Direction

In a follow-up to this post, I’ve picked a way.

I’m not 100% certain of the direction I’m headed with this. But I never am, really. That’s why it’s called faith. I’ll take steps and the Lord will correct me if I’m wrong, I trust.

Really, there is a lot of good that can come out of taking a step. Because not taking a step usually results in . . . nothing happening.

Somewhat related, I mentioned yesterday that one of our family members hit a setback. Took a wrong turn, really, and is now working through the results of that. But the great thing is, there is still a direction. There is still an open way before him. That’s an incredible encouragement.

Pressing on.

. . . forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. – Philippians 3:13–16 (ESV)

Plodding

I’m running late after working late last night and after working early from home this morning. Plus the bus had to deal with a stuck gate at the West Little York park and ride. We sat for awhile.

I feel that way often, like I’m sitting, motor running, even revving, but not making any progress. Burning gas and oil and the life of my engine away and not making much headway. I write about that a lot, probably too much, in this little space.

But I’m grateful for the little things. For breakthroughs. It’s been a good week so far. I’m grateful for getting to explain the good news of Jesus to a college student interested in getting baptized this week. For a relationship reconciliation at work. For technical breakthroughs last night while working. To new leadership and new life at the Core (our local community college ministry).

A long time ago I was at a missions conference and a speaker was talking about his, in his view, undeserved reputation as an intellectual. I remember his words: “I am not an intellectual. But I am a plodder.” **

I’m a plodder.  I don’t run the fastest, don’t make the biggest splash, am not the boldest or brightest visionary, don’t attract big crowds. But just wait and watch; the years will pass and you’ll still find me, pushing and plodding down the same track. Over long periods of time you can cover a lot of ground, actually. Plodding. It’s a calling. I believe it’s my calling.

The gate eventually goes up.

** The speaker was Cliffe Knechtle, at the Urbana missions conference back in 1984.

Pressing on

I started writing a post this morning about all the things about myself that drive me crazy. I’m not the person I want to be.

Thankfully, I’ve abandoned that self-indulgent bit of navel-gazing for the time being.

This is better:

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:13‭-‬14 ESV

Isn’t that good? There’s so much wisdom in that passage! Still, it’s the straining forward that wipes me out. Seriously. It’s really easy to lose sight of the prize.

We have an upward call. Up. Higher. Further up and further in.

I have a call on my life. Many calls, actually. God has called me to be a husband and a father and to sacrifice for my family. He’s called me to be his son, growing in relationship to him. He’s called me to spread the great news about Jesus to others and to be his ambassador at work and on campus and in my neighborhood. He’s specifically called me to make disciples of Jesus among the college students that surround us in this part of town. All of these calls lead upward.

Gravity pulls me downward. That’s why all of these calls are often  a strain and require pressing on. It’s hard.

Gravity isn’t hard. The downward calls on my life are easy, really.

I don’t have to “press on” toward being depressed or “strain forward” toward feeling resentments and anger. I don’t have to strive to be lazy or dig deep to work up some despair. There’s no great effort expended in saying the wrong thing or missing the mark. It’s no trouble at all to ignore my neighbors and lock myself in my fortress each night.

God calls us upward. We are downward people. That’s why it’s a miracle when we find ourselves pressing on.

Christ, as always, leads in leading us upward. I think it’s meaningful that the most heart-wrenching scene in the gospel narrative is of Jesus, already torn and bleeding, carrying his cross to Golgotha. He was taking a machete to the wild, untamed jungle of sin that bars the way to the upward call of God, opening the way by the tearing open of his own flesh.

He strained forward. He pressed on toward the goal, the prize, the upward call of his Father.

Because he did, now so can we.

Instructions

When it feels like the wheels are coming off . . .

Stop the car.

Take a deep breath.

Call in the family.

Call your closest friends.

Remember – this has happened before and you made it, all of you, intact.

Get a wrench.

Lift it to the sky.

By God’s grace, work on tightening the lug nuts. Even though you know the whole axle may yet come off. You have a duty to do that’s right before you.

Thank the Lord that you still have firm ground underneath . . .

Decisions

We prayed

We talked

We laid it all out

We made plans

We adjusted plans

We prayed again

Our youngest is going to get the ball rolling and take care of what he has to take care of.

God is good. We’re believing the decision has been led by him and so I’m not going to worry about it anymore. It is done.

Determined to move forward on the new path intentionally, with courage, and to do whatever tasks fall to me.

Are millennials selfish and entitled?

Russell Moore says no. I know a lot of millennials and I agree with him. The following really resonated with me:

Most of the Millennial-age gospel Christians I know are far more theologically rooted than their parents’ generation. Most of them are far more committed to reaching outside of Christian subcultures to share the gospel with people not like them. Would some of them rather discuss theology than evangelize? Yes, just as many in the last generation would rather discuss evangelism than evangelize.

On the whole, though, I find the Millennial generation’s grasp of gospel Christianity far better than what we’ve seen in a long time. They tend to be better at articulating a Christian vision of life, because they’ve had to do so all their lives, never able to count on a pseudo-Christian culture to do pre-evangelism for them.

Emphasis mine. Read the whole thing.

Should I smash my Jeremiah 29:11 Coffee Mug?

Heres some nice theological and exhortational analysis by Mike Leake: Should I smash my Jeremiah 29:11 Coffee Mug?

When I graduated high school I remember getting key chains, coffee mugs, and probably even socks with Jeremiah 29:11 stamped on there somewhere. It’s a verse which we love to grab ahold of whenever the future isn’t so clear. What a terrific promise:

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11 ESV)

There is only one major problem with making this my life verse; namely, context. A good rule for faithful Bible study is to always make sure to place a text in its context. If you rip it out of its context you are not being faithful to God’s intention for that text. To accurately interpret what Jeremiah says our interpretation needs to make sense to the original audience.

In its context Jeremiah 29 is speaking to those who were carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon (see 29:4). That “you” in verse 11 is not to an individual it is to an entire nation. God is saying that though they will experience 70 years in exile (see 29:10) that he will eventually redeem the people of Israel. But some of those who heard Jeremiah 29:11 died in exile. This was a promise to a nation.

And so does this mean that I cannot apply it to my own life? Does Jeremiah 29:11 have no meaning to the 21st century believer? Do I smash my Jeremiah 29:11 coffee mug?

Not so fast.

Read the whole thing. I love the balance here.

 

We need old college ministers

So why am I – a 39 year old, bald, father of 5 – still trudging out on campus mixing it up with 18 year olds?

Because college students are the most strategic mission field in the world.

From We need old college ministers by Tim Casteel.

Being a lot older than 39, there’s a danger that I’m biased. But in my experience with students over the decades, I’ve noticed that some of the absolute best mentors and disciplers – often times absolutely beloved by the students – were/are people in their 30s, 40s and 50s.

In fact, one of the most dynamic and effective disciplers of high school girls that I know is turning 70 next year.

Age is not a limiter. Passion and commitment are. We need all ages pouring into students.

Also: “college students are the most strategic mission field in the world.” Yes x 1,000,000.

“And they devoted themselves . . .”

This is based on a short talk I gave at our college lifegroup night of worship last night.

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

– Acts 2:42-47

I’ve read this passage hundreds of times. Today as I read it again I noticed the first four words as if for the first time: “And they devoted themselves”.

One truism about people in general (and perhaps young people in particular) is that many of us are looking for something to devote ourselves to. Something worthwhile. Something meaningful. Something we can live for and die for. You may be feeling that today.

Acts 2:42-47 is an invitation to devote yourselves. To set aside this summer to taking new steps, large steps in your relationship to Jesus. If you are in Christ, it’s an invitation to own your faith more, to devote yourself to Jesus more fully and more deeply than ever before. If you aren’t yet a believer in Christ, what better time than tonight to take that first step? Let’s speak the good news of Jesus to ourselves and to each other. I deserve God’s wrath for what I’ve done in life, to be separated forever from Him in hell. Yet he devoted himself to the salvation of me and you and to the salvation of the whole world. He died the death I deserved to die and rose again in new, eternal life and offers me that as well! This is such good news, something that we can feast on together!

Lifegroup is not a house on one night; it’s a group of people who are alive. Our hope for College lifegroup is that it will be an experience in Jesus that you can devote yourself to this summer. Not just for yourself, but for others; to devote yourself to teaching and friendship together, to eating together, praying together, worshiping together, being in awe together, seeing God together, helping each other, sacrificing for each other, making your relationship to Jesus an every day thing, an all the time thing. Devoting yourself to being glad rather than angsty, generous rather than selfish, to praising God rather than idols, to being truly alive, and to watching the Lord add daily to you and to us and to himself those who are being saved.

That’s the invitation! We’re ready to devote ourselves to it, and I hope and pray you are too.