A Glimpse of the Spectacular

The night is Thursday. The place is Hardin Simmons University. The occasion is Super Summer. Zach Randles is preaching on thankfulness. I sit and watch as hundreds of students are taking notes on how to pray and how to be more thankful. I hold a book in my hand with guided questions to share with my family group. We’ve been thru the routine before – sit, lesson, notes, questions, conversation, and then inevitably food lol. My attempt to break up routine leads my other team leader to remind me the questions are important and allowing others to answer is even more important. Trust the process. And yet, my rebellious nature couldn’t allow for a normal night to take place. I had to push my family group’s limits and an idea sparked.

Everyone had a pen and notebook. We were all accustomed to writing. So I had them write. The assignment? Fill as many pages as one was able finishing this sentence: I am thankful to God for ________. Pretty simple, really. But God chose to bless it.

During the next 20 minutes I watched as students filled pages full of things to which they are thankful. Youth who had complained about family relations all week set that aside and thanked God for their crazy complicated family. Work problems and boyfriend/girlfriend problems were set aside as our group realized anything could be overcome with a thankful heart. Of course, I was distracted. I fielded a phone call from a concerned parent and wasn’t able to complete my list. When I did finally sit down my mind was consumed with thoughts of the arrangements for home. Would the bus arrive on time? Would my group be packed? Who would I want to leave behind? I’m hungry again…

Going nowhere fast I decided the best thing to do was pray to God and be thankful in my heart for a great week. As I prayed it dawned on me that I knew more about each person in my group from a week together than I realized and although I could pray for them in silence it would be awesome to pray for them in a way they could hear me. So, I got up and sat by my first victim, Kelsey. Caught off guard I knew it would take her a moment to warm up to me. Then to my second, Michaela. My third, Audra Beth. I was supposed to be leading them in conversation as a group – what I saw instead shocked my heart and filled my soul with joy.

Several of the students, all who are supposed to be leaders, began praying with other students by the time I made it to my fourth. A few individually and a few more in a group. Prayers were prayed, tears spilled, and together a glimpse of the spectacular – students engaged in each others lives. One of my favorite guys confessed that he missed an opportunity to invest in his friend because he was afraid – I prayed for confidence. Another said she didn’t know exactly how to love her parents right now – I prayed for wisdom. Another struggles with a relationship not built on the Word – I prayed for clarity. Another needed courage to engage his teammates with the Gospel – I prayed for boldness. Another battles depression – I prayed for peace that passes all understanding.

And the prayers went on and on. Golf carts drove by alerting with a flash light that it was time to leave. No one cared. I looked at my watch and realized we would be late to our next activity. I didn’t care. We missed an opportunity for dollar burritos during break time. We got over that one eventually… Finally a gentleman came by and informed me that we didn’t have an option, we needed to join the rest of the students.

A lot happened at Super Summer from June 13-17. I was placed way outside my comfort zone by not interacting much with my church youth group. Many of my students were completely unprepared for the setup of Super Summer. The food was not comforting. I sang karaoke with 4 other guys to the tune of the Backstreet Boys. We all painted ourselves and went crazy on the rec field.

The memory that will stick, however, happened among a group of students willing to confront their issues, give them over to God, and accept a thankful heart. My prayer today is the night not be wasted – may each in my family group remember the impact of a heart set on Christ. “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” Colossians 3:15thumb_IMG_6960_1024

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A Hearty Thank You!

I cannot say thank you well enough, enough times, or to enough people to adequately express how indebted I am to God for placing me within the lives of the people of Fairview Baptist Church in Mineral Wells. My Christmas at home was great: I spent plenty of time with family, was able to help my dad and brother on a couple of projects, was given multiple opportunities to preach, and I was able to unwind from the previous semester. Yet, there was a twinge of anxiety that I felt as I anxiously waited for the 19th of January and made my flight back to Fort Worth.

Why so anxious? Just as I arrived home in December I received a call from Pastor John Tunnell confirming that I was being called to be the Youth Pastor at Fairview BC. This was and is a big deal, but it was an even bigger deal because I knew my lifestyle was not ready for a sudden move. I had an apartment to take care of, school was nearing, and quite frankly I just did not know the community I would be moving to very well. How were my classes going to work? Would I be able to get in enough library time? Am I ready to join another church? Anxiety. Fortunately, my dad had enough work for me that I could bury my worries for the moment and focus on cleaning, roofing, plumbing, tiling, painting… you get the picture.

In the end I had nothing to worry about because I underestimated the love and kindness shown by this wonderful church family. I called Pastor John, had the date moved up a week where I was going to be presented to the church, and he told me that likely I could move into the house before classes started. What a relief. My week then has gone as such: flew in on the 19th, voted in favor of on the 20th, MOVED on the 21st, first time meeting the students on the 23rd, classes started the 24th, a massive birthday party for Luke on the 25th, a massive overhaul on the youth room on the 26th, and then church and a potluck meal on the 27th to round things off. All the while having several people come in and out of the house fixing things, painting, cleaning, and even building bookcases.

So this is my attempt at saying thank you, thank you for making my transition into the community of Fairview as simple and easy as could be dreamed of. Thank you Pastor John and Mrs Amy for your warm hospitality and graciously trusting me around your children; I do not take this lightly. Thank you to Jesse and Mrs Van, both of you have spent more time in my home this week than you have in yours! Thank you Daniel and Mrs Kim, for giving of your time and truck in hauling my stuff from Fort Worth to Mineral Wells and for supporting me from the beginning. Thank you Mike and Mrs Cathy, I only learned afterward that you took off of work to help me move in and clean things up. Thank you Chad and Mrs Mitzy, for cleaning, for hauling couches, for supporting and praying for me. Thank you Mrs Elda for managing all of us Monday and telling us how everything is supposed to look. We needed that. Thank you Mrs Misty (awkward) for cleaning and keeping our crew lively. Thank you Dr Jones for meeting us at the house and helping us unload my junk. Thank you Mrs Cathy Fowler and others who provided meals for this week. Ashamedly I say thank you also to any and everyone else who helped in my transition that I have failed to mention.

I also need to say thank you to all parents of middle and high school students who are trusting me with their children. I pray the Lord works through me to empower them to look a little more like Christ. And even to the students themselves, thank you for your effort on Saturday morning as we cleaned up and cleaned out the youth room. I pray I did not make too many enemies that day… but I believe fruitful ministry will be had in the days to come. Mrs Victoria, Mrs Mitzy, Mrs Kim, and Mr Daniel all contributed to the effort on the youth room.

My life verse is Colossians 3:17 — And whatever you do, in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. I want to thank my God, my King, my Savior for allowing me to pour into the lives of this community. On my own I am unworthy, but through the power of Jesus may my actions and words give testimony to the transformation that has occurred in me.

cb

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κήρυξον τὸν λόγον

Preach the Word! (a translation of the title)

It is often said, “It’s all Greek to me.” Too often I am in agreement with this statement. I have now studied Koine Greek for nearly two and a half years and on certain days it feels like I have not learned a thing! But then I take a calm breath, refocus my mind, and recapture the beauty of syntax in the original languages of Scripture.

The other day I was at Starbucks (surprising, I know) when I noticed a set of piercing eyes examining my work. I was in the process of translating Hebrews 7; she was in the process of figuring out how to ask what in the world it was that I was doing! Her issue with me translating from Greek is a valid one, she could not figure out why I would translate something that has already been translated. This led to an engaging conversation to which I defended the practice of beginning from the original text and translating the Bible, both in Hebrew and Greek. I came to these few conclusions:

  1. Starting with the Greek I am placing myself into the shoes of the original audience. — The Bible is not an abstract document. Instead, each book has a purpose and a particular audience in mind, both of these factors inform what is being written.
  2. Greek is a picturesque language. — Often a concept is being conveyed that is not easily equated to a single English word. Sometimes you have to grasp an emotion, a picture, or a command with your mind’s eye.
  3. You are better able to capture the author’s flow of thought. — Everything informs interpretation: what kind of verb, is it a command, how are prepositions being used, what are the structural markers…
  4. Word order is often key. — Greek will often leave the verb last in the sentence, other times there are no stated verbs in a sentence (how is that possible!).
  5. Each translation is biased. — There is a target audience for each translation done. Some are more literal than others, use more poetic language than others, some are actually paraphrases; regardless, each is done for a specific purpose and this may determine how people choose to translate certain words.
  6. For study purposes, there are great benefits to producing a ‘wooden’ translation. — The best translations for reading/teaching are the ones that are fluid in speech. A wooden translation is not afraid to be complicated, to render participles with their semantical classifications, and use ten words instead of just two.
  7. You gain an appreciation for translating, period! — Once you translate from the original language you are able to see why modern translations have translated words the way they do. Often, I find myself wanting to give the translators a handshake for doing a much better job than I could.

Fortunately, she was genuinely interested in my response. I was able to derive each one of these reasons from the text I was working in. She was able to actually see the issues for herself rather than hearing an abstract lecture on linguistics, which would have been so boring for both of us…

Col. 3:17,

cb

 

p.s. — Always take advantage of an opportunity to share the Word of God in a public setting. Spend the $2 and get a coffee at Starbucks because their coffee is good, but when you do make sure you bring your Bible and seek an opportunity to interrupt someone’s day by pouring into them the truth and love of Jesus, as revealed in Scripture!

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All these Prodigal Sons…

Does it not make sense that reformed theology is prevalent among young adults in American culture today? Consider with me the connection between the 5 Points of Calvinism and other rubrics by which things are measured. In science there is a process called the Scientific Method by which anyone can judge if a hypothesis is true or not. In mathematics a mnemonic device is learned for the order of operations of numbers, PEMDAS. In an equation one knows which numbers to compute first based on their relationship between each other, causing someone to multiply X by Y before adding Y to Z in the following equation: X * Y + Z = unknown. Even in literature there are grammatical rules dictating the order of a normal sentence: subject, action, direct object, and indirect object.

Though simplistic in nature these are three examples of how a student in his or her formative years learns the basics in education. All three of these devices do not impose upon the matter that is being considered; rather they better allow the student to formulate a proper outcome based on the problem/issue/hypothesis.

I do not think I am in the minority of Southern Baptists when I say I did not leave high school with the ability to systematize my thoughts on theology and the Bible in a clear and concise manner. To be honest with you, I knew enough to know I needed to be saved, was indeed  saved, and knew I ought to follow the teachings of the Bible for the rest of my life because they were good and true. In general terms I could tell you that man was fallen, man needed a Savior, Jesus is the Savior, Jesus died for my sins, was buried and rose on the third day, is in Heaven right now, and will return for his church a day in the future. Tied to these generalities were a string of likely out-of-context, possibly misguided, and not fully understood set of Scripture verses that I was taught and picked up through years of Sunday School (though I likely thought John 3:16 covered all matters of theology). 

Here is where I interject the plausibility of Calvinism through 5 points. Calvinism offers to (even young) readers of the Bible a system to interpret Scripture through. Much like the Scientific Method, the Tulip offers a well thought out system on understanding issues in the Bible that are ambiguous to a casual reader, offers confidence in the interpretation of Scripture, and provides common ground among a community of friends reading and studying the Bible together. Ambiguity is found in the word, election. It is a biblical word so it must be important. The book of Romans most prevalently uses this word but one may still have trouble when coming across a verse like 2 Peter 1:10b (…. give diligence to make your calling and election sure). The Tulip provides the term Unconditional Election to understand how this word functions in the overall picture of salvation. According to Calvinism, some are elected to be saved from the foundation of the world from a collection of people who are altogether Totally Depraved. Much like a puzzle, pieces begin to fit together and make sense. This ‘making sense’ of Scripture leads to confidence in interpreting Scripture. It is good to test what we believe about the Bible with something in order to know whether we are interpreting correctly. Without something (or someone) as a guide, the likelihood of errors in our biblical thought increases. So first the Tulip provides a rubric, then gives confidence, and now what makes more sense than to share what you have come to know with a group of like-minded people! Suddenly, a Bible study is formed with a common rubric that everyone is in agreement with.

What I just described is happening on a phenomenal scale in evangelicalism today. Students are leaving high school without a solid, systematized, scripturally based theology; this leaves them without a desire for a deeper understanding of the Bible because the big picture is just not clicking. Certainly, preachers in churches all around them are preaching based on Scripture, out of Scripture, and with an emphasis on holy living, but the typical SBC church is not providing a rubric by which all of Scripture makes sense. I am not implying that upper high school and college age young adults are dumb or ignorant concerning theology, only that they have not learned to own what they know based on Scripture. The Bible is a daunting piece of literature; 66 books and each letter is inspired, inerrant, and infallible (yikes! Don’t wanna mess up).

The Tulip provides a way to make concrete decisions of Scripture based upon an agreed rubric.

Why is this so important now? There is a great rustle among Southern Baptist feathers about the influence of Calvinism among our six seminaries, particularly concerning Southern and Southeastern. It is my contention that more strides are being made among student-to-student relationships in favor of Calvinism than in the classroom between the professor and the student toward Calvinism. Learning is fostered in the classroom but it is made personal outside of class as students collaborate on the finer points of the lectures and the implications of what is being taught. Unless he or she is a research professor teaching limited classes, it has been my observation that each professor teaches at least four classes a semester in our seminaries. Of those four, at least two would be considered general classes and the other(s) is based on the professor’s specific field of expertise. One example of this is Dr. Dongsun Cho at SWBTS. In the Fall of ’11 he was responsible for teaching Systematic Theology I, Church History I, and Theology of Augustine. If there were any other classes they do not come to mind. Both the systematic theology and church history courses are considered general courses where Dr. Cho is responsible for presenting to the class an overview of the subject. Both subjects are so massive that there is little time for personal views in the midst of presenting all the material adequately. Where Dr. Cho did elaborate extensively was in the course that I participated in, the Theology of Augusitne. Dr. Cho is an Augustinian scholar and a fine theologian. His opinions/views were well grounded in research and challenged me intellectually, spiritually, and physically (you should have seen the reading list…) to deepen my faith.

Nearly every student earning a degree from Southwestern will take the Systematic Theology I and Church History I courses. The purpose is to introduce students to the subject matter and invoke learning by extensive reading and exams. With such vast material to cover, it was my experience in courses such as these that much learning was not done during the fifty minutes of a lecture. Instead, I wrestled with the concepts, gathered a group together, and collectively we learned the significance of the attributes of God and the importance of church counsels and the patristic fathers outside of the classroom. Anything we could not figure out we introduced to the professor in the form of a question and he best answered us. In this environment does one’s stance in the theological spectrum influence much of what is taught? I do not believe so. There is simply not enough room for it. The room to teach personal views is found in research classes such as the one on Augustine. The majority of students who are required to take this specific elective in historical theology is much smaller than the students required to take the more general systematic theology and church history. I hope to have portrayed how few students are influence by Dr. Cho’s personalized theology without putting anyone to sleep.

So where is the rub? Where is the friction that is occurring between a non-Calvinist church and their ‘wayward’ son who picked up and is running with Reformed Theology while at seminary? I would dare say the friction is found at home base, in the sending church. Too many up-and-coming pastors are being sent from churches without a theological framework by which to live and breathe while engaging in theological studies outside of high school. Without a solid framework these men are finding comfort in the Tulip and the subsequent teachings that accompany Reformed Theology.

Where do we go from here?

  1. Change the expectations you have toward your students while they are young. I heard it said once that kids today are ‘taking calculus in tenth grade and we are only teaching them how to be morally pure in Sunday School and Discipleship Training.’ In other words, students today can handle complex ideas; strengthen their mind in the field of theology by challenging them to prove their beliefs based on Scripture. Do you believe you are a sinner?  Prove it not by your actions but by verses in the Bible portraying God as a Holy God and man as embarrassingly a master manipulator (Jacob and Esau). Not all students are budding theologians, but every Christian is responsible unto God for interpreting Scripture.
  2. In my limited experience in ministry I have found that many parents and adults in general have missed proper theological training in their local church. There are too many reasons for this for me to address each one. My point is, how are adults expected to train their children and other students when they cannot themselves clearly articulate what they believe concerning Scripture and interpret Scripture properly. For teachers, more training is needed than sitting in the pews each Sunday. And btw, all parents of children are the children’s primary teachers concerning spiritual matters.
  3. To students finding themselves either in a college setting considering theology or a seminary setting considering theology: be quiet and listen. Those who know me well could tell you that I do not talk a lot but am in nearly every conversation that I can stand to be in concerning the Bible and theology in general. I love a good argument but recognize that I have so much to learn from others around me. As I listen to these conversations I am racking in my mind, on paper, or on my iPad questions that I have concerning the subject matter. Then I ponder on these things and attempt to come to a conclusion. If I cannot come to a reasonable/conservative/biblically true answer I take the question to someone who may know the answer: such as a professor, pastor, or teacher in the church. Never have things so figured out that you are unwilling to learn from others.
  4. When one enters seminary or college a transformation begins to occur. This is a transformation of the boy or the girl maturing into a man or a lady. At the end of the day each person is responsible to God for his or her beliefs concerning the Bible, Jesus, and theology. The responsibility is not on the university or the seminary; these agents are only instigators to a person’s thoughts, provoking the mind to make decisions on meaningful life and spiritual choices.
  5. Blaming the seminary, the university, or even certain conferences is not the answer. Ephesians speaks of individuals being tossed around by every wind of doctrine (Eph 4:14). How do local churches prevent this sway? Providing a theological framework while still in the care of the local church ministry does this. If not a formal document, at least provide students with biblical guides of how to interpret Scripture. Scripture, the Gospel, changes lives. Understanding Scripture is vital.
  6. There is an assumption that more Calvinists are found at Southern and Southeastern seminary than any other Southern Baptist seminary. I would agree that this is true, just as I would agree that there are more non-Calvanists at Southwestern and NOBTS than there are Calvinists. These are simply observations. The truth behind these observations is found in where local church pastors are encouraging their students to attend. I expect Reformed churches to send their students to these more reformed schools. Yet, I do not believe any school will let down a student of a different persuasion of theology no matter where he attends. Theological education is at an all-time high in the evangelical society today (this is due dramatically to the Conservative Resurgence) and it is a privilege to learn from any of the SBC schools.
  7. My final warning is for everyone to keep things in perspective. The battle over theological preeminence has waged for hundreds of years and will continue to go on until Jesus returns. It is important to realize that seminary students (including myself) are young in their theology no matter how logical their system is. Therefore, just as chicken needs time for the marinade to soak in and enhance all its flavor so too does a young theologian need to allow many voices and many views to come into his life through lectures, books, and journals so as to filter the bad and cling on to the good. Calvinism is a traditional soteriology and it is here to stay. Arminianism is a traditional theology and it is here to stay. The position(s) found in the middle of these two camps is traditional theology and it too is here to stay. A phrase that I have enjoyed hearing of late from a professor is simply, Semper Reformanda, meaning ‘Always Reforming.’ Truly, we are all learning daily how to live more like Christ.

**Please note this is not a critique of the Tulip. This article simply demonstrates the use of the TULIP acronym among Calvinists.

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When scholars make you nervous…

Today I attended my first true preaching conference. Probably the most beneficial part of the conference was interacting with local (and by local I do mean in Texas terms, some came from 8 hours away…) pastors who need encouragement in their shepherding. Talking with them made me realize the joy of collaborative sermon preparation. By collaborative I mean working together to find the true meaning of the text for the purpose of delivering the ‘right’ meaning to the church. This is quite important.

Though listening to Dr Allen parse verbs, Dr Smith emphasize persuasion, and Dr Chapell explain the redemptive aspect of Scripture was fine and uplifting, the real joy came after the workshop through a panel discussion with these three professors plus John Meador and Dr McKellar. Preaching, the theory and practice, is becoming a greater joy for me. When given the opportunity to hear what is truly on the hearts of scholarly men, I jump for the opportunity to listen and soak it all up. An added benefit to this is knowing them personally, which they make available to students the opportunity to do so, and realize that scholarly and holy often go hand in hand. Enough of the fluff tho, I want to get down to the question that I so nervously asked this group of men.

A thought that has been on my heart of recent is whether a preacher has a right to preach an unprepared thought from the pulpit. This doesn’t sound like a big deal, but as I consider the question in my own preaching experience a resounding no always seems to result from my thoughts. My reasoning is this: even if you do not take a manuscript or notes on the stage, all of the thoughts of the preacher should be well thought out and prepared, analyzed, and confirmed through commentaries/orthodoxy before a preacher ever can stand behind the pulpit. I don’t suppose a preacher is bound to certain thoughts while in the pulpit but should not try and add spur of the moment thoughts. Instead, if the new discovery is worthwhile then the preacher should quench it for the moment, consider it further, and develop it in another sermon.

It was neat watching the men consider the question, although I must say I could feel the trembling in my voice when Dr Smith asked me to further explain my thought… Seriously, I am scared to know how it sounded to those around me because I know it was awful. Three beneficial thoughts hit home from them. One was this, from John Meador: preach within boundaries. The boundaries would be doctrine, or to trace an analogy the guardrails along a highway. As long as you stay within the guardrails then there is freedom to move within the lanes. Doctrine, or orthodoxy, serves as the guardrails and allows a preacher to move within the text with freedom so long as what is taught does not contradict doctrine. Inherited in this response is the affirmation that we are not to isogete the text, adding to it what is not there. Dr Chappel added with these words: proper preparation lends to more freedom within the text. His point was to show that the more a preacher understands the text the more apt he is to pick up small nuances when he least expects it. Dr Allen responds with this phrase: experienced preachers are able to preach out of the overflow. He added to the conversation with this phrase to describe the function of past preparation. Everything a preacher does is found within a continuum. Doing a word study on a passage in John may help in understanding a word in 1 John. So, without realizing it, a preacher may be preaching and see a word, realize he studied it awhile back and know the meaning and use of it, and include it in the sermon on the spot.

I greatly benefited from all three responses because it affirms to me that preaching is not rigid. Preaching is not mechanical, it does not following an exact step-by-step process. Rather, preaching comes from the overflow of the working of the Spirit in a preacher’s life. Preparation is essential and knowing what you are going to say before you say it is the path to seek. But, one must always concede that the Holy Spirit knows what he is doing when he empowers a preacher to proclaim the Word of God. I learned a much needed lesson tonight and will benefit from it greatly in the very near future.

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Coming full circle

I have almost written this post several times now. Yet each time I pick up my computer I realize I just do not have the words to say to express what is on my heart. So here goes a choppy version of my past week and a half.

I discussed a little bit in church Sunday night about how much MFuge has impacted my life as a student. I have often put words around it like spiritual awakening, mission awareness, and commissioning to describe the three years I went. In Mobile I have ministered to a Boys & Girls club, to an individual home, and to the Light of the Village daycare center. God taught me what it means to give of myself and to allow Him to take care of the spiritual growth. Out of the trips I took, several of my friends that I served beside have taken it upon themselves to serve in Africa, in church nurseries, as youth leaders, and in the military. I recognize that we were privileged to go to MFuge and learn under a man who understands what it means to be missional and a servant of Christ. The memories from these camps will be with me forever.

Only God could have orchestrated what came next in my life. Through going to BCF and serving on staff at a local church I began to see where God’s Scripture comes alive when it talks about where much has been given, much is expected. Or in other places on stewardship and being faithful with smaller things and God will reward with much greater things. Then I read in the letters to Timothy the expectations of leaders and teachers and others who have responsibility over people. All of this overwhelmed me a little over a year and a half ago. All of a sudden I found myself as the leader of 20 or more students and had no clue what I was doing. Or so I thought. I was told by a professor just yesterday that God uses the chapters of our life to know how to continue writing each person’s story. Without realizing what I was doing, God gave me a plan for the ministry here at FBCMH. It was choppy at times, but it involved challenging students to rely on the Lord only for their direction in life. This is pretty easy to say but can be difficult to embody when factors come into play such as: teaching relationships with students, working with parents, garnering adult leaders, low budgets, a low-tech youth room, and being stuck in the middle of nowhere. God did not fail me tho. Students who had never been nor wanted to go on a discipleship summer camp found theirselves challenged and renewed at Super Summer 2K10. This led to an awesome year, from July to June, of Discipleship and Bible study and growing together in our relationship with Jesus. Something was missing tho and it was time that I asked God what the next move was.

He challenged me in mission work. Quite frankly, I learned through my quiet times and through different men of God that I was simply not making the difference that I should be making in God’s Kingdom. I tried to write it off by telling God that I was in school and did not have a lot of time on my hands to do that. He laughed… I guess so did I after I told Him that. What happened next was so cool. In September of last year when I was praying over where the students would be going to camp God reminded me that just because He is writing new chapters in my life does not mean that I can’t go back and reread some of my old chapters. I went to the drawing board, I wrote down all of the names of the students in the church, and then I prayed over each one asking God to reveal to me where their next step should be. That is when peace rushed over me. Knowing the parents of my students is to know that they are very cautious about where at and who with their child is going if they are going somewhere. When God put MFuge Mobile on my heart I realized immediately that my experience as a camper was the cure for all of my parent’s restless hearts. When asked about housing, finances, or even the track sites in the community I was able to boldly and confidently respond with a detailed answer. The only thing I did not know was how my students were going to react. Their first thoughts were to go back to Super Summer. Parents were even expecting me back to take the same place. I did lose a couple students along the way, but as a whole the youth group bought into it and we started preparing for what would be ahead.

What I could not expect was God challenging my heart even further. He put on my heart to take part in His mission around the world. I said ok, but told Him that He needed to provide a way. God did and you can read about that journey from earlier blog posts. When I returned to Mossy Head I had a week to prepare and then the next week would be camp. Well Sunday night was our testimony night and it was simply incredible to see the Holy Spirit moving and working in the lives of His students. In the time that I was gone to India, Jesus moved in the hearts of about 5 or 6 students. Their first big testing on their reliance on God was at MFuge and through serving others. How awesome is that!

I put as my title, “Coming full circle,” because I was given the privilege not only to take part in MFuge as a camper but as a leader as well. I thought the spiritual high of my life was three years ago at camp; but nothing and no one except God could have prepared me for the elation that comes with hearing the testimonies of students that I have prayed over for 2 years about how God moved in their hearts this past week. I saw and heard about students sharing their faith this week to children and other students their own age. I saw 500 students not care about their reputation or whether they looked goofy when they worshipped. Instead they acted naturally based on the convictions in their heart. I also saw students frantically writing outlines and notes in their notebooks of what God was showing them through the sermons. And then I was also able to lead the discussion through church group time as we all reflected on our day.

You see I came full circle in my experiences with MFuge. What I have come to learn tho is God began that circle and God is the one who directed me the whole way back to Himself. Most students who have been to MFuge and graduated high school never have a chance to go back. God provided the means not only for me to return but to return with a group of friends. Dear Christian brothers and sisters, when you look on your life do you see your accomplishments? Or are you humble enough to see and take part in what God has desired all along. Just curious

cb

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Leaving is tuff

My time at IGL has finally come to a close. I will be wrapping up a debriefing session tomorrow morning and then I will be driven to Bangalore to fly out. I wanted to take a moment while I had some peace and quiet and reflect on my trip to India.

God placed a burden on my heart to go international for mission work near December. I did not know how this was going to take shape, but I could not deny the message I received from God to go. Several things were in the way. This past semester shaped up to be one of my most demanding semesters yet. Along with this I chose to give up every other weekend to lead a guy’s Bible study at church. This plus my normal duties made for late nights and lots of coffee. At the same time as this I was a grader at my school. Then on top of this I did make a concerted effort to have somewhat of a social life. When you add all of this together my schedule did not look conducive to a month adventure in a foreign culture. Yet, the calling was still certain.

I filled out my paperwork for a passport long before I knew where I was going. I also had to figure out how to pay for the trip. I can remember the phone call I gave my mother when I first told her I was going to India. I said it as blatant as that last sentence sounded, “hey mom, I’m going to India for a month in the summer. What do you think?” After a long silence she asked a one word question, “Why?” This was the right question tho because if this one word did not make sense to me, if I could not respond in an appropriate manner then why would I be going? Luckily I approached the situation with clarity of focus and a willingness to work through the details.

Getting to IGL was no easy task. Nerves were shot by the time I left and things did not improve when I arrived. I still did not know for sure where I was or what I’d be doing for an entire month. Again tho, the call was certain and therefore I knew the details would be worked out on His terms. For the next four weeks I was stretched mentally, physically, culturally, emotionally, and spiritually. I experienced things that I have only read in books about. I ate things that I dared not ask what it was. Instead, I focused on spiritual disciplines in my own life, in the students lives, and in the lives of the men and women I would come in contact with everyday. This means that everyday I would make it a point to emphasize Christ in any situation to engage people in conversation. I became best friends to some and “Uncle” and “brother” to others. I saw more smiles on people’s faces than I ever have before.

For what reason would God put me through all this. One thing is certain, this whole four weeks I did not implement ALL of my learning from Bible college nor did I do intense study on every passage that I preached/taught from. So what was the reason? Relationships. If God has shown me anything in my time here at IGL He has at least has taught me about the importance of relationships with folks from different races, sizes, denominations, and backgrounds than myself. God has taught me that the only time worth keeping is His time to be used for His glory. A lot of words I understand, but the central questions are this, “Am I actively waiting on the Lord to use me and then am I pursuing the path He is creating?!?! I have leaped through both of these avenues for this trip and have not looked back and regretted anything!

When relationships are the focus then it is no doubt that leaving turns into the hardest task. The girls sang three songs today in class for me: one in English, one in Tamil, and another in a local language. Each one blessed my heart in a powerful way. They then gave testimonies of the past four weeks and believe me this puts into perspective all that one did in the classroom. I cannot describe to you the relationships I have with the group of college age boys. With open hearts and minds these guys are ready for what the world will surely throw at them. Their trust is found only in Christ. I left them with a lesson from the first five verses in 1 Corinthians 4. Here Paul exhorts the believers to be servants of Christ and good stewards of the mysteries of God.

Tomorrow I will leave IGL. The girls have a present for me so I will have to go for it before I leave. Also I will say final farewells to my guys at 5:30 in the morning. Altogether I cannot complain much about my stay here. The Lord has blessed me in so many ways. I have worked alongside Indians, Americans from Indiana, Australians, and have even talked to a couple of men from a different country. I pray that in all phases of the ministry for me from here on out I will seek to incorporate what I have learned here and be able to use it in North America.

Please pray for safe travel in the coming days!!!

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