Have you ever noticed sometimes, many times, we make plans and they just don't seem to work out the way we had hoped. It doesn't mean we shouldn't plan, but I've been reminded about the difference of "doing mission for Jesus" vs "Joining Jesus on His mission." It's easy to be distracted and think we are doing what we are supposed to be doing; even within organized missions and churches.
There are good days and bad days of course, but lately I've been looking with new eyes. Some of this inspiration has been because of getting past the struggles of last year. Other inspirations are several books that I have been reading over the summer, refocusing me to be in close relationship with the Lord like men of faith from history: John Woolman, John Bunyan, David Brainerd, John Newton, John Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, William Cowper....
These are men that struggled with depression, set backs, discouragements and who earnestly sought after the Lord, although their plans did not turn out the way they expected.
David Brainerd for instance, sought to attend seminary at Yale. He started out there, but after a speaker (I believe Jonathan Edwards) spoke at their campus to encourage the students to follow the Lord's word even at the cost of offending others, David was eventually kicked out. One day in ear shot of some staff on campus, he said something to the effect of "so and so has no more grace than this chair." That statement got him kicked out of seminary. He tried, along with other advocates to get him back in to Yale, but to no avail. After much discouragement and depression, David received an invitation from a friend to apply to be a missionary to Native Americans. So for the rest of his life until he died at the age of 29, he served in this capacity and led several hundred Native Americans to faith in Jesus. He suffered his last few years with tuberculosis, but kept a good attitude and faithfulness to the call God had given him. Jonathan Edwards cared for him in his own house, with his daughter serving him until his death. The sacrifice that Edwards did not expect was that his daughter died shortly after.
I've made plans last year and everything was decimated. Nothing came out as I had hoped. But I have to trust God has his purposes, even in the midst of challenges which come from my sin, others sin and spiritual warfare. Yet we know, "..that God causes all things to work together for the good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28
So I am earnestly praying for and expecting the Lord to move this year in ministry at WCC and beyond. I am watching even more keenly to the work He is doing and joining Him. I am showing students how to watch and listen for Jesus' work around them. The yoke is easy and the burden is lighter when we watch for Jesus and learn from him. I'll share more about missional communities in another post. But for now watch and pray!
Jeremiah 18 English Standard Version (ESV)
The Potter and the Clay
The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2 “Arise, and go down to the potter's house, and there I will let you hear my words.” 3 So I went down to the potter's house, and there he was working at his wheel. 4 And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter's hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.
5 Then the word of the Lord came to me: 6 “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord. Behold, like the clay in the potter's hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.
I am clay. Continuing to reflect upon this last year, I've come to realize "I am clay." God is the potter. I am a vessel that He is creating, as He is with all of us.
Genesis2:"7 then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature."
It's amazing enough to think about God creating us from dust, but He also is creating us in our soul (our inner being) our mind, our will and our emotions; and if that were not enough when we believe in his Son Jesus - we receive the Holy Spirit and He continues to shape us, to mold us, to develop and transform us into His glorious image!
We will never have some qualities of God, like being Almighty, omniscient or omnipresent; but we can grow into the qualities of his divine love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, patience and self control. We can obtain hearts that serve and give sacrificially, not just out of duty.
It is seasons as in this last year dealing with student sin, dealing with the illness of my wife and caring for our daughters and many other disappointments and hardships that I have felt stripped down, pounded on, tested through flame and cut to the heart and soul - I am clay. I've been stripped down and through this I have discovered (in my times of solitude with God and his word) that there are vulnerabilities, weaknesses and insecurities that have been covered up by clay that I shaped into a mask to hide such things. Where is my fear? Where is my anxiety? Who am I? What is my identity really? There are layers here friends. We all have layers. We are human. We are sinners.
Since I have taken time to slow down (really forced to slow down) and find a place of solitude and silence, to pursue my relationship with God and not just work for Him, I am faced with myself in the presence of a Holy God. I have only Him to compare myself to. Yikes! He is Holy! I mean He is really Holy! I am, well, a man, a sinner who has been trying to work hard to build His kingdom, but He lives in me and I need to nurture that relationship; as God is desperately desiring. I am a single stone in His kingdom. Christ is the foundation upon which I stand. But if I don't let God chisel me to size and shape, I will be a stone only worth casting away. I need to keep my first love, Jesus. Only then can I do the work HE calls me to. It is then that I will cease to please men and even myself. My identity will be in Jesus and my reputation will be in his possession. This should offer me security that can withstand any storm - but there will be continued shaping by the potter, until I reach completion on the day I stand before Him.
I am clay. As I am vulnerable and sharing my weaknesses with others - God's light will shine through the cracks. If I keep covering up the cracks to seem like I have it all together - his light will not shine so brightly. I've been fearful of what others will say if they see my cracks, my weaknesses, my faults - but now when they do see, I will boast of Jesus. This is all that I have and all that I am.
As many of you probably already are aware, this year has been a difficult year for my family. After having baby Matea in October 2013, we discovered Laina had breast cancer early in the New Year. This was a shock to us and an unexpected burden on top of our weariness in caring for our colicky baby and caring for our then 2 year old. Besides these things, I had some ministry challenges with some students that took much prayer, tough conversations and endurance. Not to mention that my father was found to have cancer in his bladder back in November. Burdens stacking on more burdens. How much is a person able to carry? I had mentioned back several months ago, how this cancer journey is like traveling down into a valley. We do not take this journey alone. There are others who have traveled before us. Others who travel with us, for short periods of time and others who walked the entire journey with us. We honestly would not have endured, had it not been first for the Lord leading us and for the many sacrifices of family and friends who provided food, prayer and encouragements along the way. Thank you!
As I reflect on the past several months there are a flood of thoughts that rush through my little brain. All of the "what ifs", the concern for my wife, my children, my own needs, lack of sleep, finances, future plans, broken dreams and the grieving process. What is it I am supposed to learn from this experience? This is a sinful, broken world with disease, illness and so many things we can not understand, but God is fully in control. I love my wife, my children, my ministry and even my own life - these are all such great blessings indeed. However, I was learning to "detach" myself from putting these things/people above my love for God. For me to fully love others and even myself, I must learn to "attach" myself fully to God. But in-fact, it is God who loves me so deeply (and you of course) that He is willing to pursue me, even to the depths of his own suffering on my behalf. He is acquainted with suffering and is willing to suffer to bring us back into a relationship with Him through his son Jesus.
There were times in the last several months, where I just didn't know how to connect with God. The usual bible studies and prayers felt empty, hollow even. I couldn't express my feelings on these matters of the illness my wife had. I knew in my head and heart that God was in control and that I needed to trust Him. Yet I found myself getting angry and having very little patience for others. My students were enduring their own hardships with some having their fathers have brain cancer, heart attacks and one students father was even murdered during this time. I felt helpless and had nothing to offer them; no support, only shallow prayers. Even those a church would come up to me and offer condolences or share their burdens with me. I felt anger building up in me and thinking to myself - "Don't you understand! I have nothing to offer you! I cannot bear your burdens!" I was alarmed at my thoughts and feelings, as I have always been a patient and kind person, desiring to pray for and help anyone who had need. But I felt as if I was empty.
So what did I do? I went to find places of solitude. I talked honestly to God about these feelings and fears. I cried out to Him! Then I discovered something that let the anger, the pain, and the internal suffering be released. Where bible studies and prayer seemed not to offer the consolation I needed, I found that hymns started to open up and heal my heart.
"It is well with my soul" by Horatio G. Spaforrd (1873)
"When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul."
Horatio's story is that he lost his family as the boat that they were on sank in the Atlantic Ocean. He traveled across the Atlantic on another boat that followed and wrote this song as he passed the location where his family perished. Deep sorrow and suffering, were met with the knowledge of the living God comforting him through this song.
Other hymns like "Be Still my Soul", A Mighty Fortress is Our God, Blessed Assurance, I love to Tell the Story and now one of my favorites - O the deep, deep love of Jesus.
As I studied these hymns and the stories that inspired them, God led me through this darkness, through this storm. I read Psalms as well. These songs were deep because people had suffered and the Lord met them in their suffering, as He did mine. We all grieve differently, but this is my story. I'm sure I will write more about all that the Lord taught me through this journey. I will probably be even more vulnerable and share some of my journal entries and poems. If it helps you or someone else grow in your relationship to Jesus - then it will be worth it. Thank you for listening.
Here I am again in my office at home, a fan blowing on me, photos of Laina and Kysa on the wall and I am contemplating this last semester of ministry with Intervarsity Christian Fellowship and my chapter plant at Washtenaw Community College.
Ministry at a community college is full of opportunities, failures, discouragements and shining moments that seem to pass so quickly. I've learned more about patient endurance this last year as I was seeking to develop more students to be disciple makers who love Jesus and love others. It takes time working with people. They are not projects and often do not fit our prescribed expectations or agenda's when working through the sanctification process. I long to see students embrace Christ with all of their hearts, all of their thinking and all their time and resources.
So many students have good intensions, yet they are easily distracted from actually following through. We had several hundred students (there are 13,000 students at wcc) express interest about getting to know Jesus better through bible study, prayer or serving on campus - yet only 35 students followed through with varying commitments. We ended the previous semester with 26 active students. When this semester began it was difficult to have 4-5 students show up. I was eager to see the group grow, but I know patience in disciple making is key. The 4-5 students who were passionate about serving Jesus on campus faithfully came together; 4 of them were teachable and put into practice what I was teaching them about bible study, prayer, building community, using their natural networks and spiritual gifts. By the end of the semester 3 of the small group communities which had started from nothing, grew to 8-15 students in each group - each of the students being challenged in their understanding of Jesus's Identity and their own identity.
A couple of bright and shining moments for our chapter was attending Ignite - Intervarsity's Black Student Leadership Conference - in Cleveland, OH. Several of our Black students that attended came back and were excited to lead. Several of those students are now either transferring or serving in missions this next year. I am so thankful for them.
The other shining moment was at Cedar Campus for Chapter Focus Week. We were one of the only community colleges in attendance, yet our students felt right at home. It is often a struggle to convince students of the impact that a camp like this can have on their entire life. The cost is a bit intimidating $358, but we offer scholarships to cover some of the cost. However, the students who attended this year "got it." Each met Jesus in very special ways that caused them to confess addictions and struggles. The distractions were cut off. God had their attention and they were seeking Him fully. And it was amazing to see the body of Christ (Intervarsity staff) working together in whatever role and gift they were given to serve students. The exposition was phenomenal, the worship & praise led us into God's presence, people were praying, others were mentoring, teaching etc... And God moved among us setting captives free and leading students to repentance and tears.
I love my students. My heart broke with compassion for them as they shared their wounds and scars that sin had left them with; but there is healing in Christ. And that is why I love serving students with Intervarsity.
What does it really look like to trust God with everything?
The scripture states, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." (Mark 12:30).
As God calls us into a deeper relationship with Him, it seems He allows us to be tested. "Do you really love me? Then give up _________." It's a test of faith. I've faced these multiple times when God called me to something new. I experienced this when I quit architecture to go into ministry. I experienced it when I was laid off and had to wait several months before God gave me my next step. And I am experiencing it now as Laina and I have made the decision to move her to part-time so that she can be home with Kysa. We really believe it is God's best to have Laina home with her more. Kysa is growing up so quickly! However, there is a sacrifice, a test of faith. Will God provide? History and experience proves that God does keep his promises. Then why do I (we) doubt? Why do we get anxious and fearful about the unknown? God knows and God hears our prayers.
So should we give "everything" to God?
"Henry Varley, a very intimate friend of Mr. Moody in the earlier days of his
work, loved to tell how he once said to him: "It remains to be seen what
God will do with a man who gives himself up wholly unto Him." When Mr.
Henry Varley said that Mr. Moody said to himself: "Well I will be that
This is my prayer too. That I, and those who believe in Christ will follow him wholly; devoted to His will each and every day.
Everything is God's anyway. We cannot even take our bodies out of this life with us: from dust to dust. How much more our homes, finances, family, ministry, jobs... There is more to live for! We need to seek eternal treasures! People are those that are most valueable to God. If they are important to God, then they are important to me! The gospel of Jesus Christ is a treasure that claims and transforms people. How precious! Here I am Lord, send me! Right now, it's Washtenaw Community College. O Lord hear our prayers! Amen.
INTERVARSITY CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP
WASHTENAW COMMUNITY COLLEGE
Friends and Partners in ministry,
These last four weeks of ministry have been absolutely amazing! I am in awe of how God daily works and includes us ordinary people in such heavenly and supreme service as that which we serve. I feel affirmation more and more every day that I am exactly where God desires me to serve. I also know and trust that the students that are now gathering together, are serving and will serve the Lord in great and mighty ways not only at WCC but also at other colleges and universities and in the world. What a privilege it is to partner with you for such a calling as the proclamation of our precious gospel of Jesus Christ.
Welcome Day – was different than I expected. This is the all campus event where student organizations, community groups and colleges have booths to promote their club. We planned to pass out freezy pops but somehow they did not freeze in time. I was disappointed. I also was stuck in a traffic jam and was 30 minutes late for set up. Frustrating! A student called me and was almost in a very bad car accident. I called for some prayer back up while in traffic. As I sat in my car basking in my disappointment I remembered something that was said in church on Sunday. “Simply Jesus.” We didn’t need to have a bait to lure people to our Jesus. We just needed Jesus. Through this event we have gained nearly 50 contacts plus another 30 some after the event. Please pray for us as we continue to build relationships with all of these people.
On Campus – Christian Community is growing daily. Acts 2:42-47 is what is actively taking form on our campus. Several days during the week we meet in the food court as a common practice. The first believers met together daily in the temple courts. The daily meeting in the food court offers Christian Fellowship around the word, building relationships, praying for each other as we have need, discussions of the word and sharing the gospel with those outside of Christ.
One day as a few of us were meeting in the food court I saw a man that I had been playing basketball with from the fitness center. He was going to sit alone but I invited him to our table and he accepted. We made some small talk about the weekend plans and found some common interests. The conversation moved to the question of what are we doing with InterVarsity on campus? We shared the vision of building Christian community and sharing the good news (gospel). He nodded. I then asked him, do you know what the gospel is? He said no. I asked, would you mind if I shared it with you? He said, “sure, go ahead.” He kept eating and listened. After I finished sharing I asked, “Do you have any questions?” He said, “no.” I asked, “Is this what you believe?” He said, “ya, I believe that without Christ you go to hell. I believe that.”
Since that meeting, we’ve talked with Dan 3 or 4 other times. He has been joining in our community and building relationships with other students as well. Previously, he said he believed in God and prays, but he has been hurt by the church and has chosen to just talk to God by himself. I encouraged him that God has a purpose for the community of believers and that he has gifts that the rest of the community needs and that he will benefit from the gifts of others. Please continue to pray for Dan.
We have many other stories like Dan’s and I pray daily that we can continue to be devoted to the Lord, his word, each other, prayer and sharing the good news with those outside of Christ.
We have began one bible study on Tuesday’s and are considering starting another because of demand. In our first group study there are about 9 students who attend. I am greatly pleased that I see at least three who may be about ready to lead bible studies of their own. Pray as I prepare them and that I would know the timing to pass on some of this responsibility in sharing the word. As Paul said to Timothy, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.” 2 Timothy 2:2 Discerning who is reliable is the challenge as only God knows a mans heart and mind. Trust is building between several of us and I pray will continue.
Prayer is another foundational pillar that we are establishing early on in our ministry. As many of you have been praying for months now, please continue to pray as to cover this campus with the grace and mercy of our Lord and Savior – that all men will be saved.
† Praise God for his continued blessings on this ministry at WCC!
† Praise God for a gift of bibles that a friend gave to me. It overwhelms me with the love and grace of our Lord. (John 17:17)
† Pray for God to continue to build Christian Community at Washtenaw Community College.
† Pray for devoted followers to be passionate in sharing the gospel and to takes risks in faith.
† Pray for those outside of Christ to be open to hearing the message and to believe.
† Pray for purity in the heart of students, mind, body and spirit.
† Pray for humility for me and the students.
† Pray that I would be able to discern who the Lord desires to be student leaders.
A special request of prayer:
Pray for my financial support to maintain and grow. Some commitments have not come through and I am starting to lag behind a little. In 2011 I will need to obtain an additional $20,000 for budgetary needs. I will be communicating in more detail in November and December. Thank you again for your continued support in the many ways that God works through you.
To donate visit: www.intervarsity.org/donate
(Look for staff member "Todd Jerdon").
In Christ's love,
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship
Washtenaw Community College
Here you will find updates, thoughts, discussion and prayers for my life and ministry...