Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Minefields and Blind Faith

Last week we began to meet freshman who are beginning their academic career here at Penn State. About 20 students new to CSF came out to play Ultimate Frisbee. That evening we also kicked off our Summer Bible study with an introductory night but the real highlight was God showing up and showing off.

For Bible study, we had 4 new students who'd also played frisbee with us earlier that afternoon. After some introductions we took part in navigating each other through a mine field with our eyes closed and only listening to our partners instructions to safely pass through. Some students only got a few steps in before suffering casualties, others made it safely through. (Note to readers, the mines consisted of squares of bubble wrap that popped when stepped on!)

Watching the students display different styles of giving/following instructions became a big discussion topic afterwards as we talked about the importance of knowing who you can trust. Sometimes in life you have to step out in blind faith not knowing what's ahead and have to trust those around you who do  see the picture. Following God is a lot like that.

Between the discussion, and the rousing success of the minefield, and the attendance of students new to the ministry, we had plenty to praise God for that evening and the next few days. Then on Sunday and Monday, I found myself anxious over how well our study would continue this week. "Will we have another great discussion?" "Is Nick prepared enough?" (Nick is a fellow staff member and recent graduate of Penn State). "Is there another activity we could use to engage students interest?"

Then last night while reading through the story of the Ten Lepers in Luke 17:11-19 God smacked me in the face. Once the ten found themselves healed, only 1 returned to praise God. The other 9 continued on with their lives. Even though I gave credit to God last week for our Bible study, this week I'd fallen back into a mindset of thinking our success depended solely on ourselves.

Father forgive me for such thinking. We can only bear fruit by abiding in you.

Which reminds me of a statement Buzz made two weeks ago in our campus minister's class. A statement I've never heard any other church or ministry declare before. "We cannot guarantee our own fruitfulness. God is responsible for that."

I see myself needing time to continue adopting to that mindset. I will likely continue to discover areas in my mind and heart where I still believe it's all up to us. But in truth, it's all up to God.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Preparing for marriage

What a whirlwind the past few weeks have been! I still can't believe I drove from NC to PA, then from PA to KS, then from KS to PA, and now find myself in SD after flying. Getting everything moved from two different states to our new home in PA went much smoother than I would have hoped. Even some automotive work on the Jeep before leaving for KS only proved a minor battle.

This morning I'm enjoying a rainy day. Normally I like sunshine, but I can't stop gazing out the house windows today. My spirit is drinking in the rain.

Most of the wedding preparations finished, we just have final details to put together this week. Getting ready for marriage however is a process I see now God has been directing for a few years in my life. Marrying Joanna has not been a decision I entered into lightly, but one I made knowing our marriage would be a means for God to continue sanctifying both of us. While nobody else could make me happier than Joanna, choosing to continue seeking to know each other completely, to love and desire one another will require work on both our parts. And we are ready as we can be.

What I've realized this past week is how much strength it takes. I'm not talking physical. I'm talking about spiritual, mental, and emotional strength required to provide reassurances daily. I'm finding it takes a lot of strength to not only fight for Joanna, but to fight with her against spiritual attack. Yes we have a different approach to grocery shopping. We handle stress and conflict differently. Being humble through those moments, acknowledging that our way isn't the only way, and showing control requires strength.

Abiding in God, walking by his grace, and receiving his love will replenish my strength that I can continue to offer to Joanna. Marriage will continue requiring strength, continue to be a means by which God transforms us. Marriage will at times be hard. But our marriage will be worth it. Our marriage will be worth everything because we will paint a portrait of what God's love for mankind looks like.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Measuring one's life

Yesterday I made the move from the coast of NC to the mountains of PA, leaving the place I've called home for nearly 25 years of my life. After weeks of purging and trips to the Salvation Army and home, my life's belongings fit into my Jeep and a trailer, materially speaking in a box.

Watching the series finale of the Office with two of my closest friends, and getting dinner with two more close friends from my days in Greenville capped off my chapters of life in Wilmington. Having a hard time saying goodbye to those friends (for now) reminded me how dear they've become to me.

Moving, getting married, so many other little things changing essentially means I'm completely starting over within the next few months. Amidst all this change I have to wonder how do you measure one's life?

Life doesn't come down to what you have, don't have, or can't part with materially.

Life doesn't come down to where you live whether its near the beach in a first world country or the jungle of a third world nation.

Life is having friends who will miss you and take some time out of their busy days to say goodbye and to give you hugs. Having friends who check in to see if you made it safely, friends who help you move out/move in.

Life is knowing you've impacted the lives of others, even as their lives have impacted yours. Life is knowing God as worked in you in such a way, that your fiance is proud to take on your name. Life is encountering the beauty of God, and being privileged to experience his beauty not only living in the mountains but in 3 weeks, my wife.

Life is knowing that ultimately this isn't our home, but only a shadow of the things to come. (Colossians 2:17)

Friday, April 26, 2013

Revolutionary Teaching

About a month ago I started reading/studying through 2 Corinthians as I prepare to reach Penn State and begin ministry on campus.

This morning I did some reading in chapter 6 which led me into the beginning of chapter 7. As I read I absorbed the teaching about living differently from non believers. Even while I meditated on this, I glazed over the OT reference (6:17-18), but once I reached 7:1 a lightbulb finally went off.

"Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God."

We seek to live lives of holiness not because we are better than others, not even because we think by our actions we can be righteous. Our deeds have no bearing on our standing with God. Why then do we seek to live lives of holiness? Out of reverence for God.

This is definitely a truth I want to memorize to quote later for the purpose of teaching why we live as we do.

What promises then lead us to worship God in this way?

"Therefore come out from them and be separate says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty."

Now this OT reference means something to me. God the creator of the Universe  who could destroy the earth in an instant if he chose will be a father to us. As Christians we sometimes take this for granted. Sure God is our father we say. Some of us even scratch our heads and wonder why this isn't a big deal to other people. "They must be crazy to not want God to be their father" we think.

Then my mind went to John 5:18 and how the jews "tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God."

To call God our Father is revolutionary teaching in most cultures, and in some religions purely heretical, worthy of death. This is another truth that distinguishes Christianity as a faith unlike any other to a humanity that during it's brief history has mostly regarded a deity as one who rarely cares what is happening to people.


Let's not only celebrate how great our God is, but seek to introduce the world to him as Father!!!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Waiting Expectantly

In Matthew 25, we find Jesus telling a parable about a bridal party waiting on the bridegroom to arrive. They didn't know when to expect him, except to wait and to be ready for his arrival. The waiting goes well into the night, and finally when he arrives, only half the party is ready.

What does it look like to long for Jesus, to wait for his coming, and when he comes, to still be ready?

For Joanna and I, having courted long distance since last fall, we encounter this leading up to and following every visit we make to see each other. During the two weeks before, we grow more and more excited to have time to spend together in person. In the weeks that immediately follow, we find ourselves missing the other rather significantly.

After returning from the midwest this past week, it occurred to me while I was waiting to board my plane in Kansas City that the disciples must have cried following the death of Jesus, even following his ascension back into heaven. During both times, the disciples are said to have remained together, undoubtedly readjusting to life without their master physically present, eating the same meal as them, etc.

When I go without quiet times, or miss the opportunity to either worship Jesus or spend time in His word, my heart should likewise ache.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come backand take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” John 14:1-4

As I count the days until moving, I know Joanna and I will soon be together permanently as we get married June 8th and by June's end, settle down in Pennsylvania. Longing for Jesus, however, will continue, especially as no one knows the day nor hour of when He wil return, or when I will see him face to face. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Making Decisions

Recently I listened to a podcast by Timothy Keller about decision making and God's guidance. The message proved timely, considering the day I took in the message was three days after deciding to accept a staff position at Penn State University with the Christian Student Fellowship. Later that same  day upon taking in the podcast I also proposed to my now fiance. 

One of his points reiterated some teaching I'd also digested from "My Utmost For His Highest" by Oswald Chambers. Keller asserted that while God plans out our life, many of the decisions are up to us. Whether we decide one way or another, God will plan our lives accordingly, but we are responsible for what we decide. Chambers likewise asserted that God doesn't call some people to missions and not others, but that he calls all and the decision is up to us. 

In Isaiah 6, the prophet over hears God asking the question "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" Isaiah responds with "Here am I. Send me!" God didn't single out the prophet, but the prophet saw the need and responded with a willing spirit. With Penn State, I saw the need for additional staff on campus. After seeking to minister to college students for several years, and aiming to be campus ministry staff full time, the choice was clear. My only alternative consisted of remaining on the sidelines of full time ministry, and continuing to live a life that would have been more self serving and less dependent on God through faith. 

Likewise with Joanna. During college I came to see that the soul mate idea was complete fiction. There is no one perfect person out there for everybody. Paul himself asserted that for some people, it is better to remain unmarried in order to focus solely on God's kingdom without the commitments a family makes. He also asserts that for some people, it is better to marry if they can impact God's kingdom in a more holy way together than separate. Every relationship requires work, trust, and commitment to meet the needs of your spouse exclusively while also having many of your needs exclusively met in return. Spouses can't meet every need, and indeed God must be the well you draw from first. You also need to keep your base of friends and family. But meeting needs requires work.

With Joanna, I saw early on her heart to worship God. I saw a heart that was close to Him, and drew close on a consistent basis through prayer, scripture, teaching, and being involved in missions. I saw in her a spirit I could truly trust, and someone who would equally desire to minister to others in her own way (currently through nursing). Our purpose drew from Ephesians 5, my aim being to ultimately help her to bring more glory to God.

After several months of intentional courting, I came to a point of believing I could better serve Joanna as a husband, and if she was willing, she as my wife. Thus I chose to propose. Marriage is  no light decision to be made, nor did I decide lightly. But I decided with a Godly purpose. When you make decisions based on scripture, out of consideration for others, and what will be best for yourself, there's often no wrong choice to be made.