Friday, October 31, 2008

Painful Endurance

I looked back through my blog entries searching for "kidney stones" and found that my last onset of a kidney stone attack was December 2006...before that it was March 2006. Well...last Monday is the new last onset of kidney stone movement in my body.

Not fun! The intense pain cannot be described adequately. Moving around not being able to escape it or get relief is a helpless feeling. The not being able to keep anything in your stomach is not desirable either. The crying out to God for relief seems fruitless or impossible in the moment. But...

As I was laying on the ground in the bathroom I had a brief moment of clarity. (Maybe that is what it was...I'm still not sure.) I began repeating over and over one of the following phrases: "Lord have mercy." "Help me Lord." "Relieve the pain." "Have mercy on me." "Please Lord" "Take the pain away." I would go on and on saying one of those until I felt like saying another one. Eventually, the one I settled on more than the rest was "Help me Lord."

My moment of clarity happened when I said a few times, "Take the pain away." I thought to myself for a brief second,
"Would God really want to take my pain away miraculously right now? This seems like a cop out prayer. When would you learn endurance. This isn't going to last all day long. I need God to help me through the pain. Don't ask to take it away. This is drawing on God's strength, not yours."
While I guess I really did want God to take the pain away (I do not wish that pain on my worst enemy!!), I thought it better to ask for help. This would bring God into my pain...the one who knows endurance through pain. Even though I used other phrases from that point on, I avoided asking for the pain to go away and settle on asking for help. I think this has helped me a little bit with endurance through suffering.

The saga continues as I recover from Monday afternoon. I have developed a little kidney infection, but antibiotics from the doctor should help. Praise the Lord! I am curious to see how this little endurance exercise helps me with other situations requiring gut-wrenching endurance. Feel free to share your own.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Running Again

I began running again this morning. A friend is encouraging me to try to get in shape for a half-marathon in the DFW area on Nov 16th! It is possible for me to get in shape, but I am not sure if I will end up doing it. I'm still thinking about it.

In my considering this, I have now shared the story twice about my running 9 miles on Veteran's Memorial. It is incredibly hilly 5 mile one-way trek. About halfway through I told myself that I would never make the decision to quit on the way up any hill but would make it on the other side on the way down. It is amazing what that little commitment meant.

In my mind then, I was convinced about six times (fully convinced) that I would quit at the bottom of this "treacherous" hill I was running up. Because of my commitment, I got up the hill and began going down knowing that I would quit. By the time I was at the bottom though, I figured I could go up just one more. Then about halfway up that hill I knew (no question in my mind) that I would stop at the bottom of the next. Oddly enough, the same thing happened again. I decided that I could do just one more hill (no more though). This continued to happen until I found myself running 9 miles! Pretty cool, huh?

I do plan on going further than this personal best distance pretty soon, but I will certainly work up toward it. You can't just jump back in a expect to continue where you were. We will see how it goes. I'll share the journey lessons I learn.

About lessons...think about this...make a commitment to never "quit" when things are rough. Of course it would be easier to quit when life is terrible. But, wait to make that decision when things are going better and you can think more clearly. Life has hills to tackle, but that is exactly the point...they will be tackled!

It is normal. We need both the ascending and the descending to progress in the faith. One without the other is not really living the faith. The challenge is to be fit enough to get up the hill. How are you training for your next hill?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Jesus Examples

Tonight in our class we are discussing Jesus examples in our lives. Who are those people who really solidify Jesus for you? You might say, "This person gave me a glimpse into the life of Jesus more than anyone else I know." It might be one aspect of a person too! "She has taught me the patience that Jesus must have had while on his earth."

It is good to meditate on the lives of these people, even if you might not know them well, even if they were alive hundreds of years ago. They point us to Jesus. They put flesh on Jesus for us. Jesus becomes real because of them. We see him through them.

Caution: remember that these people are not Jesus. There is only one Jesus. All others will eventually disappoint you, but not Jesus.

Who shows Jesus to you? What do you need to imitate today?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Greek Pride

I keep wondering if it is a prideful thing to let people know that I am pretty good at translating NT Greek, that I am working (albeit slowly) on translating the whole New Testament. The reason I ask is that two students "caught" me today and I felt bad about it. But they were intrigued! One student and I got into a discussion about how we can trust the text we have now. I never thought I would have someone interesting in those kinds of things. I guess they never knew someone that could read Greek or understand a bit of textual criticism.

For me, it seems to come down to the heart! If I continue to point people to my ability to work with the Greek text out of a sense of accomplishment or pride...that is not good. However, if I just speak of it as something God has given me the ability to do and heart turns to God.

I'm interested to see what you think about it. Feel free to comment.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Bringing About Salvation

Immediately after the amazing Christ hymn in Philippians 2:5-11, Paul says an interesting thing about salvation. As Jesus gave ear to (obeyed) death in 2:8, so Paul tells the Philippians to give ear to (obey) his admonition about salvation. He asks them to bring about their own salvation. Some translate the word as work out, produce, or maybe even create their own salvation.

It is an interesting concept because we normally think of salvation as something that has already been completed. It happened as I became part of "The Way." At some point in the past I was saved. While this is certainly true, Paul forces us to reconsider the nature of salvation in his comment. Salvation, for Paul, seems to be a commitment that must receive constant attention. You can certainly grow up in your salvation (cf. 1 Peter 2:2).

The context confirms this idea as we learn how to bring about salvation among us more often. Other people are definitely involved in bringing about salvation. We must think about them as Jesus did. Do everything without grumbling and complaining, Paul admonishes. This negative attitude, unlike the Christ-attitude we see in the previous hymn, does not promote salvation among the group of which you are a part.

Bringing about salvation also holds onto (or holds up) Christ's living message among the group (2:16). Living is all about considering others better than yourselves (2:3-4). Living is actually what Paul talks about in only one other location in Philippians. He says, "For me, this business of living is Christ and this business of dying is gain" (1:21). Living is all about Jesus; dying is all about advancement.

If there was a group that took these words seriously, they would certainly be compelled toward the others people, just like Jesus. This group would be totally transformed into the realm of salvation. They would be delivered from the horrible negative attitudes that do not advance the gospel, a key idea for Paul in Philippians (see 1:6, 12, 25; 2:13).

In the end, I have a couple of questions for myself (and you). Do you take instruction well and give ear to (obey) others, even those "below" you? How are you bringing about salvation among the group? Are you holding out the message about living in how you think about others?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Humility of Christ

Yesterday ... how can I say this ... I was reminded of my pride! I haven't been able to get past it all day long. I long for the humility of Christ expressed in Philippians 2:6-11. I'm not going to speak to the particular situation, but I will tell of the comment I needed to hear.

I was talking to Doug about wanting to be a co-leader with him of a particular group of people. I told him that if I were part of this group I would constantly fight dominating the conversation, the thought processes, and other stuff. Doug quickly affirmed my assessment and said, "Yes. You don't need to be in charge because you would dominate. And I tell you that as a friend." I told him that is why I would need him in the group to curb my prideful tendencies.

Sometimes I joke about someone affirming one of your "bad" qualities. (see a previous post of mine.) Rarely, if ever, do we hear someone affirm us when we say something like, "Man, I am a moron!" If someone immediately said, "Well, yeah you are a moron!" we would tend to take offense. The far better thing to do is to say only things that we believe to be true about ourselves. It wasn't an easy thing to hear from someone else, but I needed it! True friends can say difficult things in order to point us back to Christ.

A humble, honest opinion of our weaknesses displays Christ powerfully in our body, something that Paul also affirms in Philippians 1:20. May His humility overwhelm my attitude.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

How I wish to write poetry
The more I read, the more intrigued
I get for me to see
But upon this height, I must not kite--
Humility is the key

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

More Than One

Yesterday I was once again surprised by God.

A guy came up to the prayer sign (he'd been there before) and asked to sit down with me and pray with people too. I gladly invited him to come on. [In our previous conversation last week he asked me to do this later on. I had told him that I think people tend to not come up when there are two people there, but he would still be welcome to come up. I didn't know what would come of this.]

So, as I looked up to see him yesterday morning, I figured that this day would not be a very "busy" day as far as people coming around. As the morning progressed I began to see how unfounded my supposed observation was about having two people there. Several students stopped by. In fact, I think eight students stopped by yesterday, the most ever since I've begun! So much for my supposed observations.

One girl knew the guy sitting with me from a class they had together. It was only as she left to go to Spanish class that she took notice of the sign. This began a conversation that would take all of the next hour and a half! We talked about sin, church, relationships, sex, lyrics to songs, Jesus, the Bible, denominations, and more. God began to reveal himself through the two guys sitting next to this prayer sign to this girl. Also, God once again showed me how silly my presumptions are. 

I look forward to more people coming around this "God space" on campus. I think it would be great to have a huge group of people coming around just to enjoy God's presence for the morning! How good is God? Can this group make a significant impact on campus for God's kingdom?

Will you surprise me, Lord?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Gathering for Others

This coming Thursday we are doing something BIBLICAL! We are gathering together in order to edify the others who come. Its not like we weren't doing that before, but it will look a little different. It might even turn into total chaos, which might be the reason for Paul's addressing the situation in Corinth.

Left unchecked, indeed it may. But Paul says to them and maybe us, "When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church." It seems like these Christians understood that they were to "bring" something to their gatherings. They didn't just come together so one or two people could perform all the duties. The focus of the text makes sure to mention that everyone brings something. Interesting indeed! Especially in light of our I-didn't-get-anything-out-of-that mentality so prevalent in our churches these days.

Well...this Thursday I am giving all of our students an opportunity to bring something. Has God been working in your life? Tell us about it. Have you been struggling? Confess your struggle. Do you need to pray for someone? Pray it. Do you have a song to sing? Sing it. Is a Bible passage really impacting you? Share it.

I just have to remember: let it be done for the strengthening of the body. I am curious to see how God works this Thursday! I won't be the leader...just the fellow participant.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

LST First Look

Well, we had our First Look event for LST on Thursday. I think it went really well. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of discussion I heard afterward about where people wanted to go and with whom!

I really like the changes this year. Students get to pick their location AND their team BEFORE they apply! This whole semester is going to be spent trying to figure out where in the whole world we want to go and which friends we are going to go with. I love it!

Doing this event during Thursday devo was also a good move. There were probably people there who wouldn't have come had we had a separate event for LST. Since I can only go two weeks this year, I am thinking about going to Asia, probably not Japan. Scooter and Emily are interested in going and I am still talking with Tanya about things. We might have three teams go this year, maybe four. We will see.

May God continue to encourage students to take a step of faith to make a serious difference in people's lives around the world. It truly shaped the course of my life... obviously for the better.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Pregnancy Care Center

Tuesday night I went to a fundraising dinner for the Pregnancy Care Center here in Huntsville. I had heard about it before but honestly didn't know anything about it. It was a very good thing. During the banquet they mentioned that they were looking for more guy volunteers to join the ranks to help with the guys that were sometimes involved in the process. This piqued my interest, and I knew I would probably go by their offices sometime this week.

Well, the following day (yesterday) I was on sitting on campus with God's sign, and a girl enthusiastically sat down next to me. She told me she just found out that she was pregnant on Monday. This means that she got pregnant by her still boyfriend about a month ago. The turn was when she announced with a huge smile that she became a Christian two weeks ago!

She told me her story and how she turned to God from a life of rebellion! God, she said, is doing something with this baby even though I don't know what. Abortion is not an option, though it was discussed with her still supportive boyfriend. In all, we had a long, nice God conversation!

With my very recently acquired familiarity with the Pregnancy Care Center, I inquired whether she knew of it. She said that is where she received the free pregnancy test. Our conversation went to her boyfriend and how I might be able to help him. Because he works full-time and lives in Houston, there doesn't seem to be much I could do except pray for him.

This little event, however, confirmed for me that I needed to go to the Pregnancy Care Center and inquire about volunteering. That I did immediately after retiring God's sign back to its abode in the KFC Student Center. Chris, the director, was excited about my coming and the story about this girl she knew from two days earlier. I filled out most of the application yesterday, finished it this morning, and turned it in a few moments ago. I will go in a couple of weeks for volunteer training, and then wait to see how God uses the time I offer Him through that ministry.

God amazes me at small opportunities to advance his kingdom! O that we could see how God slowly moves us closer to his heart!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Jesus on my Mind

I want to share I have had in my mind lately. This is a song that Tanya (for some odd reason) doesn't like me to sing around the house or in her presence, but it gets sung in my heart nonetheless! Enjoy it written, but you really need to hear it.

Well hmm, yeah hmm
I got Jesus on my mind
Well hmm, yeah hmm
I got Jesus on my mind
Well hmm, yeah hmm
I got Jesus on my mind
I got Jesus on my mind.

If you're interested in getting hooked on the song, don't laugh but find me singing it here ( as long as it is an active link. Seriously...don't laugh!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Flower, My Prayer

Praying tonight I find encouragement through flowers I bought for Tanya.

I was looking for a way to express my desire for God's presence to open up into students' lives and spread through campus. I was reflecting on the campus revivals in the 1960s and 1970s where huge gatherings of college students met. They began a normal service that soon turned into the bustling business of God moving through hearts and lives. The common factor in these stirrings of the Spirit was public confession of sin, repentance, and encouragement in the Spirit.

While these clouds thoughts float around in my head I look to these flowers and see this opened flower. I immediately know that this flower is my prayer. There is no other way to express it. I feebly say something like, "May students' lives powerfully open up to display your glory in them like this flower."

These words, however, hardly express the complexity of my desire. Time is involved. Just yesterday this blossoming flower was like its companion you see just behind it ... closed, shielded, and not too impressive. Through time God's glory opens up and students look different.

Students ask me to pray for their unimpressive, bad choices and temptations. They don't see the beauty God has waiting to burst out! If only they would see it, Lord, and wait like this flower responding to the divine will so perfectly! Get through this testing and you will see what God has in store.

They desire to fulfill your purposes for them not knowing that their situation is being redeemed through God's own presence in their life. It will come in the season it comes.

My prayer is this flower, spreading its arms toward its creator, screaming of its maker with every breath, responding to His gentle unseen promptings, and giving off the fragrance of Christ. Interesting prayer indeed.