February 25, 2009

Looking For the Divine Appointments

I am greatly convicted and challenged as I read the story of Paul's shipwreck on Malta (found in Acts 28). The first thing that strikes me is the immediate reaction from the people there when Paul is bitten by a snake - "A murderer, no doubt!" This instantly reminds me of us - God's people - and our tendencies to judge things and people based on what we can see. The Lord operates on such a different level. This is why Jesus tried to warn us that there will be people in His Kingdom that none of us expect.

But the real brick upside the head for me is what happens when Paul and the others are welcomed into the home of Publius, the mayor of the island. After learning that Publius's father is sick, Luke simply tells us that "Paul went in and prayed for him, and laying hands on him, healed him." And of course when everyone else on the island dealing with any sort of sickness learns of this, they line up to see Paul and are all healed. We may think the fact that all these people were healed is the most important part of the story. WRONG. When you read verse 10 you learn that they were not only healed...they were changed! They were moved to act on behalf of others - to put others before themselves. And all of this began with prayer.

What really gets me is that in the middle of complete turmoil (they'd just been shipwrecked and washed ashore) and physical trauma (Paul had just been bitten by a snake), this disciple in chains is still thinking about others first. If I had been in this situation and condition and some nice mayor had invited me into his home for some shelter and some stew, I would most likely be asking to spend some time in the facilities, borrow a nice pair of clean clothes, and have my feet up on the furniture in no time. Not Paul. The instant he learns that this man in the home is sick, he goes in to pray with him and for him. It doesn't say he asked permission. It doesn't tell us that Paul made sure the man was a believer. Paul knew that God transforms people and that he listens when we pray. I know Paul prayed for this man to be healed, but I believe that his main prayer was for him to be changed.

I want this kind of focus and faith. I want this kind of boldness and courage. I want to recklessly embrace every opportunity to plead with the Father to change the people around me who need Him. I want to know that in the midst of the shipwreck I'm still going to be looking for the divine appointments. This is how the Good News - the Gospel - the hope of the message of the life & resurrection of Jesus Christ changes people. When we begin to live with this kind of focus and faith. That's Kingdom living.


February 19, 2009

Kicking Against the Oxgoads

The story of Paul on his way to Damascus has always struck me. How often are people found in this world making instantaneous 180's? And how many people get leveled and humbled by God so heavily in one moment and live to tell about it? You can probably count them on one hand!

In Acts 26 Paul is taken before King Agrippa, his wife, the royal court, and an auditorium filled with accusers and finger-pointers. He's given the opportunity to tell his story - or as Agrippa tells Paul, "You may speak in your defense." I love that. In the midst of recounting the events of his Damascus Road Confrontation and Conversion, Paul gives us another piece of the divine direct - he shares one more missing piece of the story. When the light from heaven blinded him and he fell face down, Jesus begins the confrontation by asking, "Saul...why are you persecuting me?" And then Jesus hits Paul with this: "It is hard for you to fight against my will." Think through that for a moment.

The Greek - or literal translation of this is "It is hard for you to kick against the oxgoads." Jesus used this idea several times, especially when He talked about our burdens and the "yoke" that He places upon us being "easy" and "light". Jesus kicks Paul to the dirt but then lovingly picks him up and says, "Why are trying to fight me? Why are you resisting me? Why don't you get that I'm not here to imprison you or enslave you...but to set you free? It is HARD for you to fight against my will." I've read this 3 times over the last few days and finally realized that it's the same for me: it is hard for me to fight against His will.

As Christ-followers, I think we're often tempted to think that it's hard to actually DO God's will - that it's hard to know what we're to do and how we're to do it. God, where do you want me to go? Isn't that asking a little much? Are you sure you've got the right person, Lord? We wrestle, we kick, we rationalize - in reality, we fight! And all the while He is trying to pick us up and say, "Don't you realize that my will may not be easy...but fighting my will is even harder!" If the Lord "knows the plans He has for us" and He "won't give us more than we can handle" and He will do as He says and "supply all our needs according to HIS riches"...what is it that we're fighting? Why are we resisting?

Your answer to this question will be different than mine. I can't answer it for you. Just know that when Christ begins to reveal His heart and His plan and His will for you - when He begins to place His yoke around your neck - that fighting it only makes the burden heavier, the pain greater, and the blessings fewer. And if we're really honest with ourselves, we want the burden to be lighter, the pain to be eased, and the blessings to be countless. 

Jesus says to us today what He said to Paul in the blinding light on that dusty road: "It is hard for you to fight against my will." So let's quit fighting!

February 11, 2009

Reflecting

10 years ago today I started my journey here at Olivet. I still very vividly remember the move here - watching my Dad in the rearview mirror in the Uhaul truck, swerving all over the highway in the 50 mph wind. Welcome to Kansas! I've had moments and days lately where I've been looking back and reflecting, almost overwhelmed by how many memories there are, stuffed in the back of the closet. Well, I thought I would attempt to drag some of them out. There's no way I could even begin to recount them all, but here are some of the highlights that come to my mind:

- We had only been here about a month or so and Morgan & I busted out the Spartan cheerleaders. And the last time we did it Morgan was pregnant with Libby. THAT was funny!

- The early days of Survive - riding in the van with the seniors. 8 solid hours of craziness. (Especially with Aubrey Dakin in the van!) And at Survive, physically pounding everyone into the ground, watching them give more than they ever thought they had in them. I would say those first years were pretty intense.

- Beach Reach. Brandon Hainke seeing the ocean for the first time! Keith's horrible sunburn (that looked like a topographical map). The original Hunnicutts rockin out under the pavilion in the monsoon. Carolyn flicking Ranch dressing on me and telling me it was a seagull. S.W. Swink as our bus driver, coming down to the beach with us - coolest bus driver ever! DW McCraskey hitting me in the face with the frisbee and giving me the best black eye I've ever had. Dave McKinney's snoring (and that would cover every trip to Mission Arlington as well). Liz & Ashley "witnessing" to the life guards. Courtney & Brooke having to sit on the front row and watch the other church's interpretive dancing - HA! So many good times!

- The greatest "Prank Gone Bad" of all time. Men's Weekend, Dakin Farm, Brent Carleton goes missing. He's found face down in the ditch by the road. Kenneth Applegate somehow gets a cell phone and calls 911 - I take the phone, hang it up. Chuck Pauler thinks I'm the cruelest youth pastor in the world. Kenneth then informs us that Brent's heart is beating 180 bpm. When Brent finally gets rolled over he lays there for about 10 seconds...and then smiles. Devin Martinez didn't talk to anyone the rest of the night. He thought his Bible Study teacher was dead! And all of this happened b/c the guys who planned the prank were late. Figures.

- I remember me & Walker having to break up the big party at Hainke's house. What most people didn't know was that Gary & Shareen knew about it and wanted ME to bust it instead of them. It was a big setup. I will never forget some of the faces when I walked in the back door. And of course Drew Mountain was the only one that got away. Sneaky! At that point, that was possibly the worst night of my life. I can laugh about now though. Really hard!

- Honduras & Bahamas. Amazing mission trips. Such memories - I can't begin to list them all. Countless laughs!

- The old days of re-painting The Cave every year. What a mess! And some of the nasty colors and things that were painted. Aubrey & Elaine were always trying to find some excuse to paint their handprints on the wall. AHHH! The Cave has come a long way!

- Making videos. Crocodile Hunter. All of our silent movies. Music videos. Matt wearing a dress for the Matchbox 20 video. For more to to www.youtube.com/bigostudents

- Rob & Karen went to Turkey. Morgan and I moved in with the Dakin's for 9 days. Do I need to explain anymore than this?

- Allison Moffitt's 16th birthday. She talked about it for 4-5 months before it came. Josh Dakin & I were at the entrance of Maize HS that day by 6:45, dressed up in costumes & holding up signs that said, "Allison Moffitt is 13" and "Honk if you love Allison Moffitt". When she got near the school and saw us she about had a heart attack. And then, some ignoramous girl was driving in and paying so much attention to us that she rear-ended someone. By that afternoon the rumor around the school was that Josh & I got taken to jail. Hilarious.

- Summer nights.

- Baptizing so many of you in the Moffitt's pool at the end of the summer. What an amazing celebration that was. And I remember baptizing Cliff Wolgamott. I've never had to "use my legs" baptizing before! It was like doing squats.

- Landon & Kelly. You left us much too early. We weren't really ready for it. I guess we never really are. Such great memories with both of you!

- Road trip with the Carleton's to Colorado. Again...do I need to say more?

- Oh Matt. Matt decided to pose for a picture at Survive. He pulled his shirt down over his shorts and it looked like he had no pants on. So we made posters - BIG posters - with Matt's beautiful pants-less picture that said, "HAVE YOU SEEN MY PANTS?". Matt's cell phone # was right on the bottom. We hung them up all over west Wichita, including in the kitchen of Timberline where he worked. He got a call in the middle of the night from a drunk woman saying, "I've got your pants baby! Come and get'em!" Thank you Elaine & Allison.

Again, there are way too many memories to even attempt to list here. I'm hoping you might be able to add some or fill in the blanks. No embellishing or exaggerating. We don't do that here! I love all of you and wouldn't trade these memories for anything!

February 9, 2009

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

In Acts 20 Paul is meeting with many of the leaders from the church in Ephesus. He is kindling the flames of what God has done (and is doing) in their lives and letting them know it is now time for him to head to Jerusalem, where he is almost certain that "jail and suffering lie ahead". Then he informs them that "none of you to whom I have preached the Kingdom will ever see me again". Ouch! Never?

Paul's friends are beside themselves. As they pray for him they cry, embrace, and are heavy-hearted. They are grieved at the thought of never seeing him again. But after all their goodbyes, Paul gets on a ship and heads toward Jerusalem. On this journey (recorded in Acts 21) they make several stops. It's interesting that at every location there is someone prophesying that "Paul should not go on to Jerusalem". A group of disciples, Philip's daughters, a prophet named Agabus - they all told Paul that he needed a change of plans, a different itinerary and destination. At this point most of us would have been driven to our knees to prayerfully wonder, "Should I stay...or should I go?" Not Paul. Finally he had to speak up. As they are weeping and begging him not to go, he says, "Why all this weeping? You are breaking my heart! For I am ready not only to be jailed at Jerusalem but also to die for the sake of the Lord Jesus. The will of the Lord be done." And the next thing we know (Acts 21:15) Luke tells us "...we packed our things and left for Jerusalem."

So the question that comes to me is, "Who's wrong?" Was Paul just being stubborn and pig-headed? I mean, person after person is saying the same thing to him. They're prophesying and saying, "You shouldn't go!" Is Paul too prideful to listen? Is he too ignorant to heed advice? Or is it that most of us - even prophets - can mistakenly equate danger and uncertainty as signs to run the other way? Think about it. Paul himself was the first to say that he was most likely going to be walking into trouble - "And now I am going to Jerusalem, drawn there irresistibly by the Holy Spirit, not knowing what awaits me, except that the Holy Spirit has told me in city after city that jail and suffering lie ahead." Paul didn't need all these people telling him what was going to happen. He knew! But for some reason everyone else was seeing this as a reason to alter the plan of action. Everyone else seem to think this was God saying, "Don't go!" Paul saw it differently.

I guess this reminds us that we need to be careful as to how we decipher and discern what the Holy Spirit is telling us. It also brings to our attention that we may not always know what's best for someone else - especially those we love! Sometimes it's close to impossible for us to objectively understand what the Lord may call someone to do - someone we love. We're thinking about they're well-being and their safety. They're thinking about the Kingdom of God!

There will certainly be times when we are seeking the Lord's guidance over what we're to do, how we're to do it, and He will use others to speak to us. And God's voice may not always be the loudest. But make no mistake - He speaks clearly. Make sure the voice you're listening to the most is His. Make sure that as all the voices begin to rise in an all-knowing chorus of advisement and counsel...that you are listening to the One whose mind is always set on the Kingdom.