Archive - June, 2009

resisting the motions…

1 I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: 2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. 5 But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry
.-
2 Timothy 4:1-5

This passage is an accurate summary of what I am learning this week. Even though my group is great, this week is the hardest one I’ve had yet… for various reasons. Without going into too much detail, I will say that being prepared constantly has proven to be challenging because there is no “time on” or “time off” this summer. The revelation that there should never be an on/off switch to faith or ministry is not a new truth for me… but I have been realizing how great that charge to live with authenticity, boldness, truth and love actually is… I am continually faced with the reality that our faith has been polluted by ill teaching and cultural perversions. When New Age practices, American civil religion, relativism, and our false god of self gratification influence our doctrines, we end up with a mingled mess of religion with a side of Christ thrown in when its convenient.

To steal some thoughts from Matthew West’s The Motions,
“I don’t wanna spend my whole life asking
What if I had given everything?
Instead of going through the motions”

I do not want to live a life of convenience, going through the motions. I want to live a radical life, chasing after God, standing strong for Him, and moving wherever His Spirit tells me to move…

“Fulfill your ministry”…. “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all [patience] and teaching.”… what does that look like for my personal ministry here with this summer?

“So ,what’s your testimony?”

“You now have five minutes… to drill your CSM hosts… you can ask us any question and we will answer… go…” This little Q&A icebreaker eases the tension and students ask silly questions like “What’s your favorite color pixie stick?” One of my girls this week got straight to the point and asked the question that mattered most…

Ironic. Not even fifteen minutes earlier, I told my co-host that I was not going to bring my story into the debriefing session. We spent the day working with kids, many of which come from impoverished and/or troubled homes. Meaning I can offer some insight based on my own experiences, but I try not to do so too often because this is not about me and I don’t want to continually refer to my story. Even though I vowed not to use a personal story this time, when she asked for my testimony, I knew I could not pass up this opportunity. It is impossible to separate my walk with God from my struggles in life because God has been so gracious to me and it is truly His story to tell. So, I gave the group a topical, vague overview… and some insight and encouragement, but stuck to my guns about not getting into much detail. The following evening a few of the girls asked me to fill in the details…

Though I still do not know what that dynamic between sharing and not will be with groups- or in life for that matter, I will never pass up an opportunity to share what God has done for me if asked. This is the second week in a row that the group asked questions that led to me telling my testimony….

There is something to be said about the power of a testimony. Revelations 12:11 says “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony”. Something to ponder. What if my very testimony- the story of God working in my life- helps someone else overcome their problem or their prejudice or their fear? If I refrain from sharing when I have insight, what does that say about my willingness to share my faith and the truth about God?

Our willingness to be open and confident – to speak the word of God in truth and our testimonies with bold assurance- is an essential component of our faith. Sharing one’s testimony goes beyond sharing words though. Words are nothing if the life we lead doesn’t reflect the words we speak. If we claim to be changed, we should live in a way that shows those changes…

An example from last night, if we claim to believe in the power of prayer, we should be devoted and expectant in prayer… Prayer…. Living out faith in public. What is more public than praying in a park with a group of students? Our testimony that we believed in prayer was the fact that we were genuinely praying aloud in a public area. A man saw our faith and asked us to pray for him and his faith because he does not believe in God. I prayed through the Gospel with him and for healing in his life, and the youth leader prayed for his heart and his journey… and I think that it is awesome to be allowed to play a small part in what God is doing in that man’s life

Oh, the power of a testimony- in word, in actions, in life… the question is whether we limit the power by passing over opportunities… my reason for not speaking or not acting when I have the opportunity is generally a fear of people and people thinking poorly of me. That loss of reputation or favor with people is nothing compared to a lost opportunity to see the Blood of the Lamb and the Holy Spirit working through our lives to help someone overcome…

Just some unedited thoughts to ponder.

*insert a more detailed story here*

I have learned so much from this week… and I want to share those lessons with anyone who stumbles across this page… but I do not know where to begin. Instead of writing a long description or trying to summarize complexities, I think it is best to leave one thought without much explanation.

Today in CVS, I overheard a man greeting an elderly woman with a ” God is good”, and she responded “All the time.” Amen. A simple truth, but one that we all need to be reminded of continually.

I think it is too easy to forget either the “all” or to redefine “good” to mean what is preferable to us. Through some challenges and complexities- and amazing glimpses of how God transforms lives and turns all things into good things for His purposes- I think this week definitely reminded me of the truth behind the traditional greeting that I learned as a child.

God is good, all the time.

“Don’t think it, know it, claim it…”

Yesterday, my group of students volunteered at DC Central Kitchen. As three of us were elbow deep in chicken grease, carving away at dozens of carcasses fresh from the rotisserie… a man named Michael who is a student in DCCK’s recovery/job program…. joined our table. The first question he asked, “Are you Christian?” The girls with me explained that they were on a mission trip and that I was their host in DC. He told us his story- he found Jesus in prison, was empowered by the Holy Spirit to enter recovery, and desires to work with prison ministry to lead others to Christ. I was encouraged and blessed by his testimony. Michael then had a series of questions for me… “What is your role in the Church? What are your spiritual gifts? How has God prepared you through your past for your future? What is your explanation of the hope of Christ? What do you think God calls us to do? How do you combat spiritual warfare?” and so forth…

Large knife in hand, I continued cutting away at the chickens and answering every question as honestly and succinctly as possible. I have had much time to think about those questions and I am pretty confident in my answers…. yet my word choices included phrases like “I think, I should, we’ll see..” Micheal called me out. He reprimanded me for not speaking truth in confidence and claiming what God has called me to do. “Don’t think it, know it, claim it….”

My conversation with Michael was definitely the encouragement and challenge that I needed. The students working with me overheard our discussion and were amazed that I could answer his questions without really thinking twice… so was I to be honest. I am not good with being concise when answering spiritual questions, and I am just now realizing how much God has revealed to me over the last few years.

Later last night, during the group’s debriefing, each student was allowed to share how God touched them. I began feeling like I should share my encounter with Michael and encourage the students to know that God is working in them,to know that they are His children and to take the confidence in the truth of the Gospel with them wherever they go. Being a host, I am obviously not a student… so I prayed that if God would have their leader ask for the CSM staff’s input so that I could share. Their leader asked, so I did. With a subtle quiver in my voice, I told seventy students what I had learned from a man living in a shelter who loves Jesus just as much if not more than I do… I shared with them the message that I thought- scratch that, I know- that God wanted me to give them.

Another small step in learning how to walk in obedience in spirit and truth… praise God for the conversations, the lessons learned, and the opportunity to share with others.

Humble Thyself 101 + 102.. a crash course

I know my limitations, I know my strengths, and I know myself. With that, I know that I have just lied. Saying that I know myself is claiming that I understand one of God’s creations, and I do not have that depth of wisdom. My life is not my own, so to claim that I know it or that I own it is disrespectful and disgracing my Creator. The clay should not advise the potter how to shape it…

Going into to this summer, I have not been extremely confident about my job because it requires me to be vulnerable with some of those known limitations and weaknesses. I have also been praying that God would reveal to me those unknown character flaws as well. The first two days with my first serving group of students have proven to be a lesson in humility and learning what it means to be weak so that He may be strong.

The one aspect of my job that I was extremely confident in and comfortable with is the prayer tour of the city and the debriefing sessions. As we were practicing the prayer tour, I knew I had it down. I live in DC, so my commentary on the neighborhoods is second nature. I love prayer. I am a great orator. Comfortable and easy task… and one that I truly have a heart for doing… so no problem, right? Well… no. The problem lies in the fact that my confidence was in MY ability to do it, not in God’s ability to use my strength to glorify Himself while showing students His heart for the city. I needed a lesson in humility.

And… I got one. My first prayer tour was okay, but definitely sub par for my standards. I messed up almost everything I could mess up to some degree. I took a detour from the route accidentally, I missed giving spouts of information, I stuttered and stammered most of the time, I misquoted statistics by large margins during one of the stops… all in all, the one thing I was confident in doing, I did not do well with the first time around. The truth is that before we even started the prayer tour, I began to get a migraine- which are generally completely debilitating. My strengths, my human ability to do this… went out the window as soon as the migraine began. I was centered in myself, and not in Him… so instead of having His words flow from me, I stammered over my own and tried to wince through the pain.

Second lesson in humility, giving directions in the city and finding parking. If you ever want to look like you have no idea what you are doing, try to navigate a 15 passenger van through traffic in downtown DC. Calling a youth leader to say I had you park in a spot that you cannot be in during rush hour, please meet me to move your van before it is towed is never fun. As someone who normally takes great pride in having a good sense of direction and street smarts, yesterday was a bit of a struggle for me.

Through the last two days, God has taken me on a crash course in humility, and I am grateful because I need Him to be guiding me this summer and always… not directing my steps myself. By dictionary definition, when someone is humbled, they are: “made humble in spirit or manner, and their power, independence, or prestige is destroyed”. To be humble means that one is: “ reflecting, expressing, or offered in a spirit of deference or submission”. My independence and power and pride in my strengths were destroyed so that I could remain in a posture of submission.

His Word says that “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. ” Matthew 23:12. The reminder was necessary, and I thank God that days 1 and 2 put me in my place…. humbling walking with my God.

“He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God. “
-Micah 6:8