Friday, May 30, 2008

A New Journey

“I know that when I embark on a new spiritual journey, Satan will do anything to make sure I fail.” –Steve

I’m in the Colorado Springs airport right now, and I am embarking on a new spiritual journey. I just got done with my EDGE Corps training, and I now face the daunting task of fundraising the money needed for me go to my mission field: Arizona State University. Satan has a firm grasp on many students on the campus, and the last thing he wants is a God-sent missionary shaking things up. Satan will do everything he can to wear me out, tear me down, and finally convince me that I am not supposed to be on EDGE Corps. The staff of the Navigators preached over and over again, “This is going to be hard.” “You will fail.” “You cannot do this on your own.”

I have a feeling I am going to learn this the hard way. I imagine myself going back home, doing everything in my power to fundraise my support, and falling flat on my face. It will only be when I do everything in God’s power that He will reveal to me is sovereignty over this challenge. One thing I do know is this: God has started me on this journey, and God will finish everything He starts.

Please pray that God will demonstrate His power through my fundraising in such a way that I cannot take credit for it. I don’t know how He will do it, and it’s scary to hand over that trust to Him. But just like everything else in my life, I fail the most when I try to make it on my own. Thank God I have the Lord as my strength.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Contentment vs. Fulfillment

This is a letter that was read in our leadership meeting for the Navigators yesterday. It was neither written to me or by me, but in the words of my friend Josh, it might have well been written to me. I'm not going to tell you anything else about it, BUT PLEASE READ IT! It is extremely important for all of us to understand.

January 23, 2008

Hey man. Thanks for the letter. You know, I share your feelings in terms of numbness and hopelessness. I was meeting with a guy out here who said he felt the same way. So here is what I told him:

I think God allows – maybe causes – us to feel that way so that we’ll understand where to put our hope.

In the end, we derive joy from an expectation of something good in the future (that is hope). Well, I should say that is where long term, sustaining joy comes from. We have joy when we get what we hope for, but it passes shortly afterward and our heart latches on to some new desire. Take for example a new job, new car, or a new place to live. We somehow believe that once we attain this, all will be well – we will be fulfilled.

The same is true with ministry and spiritual things. “Oh, how great it would be if I had a booming ministry. If only I had a “key guy” or two that would zealously give their lives in exchange for the Kingdom. Then I would truly be “reproductive,” I would be fulfilled.” These are the lies that flow through our subconscious. They are the seeds of destruction brother.

Oh, and I almost forgot the most heinous of all the lies for us singles: “if only I had a beautiful, godly wife to love and support me, to give me compassion, and sexual gratification. Then I’d be free from this struggle with lust or freer anyway, as I’d have an outlet. Oh how fulfilled I’d be then.”

But we both know, my friend, that Proverbs 27:20 is true to our core. “Sheol and Abbadon are never satisfied, nor are the eyes of man ever satisfied.” So we desire, lust, and hope for what is temporal – we eat with our eyes. And when we receive it, we realize it is not all we had hoped it would be. We get a college degree and feel no smarter nor more qualified than before. We buy a new car and within a few years it is old, with too many miles on it. We move to a new city and realize we are the same old people with the same old issues, in a new location. And, of course, we get married, only to find out there are women out there who are more beautiful, or with whom we may relate better.

Now, I know what you are thinking. This is nothing new. Those of us who have been walking with the Lord for more than a day realize this stuff easily. We master the discipline of being happy with what we have. We can say with Paul, “… I have learned in whatever situation I am in to be content.” (Philippians 4:11).

In fact, we do one better. Not only do we suppress our natural tendency to put our hope in what we see: possessions, a career, a family – those things by which the world measures success – but we transfer our hope to something eternal – people. Once we realize the futility of chasing worldly goals, we run full steam at the only noble goal left. We give our lives to “ministry.” We set our hope in making an impact on the world around us; in reaching and discipling others. As we run down this tunnel we realize all too late that there is no light at the end of it.

Once we understand that we can no more control the mind, will, and emotions of others than we can the weather, we are left utterly hopeless. We watch helplessly as men we’ve led to Christ fall away. We watch angrily as men we’ve invested into marry the wrong woman or choose their career over serving the Lord (not that one can’t serve the Lord and have a career, but that is a different letter). Worse yet, we gloat inside of ourselves when one of our disciples does well in our eyes, all the while having no idea the true state of their heart or position with God.

And, as with everything else, we always think we could do better; have more of an impact. We see someone younger than ourselves who is bolder, smarter, and has a larger ministry. We feel like slackers; lazy; worthless. At best, we suppress these thoughts and do our best to be content with the ministry the Lord has given us. But, in the final analysis – contentment is not fulfillment. Anyone who has successfully lost weight knows that you can eat until you’re no longer hungry without eating until you’re full. Furthermore, excellence necessitates ambition. You cannot be zealous without hoping in something. If you do not find the right target at which to aim your hope, you will find yourself vacillating from goal to goal throughout your life. Your heart will be incurably sick. (Proverbs 13:12).

So, what is the right target? I can tell you this for sure – you will not be fulfilled in this life. Men will argue this point. They will tell you fulfillment can be found here and now in your relationship with Christ. Our savior promises it: “Blessed,” he says, “are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:6, emphasis added). But, find me a man who is no longer hungry for righteousness, and I will show you a man who is at peace with the world, and an enemy of the cross. Truly godly men die hungry. They die yearning for the transformation of their naturally sinful bodies into the glorious resurrected body, molded in the image of Christ.

God wants you to stay content, not fulfilled. He wants you to continually say to yourself, “something doesn’t feel right. It seems as though something is missing.” He gives you manna for now. Just enough to quell the hunger pangs (Exodus 16:8). However, there awaits for us a day of feasting, and a day of rest. We must eagerly expect the feast waiting for us on the other side of the Jordan. (Joshua 5:11,12). But understand that we will not cross the Jordan this side of eternity.

In Eternity we will eat the wedding feast. We will marry Christ. Our intimacy with Him will be unparelleled by anything we experience here. We will no longer sin, we will have nothing to fear, and will never die. In His presence we will have “fullness of joy” and pleasure for ever. (Psalm 16:11; 1 Corinthians 15; Revelation 22).

God forbid we put our hope in what we see now, whether it be marriage, money, a career, or even ministry. If we hope in these things we hope in the world, and deny the purpose and power of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. We then become “… of all men, most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:19).

For Christ died to be the guarantee of a better covenant. He was resurrected to be the demonstration of a better hope. That is the point of the book of Hebrews. God has us live with imperfection now so that we will hope in something better for eternity. If you could be fulfilled now, Heaven would be useless. Instead we must be like the saints of Hebrews 11 who “… all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. [Not their homeland here on earth, lest they would have wanted to stay here.] But, as it is, they desire a better country, a Heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.” (Hebrews 11:13-16).

My friend, stay hungry. Stay unfulfilled. Look to the joy set before you: in eternity. Use that to motivate you to endure the struggles of this present life. (Hebrews 12:2). Remember that this world has nothing for you, and this world is all that you can see. Reach men, make disciples. Help others to understand the hope we have in Christ. Be zealous in that direction, constantly waiting for Christ to return, and fulfillment to be realized.

Here are a couple more good verses:

Colossians 3:1-4; Philippians 2:12-21; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Changes are Coming

I have never blogged before, nor did I imagine myself doing so. But I see this as an opportunity to share with others what God is doing in my life, whatever that may be. Right now, God is leading in a new adventure. I will be graduating from Arizona State University soon, and God as placed me in EDGE Corps, a ministry associated with the Navigators. I will be laboring for the Lord at Arizona State, which means sharing God's Word with college students and discipling men that will eventually do the same thing with others. If you had asked me a year ago if I would be doing EDGE right out of college, I probably would have answered with a convincing "No." But God has a way of turning things upside down, and He did just that in my life.

When Paul was writing to Ephesus in the book of Acts, he said something that has had a strong impact in my life. Acts 20:22-24 says:

"And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace."

What task has the Spirit given me? To reach out to the students at Arizona State, sharing and living out the gospel among them. I don't know what is going to happen to me while I'm completing this task, but I know that anything else would be worth absolutely nothing.

Please pray for me as I prepare for this task. Pray that I trust the Lord completely to provide for my needs. Pray for the hearts of the students, that the Lord opens their hearts to the words He is going to say through me and the other laborers at Arizona State. Finally, please pray that I finish this school year strong. I want to glorify God through my efforts in all I do, including my schoolwork.

Well, this was fun! Never thought I'd enjoy blogging. I'll have to do this again!