3 Thoughts On Interviewing

InterVarsity leadership teams interview students every year as new students jump aboard and start serving and students transition off campus into roles as alumni, donors, volunteers and Staff.

Here're 3 things I've learned from my years conducting student interviews:

1) We're looking for fit, not performance

Call it alignment or chemistry or whatever.  We want to see if the person we're interviewing is someone we can work with and work alongside.  We don't need them to be perfect.  In fact, we don't want perfection.  If we're interviewing you, teachability trumps achievement every day.

2) We're looking to teach, not just learn

I mean, we do want to learn about the people we're interviewing.  But we don't want to miss an opportunity to share our vision and clarify our practice.  We want people to know very clearly what they're getting themselves into.  And what better way to gauge teachability than to teach?

3) We're looking connect, not convince

We recruit hard, but don't want to beg people to join us.  If we have to beg people to join, we'll end up spending a ton of time and energy trying to convince them to stay.  Instead of persuasion, we're looking for connection.  If the people we're interviewing can connect with us and with our heart, they might work out.  If they can't, they won't.

What have you learned from interviewing?

Why Did The Story Turn That Way?

Oscar told a story during one of his talks yesterday.  You've probably heard the set-up:

A man working as a night watchman for a railroad gets a frantic call one night.  The bridge over the canyon cannot support the train that rapidly approaches.  As the man puts down the phone, he feels the vibration of the train in his feet and hears the distant whistle of trouble.  As fast as he can, he grabs his lamp runs out to the track ...
Have you heard this one?  How did the story end?

In every other version of this story I've heard, the man saves the day.  Either he sacrifices himself or sacrifices his son, his only Son, who he loves.  The train and its passengers survive.

But not in Oscar's story.  In Oscar's story, the train ends up in the canyon and the railroad sues the man for all he's worth.  Although the man gets off the hook, he's heard mumbling after the trial "I waved the lamp.  I waved the lamp."  But the lamp was not lit.

This twist carries a lot of power.  We're used to sacrifice, being asked to sacrifice.  In the American, evangelical church, we view a lot through the lens of sacrifice.  But Oscar comes from another place and might have another lens.

Can you imagine doing your best, but your best isn't enough?

Over and over again, throughout the conference, Oscar told familiar stories but with different lenses.  The endings were harder, less optimistic, but not hopeless.  They may have even reflected a biblical reality more clearly.

This is one of the reasons we need to read the Bible in multi-ethnic community.

Have you ever benefitted from reading the Bible with people who come to it with different lenses?

Sometimes, Brokenness Lies Just Beneath The Surface

And sometimes, we catch glimpses of this brokenness.

A joke that doesn't get a laugh.
A flash of anger in a conversation.
A laugh that's a little too loud.
A deflation instead of a fight.
A smile that doesn't extend to the eyes.
A tear filling the corner of an eye.

Where have you seen brokenness just beneath the surface? 
What do we do about it?

Concert of Prayer Outline

How do you respond to great teaching?

We chose to respond to the teaching from this morning with a Concert of Prayer.  No instruments, but a concert nonetheless.

Here's what we did ...

Adoration

Called out names of God
Called out things God did in the Bible

Confession

Spent some time silently confessing our sin to God
Wrote sins on a notecard, privately
Threw the notecards in the trash as a symbol of our repentance

Thanksgiving

Called out things God has done in our lives
Responsive reading of Psalm 136

Supplication

Prayed personal requests, out loud, all at once
Stood symbolically in the place of our friends who don't know Jesus as Staff prayed
Called out to God for the groups of people who aren't being reached by InterVarsity
Received prayer from a freshman for the movement and the future of InterVarsity

A little structure goes a long way.

Do You Have Friends You Won't Lie To?

In our struggle against sin, Pastor Oscar encouraged us to cultivate friends we won't lie to.

Can you imagine what this would look like?

Although we all desire to be honest people, we all have an urge to lie if someone probes around an area of shameful sin.  There are things we just don't want people to know.

But if secrecy strengthens sin, we must find a way to speak truthfully about our struggles.

And a good first step is to choose a few friends ... and commit not to lie to them.

This sounds so simple, but it's rare.

Do you have friends you won't lie to?

Why An Interview Replaced A Talk

Oscar Muriu shocked us all when he agreed to speak at our Spring Conference.

He has been a featured speaker at two Urbana Conferences, has planted over a dozen churches and was in the States working on a book project.  And our eyes got wide when he agreed to come and share.

So, why, oh why, did we have the crazy idea to interview him on the first night?

Wouldn't it make more sense to give him a microphone and get out of the way?  Wouldn't it make more sense to give him 3 talks and cram as much into his time with us as we could?  Shouldn't we squeeze?

Here're the reasons we went with an interview over a talk:

1) We wanted to be more relational
2) We wanted to provide something unique
3) We wanted to create a listening environment
4) We wanted to get to know Pastor Oscar
5) We wanted to break the celebrity barrier
6) We wanted to show God's work in a person's life
7) We wanted to avoid the temptation to learn without applying
8) We wanted to be sensitive to our students' mental tiredness
9) We wanted to get Pastor Oscar's best talk and get it when we're most prepared for it

I'm very intrigued with interviews as a way to communicate the information we normally attempt to transfer through sermons.  So much of what we hear via preaching goes in one ear and out another.

What do you think about interviews?

Spring Conference

Spring Conference is here.

This weekend, we'll be resting, relaxing at the beach, studying God's Word, worshipping God through song and prayer and hanging out with our friends.

This is our first Spring Conference in Florida.

I'm really excited to hear from Kim Koi, my Area Director collegue from Central Florida, and Oscar Muriu, the pastor of Nairobi Chapel.

As usual, I'll try to find that fine line between sharing my conference experience and annoying the heck out of you with too many posts.

How much conference information is too much?

Is There a Difference Between "I Know" and "I Believe"?

We often use these phrases interchangeably.

But they are not the same.

"I believe" can also mean "I guess."  "I don't know for sure, Dude, but I believe ... " yada and yada and ya da.  Knowledge invokes certainty, confidence.

But knowledge doesn't necessarily imply relational trust.

"I know" can also mean "I know, but I'm not going to do anything about it" or "I know I should trust you, but I just can't find it in my heart to believe you."

When Martha, grieving the loss of her brother, said "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day," I find myself wondering about the state of her belief.

And Jesus does press her.  He doesn't leave her in her knowing, but pushes her for that sort of belief that involves trust and maybe even faith.

What do you think? Can you interchange "I know" and "I believe"?

The "Even Now" vs. The "And Now"

There's a great scene around the raising of Lazarus where, even with her brother buried and dead, Martha manages to say to Jesus:

But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.
Those two words - "even now" - say so much.

Anyone can exhibit faith in the and now moments.  God does something, something miraculous and now we believe.  And now.  At least, for a little while. 

But there's something special about seeing faith appear in the even now, before the miraculous, after and during the painful.  Stories of even now faith inspire us.  We repeat these stories.  Celebrate them.

Where have you seen "Even Now" faith?

How're You With Feet?

I usually wear shoes when I walk on the beach.  I do this for practical reasons and aesthetic reasons.  My feet are pale, soft and ugly.  No one wants to see them and I don't feel the need to show them off.

But feet showed up in Small Group this week.  Big time.

Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, ends up at Jesus' feet three times in the gospels and, perhaps, shows us a model of love and respect.

She sits at his feet an learns.
She falls at his feet during her time of grief.
She pours perfume on his feet, anointing his body for burial.

Sitting at someone's feet involves a heart willing to learn.  Falling at someone's feet looks like worship.  And the perfume ... I guess that's love.

Have you ever found yourself at Jesus' feet?

Reading the Bible in Time-Available Cultures

"Maybe he was showing his confidence" said the student, in reference to our Bible discussion on Jesus' raising of Lazarus from the dead.

We work with a lot of students from time-available cultures.  The show up late to things and stay late at things.  They mean no disrespect and don't think a lot about when they get places.

I'm like this sometimes too.  Sometimes, I get wrapped up in a conversation or a meeting and time escapes me.  Hours can fly by and I don't notice.

But I'm not always like this.  Sometimes the ticking of the clock rings in my ears.

And that's a tension that shows up in the Gospel of John's account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.  Jesus waits two days after finding out that Lazarus is sick and appears in no hurry to work his miracle.

To my time-limited, tick tock tick tock tick tock side, his behavior is maddening.

But my time-available student was right, but taking his time, Jesus did display an extreme amount of confidence.  He didn't rush around like a slave and so he, as the Master of Time, was able to serve those trapped in the clutches of Time.

As the Master of Time, he was always on time.  The right time for Jesus to be somewhere was when he was somewhere.  Remember our analogical circle of predication and run the right way around it.

I think my time-available friend picked up on something important, something I might have glossed over.  Jesus does seem to move through the world a lot like my Latino, Haitian, and African students ... confidently and trustingly going from place to place, fully available and not mentally off someplace else, never in a hurry.

What would it take for us to go and do likewise?

What If It's Laziness, Not Fear?

Why do we hold back when God calls us to use our talents?

For a lot of us, we say we hold back because we're afraid.

We're afraid our gifts won't be valued.  We're afraid we're not good enough.  We're afraid people will ignore us or laugh at us or tell us to stop it.  We're afraid of making a mistake or getting locked in or being told we don't belong.

Or so we say.

But what if we confuse fear with laziness?

Our friends can understand fear.  Fear attracts encouragement, compassion, affirmation.

But not laziness.  Laziness is an unforgivable sin, socially.  It's a lousy excuse.

In Matthew 25 (the passage we talked about at BC North today), when the servant uses fear language to explain his failure to do the work asked of him, his master calls him lazy.  And the master hits the nail on the head.  If the man really felt fear, he would have done the work.

What if what we're feeling when we hold back isn't fear?  What if it's laziness?

In The Boat With Us

Having Jesus in the boat with us makes all the difference.

In Luke 5, a group of fishermen force their tired arms to cast their nets one more time.  After fishing through the night and catching nothing, I wonder how they felt when Jesus requisitioned their boats to serve as his preaching platform.  I wonder how they felt when Jesus told them to "Put out to deep water and let down the nets for a catch."

If anything, their chances of finding fish should have been lower.  The sun beat the water, driving the fish away.  Their guide made tables and chairs for a living.  The best efforts of the professionals during the optimum time had failed.  It was time to move on.

But it wasn't time to move on.

Having Jesus in the boat made a difference.  A miracle happened.  So many fish!

In all our efforts to get the gospel out on campus, it's easy to feel discouraged ... to feel like we've fished all night, trying to fish for people, and have nothing to show for it but empty nets.

With Jesus, an empty net can become a full net without warning.  And that full net can come without our doing anything extraordinary or anything that can explain it.  Jesus himself is the essential element.

If you have an empty net, take heart ... Jesus is in the boat with us.

How do you think you'd feel, pulling up a full net?

Why Does It Matter If Regeneration Is Instantaneous?

***Warning: practical content wrapped in a nerdy package ahead***

In a theology discussion group this week, I found myself wondering about this question.  I mean, I believe that regeneration is instantaneous, but why does it matter? And can I put the reasons in a list?

1) Regeneration is connected to, but not the same as sanctification

We work so hard to help people understand that the Christian life is a process, that day one leads to day two and ten and one thousand and that God calls us to faithfulness and growth throughout.  Sanctification is a process.  Jon Elswick, our pastor, insightfully pointed this truth about sanctification out for us. 

But regeneration is about new life.

And new life has to start at some point.  At some point, an object that was at rest started moving.  Call it what you will - "The Big Bang of the Christian Life," "The Prime Movement," "The Ignition" - at some point you have to get started.

Imagine tall grass and a lawn mower.  You pull the starting cord and the engine roars to life.  You leave the sidewalk and the mower shudders in the grass.  Clippings begin to fly and the smell of grass mingles with gasoline.  What would happen if, instead of pushing the mower forward, you kept pulling on the starter cord?

If regeneration isn't instantaneous, we'll keep coming back to it and won't move forward.

2) Regeneration looks like justification, but has better legs
Both regeneration and justification have to do with our position before God.

But what would happen if justification was the only thing that happened in that first instant?  We would be declared righteous before God, but left without the power to start living the Christian life.  We would be forced into an awkward ghetto experience, drifting and spinning without purpose or direction.  Oh ... wait ...

It's not enough to have a theology that tell's you you're in, you also need to know why and what to do now.  And, although you can catch echoes of God's mission in a well-developed theology of justification, you need a well-developed theology of regeneration to get up and get moving.

Too many of us are stuck enjoying our status with God - declared righteous - and divorced from our call from God to live lives devoted to him. 

3) Regeneration is a part of our adoption into God's family

When did you become a part of your family?  Was it your birthday?  Adoption date? 

Families are full of these instants.  One moment can redefine a family.  Even though there are processes at work (engagement, gestation, nap time), we celebrate and orient ourselves around instants, moments.

Our son's birthday celebration will communicate to him every year that he belongs in our family.  Our anniversary remembers our moment of commitment to each other.

It matters that regeneration is a moment because it communicates God's grace to us.  We're already his sons and daughters, and this through the our "birth from above."  It's mysterious and special, awe-inspiring and messy, as is every birth.  And it takes place in a moment, not through a process.

We never have to earn our place in God's family. 

What do you think?  Does it matter if regeneration is instantaneous?

5 Reasons You Should Think about Your Theology

Love. Learn. Limit. Live. Lead.

1) Your theology influences how you love God ... and everyone else

If we know God better, we'll love him more.  This is why we can't just sing what sounds good, but also strive to sing what's true of God.

On the flip side, if we don't think about God much, we'll find ourselves loving other people more than him, then other things, then ourselves more than anything else.  This spiral pulls us away from the people in our lives we want to love and from God. 

In this way, good theology serves as an anchor for our loves, ordering everything well.

2) Your theology influences how you learn about the world.

Christians should be the most interested people in any classroom.  Our theology, well-developed, containsa pregnant sense that all truth belongs to God and matters to him.

But we often refuse to learn about the world, viewing science as religion's enemy or the physical world as less important than spiritual reality.  We hijack classes and belittle education.  And, in so doing, reveal a deep flaw in our thinking about God. 

The God who made the world and works in history gets buried under our solemn ritual, chained to our altars, and trapped in our church buildings.  And we join him, comfortable.  Only to find that he's escaped ... freed himself from our buildings, broken the chains that held him in place and (the nerve of this God) has even risen from our gravity.  And with this freedom, he's out in the world, shaping history and culture, fueling science, sustaining all that is good in the fallen world.

And our learning, conceived rightly, gives birth to intimacy with him.

3) Your theology influences how you limit your activity ... or don't.

If God is truly God and we are truly not, we have to accept limits. 

We can't be anything we want to be. 
We need sleep. 

We can't do anything we want to do.
We need help.

If we don't think well about God - who he is and what prerogatives are reserved for him and him alone - we'll push our limits.  And, believe me, they will push us back.

4) Your theology influences how you live your life.

We order our lives around who we think God is.

If he's cruel and strict, we tip-toe and behave and sneak.
If he's indulgent, we take advantage.
If he's generous and gracious, we live in humility and gratitude.
If he's imaginary, even then, our lives reflect this perception.

As Dean Miller said "Your theology leads to a certain doxology which overflows into ethics.  Flaws is ethics always trace back to flaws in how we think about and experience and love the ever-loving God."

5) Your theology influences how you lead your people.

Everybody leads somebody sometimes.

How you lead reflects how you think about God.

Do you lead like you're serving under another Leader?  Do you lead like it all hangs on you?  Do you lord your leadership over people?  Do you love the ones you lead, even as Christ, who was more than a leader to us, loved us?

How else does your theology influence you?

(Bonus bacon if you bring Baptist-brand alliteration ... extra points for "L's")

Short Post: Two Meanings of Bad Memory

Have you ever noticed that the phrase "bad memory" has two meanings?

"There are things I can't remember"
"There are things I don't want to remember"

At the end of the biblical story, the people of God receive restored bodies and have all of their tears wiped away.  It's a joyous, wonderful scene.

But I wonder what happens to our bad memories.

If the first sense of the phrase goes away, how will we be rid of our tears?
If the second sense disappears, will we disappear as well?

What happens to our bad memories?

Stay in the Game, Stay In Line

I got some great fundraising advice yesterday.

Foundations and churches provide the funding stability we need to stay in the game for the long-term.  But a lot of us struggle to connect with these wonderful, stable and sometimes slow-moving institutions.

In a conversation about foundations and churches, Fred Woolard advised me:
"Stay in line."
Now, patience shouldn't come as a revelation to those of us in campus ministry and non-profits who fundraise as part of our jobs, but he had a point.

A lot of us ask once and, if we get a "No" or a "Not right now," we walk away.

We take it personally.
We don't want to annoy.
We're afraid to offend.
We hurry.

But Fred's attitude is "Four No's are halfway to a Yes."  He's polite and humble and he stays in line.  And for over 25 years he has raised money for non-profits.  He expects to wait in line and so he stays in line.  And doesn't get discouraged.

If you want to stay in the game, learn to stay in line.

What do you find difficult about staying in line?

Book Review: Percy Jackson and the Olympians

I recently finished reading the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan.

Every few months, I read some popular, young adult fiction.  I do this and recommend you go and do likewise for three reasons:
  1. To keep a finger on our cultural pulse
  2. To have conversational opening with students
  3. To have fun!
And the Percy Jackson series meets all three of these requirements.

The series follows the adventures of Percy Jackson, a young demi-god, on his adventures with his friends.  Riordan weaves Greek mythology throughout his story, imagining that the Greek gods were real and really alive in America.

The series connects in several places with our cultural pulse
  • Even heroes need community
  • Trust is difficult to earn and maintain, but necessary
  • Courage and honor are valuable, forgotten virtures
  • Everyone makes mistakes and needs forgiveness
  • There has to be more to this world that what we see
Now, as far as conversational openings go, the series may be aimed too young for the average college student and may be too nerdy for your average high-schooler, but Greek mythology is timeless.  Edith Hamilton's Mythology seems to magically appear on campus every year and reading Riordan seemed like a nice alternative to reviewing Hamilton.

On top of that, it's not uncommon for students to hear (from friends and professors) that the Bible is a book of myths, just like the Greek myths or other ancient stories.  Now, as someone who enjoys myths and fairy tales, I don't take that as the insult it's intended to be.  But it's helpful to have a well-developed, rich understanding of myth when helping students through this confusion.  (What does it mean that our stories are mythical and true?)

But that's not enough for me to recommend you read 1744 pages of young adult fiction. 

I really enjoyed reading the series.  These books were fun! 

The characters were interesting, had some complexity and likability.  The plot moved quickly and well.  The story-telling was first-person and consistent and concise.  He borrows from other stories and other recent young adult fiction, but doesn't seem to steal.

Take 'em to the beach and they'll make a fun summer read.  Better yet, come down and visit us in Florida and you can read 'em on the beach this week.

Trinity, Multi-ethnicity and Authority

The doctrine of the Trinity takes the cake as the most mysterious and confusing doctrines of the Christian faith.  But I've also found it to be one of the most beautiful.

The being and person of God, according to the doctrine of the Trinity, demonstrate that unity and difference can exist at the same time.

This doctrine gives us hope for families and for the church, which both require an astonishing amount of unity despite vast inherent difference.  If God can be one God and, at the same time, three persons - Father, Son, Spirit - then perhaps we can be one family and one church.

But in both the family and the church, ideas of authority are necessary and culturally accepted.  Parents have some sort of authority over the children and pastors / elders have some sort of authority over the church.  On top of that, most cultures seem to invest one person in the marriage with authority over the whole family (husband, matriarch, etc...).

And it is tempting to run the wrong way around the circle and say "Since we see authority in these other places of unity and diversity, there must be authority in the Trinity."

And this is what some theologians claim, promoting "the eternal subordination of the Son."  The Father has authority over the Son and Spirit.  The Son has authority over the Spirit.  And, mysteriously, this authority doesn't dissolve unity.

And if the Trinity just encouraged us in families and churches, we'd be in good shape.  Everything seems to fit.  Hierarchy and authority provide order and stability.  It makes sense to us.

What happens to the authority element when you talk about multi-ethnicity?  Read Scripture broadly and it's blatantly clear that God's vision of a church is of one multi-ethnic church, both diverse and united.

And this is where the breakdown happens.

Which ethnic community should have authority in the church?

Working with college students (who aren't married) in the parachurch (where none of us have a lot of authority), I'm free to run the right way around the circle.  I can start with the Trinity and move to application.  And I can apply to the multi-ethnic nature of the church before I have to start thinking about applications to the family and to polity.

I'm free to avoid confusing diversity with authority.

And I like that.

Playing Chase

Even though Will can't walk or even crawl, he can zoom around really well in his little walker.  Backward.  Forwards.  Circles.

And he loves to chase me.

But what happens when he catches me?

Sometimes, he wants me to pick him up.
Other times, he wants to tickle and wrestle.
Today, he wanted me to keep running, so he could keep chasing.

In the Christian life, we chase God (or feel like we're chasing).  We pray and fast and read the Bible and go to church hoping to connect with him, to catch him.

We also speak as if God chases us.  Before we love him, he loves us.  When we're far from him, he draws near to us.  He sends his Son and his Spirit, heart-seeking missiles of grace.  And he connects with us, catches us.

So, what happens when the chase ends?

Anger Can't Create Righteousness in Us

James 1:20 contains one of the hardest truths in Scripture:

Anger can't create righteousness in us

Think about it.  How often do we ignore this truth?

Political Anger

As thrilling as it has been this week to see the Egyptian people rise up and march for the cause of justice, the anger of the crowd - chanting and stomping - can't create righteousness ... at least, not the righteousness that God desires.

The righteousness that God desires doesn't appear because of legal use of authority, application of power, passionate public debate, or even the will of the people. 

The righteousness of God appeared despite these things.

Parental Anger

Parental anger can provoke good behavior ... at least, for a time. But we don't stay on our good behavior forever, despite our parents' efforts.

When you think of your most recent sin, your thoughts probably don't turn to your childhood. "All have sinned" says Paul. And I would add that we all have sinned recently, even after our childhood. Neither parental anger nor dispassionate child-training can create righteousness.

This righteousness is more than good behavior.
It involves the source of our behavior.
And only God can impact the true source of our behavior.

And he did more than just get angry.

Personal Anger

When you sin, do you ever get angry?  Angry at yourself?  Angry at the devil?  Angry at the person or systems that tempted you?  Angry that Little Caesars' pizza is both delicious and cheap?

"Get angry and try harder" is the standard evangelical response to sin ... both in our lives and in the lives of other people in our community.  But this response leads to discouragement and false promises of success.

God's response to our sin wasn't to boom "Get angry and try harder" down at us from his throne in heaven.  He doesn't say "Get angry and be baptized for the remission of sins."  He doesn't even say "The anger of man can sometimes help bring about the righteousness I desire."

Anger can't create righteousness in us.

The Gospel: God through Christ creates righteousness

He does this despite the anger of the mass of humanity.
He does what parental anger never could.
He does what our anger has failed to do.

He does this through the incarnation...
Through the cross...
Through the grave...
Through the resurrection...
And ascension...
And the Spirit...
And the Church....
Through us.

No, our anger will collapse
One day
As our knees bow
And our tongues confess
And our hearts fill with joy.

If anger can't create righteousness in us, what's it good for?

Quick to Listen, Slow to Speak, Slow to Become Angry ... Multi-ethnic Applications

James' counsel from James 1:19 - to be "quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry" - is absolutely vital for anyone attempting to create a multi-ethnic community.

Have you ever noticed that different people groups speak and operate at different speeds? 

One of my students was talking about this just the other day.  Her grandmother comes from Cuba and the rest of her family comes from Jamaica.  Her Cuban grandmother gets to talk a lot because Cubans tend to be quicker to speak than Jamaicans.  And she has lots of funny examples of this dynamic in play in her family.

But we in InterVarsity want to create multi-ethnic community, a community where everyone gets to participate.

Quick-speakers need to slow down, creating space for slow-speakers to contribute.  For example, if we Latinos have Asian siblings-in-Christ, we have to be quick to listen and slow to speak.  And when we get tired of slow, respectful conversations ... we can practice being slow to become angry.

Creating space for people who are different from us to participate ... this is an essential part of our participation in the family of God.  And if we do create space for diverse communication, people feel honored and God's glory gets put on display.

How have you created space for people who are different from you to participate in the family of God?

God is Reconciling the World to Himself

I love training students to share the gospel of Jesus.

And, for many of our students, training is necessary.

For many students, their personal exposure to the gospel of Jesus has presented the gospel as an entry point into the Christian faith.  And this is true.

But for many, this is the extent of their exposure to the gospel.

And so, when the time comes to talk with someone about the gospel of Jesus, the story gets fuzzy.  The further students get from their own experience of conversion, the harder they find evangelism.

But isn't this the opposite of the way it should be?

As we walk longer and longer with Jesus, we should grow to love him more and know him better.  Talking about him should get easier and easier as we go along.

Our theological shortcomings directly connect with our missional shortcomings.

Have you seen this struggle in your own life?

Here I Am, Lord ... Send Someone Else!

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by a responsibility God's given you?

I've been feeling some of that this week.  Overwhelmed.  Overmatched.  Outgunned.

It's as if I can hear the angels' voices from Isaiah 6 crying "Holy, Holy, Holy" and the voice of the Lord resounding "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" and I can't bring myself to volunteer, to follow Isaiah's "Here I am, Lord. Send me."

The emotions of insufficiency serve as some of my most faithful companions in campus ministry.  And, although I don't enjoy them, I wouldn't remove them permanently.

The work we do requires divine intervention.  God has to be at work.

And for me to have a deep reliance upon God, I have to maintain a clear awareness of my own insufficiency to do the ministry.  I have some skill, but my skill can't accomplish the work.  I have some talent, but my talent alone can't accomplish the work.  I can do some of it, but not enough of it ... not the most important parts of it.

In ministry, we often exalt the Volunteers and get frustrated with the Hesitant.

But the Hesitant can remind us that the bold "Here I am, Lord. Send me." of Isaiah 6 ultimately will bow to the humbling "Peace be unto you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you" of John 20.

I am so grateful - when I find myself overwhelmed, overmatched and outgunned - that I am not sent alone, that Jesus was sent before me, that he goes with me and that he'll clean up the mess I leave behind.

When I say "Send someone else," God replies with a great "I have and I will."  Jesus, the sent One.  That thought gives me courage and traction and energy to hang on a little longer.

How do you push through the emotions of insufficiency?

What Should We Do When Someone Sees Our Strengths As Weaknesses?

We have three options:

1) Get defensive
2) Get embarassed
3) Get better

What's your most recent response?

Trials, Temptations and Our Efforts to Defend God

God doesn't need us to defend him.

We roll our eyes at Peter as he swings his sword in the Garden of Gethsemanae, trying to defend Jesus.  But I find myself almost daily swinging my words like swords in an attempt to defend God. 

"God isn't like that"
"God didn't make that happen"
"God doesn't hate them"
"Those people don't speak for God"

Just this week, in our community group, we swung our word-swords attempting to defend God, splitting linguistic hairs to defend God's innocence.

"God give trials, but not temptations" we said, as we studied James.

But even as Jesus didn't need Peter to swing his sword in the Garden, God doesn't need me to swing my word-sword.  In fact, the biblical text makes it difficult to do this. 

While it would be clean and neat to attribute "trials" to God and "temptations" to the Devil (or our sin nature), the Bible doesn't feel the need to do it.  The same word - πειρασμον - shows up meaning both "trial" and "temptation."  And this makes it more difficult for us to get him off the hook when someone says "God is tempting me."

God's response to "God is tempting me" isn't to jump into a linguistic defense ("I'm testing you, not tempting you") but to show us the source of our temptations and to draw our attention to his generosity (see James 1). 

He defends himself well, though differently than we would defend him ourselves: not with word-swords or sword-swords, but with something else, with a cross and an empty grave and overwhelming generosity and patience ... unusual defenses, to say the least.

How have you seen God's defense of himself differ from your defense of him?

What's Wrong With the World by GK Chesterton

What's Wrong with the World made me laugh, think and flinch.

Laugh

Chesterton has some great one-liners in this collection of essays:

The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.

Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.

I have known many happy marriages, but never a compatible one. The whole aim of marriage is to fight through and survive the instant when incompatibility becomes unquestionable. For a man and a woman, as such, are incompatible.
As a lover of the art of comedy, I greatly enjoyed Chesterton's capacity to twist a proverb to suit his rhetorical needs.  Those phrase turns make the pages turn quickly.

Think

What's Wrong with the World raises great questions about idealism, politics, economics and family life.  You can actually read the entire collection of essays on-line for free here.

One of his great concerns, and perhaps the great concern of conservative intellectual life, is that, in the name of progress, we'll trap ourselves inside faulty dilemmas, thinking we've got to make the best of bad choices when good but hard choices are still available.

He proposes a third way between Capitalism and Socialism, something he calls Revolution or Distributism.  The idea is an almost "take from the rich before they get robbed, share enough to restore dignity and, whatever you do, don't let property fall into the hands of the State" kind of idea. 

Even covered with a hundred years of dust, the essays still echo current conversations in the church.

Flinch

I'll be honest, this was my first time hearing anyone make a significant argument against giving women the right to vote.  He does it without belittling women (much), but page after page after page pushes for rejecting women's sufferage.

His approach hinges on his understanding of family life, on the differing roles of husband and wife in marriage.  He believes that the world needs both specialists and generalists, intellectuals and emotionals, artists and dabblers, providers and parents, pub-goers and homebodies. 

My flinch comes, not because of what he says, but because I hear him echoed throughout evangelical Christian culture.  Sure, no one takes his arguments all the way to their logical conclusions anymore.  But I don't know why they don't.

Although you will probably flinch too, even these hard passages are worth reading.  They form and stretch the lanes and rhythms of my capacity to think logically. 

Thesis.  Antithesis.  Synthesis.  Right? 

Not every piece of writing can be Synthesis.

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Your turn.

What are you reading?

You Can't Be on the Frontier Alone

I feel these weird emotional pulls when I learn about other people entering the fields I'm serving.  Am I alone in this?

On the one hand, I'm excited to have partners on campus.
On the other, I just want to be left alone.

There's a part of me that wants to say "Oh, you're coming here too.  Sweet.  You take it.  I'll go somewhere else, somewhere that's not being served."  The frontier carries a real beauty, a beauty that's spoiled by company.

But you can't be on the frontier alone.  At least, not in ministry.

I don't want to be here all by myself. 

I want God to be here.

And God's presence always comes with company. 

You can't hide God or hoard God or heap God in your corner.  He's not tame.  If he's with you, those folks who follow him will show up too.  And let's face it, he's with you, but you're also with him.

If you're serving on a frontier - whether it's a jungle or a campus - expect company.  This is good news.  Or horrible news.  Depends on you attitude, I guess.  And the day.

How do you feel when someone moves into your field?