Archive - August, 2009

Change you can believe in…

During service tonight, we watched an awesome video that shared two students’ testimonies. The overall theme was “I once was ___, but now I’m ___” because God with the help of the community of His followers have changed my life. So much has changed in two years that I can’t help but laugh when I ponder that sentence.

For me, this concept of change and transformation is difficult. One of the hardest things for me to accept and embrace is how much I have changed. Actually, I have been denying it… halfheartedly deluding myself into thinking I am still the same… but over the last week, I have been continually reminded of how much has actually changed.

Someone walked up to me the other day, stopped, stared and asked “You’re Kera Package?”. After reminiscing about days of old where I was a leader in an organization when she was a freshman entering the program… she asked what I am doing with my life, if I am pursuing my political dreams. I laughed, told her that I changed my major five times and my dreams were entirely different now. “Jesus, what happened?!?” “Well actually, speaking of Jesus, that’s what happened… I’m majoring in religious studies, graduating early, and going into ministry…” Her jaw dropped; she was surprised to say the least. I confess that for a moment I wanted to cry because I felt like I had let her down. She is not the only one… three girls I once mentored from three different organizations now go to my university… all three are disappointed with their former role model… and a secret sinful part of me wishes I still lived up to their expectations.

I am certainly not the same person that I was two or three years ago. In fact, I am not the same person this year that I was last year. Change is hard for me to accept. For the most part, I liked me. I liked my skills and my abilities and my personality- and sometimes I feel like I’ve lost those or at least the avenues to express them. Though as much as I liked me, I love God more. I belong to Him and He gave me everything that I am. I am nothing without Him, and my existence is meaningless if it isn’t glorifying Him. The thought of disappointing people hurts, but the thought of disappointing God is more painful than words could express.

I like the new me better. I love that I can feel Him molding me, transforming the attributes He gave me into the person He wants me to be. And, I know that I will like the person that God has created me to be even more. I long to be that person… and I feel that God has given me some direction, and I am fighting like crazy to move down that path.

Who I am becoming makes me laugh because of who I am, and who I am makes me laugh because of who I have been. As I have been laughing, I have also been contemplating how to complete the “I once was___ , but now I am____” declaration. The orator in me came up with this…

I once was motivated by the realization that “Becoming a leader is synonymous with becoming yourself. It is precisely that simple, and it is also that difficult”, [and] now I am trusting that ” with God’s help, I shall become myself.”

(First quotation from servant leadership guru Warren Bennis is a longtime favorite of mine that I have been referencing for years…. the second is from Soren Kierkegaard.)

Wearing faith on your sleeve…

“How can you call yourself a Christian and have a tattoo?” Even after explaining to the student that my tattoo was meant to glorify God – to serve as a marker of what He has done in my life and a constant reminder that He should be the one directing my steps, he was still convinced that it was a sin and that I am going to hell because of a little ink.

Interesting scenario considering the fact that I firmly believe that God approves of my ink. Actually, I believe that He told me to get it. The young boy could not comprehend this possibility, and I can’t say that I blame him. As humans, we are all quick to judge and make assumptions. Often our initial perceptions of people define how we view them before we even begin to hear their story.

I went in Wednesday to have the tattoo touched up, and my tattoo artist asked me to remind him of the meaning of “kairos”. I told him the same story that I told the teenage boy. Only he responded- “that’s awesome”. Gathering that he was a Christian- a vibe that I have had since the first time I met him, I jokingly shared the story about my conversation with the student.

We spent the next few minutes talking about his experience with ministry. He is involved with a Bible study in Baltimore that reaches out to the subculture of people who are tattooed, pierced, and rejected by the church. The organization is called Hope for the Rejected. They are affiliated with Youth For Christ and specifically reach out to youth who are rejected from church communities because of the way they look or their involvement with subculture scenes. As he was completing my touch up, he told me that he was moving to Texas and getting involved with another ministry called Rise Above. Who would have thought that your local tattoo artist has a heart for ministry, youth, and the rejected people of this world?

From the Hope for the Rejected website:

Loy Thurman [founder of ministry] wears his faith on his skin. Bright, four-color tattoos cover his neck, back, knees and feet. The drawing on his left arm is a rendition of a famous painting called Light of the World. It depicts Jesus holding a lantern that offers light to everyone.

The Hebrew word for atonement covers Thurman’s back. Praying hands shroud his knees. A tattoo of brass knuckles covers one foot; a switchblade covers the other.

“That reminds me that prayer is a street fight,” he said. “Life is a battle for souls, and we’re called to spiritual warfare.”

Every tattoo speaks of Thurman’s faith and commitment.

“Knowing Christ is so real, I’d walk over a cliff just to get to Him. That’s the reach of the Gospel.”

Thurman’s outreach is to those in the “scene,” a subculture of music and beliefs. His work with Subculture Ministries in Baltimore, Md., is supported by Southeast Christian Church and Youth for Christ.

Thurman, 26, is one of a unique group of missionaries. He is Timothy-raised in the Southeast youth group, called to ministry and supported by the church.

Southeast member Jim Karibo has known Thurman since he was in high school.

“Loy is a disciple to kids who don’t fit in most churches,” Karibo said. “He truly loves the Lord and always wanted to be used by God in some way. I’m thrilled he’s working with these kids.

“Kids in the scene look for people who are real,” he said. “These kids stick together because they’ve been rejected by others. They may look different, yet in so many ways they’re just like everybody else. They need Christ.”

Thurman believes God has called him to witness where few preachers go. Outreach is not easy.

“Most kids in the scene have no understanding of who Christ is,” Thurman said. “They are kids who have been turned off by the traditional church. Kids who long to belong but know little of the unconditional love Christ offers.”

Thurman’s call to reach these kids was clear. He attended a concert in a dark room with a stage. A band member yelled lyrics from the stage as kids standing around him yelled them back to the lead singer. Everything about the place looked different, yet Thurman was moved.

“As I was leaving the show, I felt God asking me, ‘Who’s reaching these kids?’”

Loy shook his head. “No one is.”

And that’s when he knew what God wanted him to do. He was going to the scene.

Thurman said it’s a call to be a light in the darkness. Subculture ministry began in 1998 with kids on Bardstown Road in Louisville. In April 2002, Thurman moved to Baltimore where the scene looms much larger.

“I don’t talk about my faith when I first meet someone,” Thurman said. “The only way to share your faith is to live it. When kids ask why I believe in Christ, I answer with authority. I am proud of my faith. Subcultures are all about boldness. I’m just as bold about what I know is true.”

Not long ago, Thurman went to a friend’s birthday party. Guests included 30 tattoo artists. Conversation veered from alcohol and tattoos to Jesus and faith.

“One guy told me he’d grown up in the church but left with a lot of disappointment,” Thurman said. “He didn’t find Jesus at church, but was interested in talking about God.”

About 30 kids meet every week at an apartment in upper Baltimore for Bible study.

“Conversation at Bible study is blunt,” Thurman said. “They ask hard questions and want informed answers. The Gospel is a jewel. We don’t throw it at anybody. I show them Christ is the truth from what I have studied and experienced.”

Thurman builds friendships without ulterior motives.

“Scene kids see through people,” he said. “They’re allergic to fakes. Some of these kids have had the Bible shoved in their faces and others have been told they’re going to hell. I want to be their friend because I see value in them. If they never accept Jesus, I will still love them.”

Thurman said kids in the scene relate to rejection, ostracism and suffering.

“When some have gone to church, they don’t feel the love of the body of Christ. Kids in the scene put up barriers. They say, ‘If you don’t accept me for who I am, forget it. Do you accept me for how I look? Are you going to look past my exterior to look at my heart? If not, you’re not worth my time.’”

But there are positives.

“In the scene, kids are willing to die for their beliefs,” Thurman said. “They don’t hide their sin, so if they are having problems in their lives, everyone knows. If they come to know Christ, that commitment is unbelievable.”

As the partnership between Thurman and Southeast grows, Karibo plans to take groups of college students from Southeast on short-term mission trips to Baltimore.

“I think it’s fantastic that Southeast is committed to reach this culture of kids who feel left out of the church environment,” Karibo said. “We need to go to them.”

For more information about Thurman’s ministry go to

This article originally appeared in The Southeast Outlook on 3/25/04.

Tending to the flock…

Lord, you know I love you… what now? Peter knows he fell short and the God he loves is standing before him. After having betrayed Jesus, I cannot imagine how Peter must have felt answering that simple question: “Do you love me?”. “Lord, you know I do..” eh except, for that mistake and that one and turning from you here and denying you there and being afraid of following you… and… eh, you know right?

Jesus doesn’t rebut his response. He doesn’t ask for clarification. He doesn’t say “o really, why did you betray me then”. He simply gives Peter an instruction and asks again. Three times. Anything mentioned three times has to be important, and three times Jesus asks Peter if he loves him. I have always assumed that Jesus gave Peter the same instruction… “Okay, you love me… feed my sheep”. My rough interpretation- ” okay you love me, so take care of my people”.

While reading through John a few weeks ago, I noticed that the translation I was reading had three different responses to Peter… and I began to wonder if Jesus was actually giving the same command or three different instructions for Peter’s pastoral role in the early church.

15When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

16Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 18 I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.”

After contemplating this difference in semantics for awhile… I finally took some time this morning to dissect the passage a little more, and thought I would share my findings.

In verse 15, Jesus responds: ““Feed my lambs”. The Greek says “Boske (5720) ta arnia mou.
Boske means ” to feed- portraying the duty of a Christian teacher to promote in every way the spiritual welfare of the members of the church”. Arnia means “a little lamb”. Jesus commands Peter to promote the spiritual welfare of all those who are young in the church. My take on this is that Jesus is talking about spiritual maturity, not physical age. “Peter, if you love me, teach those who are just beginning to recognize my voice… feed them so that they can grow, so that they spiritually can mature, equip them to follow me”.

In verse 16, Jesus responds: “Take care of my sheep.” Poimaine (5720) ta probata mou. Poimaine translates ” to feed, to tend a flock, keep sheep;to rule, govern - of rulers, to furnish pasture for food, to nourish, to cherish one’s body, to serve the body, to supply the requisites for the soul’s need”. Probata means sheep. “Peter, keep my people… rule over them, supply them with nourishment, meet their souls needs, serve them… do whatever you have to do to sustain their faith.”

In verse 17, Jesus responds: “Feed my sheep”. Boske (5720) ta probata mou. Promote in every way the spiritual welfare of the members of the church. Then Jesus gives him a little explanation. “When you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” I know He’s talking about Peter taking his role in the Church, but I also like to think Jesus is talking about the Church itself… His flock of sheep. “These sheep.. they aren’t lambs any more. They cannot roam where they want to, they cannot take care of themselves… they are older now and they need guidance. They need you to grab them by the hand, to pull them along, to take them deeper… even when they don’t want to go there. You are responsible for ensuring their spiritual welfare, their continued growth… feed my sheep. “

Three distinct responses. I don’t know about you, but that changes my outlook on this passage. It is more than “care for my people”. It is an instruction to bring in new believers, sustain the faith of believers, and to push believers beyond their comfort zones to continually grow in Christ. Peter is the leader of the church, and he is told to do these things… if we follow the instructions given to him in today’s society.. what does that mean for the way we do ministry? What does this mean for the way we live our lives?

Jesus didn’t say “Peter assign a minister to take care of new Christians, one to teach the sermons on Sundays, and one to deal with disciplinary issues when the need arises” He told Peter to do three things and to do them for every sheep. Seems to me like that is a large responsibility and such a privilege and a joy, to help His sheep hear His voice.

I have been looking at commentaries and most say that the variations don’t make a huge difference in interpretation… “As for the meaning, it is sometimes pointed out that bovskw describes a more restricted activity, that of feeding animals, than poimaivnw, which refers to guiding and protecting the flock as well as feeding it. This may be true, but taken comprehensively both terms form a general description of pastoral care…

As for the significance of the entire scene in the narrative, it seems clear that it is intended to indicate Peters complete restoration to a position of apostolic leadership after his threefold denial. Three times Peter had denied Jesus; three times Peter now affirms his love for his Lord, and three times Jesus commissions Peter to care for the flock of God. There could be no question on Peter’s part or on the part of the other disciples that he had been completely restored.” (From here… )

To be honest, it is now 5:00 p.m- I started writing this at 6:30 this morning.. and quit at the last paragraph. I was contemplating whether to post this in fear that my comments were heretical because all commentaries say the semantics are minor and irrelevant. Then I found this one. by John Gill.. verse 15

he saith unto him, feed my lambs;

the younger and more tender part of the flock, weak believers, Christ’s little children, newborn babes, the day of small things, which are not to be despised, the bruised reed that is not to be broken, and the smoking flax that is not to be quenched; but who are to be nourished, comforted, and strengthened, by feeding them with the milk of the Gospel, and by administering to them the ordinances and breasts of consolation. These Christ has an interest in, and therefore calls them “my lambs”, being given him by the Father, and purchased by his blood, and for whom he has a tender concern and affection; and nothing he looks upon as a firmer and clearer proof and evidence of love to him, than to feed these lambs of his, and take care of them.”

verse 16…

he saith unto him, feed my sheep;
both the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and his other sheep among the Gentiles, whom the Father had given him, and he had paid a price for, and must be brought in; these being called, he would have fed with the word and ordinances, with the bread of life, and water of life, not lorded over, and fleeced, and much less worried and destroyed; every instance of care and love shown to these, he takes as a mark of affection and respect to himself.”

verse 17…

Jesus saith unto him, feed my sheep.
It may be observed from the repetition of this phrase following upon Peter’s declaration of his love to Christ, that such only are proper persons to feed the lambs and sheep of Christ, who truly and sincerely love him: and in doing which they show their love to him: and who indeed would be concerned in this service, but such? since the work is so laborious, the conduct of those to whom they minister oftentimes is so disagreeable, the reproach they meet with from the world, and the opposition made unto them by Satan, and all the powers of darkness: it is true indeed, there are some that take upon them this work, and pretend to do it, who do not love Christ; but then they are such who feed themselves, and not the flock; and who feed the world’s goats, and not Christ’s lambs and sheep, and in time of danger leave the flock; only the true lovers of Christ faithfully perform this service, and abide in it by preaching the pure Gospel of Christ, by administering his ordinances, in their right manner, and by directing souls in all to Christ, the heavenly manna, and bread of life

So, three distinct instructions.. a complete redemption from Peter’s past mistakes… and instructions on how to take care of His flock… the question is what do we do with them? Are we focusing on fulfilling these three commands or vaguely generalizing His words into a vague instruction that can be manipulated to meet our needs?