Monday, September 29, 2008

Jesus-values lead to Godly Decisions

This “Go with God” moment is for seniors. Everyone can read it…but I want to draw in closer every senior who needs to make a life choice in the next 3-9 months. I know that many of you are in the midst of making decisions each and every day…about future jobs (read that as “real-life”), about classes (that can mean “to go or not to go” or a daily reality check, “Is there time to do all my homework for each class?”), about relationships (DTR or “Lord, should I end this?”). And on a Christian campus such as this, we call upon God regularly to “sanctify” our decisions if we only cover them with prayer; right?

How does one make the basic decisions in life, the big ones or even the seemingly banal daily ones? Last spring in the Monday Memo, I began a series of discussions of how Angie and I make decisions in our lives…but I never finished. Let me refresh your memories and then move carefully over the subject in the next few weeks.

There are hundreds of books which focus on this topic from a number of differing perspectives. There is the objective, “Let’s make a list of pro’s and con’s and then in the end make the most logical/practical decision. That would be perfect for the “thinkers” out there. Then there are folks who make most of their decisions in life based upon an intuitive sixth-sense. I agree that it’s certainly more than a what-feels-right approach. But it’s certainly hard to explain that one to Mom and Dad, isn’t it? Or to the dating partner whom you are breaking up with.

But I sense there is a middle ground, where you can make godly decisions incorporating both reason (for you thinkers) and intuition (for you feelers). It can be done by making decisions in advance long before you need to make them. You say, “How is that possible?” Well, let me give you an example from Romans 12:1-2:

I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-- this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-- his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Did you read carefully the cause-and-effect relationship in the passage? When we make a decision in advance to offer ourselves to God…then we will know what His will is! Our real problem is that our decision-making process usually functions in the reverse. We subtly ask God to reveal His will to us first; then we decide if or how much we will obey. Let me be perfectly honest, if you are pondering whether or not to obey God, you are already in trouble. Interestingly, Godly decisions are not always the most practical nor the ones which appear on our intuitive radar-screen. To make godly decisions, we must order our lives (and our decision to obey His will) according to His Kingdom and its values. And being a Christ-follower means that we can do this in advance.

Over the years, Angie and I have tried to find a way to integrate what might be called Jesus-values into our family decisions. For in reality, the values which you orient your life around are at the core of all your decisions. Think about it. What you place your value in (rationally or intuitively) triggers all your actions/decisions. Jesus tells us this in the Sermon on the Mount, “Where your treasure is (read that as what you value) there your heart will be also (read that as decision). So if you will allow me, over the next few weeks, I will try to give examples of how these Jesus-values have assisted my own decision-making process.

May I encourage you this week to begin reflecting over what stands behind your decisions? What is it that you are treasuring/valuing that stands behind your decision?

BTW, I am attaching my entire set of values so you can see precisely where I am going with this entire series.

May we see what You see
May we honor what You honor
May we love what You love
May we value what You value
May we decide in advance to follow You.
Now Lord, tell us where we are going
So we can follow with our hearts and our feet.

Now, “Go with God.”

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Public Prayer


Do you remember Fall Summit? Do you remember Tuesday evening? Do you remember Dave Ward preaching from James 5:17-18;

  • 17 Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.

Know that the likeness which your professors share with Elijah is that we are men and women of prayer. Hear your professors, men and women, pray…biblically…for you, the students whom God has entrusted to our care, and for our entire campus.

  • We pray for harmony; for unity is the ultimate prayer of Jesus (John 17:11);
  • We pray for other-centered minds; for Christ calls us to mimic His model (Phil 2:5-11);
  • We pray for servant-like garments; for a basin and towel are the business attire of a Christian leader (John 13);
  • We pray for the enlightening of minds; for a Godly solution to this issue will certainly not be conceived by mere mortals (Eph 1:17-23);
  • We pray for mutually compatible visions; which like the ones given to Cornelius (Acts 10:1-8) and Peter (Acts 10:9-16) do not make sense without the insight of each being shared communally in submission to God's Will.
  • We pray for broken and contrite hearts; otherwise, how will God hear our prayers and heal us (2 Chron 7:14);
  • We pray for ears to hear and eyes to see; for blindness to the proceedings of the Kingdom and deafness to the voice of God is the curse of all humanity; even those closest to Him (Mark 4:11-13; 8:17-21);
  • We pray for a passion to follow, regardless of the destination, even to Jerusalem and to the cross (Mark 10:52; John 21:18-19);
  • We pray for individual and corporate holiness of heart; for in this very process we will make our statement to the world of who we claim to be; may purity of heart reign. (John 17:13-19).

Lord, Hear our Prayers.............

May we corporately “Go with God.”

Monday, September 15, 2008

Climax Found in a Blessing

A “God With God” Moment:

Then he (Jesus) led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God. (Luke 24:50-53)

What you just read are the closing words in Luke’s Gospel. Some might call them at best transitional verses; as you move from teaching and action Jesus in the Book of Luke (Volume 1) to the on-going teaching of Peter and Paul in the Acts of the Apostles (Volume 2). Interesting, isn’t it that the final act of Jesus on earth was to lift up his hands and to bless his followers. I wonder what the actual blessing consisted of. Was it done principally in words, like a priestly benedictory prayer? Or, I wonder, was Jesus’ final blessing more physical in nature, taking on the form of a first century “Holy Kiss.” This might translate into our culture as a warm and endearing hug. You know the kind I mean, not a mere hand-shake equivalent but it stays with you for a while. I have to imagine that the final “blessing” that Jesus gave to His disciples was perfect for each of them; and this blessing lingered in the air as a sweet-smelling fragrance, propelling them forward to worship Him and then to offer in the Temple their own blessing.

In actuality, let me try to demonstrate how this action of Jesus serves as God’s wondrous climax to the book of Luke as a whole. Think with me how the Gospel of Luke opens. You find yourself temporally located not in the days of Jesus but Luke describes the times as; “In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah” (Luke 1:5). Zechariah is entering the Temple to offer an incense offering; with all of Israel just outside; praying as they are waiting to hear that God has accepted Zechariah’s sacrifice on their behalf (Luke 1:10). But (and I should put “BUT” in all caps), as the angel Gabriel comes and delivers to Zechariah a message of hope (his wife’s shame will be removed by the birth of their son John the Baptist); Zechariah shows no faith to the words from God’s messenger (Luke 1:18). So, the result of Zechariah faithlessness is that he is struck speechless.

Let me relate the consequences of Zechariah’s faithlessness and how it impacts Israel. The role of the priest as he exits the Temple is to hold his hands up and pass on the Lord’s blessing to the people. The traditional words would be the priestly benediction which comes from Numbers 6:23-26;
This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:
The LORD bless you and keep you;
The LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
The LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.

Can you now see how Jesus’ blessing at the end of Luke’s Gospel is nothing short of a divine answer to a human problem? What Zechariah could not do for Israel because of his lack of faith (bless them); Jesus performs after his demonstration of perfect faith in trusting God with his life on the cross. What the priests of Israel could not do, Jesus fully blesses His followers.

How does this relate to us here and now. Well, one example is cemented in my mind. Do you remember the final night of Summit? The call of Dave Ward to everyone to make an all out surrender to Jesus and trust fully in Him? Now, there was an unstated question in the air at that time, “How does one put closure on the series of meetings?” Should there be a dismissal prayer of some kind? The answer came; not with a “priestly benediction” by Dave Ward or by Dr. Lo. No, the entire student body stood quietly before the Lord until spontaneous clapping erupted. Then, singing praise songs continued for over an hour. The final blessing of Summit (just like Luke’s Gospel) came directly from the mouth of Jesus Himself, and we were the recipients.

Now, remember, the end of Luke is really the end of the beginning; for all of the Book of Acts follows. In the same way, the end of Summit is really the beginning of the Semester. Please sense Jesus’ blessing on your life.

This day, as we go about our regular daily tasks;
May we sense Your divine blessing.
May it be found in our classes, or in our hallway or dorm room conversations;
May Your blessing be heard in our service to others or in the reception of grace from a friend.
In all we do, may we sense your blessing.
Most of all Lord, if there is an absence of Your blessing;
May You call us back to Yourself, to the place where Your voice and touch is most clear.

Now, Go With God.

Monday, September 8, 2008

A “Go With God” Moment

Let me welcome you all, whether you are a first semester freshmen or a senior…or anyone in between…to the new Noggle Christian Ministries Center. What an amazing transformation has taken place since we all moved out following the fall semester of last year. The construction began Dec 26th and the faculty and staff moved back in August 4th. We are all so thankful for the gift of a new building which will enhance the teaching and learning in our division.
Now, let me also welcome you back to IWU. Summer is a good time to rest but the campus without you is non-functioning. It was quiet, it was empty’ it was wrong. Not the way IWU is meant to be. So I say, welcome back…This is the first Monday Memo of a new school year so with it allow me to address a few words to different groups…

First, to seniors, you moved onto campus for the last time in your college careers, and I’m sure this final transitional time seemed somewhat ominous. Life stands before you and all of its glory (but that also includes all of its complexities and anxiety). As the semester moves forward, I will be writing to you specifically as I will attempt to prayerfully assist you in making decisions for the future. But this Monday Memo is not for you, but please read on…

Next, to juniors and sophomores; these are the best days of your lives. You know this campus and all its routines like the back of your hand. You have made the Wal-Mart runs (daily I might add) to buy the items which will put the finishing touches on your room. Ladies, you have put the final nick-knacks on the wall and may even have color coordinated the throws with your comforter. Guys, you have purchased a semester supply of Febreze and are good-to-go. In actuality, you are old-timers who know the people and places which are required to get things done…in only one trip to the Records rather than multiple ones. For you, IWU is comfortable and life seems so familiar. Welcome home. I will be writing Monday Memos to you as well this semester; what can God do in your lives to shake you out of the comfort zone and call you to radically abandon safety as you enter deeper into His Kingdom? But this Monday Memo is not for you, but please read on…

Finally, to freshmen and transfers, this Monday Memo is for you. Each day of this last week could probably be described as “newness overload.” Too many new places and with far too many names. There is the Phillippe Performing Arts Center but in actuality we only call it, The PPAC. We have an OLD College Church which has an alternative venue for chapel service, but it looks nothing like a church. We have a student center that looks like a Mall with its own coffee shop. We have residence halls galore (with a variety of names; have you figured out where ToHo is?) and academic buildings in every direction. You have discovered that the campus is loaded with real places with real names but often we only refer to them by acronyms or abbreviations. I aplopgize to you if you have been confused. I promise you that by fall break (another inaccurate term, because it’s only one day long), you will feel right at home.

But let me try to end this memo with a few suggestions which may help this week set a good foundation or your long-term academic success at IWU:
  1. Make Fall Summit a priority. Try to think of your education holistically rather than compartmentally. You grow as a person, body mind, and spirit. Classes for the most part are seen as your intellectual development. But if you have not picked up on it, we endeavor to offer you an integrated education; where we are concerned about your spiritual growth and your academic development. Set aside MTW morning and MT evening for worship. BTW, Dave Ward is one of the finest preachers your will hear anywhere.
  2. Get to know your professors. Make certain in the first several weeks of the semester to stop by the office suite of the Religion Division (2nd floor NCMC). If you do not know him/her, introduce yourself and set up a time for coffee or even a lunch. In my educational career, the time apart with professors had an equal or greater impact on my life than the time in class.
  3. Seek out a church home. Chapel is not a church. Certainly it is a worship experience and spiritual food. But I encourage you before the semester gets too far along to find a local church to call “home.” Now, many of you will say that your church home is, well, back home. But in the ensuing semesters, you will grow academically and spiritually in ways you never imagined. And the people “back home” will not see this. They may always see you as the high school graduate who went off to IWU. I will ask you to put yourself into an accountable relationship with a multi-generational congregation with folks who can watch you, encourage you, challenge you, etc. Moreover, many of you will never return to your “home church” with any sort of regularity. SO, finding a local church to worship and serve in now…will be setting an agenda for the rest of your lives.

    For Summit this week, I pray that You would anoint Dave Ward, embolden his heart, and quicken our ears.
    For relationships across campus, I pray that You will bind together students and faculty into an academic and spiritual collaborative community.
    May we learn from one another in the beauty of Your Spirit.
    May we see the local church as Your Body;
    May the Body pour into the students, and
    May the presence of the students encourage the local church.

Now, Go With God.