Last week, I was walking down Greek Row on campus and I was overwhelmed by a thought that has been following me the last few weeks:
"I absolutely love what I do."
Now, before I dive too deep into this thought (and I do hope to dive deep and reflect if you'll hang with me), I was hoping to get a little nostalgic for a moment as I allowed myself to do as I walked across campus last week. I wanted to consider all the things that God had done in my life to bring me to this point.
"The Call" -- My senior year of high school, God places a very definitive call on my life for vocational ministry. I changed whatever plans I may have had and adjusted my course to attain ministry training at Boise Bible College. It is impossible for me to even imagine where my life would have been without that calling on my life.
"SHECHINAH: The Church" Boise, ID -- For five years of my life, I served as a pastor at a church in Boise. It was always a small church, but it was a safe environment for me and my family. I can't see how there could have been any other place for me to experience God and the ministry in such a way that would allow me to dream big dreams, form big passions, learn big love, and become the person I am today -- the person God created me to be. I know that if you are to boil me down to my essence, who I am at my core and the fire that burns in my heart, those seeds were sown in a little community of faith at 5405 S. Five Mile Rd.
"Twin Falls Reformed Church" Twin Falls, ID -- Home. Always has been. Always will be. A priceless, priceless time of training where God taught me how to be less of a narcissistic control-freak and more of a leader and shepherd for God's people. I will always marvel at the patience of a handful of guys and gals that took my fiery, passionate naiveté and taught me how to use it. I owe my ministry effectiveness to God bearing fruit in my life, but He has unquestionably used my time at TFRC to become useful in His Kingdom.
"I absolutely love what I do." I had just left a meeting with a student at the University of Idaho. We met to discuss what it means to "evangelize" and to fulfill our call to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. We talked about "the story" -- the biblical narrative and what it's trying to tell us. As we talked, the lights continued to come on and a few little sparks began to start a flame in this student's life. For me, nothing is more fulfilling than that moment: When the eyes light up and the corners of the mouth begin to smirk as somebody begins to see God in a new way. I left that meeting thinking of all the ways that God may use this very successful and promising student in the future of our culture. And I realized that I love what I do.
I hurried over to another location on campus where I would spend the next couple hours leading a small group of students through an in-depth study of the literary aspects of the Text. As we discussed the family of Abraham, the structure of the writing in Genesis, and what it means to "trust the story", I saw students devouring the Text, pouring over their Bibles and notes and making observations that I hadn't seen yet. And I was reminded of how much I love what I do.
I ran over to a meeting at the church to discuss with the teaching pastor the meaning of advent and engage in deep theological conversation that would continue over the course of a few days and would stick on our minds and our hearts. I watched as each person engaged in the conversation naturally filled their God-given role in how they saw life and applied the story of the Scriptures. We all appreciated the contribution of the other and felt like we were all becoming the people God needed us to be -- at least for a moment. For the first time in my life, I feel as though I have found the perfect fit to be the person God has called me to be. I'm living in the "sweet spot", the wheelhouse, where I can teach and lead and challenge -- and it helps the team, it doesn't hurt it.
But before I clicked on the spiritual cruise-control and settled in for the comfortable ride ahead, I was jolted back to the reality that now would be a great time to make some helpful observations about living in the "promised land" -- to try and be a little proactive so that God doesn't have to cart me off to captivity to make me useful again. I'm not naive enough to think that these high times stick around forever. I needed to make a few observations and hope that others help me in my walk.
God never intended for me to be happy -- or comfortable. He intends for me to be more and more like Jesus. There may be times where God stops up the Jordan and leads us into the land flowing with milk and honey, but there's a whole other mission waiting for us when we find our new home. There's a world out there that needs to see who God is and that urgency is what compels us to die to ourselves each and every day and continue to let God redeem us from those things that stunt our growth.
The call to dwell in humility is never-ceasing and a constant challenge. The promised land does something to your heart. God warned the Israelites about it before they got there. He reminded them of when they had settled down. And He continued to remind them to after they failed to pursue it.
Make sure you don't forget God, your God, by not keeping his
commandments, his rules and regulations that I command you today.
Make sure that when you eat and are satisfied, build pleasant houses
and settle in, see your herds and flocks flourish and more and more
money come in, watch your standard of living going up and up - make
sure you don't become so full of yourself and your things that you
forget God, your God, the God who delivered you from Egyptian slavery;
the God who led you through that huge and fearsome wilderness, those
desolate, arid badlands crawling with fiery snakes and scorpions; the
God who gave you water gushing from hard rock; the God who gave you
manna to eat in the wilderness, something your ancestors had never
heard of, in order to give you a taste of the hard life, to test you
so that you would be prepared to live well in the days ahead of you.
If you start thinking to yourselves, "I did all this. And all by
myself. I'm rich. It's all mine!" - well, think again. Remember that
God, your God, gave you the strength to produce all this wealth so as
to confirm the covenant that he promised to your ancestors-as it is
If you forget, forget God, your God, and start taking up with other
gods, serving and worshiping them, I'm on record right now as giving
you firm warning: that will be the end of you; I mean it-destruction.
You'll go to your doom-the same as the nations God is destroying
before you; doom because you wouldn't obey the Voice of God, your God.
Deuteronomy 8:11-20 (The Message)
There's not much to add to that by way of commentary. It's a tough thing to remember. It's hard to deal with blessing. It's difficult to remember God when the harvest is abundant. I struggle every day with becoming humble -- and the prayer for humility is a dangerously effective prayer.
Am I still listening for God's voice -- still looking for the next chapter? One of the lessons that my students and I have wrestled with in the life of Abraham is the example of Abram when he hears the promise of God. He doesn't hunker down and start building houses when God promises him the land. No, he builds an altar and then pitches his tents. It's almost as if Abram physically says, "God is what's permanent; I am a stranger in God's land." Wow. What a stunning example. Too often in my life, I jump on board the Tower of Babel Project and forget my greater call to be a person of faith and trust God's greater story.
It's my prayer that each and every day I might be thankful for where God has led me and how He blesses me with a little shade and a little water for my journey; that I might be reminded that I was on a journey when I stumbled upon this shade and that I might be ready for God to say, "Arise! You've been at this mountain long enough..."