Some Needed Reminders

John Wesley’s Holy Club Daily Questions
John Wesley lived almost 300 years ago. In 1729 John Wesley, his brother Charles and other students formed the "Holy Club" at Oxford University. This was the beginning of the Methodist Church. These are 22 questions members of John Wesley's Holy Club asked themselves every day in their private devotions.

1. Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I'm better than I really am? In other words, am I a hypocrite?
2. Am I honest in all my acts and words, or do I exaggerate?
3. Do I confidentially pass on what was told to me in confidence?
4. Can I be trusted?
5. Am I a slave to dress, friends, work or habits?
6. Am I self-conscious, self-pitying or self justifying?
7. Did the Bible live in me today?
8. Do I give it time to speak to me everyday?
9. Am I enjoying prayer?
10. When did I last speak to someone else about my faith?
11. Do I pray about the money I spend?
12. Do I get to bed on time and get up on time?
13. Do I disobey God in anything?
14. Do I insist upon doing something about which my conscience is uneasy?
15. Am I defeated in any part of my life?
16. Am I jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy or distrustful?
17. How do I spend my spare time?
18. Am I proud?
19. Do I thank God that I am not as other people, especially as the Pharisees who despised the publican?
20. Is there anyone whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold resentment toward or disregard? If so, what I am doing about it?
21. Do I grumble or complain constantly?
22. Is Christ real to me?


A week in the Upper Peninsula

I spent last week in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with 80 Northwestern students at InterVarsity's Cedar Campus. We take the students up there at the end of every school year for a time to relax, connect with God in the beauty of his creation (and man oh man is it beautiful), receive training in ministry, and prepare plans for the upcoming year of ministry on campus.
I must confess that I entered this week with a feeling of 'have to.' It is meant to be restorative and restful for students, but for staff it is often exhausting and I was bracing myself for that. It also internally represented that last big hurdle before summer break would begin and my schedule would slow down tremendously. Hmm...it all sounds a bit self-absorbed as I write it now. At any rate, we start the week asking the students to take a three-hour retreat of silence - to get alone with God for three hours and spend time in the Word, prayer, journaling, silence, etc. I was tempted to use the time to finish up some teaching plans for later in the week, but I sensed the Lord pushing me to meet with him. So I found myself a rock along the shore of Lake Huron and spent some time with the Father. I felt dwarfed by the beauty of my setting, and it was sweet be reminded that Someone greater, more majestic, more awe-inspiriting created it all. Here was part of my view:
Thankfully, the Lord used that time to reconnect me to the truth of who He is and who He says I am. I left with a feeling of 'get to' rather than 'have to,' and a willingness to serve the students.
I feel like God has used this year to teach me a lot about what it means to be in 'full-time ministry.' I entered with such idealism, knowing I'd get to do the things I love to do and am passionate about - and that's true! But its also true that when I'm tired or struggling it is hard to live in the tension of 'having to' serve. It can be hard knowing there is a tacit understanding that I 'have to' serve even when the 'get to' attitude is gone. It's difficult to go to a discipleship meeting with a student and try to be pointing them to the Lord, when I am also feeling distant from Him. It is an odd new level of accountability in my own walk with the Lord, knowing that when I choose to be disobedient or lazy in my faith, the students and ministry indirectly (and sometimes directly) suffer. Sometimes that feels like a burden, but mostly I rejoice in being pushed to a deeper understanding of what it means to follow after Christ - trusting, wrestling, hoping, persevering.
Of course, its not pursuing growth for the sake of InterVarsity or even for the sake of the students, but it is living into the fullness of who Christ created me to be and daily asking him to teach me more of what that means. That's the heart of ministry and that's the only valuable thing I can give to others.
Whew, that wasn't the direction I was anticipating this post to go...allow me to also follow through in saying that the week at Cedar was great! I had some wonderful conversations with students, God gave me favor when called upon to teach out of turn...I wasn't feeling quite ready but it went really well, and a student I've met with several times this year to explain the Gospel decided to invite Christ into her life - Praise God! What sweet end to the first school year!
Here's some more pictures from Cedar for your viewing pleasure :D

Some of the crew at dinnertime - don't they just look like so much fun!?

A group shot at the end of the beautiful "Narnia" trail


This left me questioning whether I really wanted to return to Chicago

Queen of the mountain!

The end of a day as well as this really long post...thanks for hanging in there.


The Helpful Parakeet

I didn't have to take Greek classes during my time in seminary, but of course I picked up some common Greek words along the way. One that I'll always remember is the Greek for the 'Holy Spirit,' Paraclete, which means 'advocate' or 'helper.'

This Greek word, in particular, has stuck with me due to some unfortunate word association - 'paraclete' vs. 'parakeet.' Ha, now you can all imagine along with me the Holy Spirit as a parakeet sitting on my shoulder.

All joking aside, I've sensed the Lord pushing me lately to understand the truth that the Spirit lives within me and all believers. I don't dwell on this truth often enough. Jesus said to his disciples:
I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgement; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; and concerning judgement, because the ruler of this world has been judged.
I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.

Jn. 16:7-15

I'm convicted that I don't trust the power of the Spirit indwelling me and other believers; I don't grapple with this reality. Recently, I found a Quaker church in Evanston and have been considering checking it out. I read info on their services - no clergy or sermon; everyone sits in silence until the Spirit gives a word for someone to speak for the edification of the body. My initial reaction to the thought of this was fear - what does it mean for a local church not to have a 'head pastor' who is highly trained in Bible exposition and able to teach each week? Couldn't the church fall into some dangerous heresy? Then I had to step back and ask myself, "Do I trust the Spirit of God at work among his people?" Whew, that's a moment of honesty. Having invested years learning about Hermeneutics (principles of Biblical interpretation), Systematic Theology, and Discipleship, it is all too easy to trust in my training rather than living in utter dependence upon the Spirit. Not to say this training is bad - certainly not - but it isn't necessary for knowing God. The Spirit indwells believers to convict of sin and point us to the truth.

It is amazing to me that Jesus would say that it is better for him to not be present among us, that the Holy Spirit might come as our Helper. Certainly, it rings of the fulfillment of the promises of the new covenant; that the Law would no longer be an external code we're unable to live-up to, but that it would be inscribed on our hearts and the Spirit would compel us to obedience (Ez. 36:26-27). Praise God for His wonderful provision on our behalf. May we all acknowledge/lean on/trust in our great Paraclete.