Friday, February 24, 2012

Who are we, anyway?

Text for the week:  Mark 8:31-38

As a University, we are in the process of clarifying the core values of Olivet.  As our President said the first chapel of this semester, we are looking for the marks of Olivet, and of an Olivetian.  What are the distinctives — the beliefs that set us apart?  Who are we, anyway?  (Still looking for that tattoo, Dr. Bowling?)

When we ask questions like these, they cause us to ask questions at varying levels when it comes to how we see ourselves as a University. We believe in a liberal arts education, and that is expressed by the 100-plus majors we have here. But, our mission doesn’t end there, does it?

We believe in educating in a very specific way, thus our motto, “Education with a Christian Purpose.”  But honestly, that doesn’t say enough anymore. The word “Christian” in our motto is also defined in a very specific way.  You can go to a host of other “Christian” colleges and universities, and your educational —as well as spiritual and social development — would look much different than it does here. We often make fun of ourselves, hearing this place often described as “the bubble.”

I find it ironic that when we wrestle with the questions stated above, it takes us not only to the core of our University, but to the center of ourselves.  Dr. Bowling has always said that this place is only as good as the people who are here — students, faculty and staff alike. 

So let me segue now, if I may.  There is no better time of the year for us to wrestle with these questions as an institution than during Lent.  During Lent, we have the opportunity to take a look at our lives, share in the passion of Christ, and experience again the fact that the one called Jesus was just a human as we are. He had feelings just like we do. He got angry and frustrated, just like we do.  He was encouraged and discouraged by the same group of 12 men, almost daily.  He felt physical and emotional pain.  He died, just like we will.  Lent is a time when we re-center ourselves on these truths, reminding ourselves again of why He came, so we can better understand why we are here.

This isn’t the first time you’ve heard me say or write this, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.  I believe the only way to truly discover who we are, is in a fully restored relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  That’s it. 

During Lent, this is what reshapes us.   This is what enables us to live the life God has for us.  This is what gives us the strength to walk through our tough, even dark days, knowing that Jesus did as well.  So, we “lose ourselves” in this.  This is what makes us who we were created to be.  As this takes place in our lives, it makes this place special.  It’s also what makes your home and your church unique.
So, who are we?  That’s only found when we “lose ourselves” in the One who can help us “find ourselves.”

Monday, February 20, 2012

Second guesses, second chances

I was sitting in chapel this past Thursday listening to Gordon Dalbey talk about the relationship between fathers and daughters.  I am a father of daughters.  I was that dad who met the guy at the door asking him what his expectations were with my little girl, letting him know that regardless of what she may tell him, what I say was all that mattered.  I was the dad making my daughter change “that” skirt before she left the house.  I was also the dad that gasped the first time I saw my little girl trying on the dress she would wear to prom.  I was the dad enjoying watching my now son-in-law, squirming as he sat across the desk in my office struggling to find the courage to ask for my daughter’s hand in marriage.  I was the dad that cried before both of my daughters’ weddings.  I was also the dad, sitting in chapel last week, second guessing some of the ways I had treated my little girls. 

I remember the time I got caught in a lie.  I remember the time I put my daughter’s shoes on the wrong feet.  I remember the times I lost my temper.  I remember how upset my daughter was with me when I couldn’t get those ponytails just right.  I remember the times I had to ask forgiveness.

I suppose I could second guess the decisions I made with my daughters until the cows come home; sorry, dated myself with that one, and I still can’t tie ponytails (thankful for grandsons!).  But I could spend the rest of my life wondering, wishing, and second guessing.  Remember the last scene in Saving Private Ryan? The now older Private Ryan finds himself standing at Captain Miller’s grave asking his wife if he has lived a good life, wondering in that moment if he was worth the lives sacrificed to take him home.  I’ve had moments like that.  As a matter of fact, I came home last Thursday and asked my wife if our girls know how much I love them.  Ever been there? Wondering, wishing, second guessing — it can be a terrible place to be, and I don’t want to stay there.

Next week is Ash Wednesday, signaling the beginning of the season known as Lent — the time on the Christian calendar when we begin our journey to the cross, ending on that hopeful day we call Easter.  It’s an opportunity for us to take a journey together.  It’s a time when wishing, wondering, and second guessing can be replaced by second chances.
Honestly, too often we make Lent about giving up chocolate, Facebook, or caffeine (God forbid).  Lent is intended to be so much more.  It could possibly change the direction of our lives.  It could possibly give us a clearer picture of who God is.  It could possibly give us a clearer picture of who we are, and what we are called to do with our lives.  My prayer for all of us this year as we move together from ashes to Easter is that with God’s help, we move from second guessing to second chances.                                                

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Life out of the vacuum

I was having a conversation this past week with a good friend about something that was of deep concern to me. In my struggle and attempt to process what I was going through, I told him I didn’t want to be shaped in a vacuum — I need close friends who care deeply about the same things I cared about.  These are the kinds of people I need to invite into my life.  When I do, I “do life better,” than if I live it by myself.
 We aren’t created to live in a vacuum.  We aren’t intended to figure this all out on our own.  Yet, people do it all the time.  We live in a culture that doesn’t do relationships very well.  I’m not sure what is responsible for that, and I don’t want to demonize any one thing or person.  What I do know is that the times I’ve found myself wandering and feeling lost, I was also alone.
I need friends in my life to make sure this doesn’t happen.  So do you. 

 There is an old book, actually a very old book now, written by a faculty member at then Point Loma Nazarene College entitled, We Really Do Need Each Other.  In it, author Rueben Welch, writes:

                Jesus brings to us, into our world, all the way into our world, the very life of God.
                And the life He brings is a shared life – and it always creates community.
                It isn’t Jesus and me, it’s Jesus and we.  We really do need each other.
                God has made us this way.  The quality of life within the fellowship of those
                who share the life of Jesus is to be one of openness and confession and honesty
                before Him.”

I believed what he wrote when I first read it over 25 years ago, and I still believe it.  We are not supposed to do life alone!

Following revival, I’m inviting, encouraging, and even exhorting (a good biblical word) you to not try and do this on your own.  Connect somewhere, with someone, who wants more than anything to follow in the way of Jesus, and will help you as you journey together, helping each other make this a reality.  I don’t care what it looks like — floor Bible studies, a D-group, Sunday School class, small group, group of friends, or intramural team. What it is doesn’t matter; that you do it, does.  As a matter of fact, I think your spiritual life depends on it. 

The enemy’s best weapon is isolation, keeping us from those who can help us along the way.  I’m encouraging you to come out of the vacuum and enter into relationships that can help you sustain your spiritual life.  How and where?  Here are some quick ways: 
  • Find a D-group.  The staff in our office can help you get in touch with a D-group leader and location. 
  • Talk to your RD/RA about a floor Bible study.
  • Contact the church you’re attending so you can get connected to a small group or Sunday School.   If you’re not attending, start.
Oh, and don’t wait — do it this week! 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Life's rhythms

Have you ever noticed how our life is about rhythms?  There is an ebb and flow to just about everything we do.  For instance, we live in a world of seasons.  No matter how hot summer may be in August, we know what is heading our way in January (usually).  It’s what I love most about living in this part of the country — we move in and out of seasons: spring, summer, autumn and winter.  You don’t have to live too long with one, before another comes back around.  It creates a rhythm for us, an expectancy.
Other rhythms come back around based on the calendar:  New Years, Easter, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas.  These too become rhythms of life for us.

Others are more personal.  For instance, I take a vacation with my wife every summer, go bow hunting every October, celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas with family, and vacation over spring break at the same spot in Florida the first week of March.  These create rhythms for my family.  You and your family have them too.

Many of life’s rhythms are based on what could be considered traditions.  We have them here at Olivet:  Ollies Follies, the Block Party, Homecoming, Recess, Mr. ONU and TCW, to name a few.  These are a part of what we call life at Olivet.    

There is one other tradition we have around here that I’d like to mention.  It comes around early in the fall and spring semesters.  It was here when I was a student and when many of your parents were students.  We call it revival.  Revival is a part of the rhythm of life here at Olivet.

It’s a week for renewal, awakening.  It’s a time we set aside to focus our attention, to turn our ears, to listen intentionally to the things that God is saying to us.  I believe God is already moving on our campus this semester.  We don’t limit God to dates on a calendar or the clock.  But revival is our way of saying, like Samuel, “Speak, Lord, for your servants are listening.”  It is a time as a campus community we all “gather in” to see what God wants to say to us in new and fresh ways.  It’s a time when we expect God to have a new word for us.  Revival is a rhythm of life for us.  We could call it a practice.

Here at Olivet, we believe that God still speaks.  We believe He speaks on our campus.  We believe that when faculty, staff and students alike set everything else aside to focus on what He is saying, then we “will hear from heaven.” 

Will you join me this week, as we “listen in” once again?  Will you join me in praying for revival?

·         Pray for Dr. Warrick, our speaker.

·         Pray for Fred Meadows and the worship band that will be leading at College Church Sunday morning, and Monday through Wednesday evening. 

·         Pray for Jonathan Burkey and the worship band that will be leading our morning chapels.

·         Pray for our campus, that we listen and obey.