I know that I've mentioned plowing before, but felt like expanding on it just a little, so please indulge my whimsy! Last summer in Perfume, Germany, our missionary there, "Jamie (pronounced Hi-me) Sanchez," taught us about seasons. We talked at length about how a farmer plows his field until the soil is ready, and that might take days, or even weeks. He compared plowing to praying, and how, through prayer, we are preparing the soil for planting (sharing the Good News), reaping (bringing someone to Christ), and vintaging (discipling). Every day, we would go to our ministry site and plow the ground by prayer walking (praying on-sight with in-sight!) for about an hour. God amazed us by showing us thigs to pray for that we never would have seen had we not been plowing. By the end of the week, some of the really hard "soil" had been prepared for planting because God honored our plowing. It was such a simple thing, yet so overlooked. The teaching resounds in my mind, and yet I still have a hard time spending the right amount of time plowing. I tend to be a planter, reaper, and vintager. That means sharing, bringing to Christ, and discipling. I need to do more plowing. The soil of people's lives will be made ripe when the hard pieces are broken, and the small pockets are churned. The seeds of planting will take root when the soil has been turned and longs to find the seeds of the Gospel message. Starting today, I'm going to be an avid plower. Without it, none of the other is possible!
I'm at Plains Baptist Assembly today. My summer schedule is catching up with me. Today, after Aladdin (a Camp staffer's nickname) and I had spent some time sharing about God's grace and provision, I busted out some work that I have been putting off for some time. I have some in-depth writing that I need to get to, and some reading to go along with it, so I plopped down on the couch in my duplex and started reading. That's when it hit me. I'm sure you know this feeling: You sit down to read or watch something and are so overwhelmed with exhaustion that you can't even focus. That was me at 10:45 this morning. So, I leaned back on the couch, and blinked....well, the blink lasted 2 hours! I slept right through lunch and almost missed my afternoon lifeguarding appointment! I awoke at 1:15, and was supposed to be at the pool by 1:20. I made it, but just barely. But something happened during my sleep. My dreams were crazy. I can't remember them, but I remember the feeling I had when I woke up. I'm sure you've been there. So anyway, I hurried off to the pool, not realizing yet what had happened as I slept. At the pool, I had a great time. I gave swimming tests to the rug rats that are here. The group here this week is the Lubbock area pre-teen camp. The kids did great, and I really enjoyed sitting by the pool just watching the fun unfold before me. From there I had three more hours of visiting with staffers and then it was off to dinner. It was at dinner that I realized I had been whistling a lot this afternoon. Not only had I been whistling, but there was some bounce in my step, and a tune in my head (an old hymn: "Power In The Blood"). At dinner I became aware that the tune in my head, and the tune of my whistle was this old hymn! That's when it hit me: This morning, when I had intended to work, God called me to a time of refreshing. Sitting here at my dining room table at the duplex as I write this, I feel different. I'm not exhausted! It has been a while since my head has been this clear, and I've felt this awake. And my appetite is back! I ate like nobodies business at dinner this evening. I keep thinking back to 1 Kings 18 - 19 where Elijah was pulled aside for a time of refreshing. Most people think of Elijah's time in the cave, the face to face encounter with God. But I'm thinking more of his time under the broom tree. There Elijah fell asleep and God sent an angel to bring him food and water. From his sleep and nourishment, Elijah traveled 40 days into the wilderness for a life-changing encounter with God. I feel like today was a time of refreshing, and will continue to be as God re-vitalizes me for the journey ahead. It is my hope and prayer that this refreshing for the journey will be the starting place for an encounter with God that further defines my relationship with Him. In the middle of 1 Kings 19, Elijah get's to see God! But, verse 8 of that chapter makes me think about how Elijah got there. From a time of refreshing Elijah found the strength for the journey that turned into a divine encounter. Lord, may my 36 hours at the camp this week be the refreshing for the long journey ahead. But more, may the long journey be to the place where You await me. I pray, O God of Abraham and Isaac, that You would be my divine vision that drives me through this journey. I'm ready for the journey. I'm ready for Your vision. I'm longing to see You as Elijah, in the quiet whisper of Your Spirit. I'm ready for the journey.
Well, today is my first day home, and I have gloriously spent it doing nothing at all. Well, nothing except wrestling with kids, snoozing, catching up with my wife, and reading. It all kicks back in tomorrow. We have worship in the morning, and after that I'll be helping feed one of the World Changer groups that's here. At 3:00 I will be tag-team teaching the 101 class at our church. I'll skip out of there early to go prepare for my kids from camp to come to town and lead worship at a church here at 6:30. But today has been a glorious Sabbath. God and I have found time to chat throughout the day. I am getting closer to having a grasp on what I'm to be doing in ministry. I've really enjoyed traveling and speaking this summer. I've met many gracious people. I know I'd like to continue to do that as a side-line. Master's Camp was good. But, I think what made it good was hanging with old friends like Barry, Pat, and the 5 Stone Canvas guys; and making new friends like Harrell. It's always good to indulge with like-minded people. I have also spent the day catching up on some of the discussion boards that I am a member of. Some of them that I just read, and some I've joined just to be a voice of cognitive dissonance! Those of you who know me know that I always have someone I'm driving crazy with questions that don't have clear answers! Maybe having an outlet like that on the net will keep me from driving you crazy. Probably not. Starting Monday, I'm going to be putting the old "nose to the grindstone" to get things ready for this Fall. I've got some great ideas that have come out of the last few weeks. Now, it's time to see what God has opened up, and what paths are ready to be walked. Be praying for me in the next few weeks as we seek to find our long-term ministry. We are praying that God will leave us here in Lubbock for whatever He has next for us. We would love for you to pray to that end with us. Let's see, while you are here, I'd like to ask for you to pray for a few more things: 1. Pray for us to know what God wants us doing. 2. Pray for the Super Summer Global group. There are 117 of them in Cologne, Germany. 3. Pray for the World Changers group that is here in Lubbock this week. Thanks for reading, and keeping up with the ongoing saga of one out-of-work shepherd! Feel free to comment so I know who's praying!
Well, I've got one teaching time left today, and then the trek home begins. I've really enjoyed being the Bible Study Leader for Master's Camp at Alto Frio this week. I was blessed with the opportunity to speak on Social Ethics, Moral Excellence, and a coherent response to World Religions. I spoke to about 600 people every morning for a couple of hours. God richly blessed me this week. There were kids who received Christ. But I feel like there were students who stepped up to the next level in their walks! 2 Tim. 2:2 happened for me this week. There were some faithful people who will multiply the ministry! There is no telling where the people who were here this week will go from here, or who they will impact. My prayer is that God will do immeasureably greater things than I could imagine. The down side of this week, along with last week, is that I miss my family. I can't wait to see Caryn and the kids! I have talked to Caryn three or four times a day, but it's still not the same. Oh, to be home. I'm longing for home. I've been thinking about that as a follower of Christ, too. I want to be "home." I can't wait for His return. I talk to Him throughout the day, but it's not the same. I'm kinda homesick for that country where I'll never hurt or need again! As I told students this morning, when all the world has heard the Gospel, He will return. So I am going to keep preaching until He stops me or takes me home!
Hey, gang! Sorry I haven't been blogging, but I'm at Super Summer this week. The next week and a half will be crazy. I will get home Friday of this week, prepare to preach at Bellaire Baptist Church on Sunday, drive to Alto Frio late Sunday night and preach at Master's Camp all week. When I finish there, I will be heading back to Lubbock to preach at a church whose name escapes me at this point. So, it's gonna be a crazy 10 days. Be in prayer for me as these are more than just opportunities to preach. They are discovery opportunities. Pray for my safety with all the travel, but please pray more for the presence of the Spirit. I cherish your prayers. Peace, Jase
Yesterday, during a great conversation on planting ministries on campuses and in our communities, a great question was asked, "So, how do we take the presence of Christ into our community?" At first glance, that seems like a simple question. You just be Christ in life. But, there is a deeper and far harder question that is at the heart of the simple one, "How do we present Christ in a culturally relevant way without being canned or cheesy?" One specific situation served as an example. We were talking about being the presence of Christ in a community cooking class. Immediately, one person mentioned that when salt is mentioned, you talking about being salt. If water is mentioned, talk about living water. The problem is, it seems unreal, unconnected to the culture, and canned/cheesy! I think there needs to be a couple more things to consider. First, to the people that Jesus used those metaphors with, they carried weight and meaning. Salt was a valuable commodity used for more than just taste. Water was a source of life and an everyday necessity to the woman at the well. For followers of Christ today, we must take the metaphor a step further to connect with those who are hearing it. And maybe a salt metaphor does connect with a cooking class. But maybe there are other metaphors that do a better job of communicating the Gospel. We need to really process who Christ is to us, and who He wants to be to others, then make the creative leap to communicate that in a meaningful way. Second, Jesus spoke with people that He was genuinely interested in. For Christ, it wasn’t about winning an argument, or notching His belt. It was/is always about the person and their reconciliation to Himself. Not only was He genuinely interested, but He communicated with them on a personal level. That takes a degree of connection that is harder earned today. To bring the presence of Christ into our communities, we must connect and communicate on a personal level that goes beyond “winning one more for the cause!” It requires an investment. And it needs to be in the context of relationship. To take the presence of Christ into our communities, we must be willing to think, be creative, and invest our time and resources in connecting with people for their sake, and not our own. Find the metaphors that speak to people and earn the right to share it. It’s that simple, but so hard!
I was reading the blog spot that our Germany team is keeping this summer, and was reminded of the simplicity and necessity of prayer. Last summer, while in Germany, Jeff taught on the need to do a thorough praying for ministry opportunities. He likened the ministry of prayer to plowing, or preparing the soil for planting. Most farmers don't plow just once. They plow until the soil is prepared. Reading the teams blogs reminded me that I need to be doing more plowing! God is already doing so much for me. Even today I had the opportunity to share at a church on the East Side. I shared about the cost of freedom. Jesus bought our freedom with His blood. But, not so that we could pursue life, liberty, and happiness. But rather, that we could pursue submission, obedience, and a life of servitude. That kind of life flies in the face of the democratic ideal that seems to flood our churches. Christ brought me freedom so that I could willingly submit to Christ and be more of a plower! Plowing is paramount to any ministry that we could hope to accomplish. I need that daily reminder to be a plower! Thanks, Germany team, for reminding me!
This morning, T-Pops (Caryn's Dad) and I are on our way to the Rawls Course to play a quick round of golf. We've been delayed a bit since a band of thunder storms is moving through, but we'll get there. Another early day for me. The last three days God has been keeping me up late, waking me up often, and getting me up early. He keeps bringing me back to two passages: Luke 10 and John 10. In Luke 10, Jesus lays out a church planting strategy. He sends out the 72 in pairs. He tells them to travel to people's homes, and find a person of peace. If they can't find a person of peace, move on to the next house. God keeps me meditating on this passage. I've been chewing on who Caryn and I are to partner with; someone like Barnabas was to Paul. That's where we are. After that, we will be engaging a specific "home" or place where people congregate to find a "person of peace." It's pretty simple, but in 17 years of ministry, I've never really thought of this passage in this way! Join us in praying for our Barnabas, and for us to find our people of peace. The other passage, John 10, talks about Jesus' people knowing His voice and following His lead as our Shepherd. As we seek to do what God is asking us to do, I'm getting lots of input from lots of places. I'm praying hard to be able to discern God's voice among all the "clutter." For me, it's not so much hearing God's voice, but being sure that it is His voice. Or, having confidence that I'm hearing correctly. Pray that we will correctly hear and understand God's voice! Long and short: we're seeking God's direction for the immediate future, and have a sense of what He is telling us. Now, we're just watching to see if we're hearing correctly. We're watching for our Barnabas and our people of peace. I also wanted to give a special thanks to a new friend, Ben Burton, who communicates about the Christ through art, and has given me permission to use some of his stuff for my ministry. Check out his web site at www.messianicart.com