The Jeremiah Record – Pt. 1

 

While it has been a while since the last post on here, I wanted to share with everyone the process that is being made in the Jeremiah Record.  At the beginning of last month we started recording some of the tracks in Ford Hall.  We reserved the recital hall on campus for blocks of time late in the evening hoping that we would be able to work beyond our two hour time limit without inconveniencing anyone that might be waiting to use the room.  After three nights of working, we had a good amount of recordings with which we could begin putting together some of the demo tracks.  Everyone involved did a fantastic job, which made the fact that I wasn’t really doing anything stand out a little more conspicuously.  Maybe it was the fancy recital hall or perhaps the excitement of trying something new, but there was definitely something in the air that made everyone involved realize that we were working on something pretty special.  Even if the songs never gain a following beyond our creative team, we know that we were privileged to have taken part in something special in making this record.  Here are some pictures from the night that capture accurately what was happening.

Jason telling us his vision for the song.



Recording in Ford Hall

Recording in Ford Hall

2014-06-04 21.36.09

 

2014-07-07 11.09.43

This one is not from that night, but it is a pretty accurate depiction of what the current process of mixing looks like.

I intend to keep everyone in the loop with our progress as we continue working toward the finished product of the Jeremiah Record.  Be sure to check back here and on our website fxchurch.com for all of the latest news on the Jeremiah Record.

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Faith and The Life of a Hermit

One of the things that I get to do in my church is participate in leading the high school and middle school students in our semi weekly meetings.  Interacting with these students in this way is pretty challenging on my patience at times, but it is also significantly rewarding both mentally and spiritually.  During our most recent meeting we were reading and discussing the first chapter in 2 Peter, when we came to a point in the discussion that challenged the way many of us thought about life as a Christian.

According to verse 2 Peter 1:5-10, if we as Christians supplement our faith with goodness, and our goodness with knowledge, and our knowledge with self control, and our self control with endurance, and our endurance with godliness, and our godliness with brotherly affection, and our brotherly affection with love all while making every effort to confirm our faith and identity in Jesus then we will never stumble in our faith.  Never.  Not again. At all.  Never is a strong word and it seems pretty unlikely that we will never stumble or sin as Christians, but I’m not trying to convince you of my viewpoint, I am just reading from the Bible.  In order to keep from ever stumbling or faltering in our faith we must not only possess the qualities listed, but have them in increasing measure (according to verse 8 of that chapter).  This is a huge request, but the promise still remains in verse 10 “you will never stumble” (emphasis added by me).

As encouraging as this promise is, there could be a case made that “stumble” does not mean sin, it means to fall away from faith in God or something less than sinning because no one is perfect.  I believe that the God (through Peter) is telling us that it is possible for Christians to go on living their lives without sinning if they are doing the things listed in the previous verses.  If you disagree on my interpretation, feel free to let me know, but my faith allows me to believe that God would make it possible for us to live life without sinning again.  However, this interpretation of scripture is not why I write this post.  It was my personal reflection on this idea of living the Christian life without ever stumbling (or sinning) that I felt worth sharing.

Starting with the assumption that it is possible for a Christian to go on living his or her life without ever sinning again, so long as he or she is living in the prescribed manner, my first thought was that I might be able to satisfy these prescribed actions if I sat at home all day everyday concentrating on nothing more than these things.  Simply put, if I were a hermit I would be able to live life without sinning.  I would be (seemingly) free from distraction, temptation, frustration, manipulation or anything else that would lead to me stumbling in my faith.  Then I realized that while this would seem true and might even be partially true, I don’t believe that God desires His people to be hermits.  Rather than pull away from the world to look for God, I think God wants us to engage the world and interact with all the things and people in it with the knowledge that we possess about Him.  God wants us to live abundant and vibrant lives which requires us to go out into the world instead of drawing away from it.

The catch is that going out into the world and engaging and participating in it puts the Christian in a place that does not understand or encourage his faith.  When God asks or commands us to go into the world it requires us to trust that God will make it possible to do the things that will lead us and others back to Him.   While it would be easier to not sin while living the life of a hermit, excellence in morality is only the prerequisite and aide in God’s true desire for our lives.

Maybe I am wrong, but when I read the God’s words to us I see a God that wants us to desire Him and please Him instead of just trying to not disappoint Him.  For this reason I am actually in the position to lead our high school and middle school meetings.  I have not actually received any formal training on how to lead this young students, but I have had several mentors model what it means to lead students in ministry.  It would be easier to study to and get a degree or certificate in youth ministry and in 3 or 4 years be able to lead these students in the “right” way, but I honestly think that God would rather me trust Him and trust the people that He has already put in my life to equip me to do this work.  The former option takes time and gives me confidence in myself and my education, the latter option takes faith in God’s ability to use me despite me and a reliance on the promise of forgiveness when I fall short.

End Note: I write this not to boast in my faith, but to encourage you to walk in yours.  More often than I care to admit I am left wondering whether these student meetings are making an impact in any of the students lives’.

My Latest Adventure: Using What I Learned in College

It only took two years but I am finally going to be putting my college education to good use in a more direct way. Since I graduated from Indiana University I have been more than grateful for all of the skills I learned during my years on campus.  I learned and developed skills such as critical thinking, how to create a usable work out plan, paper writing and argument building.  Most of these things were developed as I was withstood a four year barrage of facts and trends in the music industry and non-profit management. Even as a student I just assumed that the particular major I picked was mostly a matter of peace of mind for the prospect of finding a job and preference of interest in the subject matter. Upon graduation I assumed that I would fall into the large group of people who do not directly apply their college education to their day job.  For the first two years of my post college life I was mostly correct. Then like a lightening bolt or an Old Testament style revelation, inspiration struck.

The interesting part though was that it didn’t strike me.  A few months ago my friend and fellow pastor at Fx Church, Jason, began his sick day off work by trying to play his guitar. After having it serviced by a repair shop, it was in a strange tuning that was pretty unfamiliar to him.  So like any curious musician he decided to play around on the guitar to see how it sounded.  The short version of the story is that the tuning was so novel and yet intriguing that it led Jason to begin writing a song to play.  I can’t really tell you the specifics of the timeline following that day, but the seed was planted and the idea began to grow. Since the church was currently beginning a 12 week study of the Old Testament book Jeremiah, Jason decided to write a new song each week to go along with the sermon series.  In the end the song writing process didn’t quite fit into that 12 week frame, but it the process did result in 12 new songs inspired by the story and narrative of Jeremiah. And what do 12 original songs make?

An album.

As excited as Jason was about the prospect of recording an album, he confessed he needed someone to push him to take the appropriate steps to make this idea a reality. With a degree in Arts Management with a concentration in music, I was excited at the prospect of helping contribute to the process of recording a concept album based on the book of Jeremiah.  Both Jason and I sort of assumed that we would be the counterpart to the other. He would create and perform and I would arrange the details of recording and promoting.  The most honest reality of the situation was that I was really excited to hear about the idea and wanted to a part of it in any way possible.

The album is far from recorded, but the songs are written and the equipment has been purchased to record.  I cannot begin to claim any sort of creative contribution to this project, but I can say that because of Jason and his dream I am currently getting to employ some of the bits of information that I absorbed during my undergraduate education. I imagine stories like these are the things that will make God one day say, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”  More than just two people working together to have some fun, but many of His people coming together to offer what they have in abilities and resources to contribute to a piece of creative work that is intended make much of what God has done and is still doing. What the future of this project holds is in God’s hands, but Jason and I have a few plans for what might come, the first of which is only an album.

 

Be on the lookout at fxchurch.com for songs from The Jeremiah Record this summer.

“This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Write down for the record everything I have said to you, Jeremiah.”  Jeremiah 30:2

 

 

Sleepy Thoughts on Altruism

It was shortly after 5:00 am Eastern Standard Time and I was laying in my bed awake.  I wasn’t protesting sleep or even tossing and turning fighting to relinquish my consciousness, rather I was woken up by my sporadically anti-establishment 8 month old son. Sometimes he loves the sleep schedule we impose on him and on other nights I think he is trying to recruit the neighbors to be “down with the struggle”.  In a statement of full disclosure, for every minute of sleep I lose, my wife has probably lost 45 minutes (she is a saint in more ways that one).  Nevertheless, I found myself awake just after 5:00 am EST last night. I must have just ended a REM cycle because Britt’s weary request for me to put the baby back to sleep didn’t sound like the equivalent of running a half marathon with cinder block shoes.  Only a slightly reluctantly I left the room to pat my little protester’s bottom until he gives up his latest attempt to shrug the yoke a full night’s sleep.

After a surprisingly quick victory in the sleep battle, I returned to my bed with a mind that was slightly less foggy than when I began.  Eager to claim my last two hours of good sleep before the day began, I started to consider altruism.  “Does getting up to put the baby back to sleep count as an act of Altruism” I wonder, getting closer to sleeping again. “It doesn’t benefit me to admit my consciousness to Britt when he is crying through the baby monitor. In fact, it benefits her to know that I am awake and that she can stay in bed and rest, while I sacrifice my sleep by going to pat Jonah back to sleep.  I guess that is the definition of altruism if you wanted to be technical…”

As I am pondering these things and sleep is just a minute or two away, I hear that noise that makes my heart sink.  The baby is crying through the baby monitor again.  If my thoughts were broadcast out loud you could have literally quoted me as saying, “I don’t want to get up again. I just want to lay here in bed and think about altruism.”  By the time that the irony hit me, Britt was already on her way out of the room (like I said, a saint).

Whether or not my weak attempt to allow my wife to get some more sleep can be considered an act of altruism or not, I was reminded of what a true act of love looks like last night. When I think about serving my wife (or anyone for the most part) rarely do I have the opportunity to be truly altruistic.  Altruism being the act of helping another person at the cost of my well being. Even when given an opportunity to be altruistic, I preferred to stay comfortable and merely ponder the merits and boundaries of altruism instead of participating.

It is precisely moments like these that remind me to be grateful for the supreme act of altruism that Jesus completed by his crucifixion.  He being completely perfect and absolutely innocent was punished for my transgression.  He was completely aware of what harm would come to him and of what benefit would come to me (and all of mankind) and he accepted the terms and allowed himself to be killed.

In the end my half hearted altruism does really compare to that of Jesus, but it did serve to remind me of how far I am from being holy and encourage me to persist to that end.

Introducing…

Steven Whyte

Steven is a good friend of mine and a great writer.  It has been a goal of mine for this blog to be a project that is bigger than me and my thoughts.  To this end, I have invited Steven to contribute to the blog as a contributor.  He is getting ready to graduate from IU with a degree in Creative Writing, so his writing skills will far exceed mine.  His creative and unique way of viewing the world in light of the Gospel makes me incredibly excited to introduce him to you all.  If you ever have a chance ask him about his time in East Asia or how he was involved in bringing Quidditch to IU.  I hope you enjoy his writing as much as I do. Speaking of his writing… http://wp.me/p427BJ-3l

Meet Steven Whyte. He usually wears glasses.  And Chuck Taylors.

This is Steven . He usually wears glasses. And Chuck Taylors.

I am what I am.

image

“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them – yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” 1 Corinthians 15:10

It was not my culture, birth place, family, morals, actions, worldview, academics, time period, church, pastor, or my will that allowed me to know Jesus as savior.  It was God’s grace.  The work I do as a result of this (regardless of amount) is by His grace too.

My Prayer: Father, help me to remember this at all times so that I may remain humble.

My Dream Job

I have often thought about what kind of work I would be doing if I were not called to work in ministry.  After much thought I honestly would say with all seriousness that I would like to work in landscaping.  I would love to mow lawns, weed-eat, plant, trim, dig, or otherwise shape the land for people or businesses.  Often when I am sitting around working at my computer I think that I would prefer to be doing some manual labor and working up a sweat.

To be clear, I love my current position in collegiate ministry and I am not looking to change it any time too soon, but there is a part of me that desires something more physical and something more simple.  One summer when I was in college I worked at a church camp where I spent roughly 80% of my work week doing these things.  I didn’t realize that I was living my dream job at the time, but I certainly didn’t squander that time either.  I quickly became aware of how rewarding it was to finish a days worth of work that could be visibly observed.  I also realized how easily I could spend several hours talking to God and meditating on His works while mowing the lawn.  Working at Highland Lakes was fantastic and I often reminisce on those days with my wife (who I met that summer at the camp).  As enjoyable as keeping the grounds was at camp, I think the thing I miss about it most is how I knew exactly what was expected of me each day. Every morning I would wake up and eat breakfast with the rest of my coworkers and discuss what work needed to be accomplished by what time.  With an adequate breakfast in my stomach I would begin the day’s work.

Actual image from my mowing days!

Actual image from my mowing days!

As a collegiate minister who is completely funded by independent partners (as opposed to my church or denomination), I have no one telling me what exactly is expected of me on a daily basis.  In fact, there are very few fixed responsibilities that I have in a given week.  The amount of freedom I have in my position is incredible and I really am grateful that my pastor has allowed me that freedom.  As a result of the structure of my ministry, I have learned much about self discipline and what it means to be accountable to God’s desire for my day to day life.  Most of the time I view my work as that of an entrepreneur.  With the counsel of the Holy Spirit I am free to try to make disciples as I see fit.  As I said before though, there is a part of me that still desires simplicity of having a task list and quantifiable results at the end of the day.

Many times at the end of the day I am left wondering if I made an impact in anyone’s life that day. This is because I work with people, not grass.  Grass will show you immediately whether or not you achieved your goal, people do not.   Before a person shows outward signs of growing closer to God they are changed inwardly (without visible indication).  When a heart is changed, the result might not be outwardly visible for a while.  So and the reality of working in ministry is that it is possible to go longer periods of time without being able to notice that change has taken place.  It is in this waiting that most of the work of ministry takes place, meaning that most of the work of ministry is done without seeing the results.  This idea is not surprising considering the life work of many from the Bible.  Abraham did not see many descendants, Moses did not get to live in the Promised Land, Nehemiah did not get to live in Jerusalem, Paul did not get to see the survival and growth of the churches he started.

It is this reality of working in ministry that gives us meaning and hope in Paul’s words in his second letter to the Corinthians: “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal”   (2 Corinthians 4:18).  Lives being changed and conformed to the image of Jesus often go unseen, but the good news is that this has eternal significance (even if we don’t see it).

And so to be honest I still desire to see physical results of my labor.  Although I have hope that is more than sustaining for when I do not.

If I am completely honest though, I know I would probably complain about not having enough freedom if I was working in landscaping.

My Kingdom (Where I Reign)

One Sunday morning a couple of weeks ago at Fx Church I was listening to a sermon from Jeremiah 2.  Like many Sunday mornings, I was very engaged in listening to the sermon when a particular phrase jumped out at me and wouldn’t let me continue to follow along with the pastor until I had given enough consideration to that thought.  This particular week it was the question “Where is the Lord?”  (As read in Jeremiah 2:6,8).

Where is the Lord is the question that the Israelite people did not ask which caused them to drift from their close relationship to God.  As the pastor continued to discuss and elaborate on the passage in a larger context I was captured by the question.  I began to think about whether I ask this question in all of my activities.  And then I arrived at an interesting and possibly troubling observation about myself.  While it is easy for me to make a case for seeking God or seeking to make God known through most of my activities, there stood out one in which I could not help but to ask “Where is the Lord?”.  When I asked this question I only came up with silence and more pondering.  I realized that in my absence of asking “Where is the Lord” that I had established (in my own mind) a place where I had to answer to no one and I was the undisputed king.

NCAA College Football 2013 – Dynasty Mode

This is a little embarrassing to admit, but I have created a place where I want to be known as the king.  If you are not immediately familiar with what I am talking about I will give a brief description.  In this college football videogame there exists a mode of playing that allows you to take over as the head coach of the team.  In this game mode you not only play all of the games during a regular season of college football, but also you are in charge of recruiting high school players to play on your team in future seasons.  I’m not sure how many consecutive seasons you can play in a row, but I am in year 8 of my dynasty.  In addition to being able to play the games and recruit future players, the game also keeps track of stats and chooses players to win the same awards that are handed out in real life.  These awards include the Heisman Trophy, the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, etc. .

As I said I am in year eight of my dynasty, which means I have played well over 100 games.  And in those 100+ games, I have one loss.  I have recruited and graduated multiple classes of student athletes, several of which I am told became first round picks in the NFL draft.  I have won one Rose Bowl and 6 National Championships.  I have moved from the Big Ten conference to other major conferences so that I can claim their Championship for my trophy collection as well.  I have seen multiple players of mine win the Heisman trophy.  I have set nearly every team record for IU in both offense and defense.  I have set several national records on both sides of the ball as well.  I have personally transformed Indiana University football from a laughingstock into the undisputed best college football dynasty of all time.  This is MY KINGDOM WHERE I REIGN!  No one disputes my authority.

The funny thing is, there is literally no one that can dispute my authority.  I play alone against the incredibly predictable computer.  And yet, I feel supreme in my kingdom nonetheless.  I love entering my world of football because everything goes according to my plan and resistance is futile.  But then the question “Where is the Lord” came in and destroyed everything.  Where is the Lord in NCAA Football 2013?  Where is the throne I have made for God in my gaming life?  Did I neglect to make one or am I just the one sitting on it?

Ouch…

It was at that moment on that Sunday morning that I realized I have an idol.  I enjoy this game so much because I have inserted my name where I once wrote God’s name.  To be clear, I think there could be worse idols to have, but then again I might just be rationalizing my own sin.  It would be easy to say that this game is obviously driving a wedge in my relationship with Jesus and I should completely remove it from my life.  Legalism is always easy to say.  However I think if I change the way I think about the game I can find some redeeming value in it.

What if instead of looking at my action and making a blanket statement about the evils of videogames and then (probably unsuccessfully) resolving to cut them out of my life completely, I tried to see how this game can actually help me to understand God and His heart better.  Is that even possible?  Wouldn’t it be easier just to call it sin and remove it from my life?  Calling it sin may be easy, but removing it completely from my life seems like an unnecessary struggle.  I think it would be more beneficial to have an honest discussion about this hobby and give it a more defined role in my life than simply “good” or “bad”.  Instead of calling it a sin, I want to call it a potential idol and put it in its proper place in my life.

Approaching the issue this way is more honest and closer to the heart of the matter.  If we call NCAA College Football 2013 a potential idol it means that it has the potential to distract me from my relationship with God (which it certainly does). It has the potential to cause me to ignore my responsibilities as a Jesus follower, a man, a husband, a father, and an employee.  However, in addition to these things that make idols bad, it also has the ability to reveal the attributes and heart of God. As is the case with any idol that ever has been (golden calf from Exodus for example) or ever will be, it is created by man using things created by God.  When God originally created the world He called it “very good” (Gen. 1:31).  That means that all the things that God created (literally everything that exists) was very good and displayed characteristics of Him. What causes an object to become an idol is when it becomes worshipped instead of God.  So there is a part of every object that draws us to God (because it was created by Him and displays some of His attributes), but also tempts us to elevate that object as God for that very same reason.

So NCAA Football becomes an idol because I want to worship it instead of God, but that also means that somewhere it in is something that reflects God’s character.  After reflecting on my slightly humorous, slightly pathetic, slightly sinful dedication to this game, I realized that I play this game so much because I enjoy being in control of this universe.  I have created a football universe where I control the wins and losses, the bowl games, and the trophy winners.  The game also pays proper tribute to my skill because it saves my name beside every trophy and record I set. Then I realized that this is exactly what God has done and desires.

God created a universe where He is in control of every imaginable detail and He is doing some infinitely more impressive things than I am.  He has set every record for love, size, consistency, beauty, creativity, and infinitely more.  He deserves to have His name beside everyone of those records and the beautiful mystery is that is it.  God has created in everything details and reminders of who He is.  The problem is that we humans want to ignore His name and scratch our own name on top of His.  We want to claim ownership and mastery of the world, when it’s more realistic to view the world a playground that we have been given permission to play in.

In this way NCAA College Football 2013 reminds me that God is the true creator and ruler of a much bigger universe and He loves to see His name properly attributed to all of His workmanship.  Just as I desire my name in the record books and create football dynasties to serve my purposes, God desires the same thing in the world He created.

I’m Busy Focusing on the 20%

While I would like to be sharing my thoughts and observations on how authority and credibility is assigned to people after watching the Nye and Ham debate or telling you about how ridiculously much I like playing NCAA Football 2013 and how it has shaped the way I think about God, or even how I have learned more about effective communication through a twenty minute internet video and hours of playing The Sims than I ever did in a classroom, I am very busy practicing obedience to lessons that I have learned in the past.

I once wrote about defining your goals and orienting your schedule to achieve those goals ( http://wp.me/p427BJ-3n ) and right now this is precisely what has slowed my posting frequency.  Right now I am right in the heart of the 20% of my job that I dislike the most.  Appropriately enough, it seems that this is the part of my job that is usually very beneficial to my faith and development as a professional.  In short, in order for me to live as a missionary and be a collegiate minister at IU I have to form partnerships with individuals, families, and churches that want to support my ministry financially.  It would be much easier to just have a fixed salary from my church (if that were possible), but I know that without having to secure my funding this way, I would have missed out on several important lessons on communication, perseverance, and trust.  Not to mention that I would probably be lazier and less confident (I know my vices).

I share all of this to return to my original point, I would love to be doing some research about where Peyton Manning’s career would be if the Colts had never released Jim Sorgi or looking at how my social media history mirrors my spiritual growth, but right now my goal is to be free to share the love and salvation that comes in a relationship with Jesus to college students and the people of Bloomington.  In order to be free to do that I must first focus on achieving my financial goals by partnering with others.  So, why haven’t I published more blog posts?

I don’t have time.

After Thought:  I actually preached a sermon on this topic once.  It was actually one of my favorite sermons.  It is available to listen to here.  http://podcast.fotc.us/fotcsermon/audio/2013/2013-1215.m4a

The Tortoise Always Wins

Two years ago as Britt and I were preparing to get married we were looking at our finances and making plans for how to pay off her school debt.  We thought we might be able to pay it off within a year or two because of Britt’s diligence to keep her debt to a minimum and God’s blessing for me to make it through school without incurring any debt.  The plan was going well until we had an unexpected C-Section when Jonah was born.  The hospital bills backed up our plans significantly, or so we thought.  As I am writing this, Britt and I are completely debt free!

This is our filled debt thermometer.

This is our filled debt thermometer.

How did this happen?  If you are a listener or reader of Dave Ramsey (as we are), you have probably heard Dave say that the tortoise always wins.  This is a reference to the story of the Tortoise and the Hare.  In the story the Tortoise and the Hare are competing in a foot race.  The Hare has the obvious advantage in speed and flaunts it in the beginning of the race.  However, the twist is that the Hare gets distracted and stops racing for a little while allowing the Tortoise to catch up and eventually win the race. What Dave Ramsey means by “the Tortoise always wins,” is that if you are patient, persistent, and diligent with your plan to get out of debt then you will always succeed, just as the tortoise succeeds in beating the hare every time you read the story.

Honestly, I agree with Dave, it took Britt and I almost two years of focused budgeting and saving to pay off all of our debt, but I think that there is more to the story than that.  The story of the tortoise and hare is static and never changes and it only focuses on the power of will and determination.  There is much to be said about persistence and determination, but the story also speaks a lot about the danger of getting distracted from your goal.  Like I said though, I agree with Dave.  There was however a greater power at work in our story I believe.  It was because of God’s provision and plan that we were able to pay off around $11,000 worth of hospital and school loan bills in under two years, not just my and Britt’s persistence and determination.

This book was very helpful in getting out of debt.

This book was very helpful in getting out of debt.

In His perfect timing God provided the money that was being held in an account from the previous year.   Last year I was only getting paid a portion of my full support that was available.  All of that remainder was dispensed to me at the first paycheck of the year.  This “bonus” (if you want to call it that) was actually deposited into our bank account on my birthday.  What is more incredible than the coincidence of the day it was deposited was that it was deposited when we needed it the most.

Only a couple of days beforehand, I sitting at our church staff meeting and looking at my bank account online.  The posted balance was just over $13. As you can imagine, this caused me to get a little nervous about our financial situation.  With $200 dollars in cash leftover from Christmas gifts and $13 in the bank I began to see the beautiful picture that was about to be painted. At our staff meeting, the other pastors and I began discussing my salary and how much money was left in my account from the year before.  Acting as advisers, both Mat and Jason recommended that I take as much as possible from the left over while still leaving a couple months worth of paychecks for the period of time that I was going to be securing my funding for the next year.  This way Britt and I would be able to pay off our most expensive monthly bill and keep that much more money in our wallet each month.  At this point I thought that all we had to do was make it to the next Wednesday and then the money would be in our account and give us comfort again while we continued to pay off our smaller debts.

As I left our staff meeting I was comforted by the fact that we were going to be able to survive without over drafting into our savings.  Then I began to think about the phrase “It’s always darkest before the dawn.”  I thought it seemed appropriate for our situation, going from $13 to paying off our hospital bill was quite an encouraging thought.  Thinking about this I was reminded of Jesus and his crucifixion and resurrection.  To his disciples, the crucifixion must have seemed like the darkest and worst imaginable scenario.  In their eyes the person that they had been following for three years that had sufficiently proven his divinity as God in the flesh, had just been executed as a criminal.  Jesus was supposed to be the savior of the world.  All of mankind had been waiting for him to come and reunite them to God and then he came.  However, he was killed before he got a chance to establish God’s kingdom and reunite people to Him.  Jesus was dead and his enemies had won.  Or so it seemed.  Three days later the sun rose and brought the dawn after the darkest hour.  When Jesus came back to life, he validated and proved everything that he had ever told the disciples.  The disciples joy must have been immeasurably more powerful than their previous sorrow had been.  So the crucifixion made the world the darkest just before the resurrection had caused the dawn to come.

This is the greatest story ever told.  Jesus overcame even death itself to bring joy, love, grace, and truth to all of mankind.  I’m not comparing my paying off debt to Jesus’s resurrection, but I am saying that I was reminded of it when I thought of our situation.

There was however a miscalculation on my part.  I thought that we would be able to pay off our hospital bills and have a little left over to pay off some of Britt’s school loans.  I was wrong, but in a good way.  We actually had enough to pay off all of Britt’s school loans after the hospital bill was paid.  I think this miscalculation was even a way that God was trying to reveal Himself to me though.  You see, I was anticipating paying off the hospital bills and having a measure of comfort and a plan to finish paying off the school loans.  However, Jesus’s resurrection wasn’t intended to give us a measure of comfort from the pain of sin and provide a plan to work out our salvation.  The resurrection was for complete freedom from sin.  In the same way, God didn’t want my “bonus” to give us comfort and a plan, He wanted to give Britt and I complete financial freedom.

Because of the faithful giving from our ministry partners Britt and I are freer than we have ever been to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a lost and broken world.  We are extremely excited to be able to share with others the story of how God provided for us all along so that we could enjoy his blessing of abundant giving at one time.  This all happened after we returned from Mississippi to find that our pastor had installed a new (used) refrigerator and stove in our home while we were gone.

It took patience and diligence for me and Britt to see financial freedom, but we are focused on something much bigger than financial freedom.  We want to see students find spiritual freedom.  If you have been following my newsletters or blog for a while you might remember that I have been meeting with multiple students that claim no religious belief.  I just wanted to share with you all that some of them are now reading the Bible.  None of them have committed their lives to following Jesus yet, but God is working in their lives, even if they can’t see it.  With your prayer I hope to see “the tortoise” that is God’s unfailing plan, win these ones too.