less fortunate. Who allowed God to change their entire lives, their dreams, their careers, who follow Christ when he walks down a back alley, into the homeless shelters, to other countries where only bottled water is drinkable, electricity a rare commodity.

God is on the move, but if we set out to carry everything we currently own with us, continue to have our desires filled, well there's only so many places a Uhaul can go. God requires us to travel more lightly, promising to reward our hearts in due time if we will wait upon him.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Meaningful Ministry

One of the major shifts for me in coming to work with CCF at UNC-W has been the size. At East Carolina last semester we averaged about 60 at Overflow, with multiple Guys and Girls small groups. Here numbers are significantly smaller.

But so far I've found myself enjoying the smaller numbers.

Guy's small group Tuesday featured two guys besides Bryan and myself. At ECU I would be discouraged to see such numbers because I'm used to an average of 5 guys besides leaders. Here it's been refreshing and rewarding. Tuesday night featured an amazing time of teaching, questions, discussions with everyone participating. But more than anything, Tuesday night was meaningful. We expanded the definition of sin as something that goes beyond breaking the 10 commandments. We compared mercy and grace, how we are saved by faith. We encountered a question that each of us has to think and pray about on our own the next week "How can be sure of the Bible? How can we explain to someone who's never trusted in the book before that they too can trust in it?"

Ministry can often get caught up in numbers and results, and yes there should be fruit, but is there meaningful fruit? Are there meaningful discussions, teaching, and discipleship happening? Meaningful lives being changed?

Thursday, February 24, 2011


I was going through the pages in my journal yesterday and I found several instances of "I feel God calling me to work with college students." I can say that passion has only grown since writing those words.

This week another guy came to check out CCF. I got to know him and we shared a little bit of our stories. We're getting lunch tomorrow, and I believe he may become a regular. Separately Tate and I have both been led to go up and meet the same student from Crusade, about a week apart from each other. This blew our minds earlier as we exchanged on some happenings. God is us up to something there, I'm not sure what but those appointments and their leading by the spirit is too coincidental.

Just spent some quiet time reading through Ephesians in advance of small group next week. I'm so excited because we'll be unpacking what God's plan is about, and defining words like sin, and grace, while looking at some elements of our salvation.

Still applying for jobs. Completed some more applications today, including with Aramark on campus to work in serving food. Following up with another job tomorrow. Friends are helping with leads, but more than anything I'm praying often for God to provide the means.

Heading home this weekend for the first time since moving down here. Taking care of some errands, and leading some worship on Sunday. Somewhat nervous about that, but just asking that the music will glorify God, and resonate with the congregation.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

State of War

During the retreat over the weekend, we were blessed to have Mark Whited, a campus minister from Indiana come and speak to us. He shared the story of the Gospel, from creation, to corruption, to redemption and restoration. This week, I've been diving into the story of the Gospel as it's revealed through the Bible. I've been doing so because later today I'm starting a 1-1 Bible study with one of the students here at UNC-W and I'm going to be teaching him this story so he can understand more of the world he's stepped into with a recent decision to be baptized.

First think about a great story. Doesn't matter the tale, but pick one. Although I'm more partial to the story of Star Wars and the archetypes found there, let's together look at Titanic, something I think everyone has seen.

Beginning of the movie, there's celebration. The passengers board the boat, they set out for America, adventure, excitement, entertainment awaiting them along the way. It was good. But then tragedy happens, the boat collides with an iceberg, suffering cataclysmic damage. The passengers must now flee utopia, their world shattered. The remnant of those who make it through are ferried to land. Their lives are never the same.

Sound familiar? Their story aboard the ship, is our story in life. In Genesis 1-2 God created everything. It was good. There was utopia, purpose, balance within all of creation, intimacy with God. But tragedy entered the story. How do you interpret this next part? Do you say that Man chose against God? Do you start with the enemy coming in, leading man astray? How we choose to word this next part of the story says a lot about our point of view with Christianity, and how we look at ourselves.

Let me be clear on something, Man did choose against God, and Satan did lead man astray. But which is the more important aspect of the story? How did tragedy come about?

I believe tragedy entered when man believed in the lies of his enemy. We so often forget as Christians that we have an enemy, that we are still in a state of war. We become consumed with mastering ourselves and believing that we are bad, cursed, down to our very DNA. We forget that when God created us, he called us "Very Good."

This is where good news really becomes good news. God is not offering us something new, but offering us the ability to reclaim what was ours to begin with! When we become a new creation in Christ, our struggle is not so much with flesh and blood as it is against our accuser, who is furious, that we have changed our allegiance. Christ calls us to be holy and blameless (Ephesians 1:4), not to forever sulk in our guilt as our accuser would have us do.

We are at a state of war, but our enemy is not ourselves, nor largely our actions. If we are a new creation in Christ our enemy is Satan, the accuser, the dragon, the serpent, "a roaring lion who seeks someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of suffering." 1 Peter 5:8-9

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Next Step

Let me start by saying I'm abandoning the series looking at the spiritual journey in Matthew 5. I tried to sit down the other week and work on the next segment, but my heart just wasn't in pursuing it further for now. I'd encourage you to look through the rest of Matthew 5:3-12 with the lens of taking the passage as steps of a spiritual journey to see for yourself what's there.

That said, let me share what has been on my heart.

New Community
I now find myself living in Wilmington, the culmination of a process that was 4 years in the making. I considered and prayed over many different courses of action and ultimately felt God had opened a door for me in ministry and community here. I received further confirmation of this though a night of worship and prophesying at the Boiler Room in Greenville. In brief, two different guys (unaware of my considerations at the time) both saw me in a port city, one ultimately that saw me going before Christ here, pointing people to him.

The opportunity to live with my roommate Bryan was one big reason. Living with a spiritual brother has already proven rewarding, just in being able to share in prayer, guard each others back, and to partner in ministry and life together.

Being able to stay around a college campus was also huge. God has given me a heart for campus ministry and spending this past weekend at a retreat reaffirmed that over and over, through the many conversations I had with students and seeing what God is doing in their lives. The chapter of CCF here at UNC-W is smaller than the chapter I was in at ECU. The chapter here also only has a handful of guys. But this past week I've been blessed to befriend one of the new guys coming to CCF and see him make a decision to rededicate his life to Christ. God is really stirring him on the inside, and God has placed him on my heart as someone to disciple along with the other guys here.

I'm seeking now to find employment as a means of covering the finances of living here and take that burden off my parents. I've also seen them come to ultimately support my decision to come, which has been a prayer answered.

Already I am being stretched and challenged in new ways, some of which I'll share with you as this journey I find myself on continues. Thanks for supporting me with encouragement, prayer, and following this blog. My prayer is the things I share challenge, sharpen, and encourage you.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Mourning-Spiritual Journey Part 2

Last blog post I began to dive into Matthew 5:3-12 and look at how the passage outlines the spiritual journey we all must take as we grow and mature in Christ. It's not an end all comprehensive step by step process but I intend to outline some key signposts the passage reveals to me.

"Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted"

Christ is about God who in all his holiness was separated from man because of sin, a poison that came in and eroded God's creation, man, and the relationship between all living things. Christ is about sacrifice, God who sent his son out of his love to die to make a way for restoration. Christ is not just forgiveness but even more so repentance.

Forgiveness means you recognize you got caught doing wrong and are sorry. Repentance is turning away, changing the direction one is headed in. As we come into contact with Christ, and his light pours into our lives, we should see the need for changes in our life. We should mourn our actions that aren't in obedience. That's conviction from the Holy Spirit who will indwell us when we come to Christ in faith and are baptized.

Conviction isn't the same as guilt however. Guilt brings doubt, negative feelings, worthlessness. Guilt takes away from confidence by saying we aren't capable of any better. Conviction shows us right and wrong and fuels us, affirming our beliefs and values. Conviction encourages while guilt discourages.

May the Holy Spirit convict you and lead you in the path of Christ, and may the Spirit bring you out from under guilt, which Satan will use to keep you hopeless.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Blessed are the poor in spirit

Two weeks ago I started memorizing scripture again. A buddy of mine put together a plan to go through Matthew 5-7 which we studied through last fall in a Tuesday morning Bible study. I'm currently up to V13.

As I've been memorizing I've also been reflecting on the scripture. I spent several days on V3 where it says "Blessed are the poor in Spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
I somewhat puzzled over that one. The other verses between 3-12 follow this format of Blessed are __________ for ____________. One definition of blessed is means "to be better off" Looking at the passage as I whole, I see these character traits that we should be adopting, but then I go back to V3 where it says "Blessed are the poor in spirit" and I initially ask myself am I supposed to be poor in spirit as a lifestyle? What does that mean?

I've been discussing the passage and the verse with some friends down in Wilmington, and they shared something they noticed as they talked about it at one of their recent gatherings.

Look at V3-10 as a spiritual journey from start to end result. To truly begin to pursue God, die to self and take up our cross and follow him, we have to recognize our spiritual poverty without him. Everything else pales in comparison to living a life for Him.

For the next two weeks I'm going to continue to blog through v4-10 and break down how each verse ties in to the spiritual journey we must all undertake.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Some thoughts on manhood

Recently a friend of mine posted a status on facebook expressing frustration over not knowing what it means to become a man. This got me thinking, and here's where my thoughts took me.

What does it mean to become a man?

"For there is a proper time and procedure for every matter though a man's misery weights heavily upon him. Ecclesiastes 8:6

John Eldridge is one of my favorite authors on masculinity. He's written many books, the majority of which I've read. If I could recommend just one, I'd say Wild at Heart for Men, and Captivating for Women. Today though I won't draw from Eldridge because I'd rather use something I believe everyone who reads this will be familiar with.

Disney's Lion King is a great story and follows the story of Simba, who grows up a prince, ultimately runs away from home and responsibility, later to return to reclaim all that is his. When does Simba become a man/lion and is no longer the cub? It's not during Hakuna Matata in my opinion even though we see Simba age considerably during the musical interlude.

I believe Simba really grows up when he returns with Nala to face responsibility and confronts his father's death.

While I can't put forth an end all definition to what it means to become a man, I do believe it means accepting responsibility for yourself and for others around you. Doing your part to not only provide for your needs but in some way for the needs of others as well, whether physically or spiritually.

In this age though, there's too many examples of putting this off. Young men and women are far too often continuing to live with their family, delaying getting out on their own, and supporting themselves. Yes getting out on one's own may be tougher now than years ago, but we're also trading away the means by which we grow and mature. We become afraid to take risks, to venture into anything unknown, and revert back to our teenage years.

I shudder to think what our world would look like if this trend continues with each up and coming generation. We need to search out examples of Godly men and women, use them as inspiration and become examples ourselves to others.

I'm looking forward to taking more steps in that area myself in the coming year.