2017 was a whirlwind year full of a lot of change. There were times when I was depressed, joyful, hurting, excited, hopeless, hopeful, etc. However, I don’t want to write about those emotions necessarily. Currently, I am in a discipleship with Greg and he always has this famous question: “Where is the Lord at in this?” It’s a great question that anyone should ask their friends or consider for themselves. So often we go through everything in life and all we can think about is the here and now. Everything is about me. The “big picture” is simply out-of-sight. God is out-of-sight.
For example, perhaps someone is in dire need of a job but cannot seem to lock one down. They might ask, “What’s wrong with me? Should I give up? I’m just a terrible interviewer.” The question should be asked, “Where is God at, in getting this job? What is He trying to show me? Is God trying to work on my character in some way?” Maybe you are having a tough time in a relationship and things just aren’t working. It’s very easy to just think about you and the other person. Nothing else matters. How can we fix this? How can we make things right? The better question would be: How is God working in our relationship? Is he even working in this relationship? What is God teaching me in this relationship?
When Greg asked me the question, it started to make me think more about God and how his hand is active in my life. It helps you understand God’s true character. Sometimes when people say they don’t want to follow the Lord, some will say “it’s just too hard”. Perhaps they feel that God is cruel or doesn’t care. This is a sign that they are unaware, or have forgotten God’s character.
I want to share just a few of the things the Lord has shown me this past year regarding his character. Of course these are things I have to still remind myself of all the time. I’m in no way a master of God’s character now or something. But if you are reading this, I want to encourage you to think about God’s character.
God loves failures.
I hate failing. I’m a control-freak-perfectionist and when I screw-up, I get angry at myself. God has shown me that failure is okay; multiple times this year. God has been working with failures since Adam and Eve. Why am I any different? One of Satan’s biggest lies is that God won’t use failures. Failures are useless. It’s so untrue. Look at pillars of the Bible like Paul and David. We all know both of these dudes were major screw-ups. Yet, the Lord used them in powerful ways!
Psalm 40:2-3 “He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.”
That’s what he does. My good bro Adam E commented recently on an Instagram post of mine mentioning “The ministry of brokenness”. That has a far more relatable ring to it than “The ministry of perfection” does it not? The Lord wants us to be okay with failure and come to Him when we fail so that he can show us His power.
2 Corinthians 12:9 “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.“
Can you look at your failures with a smile and praise God for how he worked through it? Can you be okay with your imperfections so that God’s power can work? Do you look at failure with shame and self-loathing? Where is God at in your failure?
God is the only one worth worshiping.
We as humans put stock in so much on this earth that will, in the end, fail us. Whether it be a career, school, a spouse, a romantic relationship, a friendship, you name it. We all have our idols. For many years I thought that my idols and God could coexist just fine. In my own head, it worked. The Lord made it explicitly clear this past year, that it doesn’t work. It was a very difficult thing to accept at times. Regardless, we cannot deny the fact that these things we idolize just don’t deserve the same worship God does.
I love Job 38-41 as it has a very long rhetorical interview between God and Job. I encourage you to read it. It’s quite funny actually. In essence, God lays out his resume and Job barely knows what to say. It’s funny when we try to tell God, that he’s wrong or that we know what’s best. We might not say it outright, but when we have an idol, we are essentially saying, “this will fulfill me more than you Lord.”
Have our idols created the heavens and the earth with words? Have our idols resurrected from the dead? Are idols free from imperfections? Can our idols care for nearly 7.5 billion people at the same time? Do idols remain the same overtime? The answer is no.
God is graciously patient.
I get pissed when someone doesn’t move at a green light a few seconds after it has turned green. I give them the good ol’ “bipp”. It’s a beep that’s not quite a beep because beeps are rude in America. Just a friendly “bipp”. Something I’ve seen with God this past year is how freakin’ patient and gracious he is with people regardless of what the situation is.
It’s so easy to put God on the back-burner sometimes. We start dealing with things coming our way, and don’t even give God a thought longer than 30 seconds. If a friend doesn’t talk to you for a while because they are selfish, it hurts. I think to myself, “What happened to our friendship? What’s their problem?!”. When we pull that on God, he says, “It’s cool. I’ll wait for you. I want to give you good things. So whenever you want good things too, just let me know.”
God really showed His patience and grace in my life this past year. He gave me a fresh start in multiple ways. I hurt some people and screwed-up quite frequently. Still do! On the other side of that, I’ve experienced so much forgiveness from people I’ve wronged. I know God’s at work there. I’ve experienced grace to levels I don’t feel like I have before. Raw-undeserved grace. Something I’d like to mention is the home church switch that occurred early last year. Coming into Smash, I was under the impression this would be a temporary move so that I could “get my shit together”. While some of that is true, it is just the start of what was one of the coolest gifts in my life.
About 9 months in, working in Smash has been life-changing. I can clearly see how masterful the Lord is. He put people in my life who are different. He put challenges in my life that I’ve never had to face. He gave me MORE relationships with new people that I love and cherish. He has shown me the power of prayer time and time again. The list goes on. I love Smash and it’s my home church now. If the Lord wills it, I’d love to be in Smash for a long time….until we split again of course!
I know many others who have experienced this type of grace this past year also. It’s just really sweet to see that happening.
2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
Anyways, here’s to a fruitful, growth filled, failure filled, and grace filled 2018!!!
It’s that time of year again when I put my hunting clothes through a wash of unscented detergent and take to the woods with my pal Corey. It’s a later life sport/hobby that I have picked up, and I really have come to enjoy hunting. The point of camouflage clothing is to be virtually unseen. Deer are hyper-aware of their surroundings and have a great sense of smell. It is imperative to blend in with your surroundings both visually and audibly. Sometimes this is difficult when your hunting buddy smokes cigarettes while hunting, but that’s beside the point.
Hunters aren’t the only ones that use camouflage to hide themselves and what they are trying to do. It dawned on me after my recent business trip to Las Vegas that this is essentially Satan’s modus operandi in America. Camouflage. So much of what he does day to day is not always obvious. It can be very covert. We can also end up being manipulated into believing that nothing sinister is even afoot. We must remember 1 Peter 5:8.
“Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour”
Even in the “City of Sin” Las Vegas, Satan operates under a clever cloak of camouflage. The first time my company sent me there, I was naive and not really in a great place spiritually. I knew the dangers of that place just from what I had heard, and many people warned me of what it offered. Despite that, I went to Vegas completely unaware of what was going on around me. I was enamored by the beautiful skyscrapers, lights, party lifestyle, and cars (I go there for a car show). While I don’t think I dove into a intensely regrettable Vegas experience (Thank God), I most definitely let my spiritual guard down and basically took a spiritual vacation in 2016.
Vegas is like a machine. It draws people in and churns them out on the other side. The machine operator (Satan) sits there and happily runs the show. I went to Vegas again this year and this insight was much more evident to me. My brother took his first flight out half way through the week to spend the majority of time there with me. It was a blast with him being there! We got a first-person view into Satan’s camouflaged machinery together and we got to discuss it and pray about it!
You get a true sense of the sadness and depravity around you when it comes to people watching. When walking through the casinos we saw 1000’s of slot machines. At many of these slot machines, you will see people that look like the cast of The Walking Dead pressing buttons over and over again hoping to hit big. I didn’t see a single person hit big. I only saw a bunch of sad faces. Then you’ve got the higher stakes gambling like poker and blackjack. Even there you don’t see many people smiling or even seeming to enjoy themselves. Everyone looks serious and stressed. I tried my luck on the blackjack table and found myself having a hard time having good fun to be honest. I’m very pessimistic when it comes to gambling..
On every corner of “the strip” in Vegas, there are people wearing neon colored shirts with the words “orgasm clinic” written on them. These people have the job of handing out Las Vegas’ famous “trading cards”! Just kidding, they are “escort cards” for your next 1 night stand. Sometimes these cards are just thrown into the streets for anyone. As sad/depraved as that is, my brother and I couldn’t resist having some fun with it. Every time they tried to hand my brother and I a card we would both say “Jesus” or “what about Jesus”. I am not kidding when I say this, but some of these people quite literally retracted in horror when we said that. One of the guys said, “I know about Jesnuss. He wrote Genus”. To translate, I think he meant to say, “I know Jesus, he wrote Genesis”.
My brother and I are pretty outdoorsy guys and love to hike. Personally, I’ve never traveled out west to camp or hike. Ryan has gone to Colorado before. Regardless, we decided to take advantage of the opportunity and see some of the awesome sights near Las Vegas. We visited the Hoover Dam and Red Rock Canyon National Park. At the Hoover Dam you are hit with the vastness of Lake Mead and the significant drop of the Dam into the river below. I think I can speak for my brother and I and say that, what was truly beautiful, was the national Park area.
We stopped at one of the trails and hiked up about a 1/2 mile or so to an overlook. It was breath-taking. Miles and miles of red mountains, canyons, and desert plants. On the overlook there was about a 300 foot drop and there were some folks rock climbing on the side of the mountain we stood on. We sat down to just experience the view for a little while.
Once we became a little thirsty we got some water and went further into the park. We traveled in our little Mazda Miada we had rented along a 13 mile loop that wove in and out of the canyons. Every mile or so would be a pull off for hiking trails. Unfortunately, we were unable to stop much because you can only do so much in one day! The views were yet again, mind blowing. It was about 75 degrees out with a cool breeze. The air was fresh. I really felt peace and joy on that drive with Ryan.
It dawned on me the stark contrast we were observing. While Vegas is truly an impressive sight to see with all of its lights and structures, it literally cannot even contest with God’s creation in nature. It actually made Vegas seem even more pitiful. It’s like God told Satan, “I see what you did there. Your city is pretty cute, but check this out…” That’s how I like to imagine it at least. I think it would do some people well to get out into God’s creation in nature more often. Take a prayer walk on a trail in a park or go somewhere with your friends. Let God impress you.
I was studying for a teaching I did for some youths at a Juvenile Detention Center yesterday and we were going over John 1:4-13. These kids know darkness exists. They even said, “Man, that’s why we here…darkness”. There is so much darkness in this world. We are all surrounded by it, not just kids in juvey. I am so grateful for our savior Jesus Christ. Without our savior we would be consumed by darkness. Christ gives us the opportunity to see the light and experience real LIFE. He IS the Life. He offers that life to the lost people in Vegas, the kids in juvey, and you and me. All Christ asks from you is to receive Him and believe in His name. John 1:4-13
4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
Thanks for reading,
The only surgery I’ve ever had to endure was getting my tonsils removed when I was 18. I remember being happy when I was told I needed to get them out. They had swollen to about the size of some pool balls and made it hard to breathe. On the other hand, I was nervous about getting put to sleep and also nervous about the pain that would ensue after surgery. I can imagine surgery for others can evoke a lot of similar reactions. Especially, for a more serious surgery, or health crisis. I bet there would be swarming feelings of fear, anxiety, or maybe even denial. Everything revolving around surgery is scary to me. I hate making appointments, I hate waiting rooms with their expired issues of Good Housekeeping, I hate the smell, and the very thought of incisions/blood on me is repulsive.
I’m probably preaching to the choir when it comes to talking about physical surgery. I don’t know many people who get overly excited about that sort of thing. I bring it up because I wanted to write about an illustration that’s been developing in my mind for a month or so now. It deals with spiritual surgery and breaking. To those reading that have a relationship with Christ, it’s probably safe to say that you will experience some level of spiritual surgery and breaking in your life as you walk with the Lord.
Knowing you are Sick.
I walked around for many years knowing I had issues. I knew God was always coming to me with something. It could be something destructive I was getting into or it could be a reservation I was holding onto in my heart. The desire was always there to deepen in my relationship with God, but I couldn’t let some things go. I also didn’t want to go through any suffering that may occur to get to that point. It’s like when someone gets cancer. Most would want to be rid of the cancer and be able to live life without the fear of impending death. Then, the truth is made known. The cancer that this person has, needs to be cut-out of their body and they must undergo extreme treatments. I don’t know what it’s like to know I have cancer but I do know what it’s like to know I am spiritually sick. I denied that I was sick for many years. I procrastinated in my dealing with it. I manipulated my way out of others seeing that I was sick. Regardless, it came to a point where I couldn’t function normally. Pure frustration. Constant relational failure. Joy depleting. It was obvious. God finally said to me, “Alright, we’ve gotta do something about this Jordan”. I think we all get to this point when we live with unattended spiritual sickness. If you feel a spiritual sickness in your own life, pray to God that he can break you. It’s not a very glamorous prayer, but it’s effective.
God’s Waiting Room.
I visited God’s waiting room recently. I was frustrated with God that he would uproot me like that and just plop me down in some bleak waiting room. Why me God? I mean, don’t people live with cancer all the time? Why are you so determined to take mine out? Why is my cancer so severe and debilitating?
It feels like an eternity sometimes in a waiting room. Bad tv, nothing to read, disgruntled people sitting next to you, etc. God’s waiting room is similar but also has its perks . As I sat in God’s waiting room, He started to show me things. Unseen things, revealed. It was like a new episode of a television show. He didn’t give me an expired magazine, but He provided His unchanging Word. God’s Word doesn’t become irrelevant like waiting room magazines. I wasn’t surrounded by disengaged people but rather surrounded by people who cared and were praying for me as I await the next step.
It was nice to have those provisions. I needed them more than ever because lo, A familiar voice was heard in the waiting room. The voice utters nothing but lies. The voice utters nothing but accusations. I’m well aware that Satan knows what God is trying to do in my life and wants to see none of that happen.
“You aren’t even sick”
“You are hopeless. No way you will ever get better”
“It would probably be better for these other people if you didn’t exist”
“You’ve only ever been a burden to others”
1 Peter 5:8-9 says, “ Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings”
Satan wanted me to walk right out of that waiting room. He wanted me to continue living life as if the cancer had subsided and everything was fine. I’m so thankful the Lord kept me in that waiting room. The lies that Satan likes to throw around are very common among believers. I’m sure that Satan has put the exact thoughts above, in other believer’s heads. We can stand firm against these ideas because we know that our fellow brothers and sisters struggle with the same thoughts all the time. This is why fellowship is so important. We must share the thoughts we are having with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We must also take these thoughts to the Lord.
Galatians 6:2 “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.”
Walking toward Anesthesia.
Your name is called and you get up from your seat in the waiting room to head in and talk with the nurses about the procedure. There’s still a chance to back out. You are just making a short walk from the waiting room and into a different room. Often when we experience breaking/surgery in our lives, it’s not instant. It takes constant decisions to hang in there and take additional steps. Personally, I tend to thrash around and make things miserable for myself. I say to myself, “uhhh can’t this just be over? Can’t I just be better NOW?” This is where patience in our walks is so critical. God doesn’t usually just snap a finger and then we are healed all of a sudden. He throws things in our path that demand a decision to either trust him or trust ourselves. We must learn to take our doubtful thoughts captive at this point (2 Corinthians 10:5). This is what it looks like when we are walking out of the waiting room.
Then comes one of the strangest parts and possibly the scariest. The anesthesia.
Anesthesia has a very low chance of killing you in and of itself. At the same time, it is at this point where your lose control. You basically fall into a fake sleep/coma. You cannot speak for yourself. You cannot make decisions. You just get to lie there as the doctor performs the surgery you need. Up until the point where the needle enters your arm you have control, but after that, none. In a similar fashion, we must decide to give the Lord control over everything in our lives. The truth is that we are so very sick and we really don’t know how to fix it ourselves. Our methods of fixing our sickness only lead to more sickness. We need a doctor. We need the Lord’s steady hand to operate. When you tell the Lord that you will allow it, He can begin.
The Operating Theater.
An incision here. An incision over there. The Lord begins to carefully and gracefully remove the cancer from your body. When God performs surgery on us in life, we obviously aren’t unconscious. We are still conscious and still have choices we can make. We must continue to allow the surgery to continue. This is why its important that we don’t squirm and try to do the surgery ourselves. We must treat it as a real surgery of sorts. If we start trying to take the knife and cut out the cancer ourselves, we could really prolong or worsen the whole process. It’s still very important to resonate on the verses previously stated in 1 Peter 5 while going through surgery (V. 8 & 9). Something I’ve been learning is how to just be still. I need to let the Lord do what I don’t know how to do.
“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 5:10-11
Spiritual surgery and breaking can be miserable to go through at times. Comfort can be elusive. You can feel overwhelmed to the point of tears so often. But when everything is done and you are released to head home, I imagine it feeling like sweet release. I’ve seen this to be true in people’s lives close to me.
I only say “I imagine” because I don’t think I’m there yet. I’m most definitely still in the operating theater when it comes to my walk. Sometimes I feel like the anesthesia is wearing off and then God asks if I’d like another shot. If I say yes, he gladly begins operating again. The more I learn how to be still and not thrash around, the easier the operating becomes.
Verse 10 in 1 Peter 5 is quite the promise to look forward to for those of us undergoing some surgery, is it not?
Some of the most terrifying dreams I’ve ever had were dreams in which I lost something. You wake up in a cold sweat and it takes a few moments to regain your sense of reality. It’s a great sigh of relief to know that your life, your plans, your kingdom– are still intact. Often, you can go about your day feeling that relief but sometimes, dreams have tended to haunt me. I’m no expert in regards to dreams, but I have been told by a few people that dreams in fact represent some part of your subconscious mind. When I ponder about dreams, I tend to think about one that Nebuchadnezzar had. He was deeply troubled by his dream…
“I had a dream that made me afraid. As I was lying in bed,the images and visions that passed through my mind terrified me. So I commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be brought before me to interpret the dream for me.” Daniel 4:5-6
The dream depicted a very large tree that was full of fruit and radiated prosperity. The tree was then cut down, it’s branches were cut-off, and it’s fruits were scattered. The tree is personified in the dream as a “him” and it was decreed for the tree to lie down like an animal.
Neb has the prophet Daniel interpret the dream for him:
“My lord, if only the dream applied to your enemies and its meaning to your adversaries! The tree you saw, which grew large and strong, with its top touching the sky, visible to the whole earth, with beautiful leaves and abundant fruit, providing food for all, giving shelter to the wild animals, and having nesting places in its branches for the birds— Your Majesty, you are that tree! You have become great and strong; your greatness has grown until it reaches the sky, and your dominion extends to distant parts of the earth […] Cut down the tree and destroy it, but leave the stump, bound with iron and bronze, in the grass of the field, while its roots remain in the ground. Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven; let him live with the wild animals, until seven times pass by for him.” Daniel 4:19-23
Neb felt as if he had it all. He felt that he had no need for God. He knew that he was important. He was entitled to the life that he wanted to live. He was INFECTED with a spiritual cancer called pride. Then, after the interpretation of a dream, his plans were gutted. God sent Neb a “Daniel” to remind him that he isn’t in charge. Just like that, everything Neb thought he earned, was stripped.
“Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like the ox. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird.” Daniel 4:33
It’s quite the scary picture (and depiction above). To be honest though, this is what it’s like when God “Opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble”. Our minds turn into clouded machines, we grow into beasts, we lose the sanity we once had, and our thought lives become polluted with lies. Neb came face to face with his worst fear. He lost what he kept so dear to his heart. All the control over things he had before was gone and he couldn’t change it.
I can relate to Neb’s situation. I described this in a some detail in my previous blog but I felt it could use a little more depth. I was king of my kingdom. I didn’t develop a nickname like “King Jordan” for nothing. A year ago, things were going well in my life. At least, that’s how I felt at the time. I was FINALLY going to graduate college, I already locked in a full-time engineering position, I was set to propose to the woman I loved, I bought a new car, I was leading house/cell, etc. I was like a kid in a candy store with unlimited pocket change. I became very contented and felt utterly entitled to have control of every part of my life moving forward. That’s when the branches started to get cut off and the tree (me) started to take axe hits to my foundation.
The things I thought I earned, the things I thought I deserved, were slowly slipping through the holes in the net of my control. My terrible dreams about losing everything that would sometimes frequent me, started to become reality. Not completely, but in some sense. Over the past year, it has become more clear than ever before that the prideful control I thought I had over my life, really wasn’t there. God has started to show me who’s really in control, and that is Him. When you become so accustomed to controlling everything in your life, it is honestly brutal to give it up to God. It is absolutely a daily decision and battle to give it up. Will I let my feelings overwhelm me today? Will I let the temptation to make myself feel good, take over today? Will I seek to establish a false image of myself today? Will I choose to be vulnerable about my feelings or will I hold everything in today? These are questions that I find myself asking daily.
I will say, the days in which I took these questions to the Lord and let him work, have been my best days. I stumble and fumble around, a lot. I get frustrated in moments. I get depressed. Sometimes I feel gross. But, I have found that WITHOUT FAIL, when I take these things to the Lord and say “I trust you with this right now Lord. What is it that you want to show me?”, he answers that prayer. Sometimes he shows me somewhere I can be effective, sometimes he puts an edifying thought in my mind that i can act on, and sometimes he even wants me to be still and reflect on some truths.
There is a really cool hope in this passage. Neb didn’t just become an animal and that was all she wrote. We read in verse 34:
“At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever.”
Sometimes, we as Christians have to have our tree cut down. God even leaves the roots so we can grow again! However, the spiritual cancer of pride can develop deep strongholds, and God is willing to go to drastic lengths to oppose these strongholds in us because of His unconditional love. He knows that our pride will only lead to spiritual death. When this happens, we must learn to lift our eyes towards heaven like Neb did. God is the only one who can change your situation. When I lift my eyes to heaven, God helps me look at my situation and find things that I can be grateful for. What a gift that is. I have a hard time remembering how much God loves me and how much he has ALREADY blessed me with. A pride killer is gratefulness coming from the heart. Gratefulness produces humility in knowing that everything you have has been given to you. (1 Cor 4:7)
I think there are a few important lessons we can learn from this experience Neb had with pride that I will mention briefly.
- God will send you Daniels. Messengers in your life to wake you up and remind you that you aren’t in charge. Don’t reject them. (Proverbs 19:20)
- Coined by Tim Keller, pride is a form of “cosmic plagiarism”. It takes what God has created or given you and says, “look what I did!”
- A joyous life is that which receives everything as a gift from God.
- Pride defaces our humanity. We want to become more than what God created, therefore we become less.
- Pride is a joy killer.
- We are the works of art created by the greatest mercy of God.
How do you treat the blessings in your life? How do you react to miserable situations in your life? How much of the things in your life are ACTUALLY in your control?
Lastly, here’s some nice music:
Anyways, I’m done.
I’m sorry I haven’t been able to post in a little while about my trip to India. A couple reasons have halted me from doing so. But I would like to write about the convictions I have brought home with me from India. There was so much I learned from this trip and so much I saw. Before I share my thoughts I want to say that I am in no way “broken” of certain sins in my life. I didn’t go to India and come back some kind of TOTALLY changed man. However, I will say that I have a new and fresh perspective on many things in my life and the lives of those around me. These convictions I want to share are not intended to come across as condescending or unfair. I want to encourage the reader of this post to think about their own life honestly. Do you struggle with your ego, hyper-control, anxiety, finances, or being grateful? Try to reflect on what I write and the Word of God to see if there is something you can ask God to help with in your life. Sometimes we hold onto reservations. We aren’t quite willing to let God tamper with certain areas in our life. This trip has led me to let go of certain reservations and let God have more control. I am faithful that this will lead to change. I think it is silly to say that this trip just changed me over the course of a week. It is just the beginning of the change that I am hopeful for Christ to carry out in my life.
“Spontaneity is The Continuity of Life”
This is a phrase that a wise young man said once. His name was Bryan James Bassett. As silly as it may sound, it’s actually quite true. Sometimes we need to learn how to go with the flow without lapsing into a seizure of anxiety and fretting.
The term “India Time” gets thrown around a lot in India. Just like the term “Xenos Time” gets used a lot here. What time will we start CT? Who knows? Xenos time baby. But even in comparison, India time proved to be much more severe. We were given a schedule with relative times for the arrivals and starts of things. In reality, they were VERY relative. My personality lacks patience and desires order to things. It was hard to sometimes not know when you would be asked to teach, not know what you needed to teach in some cases, and not know your time frame. A lot of the time we just needed to go with the flow. I remember arriving at Sharon Gardens just totally exhausted. Within 5 minutes a man named Sam approached Mike and I and said that our respective sponsor kids had arrived and were waiting. This was exciting yet super unexpected. Then as our time with them drew to a close, it was time for the children’s program already. It was great because all the kids are so freakin’ cute and excited. We did a teaching and role-play of the story Jonah and the Whale. It was like a wave of spontaneity and improvising. Then to end the trip we stopped at a small church. This was probably the biggest test of letting go of control and order. Everyone had spoken except for me and then the pastor of the church asked me to share my testimony. I was more prepared to teach at the moment and I was thrown off guard. I needed to condense my teaching to a testimony and then apply it to these pastor’s lives within 15 seconds. I had to let go and let the Lord do his thing. It turned out pretty sweet actually as I had a few men approach me and say they felt moved and inspired.
I realized I need to stop being so rigid at home. The Lord is going to do his thing regardless of our special timing. I’m not saying organization isn’t important but I am saying there are some of us that could really let go of some control in our lives.
Why Be a Hard Ass?
James 4:6 ““God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (NASB)
I definitely fall into the crowd of “jocks” here in NEO. Jocks are known as the guys who are always trying to be dominant and look good in front of others. They really have a hard time coming off as very humble in front of others. In India, you aren’t on your own turf. You aren’t in your own country. There is really no room for ego and hard-assery. You can’t step in front of a room full of people and expect your suave or “impeccable” personality to get you anywhere. Anything good that comes out of a teaching or meeting there is because of the Lord. This is true anywhere though! When we teach and deal with people, we need to let the Lord be a part. I tend to think highly of myself. I will sometimes say “I’m just trusting the Lord with this” but in actuality I am not. Our society puts us in a mold that enables conformity. We are trained to look good, be the best, and look out for number 1. A big point that was made by pastor Benny was to disciple people. It is the whole point behind the great commission! We cannot just leave it at the gospel which is step 1. As leaders we must learn how to bring other people up with us. If we settle and simply look out for number 1 all the time, we are setting ourselves up for a very unfruitful existence. My prayer is that the Lord will continue to work on my heart in this area. I pray that he will put the needs of others in the forefront of my mind every day I wake up.
Gratefulness is Paramount
1 Thessalonians 5:18 “18 Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” (NLT)
The things I saw In India were sometimes overwhelming. You really just can’t help but think “WOW do we have it good in America”. I don’t care who you are: A poor American college student that eats ramen and bread or a rich college student that gets many things paid for, we must learn to be grateful. We were born in a place with food right down the street. We were born in a place where money flies out of pockets like it’s nothing. We were born in a place where there are traffic laws to ensure your safety while traveling. The list could go on forever. The list also changes depending on who you are BUT there is surely a list for everyone.
Listen, I know it’s easy to complain and express or discomfort. I’m notorious for this. It’s easy to feel like nothing is going our way and everyone is out to get us. But just think; it really could be worse. I mean, most of us had parents that loved us enough to keep us alive. It’s not uncommon to find kids in India that are alive because someone picked them up out of the trash. Gratefulness is key to a joyful and significant life. As Christians, It is reprehensible to go about our daily lives complaining all day and thinking about how our situation could be better. The verse doesn’t say be thankful FOR all circumstances like “Lord I’m so thankful my relative died”. The verse says be thankful IN all circumstances. This isn’t something that comes easily either. Being thankful requires the Holy Spirit to intervene in our thinking.
1 Thessalonians 1:6 “So you received the message with joy from the Holy Spirit in spite of the severe suffering it brought you. In this way, you imitated both us and the Lord.” (NLT)
I pray that we can learn how to thank God more often. The Christians in India all know one phrase of gratefulness in English regardless of their English fluency, “Praise the Lord”. It’s pretty refreshing to say!
How Can You Help?
So India Gospel League offers a variety of ways that we can help the cause in India. We can take a trip there to encourage our brothers and sisters or we can support financially. One thing I am convicted about is the sponsorship of pastors. Yes, sponsoring children is important and an awesome thing to do. I spent a lot of time around the pastors that work their tails off in India. There are pastors being brought up all the time there. They need financial support to get started in their villages. Many of them pick up what they have, and go to a rural village like Sariki. They need support. I couldn’t help but think that in IP we have pretty cool living situations at Whitehall. Our rent is VERY cheap compared to other complexes in Kent! Talk to your houses about this. Could you and your roommates split the cost of sponsoring a pastor? It’s $100 a month! My house and a couple of ex-roommates sponsor a pastor and it has been a privilege. These guys are doing the tough work of discipling and preaching over there. Pray about it..
Thanks for reading and I can’t wait to catch up with everyone and answer questions that I didn’t cover in this post!
Peace and Love,
So we have just finished our third day in India. Pretty much everything has gone smoothly since arriving in India. Although, we did have to fly a day early out of Mumbai due to landslides that ruined some roads and flight departure times. This was all good. We took our day of rest in Pune instead of Mumbai.
I wanted to cover a couple things in this blog so here they are:
I like food and I was really excited to come to India and taste many foods that I have never had before. They put spices in everything just like expected. Have you ever had spicy watermelon? My favorite food thus far has been buttered chicken and fried rice with these special sauces. The other day we went to an Indian KFC that was seriously twice as good as American KFC. Some of the food we have had has been spicy but I don’t think anything has been too crazy yet.
The atmosphere in India is so detailed. My eyes are fluttering, trying to intake everything as we drive or walk down the street. Our hotel is posh while right out of our window you can see young children playing with trash bags for fun. The weather has actually been pretty delightful in my opinion. It hasn’t been deathly hot but rather a manageable temperature and humidity. The atmosphere at the pastors conference was one to remember. There were men and women standing and singing quite loudly. I sat down with the guys at the front in some chairs. I almost felt myself getting light-headed because so many thoughts were flying through my head. During one of the teachings there was a LOUD screech that came from the sound system. An Indian man, probably named Layne, got up and fixed that problem.
There are some things that we have experienced that can be quite intimidating. One of these things is driving. Usually when I drive at home I tend to be a control freak and overreact when cut off in traffic. This goes out the window in India. The traffic here is nuts. Its one thing to see a video, but it is a whole other thing to experience it. Many of us guys have been using “the imaginary brake” when traveling.
Another thing that is quite intimidating is the looks. We took a stroll through Pune the other day. I read in the book “Commissioned” that you can smile and nod at people to get them to smile back. Let’s just say, this mostly works. Some men have given me “death stares”, not breaking eye contact until I pass them in the street. It is odd for sure but, I guess that’s how it is. The last thing that tends to be pretty intimidating is the teachings. The looks you get while teaching are very hard to read and can throw you off. Lets just say, I will never be intimidated by some punk in Neoxenos who gives me a dirty look during a teaching LOL. This being said, the Lord has been really working through these teachings and has really done a good job of encouraging the men & women here. Many of the pastors have come up to us and said they can’t wait to teach our material to their church. It is an encouragement to us that we are an encouragement to them.
There has been a level of emotion I have experienced while in India that I do not experience at home. When I am reading my books, I have found myself getting teary eyed when the book makes mention of a verse or the gospel. When traveling one evening, I found my heart in my throat as I saw a women laying in some trash and mud. Her infant baby lay in the trash with its head resting on her calf muscle. This level of poverty is arresting. When we first arrived at the pastors conference, we were seated in the front, facing all of the pastors. They had eyes closed and singing to God with heart-felt passion. As I took a few pictures I was overcome by emotion. It is very hard to explain but I started to cry. There was such a level of intimacy and sincerity when they were singing even in Marati (Local language). I have never experienced anything like that when watching people sing. Lastly, Tom taught today on the concept of faith and trusting the Lord with difficult situations. He spoke about the situation with his family that he experienced years ago. The men and women were clearly identifying with what Tom said. At the end of his teaching they were able to comment. One pastor stood up and offered to pray for Tom and his family. The entire room raised their hands and pointed them towards Tom and affirmed the pastors prayers with “yes Lord”. Tom began to weep and so did I. It was easily the most emotional scene of the whole trip thus far.
Everyone except Greg went out to explore Pune the other day. We went into a supermarket and looked at all the products. I took some good pictures of shop vendors and people laying cricket. 2 days ago we went to the mall with Benny, Minova, His wife Rebecca, and his one daughter Michelle (9yr). Michelle is literally hilarious. She always beats you at competitions she makes up. She gave me great advice on what dress to buy Erin. I showed her my cats at home and she went “AWWWWWW”. Anyways, driving has also been fun. It’s pretty funny to see the stuff drivers will pull in order to get ahead.
THANK GOD FOR THESE THINGS
- Safety so far
- Our guides Benny & Minova
- Teachings at the pastors conference went well.
- I have not seen a spider yet.
PRAY FOR THESE THINGS:
- Tom’s stomach. He is not doing well after the conference today.
- Health for all of us. (Some of us have had some stomach issues)
- Safe travel from Pune to Vizag tomorrow.
- Protection from the evil one. He seems to like to accuse or feed you lies about your teaching quite often.
- Continued unity with our team.
We love and miss everybody,
If you would have asked me at the beginning of 2015 what my New Years resolution was, I would not have said “Missions trip” or “India Trip”. I was actually very apathetic to the idea of going to India. I specifically remember conversations I had with people where I justified my hesitancy to consider a trip to India. I would say:
“wellll I’ve been on the Buffalo Missions Trip 5 times and I feel like I got my missions experience”.
Yes I know, this is silly. I think there was a lot to be learned at the Buffalo Missions Trip. I now realize that I will learn much different lessons through this India trip. Lessons that include being vulnerable with other men on a daily basis, experiencing a new culture with open ears and my mouth shut at times, and learning how to trust the Lord on a very deep level with my deepest anxieties. I struggle with anxiety and stress so my prayer for this trip is that it will give Matthew 6:25-34 a whole new meaning to my life.
It was in February that Pastor Benny came from India to visit our Church in Kent, Ohio. He spoke on the topic of the different stages of the Church out of Acts. It is hard for me remember the exact points Benny was making but I do know, after that teaching, I was almost convinced that I wanted to go to India. I thought about how this man is willing to travel by himself to America and teach a room full of people that he hardly knows. This moved me. I prayed at the end of that teaching and I felt the Lord put it on my heart that I needed to stop worrying and justifying, He made it clear to me that this India trip could be something that is fruitful.
In the next week I contacted Greg and told him that I would like to go to India and before I knew it, things were on the move. As the months went by it was made clear the the Lord was at work. One thing I will mention is my team that the Lord put together. I am going to India with Mike Hudok, Greg Morscher, Ian McCullough, & Tom Smith. I have heard and read that unity within your team is key to having a successful trip. I found it humorous how the Lord put together a team that i felt so comfortable with. I have led in high school ministry with 3 of these men, do crafts/make cool things with one, and one of them happens to be my gracious boss/mentor for about four years now. I feel so privileged to be able to go on a trip with these brothers and have this experience with them.
This is just the background to the “Start of a journey”. I cannot wait to share more of my experiences and convictions with you as I travel.
To close, here are some random facts and things I am excited/curious about:
- I’ve never flown
- I’ve never been in a different country (Other than Canada)
- I love Indian food (I hope this remains true)
- I want to buy a knife or some kind of handmade item in India.
- I can’t wait to say I’ve been to Germany.
- I do not want to see a single effing spider on my whole trip.
- I can’t wait to buy Sam Stevens Coffee and drink chai tea.
- I can wait to sweat for 18 hours a day.
- Lastly, I can’t wait to meet this young lady:
-Gayathri, my parents sponsor child.