Free from fear

Religion is no antidote for fear.

As people approach death, some fight.  They fight long and hard whether or not they believe in God, heaven or that they're going to go there to be with him.

Current philosophy talks of religion as if it's a crutch, something men and women reach for when times are bad and hard, clinging to religion.  If religion is a crutch, it's a bad one.

Religion won't protect you from fear, won't make you rich, won't solve all the crises in the world.  Religious people aren't happier, better or more beautiful.  Case after case shows this to be true.

And yet, we persist. 

I think it has something to do with love.  If you love someone, you don't care if your relationship makes you happy or better or more beautiful.  If you love someone, the whole world seems less urgent.  Money doesn't matter.  And fear ... well ... fear remains, at least for a while.

Why do you think religion persists, even though it doesn't make us completely free from fear?

Respecting Courage

War makes for fine stories, great films and fun video games.  But I wish it didn't.

War is also an ugly thing, a dirty thing, a hard thing, a thing that breaks people and communities.  A thing that should not be.

But talking badly about war creates a tension.  I have family and friends that have fought wars and are currently fighting.  They sacrifice and show courage.  Even if war is ugly, can't there be something respectable about it?

Pacifists struggle to talk about war without disrespecting warriors.

But the virtue Courage deserves honor.  It is rare these days.  Pragmatism reigns.  Bullying beats bravery.  And much of what passes for courage nowadays is just bullying (how hard is it to pick on 3.5 or 13% or a population?).

How do we honor courage without endorsing war? How do we criticize war without disrespecting courage?

Why so serious?

There's a lot to be said for the current wave of missionality in young evangelicalism.  This missionality pushes us toward community, creating a new and accessible monasticism.  It's organized and coherent.  It's all-the-time, not once-a-year.

But it's so serious.

We live in serious times.  Earthquakes and tidal waves.  Recessions and declining income.  Wars and rumors of wars. 

But the God we find ourselves connected to is a God of celebration.

From Genesis to Revelation, God calls forth celebration.  Sacrifices and worship found parties for company.  Celebration overflows when the lost are found and when the wandering return.

Jesus partied.  From the wedding at Cana to the Feast at the end of time.  His attendance at parties earned him the titles of "friend of sinners" and "glutton and drunkard." One of those applies correctly, the other is misunderstood.

Followers of Jesus, when's the last time you celebrated in a way that could be misunderstood?

Daydreaming in Church: String Theory, Medieval Cosmology

Does your mind ever wander when you're sitting in church?

I take notes during sermons in an attempt to prevent this drift.  When I find myself starting to drift, sometimes I just scribble down the topic (allowing myself to come back to it later).

Last week, during Jon's excellent sermon on Psalm 1 (check it out here), I scribbled down "Mapping String Theory onto Medieval Cosmology."  This scribble allowed me to jump back into the sermon.

But what about that scribble?

Medieval cosmology involves the way men and women before the Copernican revolution viewed the universe.  The Earth was the center: smallest, coldest, darkest.  Above the Earth, spheres: Sky, the Seven Heavens and the Highest Heaven.  All of it full of music.  All of it full of light.

For more on Medieval Cosmology, check out The Discarded Image by CS Lewis or Planet Narnia (a blog by Dr. Michael Ward).

Some folks are tempted to discard the idea of heaven as a medieval mistake.  They look through telescopes and don't see God's Throne, so they move on.

But in the last 50 years, a leading edge of theoretical physics - String Theory - may have reintroduced the Medieval model to the world.  String Theory sees the particles that make up matter as interconnected and opens doors to explain the existence of extra dimensions and multiverses.

What if, instead of talking about the Seven Heavens as musical spheres that encircle the Earth, we used the language of String Theory?  What if Heaven was both beyond Earth and connected to Earth?  What if the medieval cosmology got it right, but just used math and language that was simple and analogical?

This is where my mind wanders during church.

Where does your mind wander?  What do you do with the wandering?

Echoes of the Word in the World

Attempting to connect with God's Word, some withdraw from the World.

They worry that the World would distract.  They fear that the World would corrupt.  They "know" that the Word has nothing to do with the World.

But our theology tells us that God stands sovereign over the whole World.  The World, and everything in it, belongs to him.  And "since the creation of the World God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made."

The Word is in the World.  The Word became flesh and dwelled among us.

Don't cave in to the temptation to jump quickly to theological word splitting, dividing Jesus and the Bible.  The "Word" in the World is Jesus, the Word we try to connect with through escape ... that's the Bible.  Jesus is in the church and the world.  The Bible is locked in the church (or the prayer closet or the pulpit).

None of us believe that ... not really.

And this is where the echoes come in.  My reading of Scripture is amplified as I move through the World.  I find opportunities to talk about, think through, and be challenged in my understanding of the Word.

In reality, the times when I pull away from the Word are also the times I pull away from the World.  I escape into Christian books, Christian music, Christian community and solitude.  Does this happen to you too?

Where do you hear echoes of the Word in the World?

Thanks to Tim and Brittany Gossett for helping me to clarify my thinking on this.

Don't forget your Who, What and How's

When I evaluate a year of ministry, I find these questions helpful:
Who are we?
What are we trying to do?
How did we go about trying to do what we're trying to do?
These are unusual questions. 

Ministries usually ask: "What happened?" and "What did we accomplish?" and "How many ... ?"  And these are fine questions.  But if they're the only questions you answer, you'll miss an opportunity.

One of our campus groups saw a regular meeting on campus, two conversions and an increase from 5 to 15 students.  We celebrate.  It was a great year!  But there are over 10,000 students on that campus.  And InterVarsity is the only campus ministry.  We're grateful to work with 15, but not satisfied.  We need to get the doors opened a little wider.

When I started asking the How question I wrote down that our weekly meeting was an intense prayer and worship meeting.  Almost two hours.  Awesome, but that's it.

If you looked at our How and tried to work back to our What, what would you say we were trying to do on campus?  Gather the Committed.  Protect the Safe.  Change the spiritual climate.  Some of that maps onto our vision.  Some of that doesn't.

Jumping from the How to the What exposes drift.
Jumping from the What to the Who re-engages hearts.

Our students want to be a city on a hill, resident aliens, campus renewers.  Our leaders don't want Youth Group 2.0 or the Weakly Christian Club.  If we cast a compelling Who We Are vision, the What and How's will step into line.

I don't expect we'll cancel our weekly prayer and worship meeting, but we might change it.  We might introduce ourselves to each other before we start praying and spend a minute or two talking to each other (yeah ... the meetings were THAT intense this year).  We might add a Bible Study on another day or at another time.  Who knows?  But something will change.

How would you answer the Who, What and How's for your ministry?

What if we planned to change strategies?

Navigation is one of the most difficult facets of leadership. 

Most leaders can chart a course.  Getting from Point A to B isn't that hard.

Except that it is.

You create a path to walk, start on your way, and then the ground begins to shake.  Strategies start to fail, unable to work in the new environment.  How you adapt when the landscape changes says a lot about who you are as a leader ... and as a team.

My impulse is almost always to stick to my guns, cut off an ear or two and to try to muscle through.  My strategies are well thought through, insightful, sometimes even brilliant.  And I think I know what I'm doing.  

But what if what if that doesn't work?

Many of us in campus ministry adjust our strategy once a year.  We try something for a year, evaluate and change as necessary.  If we make changes mid-year, it's usually in response to some dramatic explosion.  Someone quits.  Something goes horribly wrong.  Some wild new opportunity presents itself.  Response.

But what if your campus was actually two campuses?  One in the Fall and another in the Spring.

This was the case at Washington and Lee.  In the Fall, everyone wants to meet everyone else.  Everyone goes to everything.  In the Spring, Greek rush sweeps over the campus, communities solidify and work-load increases, bringing with it a host of challenges and opportunities.  And I always found myself scrambling.

Why aren't people showing up?
Why aren't people reaching out?
Why are we burning out?
Why are we messing up?
Why isn't our strategy working?

Can you imagine what it would look like if we planned, before the year even started, to change strategies?

Kevin Watkins, the InterVarsity Staff at W&L, brought this to my attention today.  It really complemented my reading of John 18 and showed a lot of insight.  Those students are blessed to have him!

Learning from the experience of others

Learning styles come in all shapes and sizes. 

Some people learn by seeing (visual), others by hearing (auditory), and still others through movement (kinesthetic).  Some learn by doing.  I prefer learning from the experience of others.

I haven't always thought this about myself.

Ask me in college and I would have told you I preferred learning from books.  Ask me when I started in ministry and I would have said I preferred learning from sermons.  Perhaps learning styles change over time.

But over the last several years, I've started to notice how deeply I'm influenced by mentors.

I learn and don't even realize I'm learning.  I find myself echoing, shadowing, imitating.

Now that I've honed in my learning from the experience of others, it adjusts the opportunities I look for when I'm looking to learn.  I reach for books less often.  I download fewer sermons.  I keep my eyes peeled for mentors.

How do you learn?

Don't Let Gratitude Become Payment

"If you don't write a Thank You note, they won't get you anything next year."

How many of us heard that growing up?

In the process of learning manners, we mistakenly see gratitude become payment for other people's generosity.  And if it teaches us manners, it isn't that bad ... at first.

But what happens when someone does something for you that's huge?  A six pack of underwear, great gift ... Thank You note.  A down payment for a house ... three years of weekly mentoring ... salvation from sin and death ... these stand on a different order.  If gratitude becomes payment, I'm up to my eyeballs in debt.

Gratitude unencumbered becomes beautiful.  The giver and the receiver feel blessed.

Gratitude turned to repayment feels cheap.  It makes us feel cheap.  I feel cheap writing a Thank You note for a house down payment.  I feel cheap saying "Thanks" for years of mentoring.  I find myself adding obedience and mission to my attempts to pay for salvation ... and losing sight of God's grace.

When gratitude becomes payment, we stop communicating gratitude ... to other people and to God.  Have you seen this?

How can we keep gratitude from becoming payment?

Letting it not get done

I staff 4 chapters while supervising a team of Staff and volunteers.  Normally, we'd have five people doing what I'm doing.  That's why I worked 70 hour weeks from September to March.

70 hour weeks aren't that bad.  And that type of hard work shouldn't be foreign to us.  But it's not healthy and it's not sustainable.

And this means letting things slide.  Triage.

How do you decide what gets done and what gets left undone?

Being Misfiled

Have you ever been misfiled?

When Will was born, a nurse wandered over to get us to proofread his birth certificate.  William Radford Tamayo.  Amy listed as his mother, me as his father. 
Race: White, non-Hispanic.

Wait, what?

Will is going to grow up eating arroz con pollo and platanos maduros.  He'll learn about personalismo and respeto.  And he'll carry the Tamayo last name. 

White, non-Hispanic?  Nope. 
Super-white Hispanic?  Sure.

We misfile people all the time.

Just this week I've been misfiled as a theological liberal (by association), an egalitarian (by faulty dilemma) and a wealthy man (by comparison). 

Sometimes it's funny, sometimes it's annoying, sometimes it's painful.

Have you ever misfiled someone?  What did you do when you found out?

Book Review: After Shock by Kent Annan

Q: What would happen if you processed suffering and natural disaster in a book-long Psalm?
A: You'd end up something like Kent Annan's new book, After Shock

Kent works with Haiti Partners, a NGO committed to "help Haitians help Haitians."  He's spent years of his life doing development work and showing respect.  For more about Kent and his work, check out this interview.

I expected After Shock to be a reflection on God's goodness in the face of the Haiti earthquake, a kind of Good News about Injustice focused on natural disasters.

And the book did touch on this in some helpful ways.

But that's not why I loved the book.

First of all, Annan writes with vulnerability and honesty.  Though clearly edited (no misspellings) this book also felt unedited (no, or not much, sanitization).  Raw and rumbling reflection runs throughout the book. 

So often, we clean up our speech about God and to God, wandering into dishonesty out of a desire to be respectful.  But this dishonesty creates a distance.  And distance between us and God is the last thing we need when we're struggling and suffering.

It's easy to miss this honesty woven throughout the Psalms.  After all, they're so short.  It's easy to overlook raw speech and fearful disappointment when the resolution hits you in the next line.

That's another reason I loved the book.  If Annan had written a Psalm, a sonnet on suffering, I would have run right over the rough patches.  Sustaining honesty and vulnerability over the course of a whole book allowed Annan to share his process and irresolution with us.

The last reason I loved the book had to do with Annan's willingness to let the false parts of his faith die.  So often, in defense of faith, we protect all of it (even the false parts).  We figure it's better to keep the mix of real and ridiculous than risk losing the real.

But perhaps faith, real faith, involves confidence that the really Real can withstand the shaking of our doubt.  Perhaps there's no question, asked honestly or in anger, than can make God vanish.

How do you stay honest and vulnerable in the face of struggle and suffering?

A Long Time Without Water

When we left for camp, we failed to sufficiently plan for watering our citrus trees.  The temperatures hit the 90s and there wasn't enough rain.  I had a nightmare that our trees melted.  If my uncle didn't stop by and rescue our trees, they wouldn't have survived.

Going too long without water can be deadly.

It can kill a tree.  It can kill a person.  What can it do to a soul?

I've seen people who've gone a long time without water.  Dried up, shriveled, so far gone they aren't looking for water anymore. 

No, they, we ... we are soul-thirsty.  We come alive if we receive a certain kind of water.

What's your water?

InterVarsity's New Blog

InterVarsity has a new blog: On Campus, On Purpose.  Check it out at:

What would you hope for / expect in an InterVarsity blog?

Inevitable: From Incarnation to Cross

What will happen when broken humanity encounters God-in-the-flesh?

The Cross.

At least, that's what would happen if the encounter happened in ancient Rome.  If it happened in medieval England, maybe it would be beheading.  In modern America, lynching or an electric chair or a bullet through the eye.

We don't like to believe this, of course.

We like to believe that we would receive Jesus with arms wide open, that we would be exceptional.  And maybe our response wouldn't be as violent.  We've become better and better at keeping our hands clean.  But are our hearts clean?

The Cross is the inevitable outcome of the Incarnation.  When God stays true to his character and we stay true to ours, catastrophe happens.  But that catastrophe isn't the only news, even if it's good news.

The Resurrection follows the Cross as inevitably as the Cross follows the Incarnation.  And all three matter.  They show a God of unchanging character.  They even give us hope that God can change our character.  If he can change the finality of death, perhaps he can finally change the human opposition to him.

But if he didn't come in the flesh, where would we be?  The sort of God who wouldn't show up in our neighborhoods, wouldn't die for us.  The sort of God who wouldn't die for us, wouldn't return from the dead and wouldn't raise us up with him.

How does the Incarnation influence our thinking about the Cross?

Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck

Have you ever felt like the waters have come up to your neck?

At camp this week, I had several up-to-my-neck moments.  Getting students to and from rural Georgia stretched me to my logistical limits.  Being always "on" for two weeks made me (and all the other introverts) feel like I left my lights on and car door open ... drained batteries.  And on top of all that, the approaching fiscal year-end threatens on the horizon.

The image from Psalm 69 - that of a person sinking beneath a flood - resonated with me.  But it also challenged me.

"Save me, O God" doesn't sound like my usual response to my up-to-my-neck moments.  I usually withdraw, go silent and leverage the stress to increase productivity.

But not the Psalmist.

David's Psalms represent not just a willingness to be honest to God, but a willingness to go to him in the first place.  And, sometimes, that's the hardest part.

What do you do when the waters are up to your neck?

What if the 99 aren't there when you get back?

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells this story:

“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
This story makes me happy.  I find it beautiful.  But it also scares me.

When you pursue the lost sheep, leaving the 99 behind, you run a risk.  You run a risk that the 99 won't be there waiting for you when you get back. 

Maybe they'll find another shepherd.  They'll join another campus ministry or wander over to another church.  Sure, your name will be dragged through the mud ("Seeker-sensitive" gets thrown around like an insult in some circles), but the folks will be okay.

But what if they're not.  What if you go after the one and get back and your flock is scattered?  Would you think that that risk was worth it?

The call to follow Jesus into mission requires us to take that risk.  We avoid it as best we can (developing retention systems and structures), but minimizing a risk isn't the same thing as removing a risk.

This is why it matters so much that those who shepherd God's flock recognize that they serve under the Chief Shepherd.  If he isn't watching over the 99 when we go after the 1, we can't really be free to go after the 1.

Have you ever been afraid of losing the 99, going after the 1?

Why do the rules suddenly change?

I directly work with 120 students.  Many of them love Jesus.  Few of them have money.  Two of them are white.

And I've started to notice a frustrating trend.

Many of our students want to come to our conferences and camps and want to bring their friends.  They love Jesus and want others to love him too.  But few of our students have cars or can afford to fly.  They don't have a lot of money.  And this shouldn't be a big problem.

I have a network of generous donors who would happily help our students rent cars and get to our conferences and camps, bringing their friends, experiencing God (If you're one of those generous donors, thank you!).

But something keeps happening at the rental counter.  No one wants to rent cars to my students.  We have the money.  I'm even willing to secure the car with my major credit card (which has a $15k limit and carries no balance).  I'll make the reservations, talk through all the details with the rental company and have everything in order.

But when the students show up, the rules change.

Suddenly a $200 deposit becomes a $400 deposit.  Students are asked to show ... and I'm not making this up ... two pay stubs, two utility bills, a credit report and proof of car insurance.  Proof of car insurance?  If they had a car to insure, why would they be paying 4x a car payment to rent one?

Everything becomes complicated.  New hoops keep appearing.  The rules change, suddenly.

I have my theories, bubbling and seething in my brain.

Why do you think the rules suddenly change?

Mission before Repentance?

In the gospel of Jesus, repentance and mission go hand-in-hand. 

Repent of your sins, but fail to join Jesus, following him in his mission, and you miss out big time.  Try to follow Jesus without repenting of your sins and you will likewise miss out, perhaps even more drastically.

Our theology says that these two go hand in hand.  The truly repentant will join the mission.  Those really on board with the mission will have repentant hearts.

Given all that ...

Why do we always introduce the need for repentance first?

Without diminishing the need for repentance, the problem of sin, the need for students to receive life-giving salvation from Jesus Christ, I wonder if there might be a time to introduce the mission first.

To his disciples, Jesus called "Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men."  To me, this sounds like a call to mission.

Jesus sent his disciples out to heal and cast out demons and proclaim that the kingdom of God is near.  To me, this sounds like a call to mission.

Even to Levi, the tax collector, Jesus' "Follow me" appears to be primarily a call to mission.  He didn't say "I need you to feel really bad about all the ways you took advantage of people and recognize that your strong-arm business practices are really just attempts to fill a me-sized hole in your heart."  He gave an invitation to mission.

What do you think we lose by always putting repentance before mission?

Too much to unravel

I'm in a place tonight where I've got too much bouncing around in my head to know where to start writing.  Imagine a ball of string, matted and tangled, with no discernable beginning or ending.  Tug over here, tug over there and you might get a little give, but this thing isn't coming untangled easily.

I want to untangle the ball, to stretch out every last string, flatten them and see what's there.  I want this whole mess unjumbled and untangled, unknotted and unrolled.

What do you do with ideas all tangled together, wedged in place and immobile?

First, I try to have some patience.  Scissors may loosen the ball, but they do irreparable damage.  Snip, snip, snipping may be the way to end the tangle, but it's not untangling.  Ideas sliced to bits, like cut string, have limited use.  It's often worth the time to unravel the ideas intact.

Second, I try to remember the strings.  Sometimes, when a ball of ideas gets tangled in my brain, my patience is rewarded by forgetfulness.  Dropped on a dusty shelf in my mind, the tangled ideas harden.  And hard, remain.  Weighing down, rattling around, taking up space and doing no good.  By remembering the strings, I keep them soft, which gives me hope they can, at some future date, be unraveled.

Lastly, I keep prodding.  Somewhere, in there, there has to be a loose thread.  One loose thread leads to another and another and before we know it the whole thing will be untangled.  At that point, I'll make a flurry of blog-post, journal entries, have a fresh crop of talk topics and loads of random things to contribute to conversations.  Hopefully.

What do you do when you've got a mental tangle?

Some thoughts on Bible Study Prep

Is it more spiritual to avoid prep?

We've all heard stories of people who say "I didn't have time to prepare my Bible Study, but God's Spirit really came through and the Bible Study went fabulously!" 

This leads us to avoid prep.

Why do the hard work of prep if you don't need to?

But God can work during your prep time.  He's not chained to your weekly meeting.  He's at work in you and your people before the Bible Study.  And you need him to be at work in you afterward.

Providing focused time for prep opens you up a little more to God's work.

When should we break out the commentary?

Wait until after you've done your own study before breaking out the commentary.  If you break out the commentary first, it'll be hard for you to see anything other than the commentary.

And an over-reliance on commentaries communicates something to the people you're leading.  It communicates that the Bible can't be understood without professional help.  And if that's true, we don't need to be leading Bible Studies.



What else do you think Small Group leaders should know about prep?

10 Ways to Kill Your Bible Study

This was a fun transitional piece from our OIA Lab yesterday...

10. Flirt with your Small Group members
9. Talk too much
8. Talk too little
7. Read something other than the Bible (not quite a Bible Study if ... )
6. Treat Small Group members like they're stupid
5. Treat Small Group members like they know everything
4. Constantly refer to a commentary
3. Don't invite anyone (What's the #1 reason anyone comes to anything?)
2. Fail to pray
1. Do no prep

Can you think of other ways to kill a Bible Study?

Obviously, a Bible Study could still be great, even if you do a ton of unwise things.  God is gracious.  And he's the key to the success of our Bible Studies.

3 Reasons We Use Inductive Bible Study

Have you ever had a bad Bible Study experience?  You show up and the conversation flies over your head.  Someone else in the group monopolizes the conversation.  You look around and no one seems willing to learn or change.  You wonder why anyone comes.  You wonder why you even bothered to show up.

Inductive Bible Study dodges these hang-ups ... and others.

Here're three reasons we use Inductive Bible Study:

1) Our Theology

We believe that God alone can make the deepest and eternal changes in lives and cultures.  We believe God does this when we read and respond to his word.  So, we need a method of Bible Study that encourages people to hear and respond to God.  People don't need to hear us, they need to hear God.

A Bible Study technique in line with this theology will drive people into the word.  Watch the eyes of someone engaged in one of our Inductive Bible Studies.  They're constantly bouncing back to the Bible.  That's what we want.

2) Our Context

Working with college students, people in campus ministry surround themselves with people who are over-taught.  College-life is full of learning, but not always full of putting that learning to use.  Schools try to work around this with projects and internships, but the vast majority of the things students learn, never get put to use.

This information-without-application, knowledge-without-transformation, proves deadly in the Christian life.  As James says, we don't want to be like the man who looks at himself in the mirror and walks away without combing his hair, forgetting what he looks like.  Knowledge, according to Paul, puffs up. 

But Inductive Bible Study constantly pushes for application.  How are we going to respond to God's word?  And this application is something students long for ... they're waiting on the world to change.  We need a Bible Study technique that helps them respond, not with legalism or rule-creation, but out of love and worship and obedience.

3) Our Limits

On our campuses, our students find themselves surrounded by tens of thousands of their fellow-students who don't know Jesus.  And these neighbors don't have anyone inviting them to engage Jesus directly, to hear Jesus speak and learn Jesus' story.  And the window of opportunity for these neighbors closes rapidly.  A year, sometimes four, sometimes just a few months.  And that's it.

Our strategy to invite these neighbors into a relationship with Jesus can't include giving our leaders 3 years of seminary.  Our strategy can't involve 6 years of a PhD program.  There has to be a way to equip and send students faster.  Their neighbors need it.

Inductive Bible Study is easy to learn, hard to mess up and faithful for it's purpose.  It isn't perfect, but it's enough to get the light of God's word to people bound in darkness.

Why else do you think Inductive Bible Study might be helpful?

Calm Before the Storm ... Chapter Camp

Chapter Camp starts tomorrow.

Before heading up to camp, I took a day or two off ... or, mostly off, as off as you can when you're still trying to coordinate rides.  But I didn't work on preparing my content and I didn't fiddle with my powerpoint or anything like that.

Our temptation is to blast our way into camp.

Everything can be better.  We can tighten our talks, animate our slide shows, search for that perfect video that will tie it all together.  And taking a day or two off, well, that costs you.

But every decision has a trade-off.  At some point, the value of rest tops the cost to preparation.

To be able to rest before camp, it takes a lot of advance work and preparation.  It requires you to make peace with your presentations not being perfect.  But it makes a big difference.

This is a constant ministry tension.  We can always do more.  You've never heard a perfect sermon.  You've never seen a perfect worship set.  You've never been to a perfectly prepped Small Group.  More.  More.  More.  We could always do more.

But there's a danger that, in doing more, we become less.  Shrunken people.  Lifeless ministers sharing the news of life, filling ears with hollow words, words believed but not lived.

What would it take for you to dive into ministry well rested?

Not Despite, But Because

In a conversation with the great Kevin Watkins the other day, we uncovered a take-away from the story of Jonah.  And I've studied Jonah just about every year for the past decade.

And one of the blazing things that jumps out to me every time I check out Jonah is this:

Jonah disobeys God not despite his knowledge of God, but because of it.

In Jonah 4, Jonah reveals he dodged his call to Nineveh because he knew God was "a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity."

We often think that the problem is Ignorance.  "If people just knew about Jesus ... " our hopes go.  But the story of Jonah reveals another reality.  Some of us run from God, not despite, but because.  Knowledge alone can't save.  We need something more.

And the problem isn't just Self-centeredness, though the Lord knows how much selfishness pumps through my veins.  Sometimes, my disobedience flows rebellion.  I disobey Despite.  Sometimes, it flows from something else, a Because.

God's values don't always line up with mine.  His strategies confuse and frustrate me at times.  I worry that he doesn't have my best interests in mind, that he isn't going to take care of me, that it isn't worth it.  Sometimes, I disobey because, not despite.

What difference would it make if you corrected because's, not just despite's?