Thursday, May 28, 2009

Amazing Conversations

Well, today was filled with amazing conversations. I tried something that I haven't done too much of in the past. I guess I am calling them prayer bombs. They actually go off during the conversations that I have with my readers.

I will ask them to read the passage for the day. While they are reading, I pray for them. I pray that God open their hearts and minds to understand Him better. I pray that His word do great things during our conversation. I pray that their eyes open to see Him in me. I pray that I use the right words to give them understanding and that God give them the true understanding that they need to live for Jesus.

Do you know what happened today? God blew up the place. Our conversations were unlike anything I have ever experienced on an LST project...and this is my fifth project! Every one of my readers opened up to me or God's word for no reason. I didn't do anything special except throw these prayer bombs.

They asked me for advice concerning specific problems they were going through. They were brought to tears at not being able to read again. They were intensely curious about why I followed Jesus. They made new commitments to following Jesus. It was pretty cool to witness.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Another Full Day

Today we had another full day of reading! Nine hours, and I got to teach a class for the youth group here in Kiev after that. It was incredible.

Today I even got to pray with one of my readers, Natasha. She says that she wants to do better at praying more regularly, but she usually gets very busy and doesn't think about it. Sounds familiar! She told me that she loves our reading sessions because she gets to practice her English and talk a lot about God at the same time. It is like a double blessing from God!

Continue to pray for our time here. We have our one day off tomorrow and then it is off to the races again with church on Sunday and then five more hours of reading after services. I am amazed at how much energy our God gives us. Please keep up the prayers.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

First Day of Reading

Today was our first reading day! We had an incredibly full reading schedule with no cancelations! That is truly a joy and a rarity. I read with four readers before lunch and five readers after lunch. Back to back to back! Most of my readers are using the Luke workbook, but I finally have some readers in Acts and one in John!

The people are incredibly warm and friendly. They are excited about reading with us as native English speakers. One of my readers, Vika, sees our reading sessions as a way to improve her ability to get a better job. She is working to get her CIPA, which is the international version of a CPA for accountants in the states. There are only 200 people in the Ukraine who have this certification, and mastering English will help get her closer. She will be able to provide for her three-year-old and 18-month-old children. Her English will improve through our conversations, as will her exposure to God’s powerful word.

God is giving me the energy I need to have these meaningful conversations. Please pray that God sustain us through this work. We truly get to see God’s power at work through our weakness.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Actionless Choices

It seems like I am constantly harping on the little choices that we make. "Its like grass growing," I say. "You don't notice how much it is growing moment by moment, but after a while you notice how high (and maybe unmanageable) its gotten!"

There is a growing trend that I see in college students and even others lately. It's the trend of making a choice by not making a choice. We don't know what to do in a given situation, so we don't do anything to see what happens. Later, we can claim that we didn't do anything to contribute to the problem, that we didn't make a choice in the matter. However, our inaction sometimes IS the choice that we make...and that choice does contribute to the problem many times. We don't remain neutral even though we think we do.

Here is a well-done modern parable that speaks into this conversation. I wonder what you think about these things.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Glory Appears Again

I was listening this morning to scholar, teacher, and Bishop of Durham, N.T. Wright, talk about a book of his (Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense) and take questions from the audience (its a 7-part lecture I would suggest listening to). Its been out a while now, but I've never read it, so I gave it a whirl!

As he was lecturing about beauty being one of those things that we just get. It is hard to explain and even not completely agreed upon, but we understand that this thing (whatever we are talking about) is just beautiful. There is a glory to it, a mystery to it, an attractiveness to it. Some are so attracted to it that they want to begin studying it much like a musician, enamored by the glory of a symphony, is draw to understand the intricacies of music. They go to college looking to dive deep into this mystery and find that the glory has disappeared. Wright says that it sometimes takes years for the glory to appear again, if at all.

At this point in his lecture, I was struck. I couldn't help but think about how this happened to me in grad school with my theological studies. The attractive glory and mystery of God disappeared for me. I was no longer captivated by Him as I once was.

Oddly enough, when I'm being captured by these thoughts, Wright says something like, "While this is a whole other study, this same thing [about music] happens with theological studies."

Having been removed from my theological studies (proper) now for 4.5 years, there is a small element of rediscovery happening in my soul. God's glory and mystery is reappearing. The glimmer I got recently was in a conversation about my life in college. I spoke of being caught up in the Spirit, spiritual warfare, trusting God, speaking to demons, and more.

Here it is: As I recalled the glory of God being revealed in my life during that time, I then realized (or God revealed to me) that I have lost God's love; I haven't been loving the other. My heart, as Bernard of Clairvaux would say, was loving self for self's sake. Clairvaux might contend that I was even in the second degree of love where I was loving God for self's sake, but I realized (once again) that my love was not motivated from a deep desire for God, but for self.

I wonder what would happen to this campus ministry if I would let God's glory be exactly that...His. What does that look like? I wonder what would happen if I began to love the other deeply, to long after the mystery of God, to groan for his people, to rest in his love above all else. How will God use this? Well, I'm going to try it out and see what happens!

Will you join me?

Monday, May 04, 2009

Fine Print

Yesterday, Doug Page preached a sermon using Luke 9:57-62. He did a great job at helping us commit to saying "I will" without any conditions. All three of the people in the text that came to Jesus said they would follow him. Even though we never know if they actually follow Jesus in the end, it is good (at least) to see their willingness to follow him.

Willing or not, the problem seems to be in the fine print of following Jesus. One says, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." Another says, "...first let me go back and say good-by to my family." The fine print of following Jesus. They want to follow Jesus, but on their own terms. "These are the conditions under which I will follow Jesus."

I hear a lot of fine print in ministry. I deal with unspoken and even spoken fine print all the time. Here is where I hear the fine print most of the time: in the words "maybe," "I'll try," "I should," "if I'm not busy...," "I don't know yet," and the like. Throughout the year, attendance in our service projects or soliciting spontaneous help seems to bring out the fine print most often. I guess I am more sensitive to this now at the end of the school year more than ever.

Now I know that these words are spoken from good intentions, spoken perhaps from a perspective saying, "I'd rather not commit to something than commit and back out later." This is not an outright evil way of looking at things. But, if I read Luke's text correctly, Jesus doesn't want the fine print. Jesus isn't interested in our conditions. He doesn't want half loyalty. Jesus wants us to follow him unconditionally.

All week I have been wondering about what my fine print is. Do I have conditions through which I filter my walk with Jesus? Is there a place where I refuse to follow Jesus? Are my finances my fine print? Is my contentment? Is happiness the fine print I require before I follow my Lord? Is it that other people have to go with me before I follow Jesus? "I don't want to be the only one going on that project!" Is food my fine print? "I don't want to sacrifice that much...or I won't eat that!" Do I need everyone to agree with me before I follow Jesus? Do I require others to treat me the way I deserve? Am I requiring comfort in my following Jesus?

So many questions. But I continue to wonder about the fine print. Jesus wants us to get rid of the fine print and just follow him. What does that mean in your life?