Sending laborers into the harvest, or a Summer well spent.

This summer, due to Ben Jr’s arrival, we took a break from our normal summer assignments (where we work to advance the gospel via overseas summer projects or by training students on a stateside summer project) to ease in to the life of parenthood.  Jacqueline’s job description changes to “full-time mom” for the next few years.

As a result, my summer assignment this year is to phone coach a batch of freshly graduated students who have committed to a one year internship with Campus Crusade either in the states or overseas.  I coach them in the process of developing a team of financial and prayer ministry partners, and also help them with all other aspects of the transition from student life to this scary new “real world.”

The thrill for me has been seeing the fruit of other staff members’ work of winning these students to Christ, building them up in their faith, and sending them literally all around the world.  The interns that I am coaching are going to Argentina (two different cities), Lebanon, Slovakia, a large closed country in Eastern Asia (if I told you I’d have to shoot you), Memphis, South Carolina, and Middle Tennessee. This summer I get a clear picture of why we do what we do.

Over the summer, I will be sharing the stories of how God called each of these folks to sacrifice a year of their lives to reach students for Christ.  Please join me in praying that each of them gets the funding they need to report to their assignments on time!

Using Her Degree

This is the first story in our summer series “Laborers Sent.”

Erin was rounding the corner toward her final semester at the University of South Carolina when the big unanswered questions about her future started to cloud her mind. What was she going to do when she graduated?  As a nursing major, the “tentative plan”—as she called it—was to get a job at the local hospital.  After all, she had put all this work into her degree, so it would be a shame to not immediately use it.  So each time the idea of doing an internship with CCC came up, she would mentally change the subject.  She was a nurse.

That was all before she met Trang. Trang, a female student who comes from a Buddhist background, got introduced to Erin through a dorm outreach at the beginning of the fall semester.  Erin got the opportunity to share the gospel with Trang, and she began meeting regularly with her to study the Bible. Trang had almost no knowledge of Christianity, making each meeting a great opportunity for Erin to rehearse the foundational truths of Christianity.

Then a funny thing started happening.  Though she had known all of these truths, something about sharing them with the intrigued Trang began to work into Erin’s heart a passion for sharing the gospel, or good news that Jesus offers his record in exchange for ours.  She might be a nurse, but with this new passion to invest in the lives of students, she has decided to take a year to intern with Campus Crusade back at USC.

She’ll still be a nurse when she gets done interning.  She’ll simply be a nurse that has a passion for investing in the spiritual and physical lives of people.

Erin Bell

If you are interested in supporting Erin financially (she’s in the process of developing a team of financial and prayer partners this summer), visit this site.

Be Careful What You Pray For.

This is another story for the summer series “Laborers Sent”

When Will enrolled at the University of Memphis 4 years ago, he had just committed his life to Christ, and was eager to grow.  But as with many new believers, he was terrified at the thought of sharing his faith with others.  Through his involvement with Campus Crusade over the past 4 years, he has learned to share his faith, been given boldness by the Holy Spirit to engage with others to tell the story of the gospel, and had many opportunities to talk with others about Christ.

In September of his senior year, Will’s campus director Nathan shared of the need for folks to intern with the ministry in the coming years, and asked the students to begin praying.  Will, never imagining that he might be the answer to his own prayers, began asking the Lord for people to come and invest in the lives of the students in Memphis.

Will is not big on planning.  When folks asked what he was going to do after graduation, he’d shrug off the question, saying “I honestly have no idea,” with a grin on his face.  He’d cross that bridge when he got there, he reasoned.

As time went on, he sensed that God was indeed calling him to be the answer to his own prayers for laborers in Memphis. How could he expect others to come, if he wasn’t willing to go himself?

Will Russell

He has committed to intern for the next year in Memphis, and has been in the process of developing a team of financial partners for the journey.  If you are intersted in helping financially with Will’s ministry, you can click here.

It’s pronounced Koh-sheets-say…

Another story in our summer series “Laborers Sent”

Lindsey, by her own admission, is getting used to having her plans changed.  Plans like where to attend college (College of Charleston became her hometown school of Clemson) and what to pursue a degree in (Medicine became Elementary Education).  But it is safe to say that no plans changed more drastically than her plan to never become a missionary.

That’s not to say that she was extremely against the idea.  More like it never crossed her mind.  Through her involvement with Campus Crusade during her four years at Clemson, she gained a lot, but nothing sticks out more in her mind than developing a heart to see others impacted with the gospel.  On a summer missions trip after her sophomore year with CCC to Kosice, Slovakia, God interrupted her plans for a safe, “normal,” suburban American life by giving her a glimpse of his heart for the nations.

The Lord changed my heart from one who never, ever saw herself as a missionary, to one who was passionate about going back to Slovakia one day to live and minister to Slovak students. Now, two years later, this call from the Lord is being realized. I’m going back to Slovakia for a year!

Lindsey is eager to get to Slovakia to minister hope to the students there. And it looks like those plans won’t need changing.

If you’d like to help Lindsey financially, check out this link, and tell her I sent you.

Deconstructing the deconstructionist "gospel"

I am bringing some of my facebook notes over to this blog, because some of you (for reasons I don’t understand, being the social networking addict that I am) are not on facebook.  Here’s one I wrote on April 22nd

It is with a heavy heart that I left a talk tonight by John D Caputo, a philosopher/author/professor who is behind many of the deconstructionist ideas of the Emergent church movement. I was struck after reading his book “What Would Jesus Deconstruct” and subsequently hearing him lecture about the book that his “gospel” of social change and Jesus-as-misunderstood/misrepresented-apocalyptic-prophet-but-not-God-incarnate theology are completely devoid of hope.

If my only hope in reading the New Testament is to have to wade through and pick out the parts of it that seem true to me and then apply them to my life, I would contend that I am without hope.

Caputo’s anthropology is the problem. He sees humans as basically good, and Jesus as no better than any of the rest of us, save for living an exemplary life that we too could and should aspire towards. This utopian anthropology has a tough time dealing with the evening news and the murder, rape, fraud, etc that goes on all around us. I think Jeremiah was right to call the human heart “desperately sick” (Jer. 17:9)

If we are to rely on the historical-critical scholars (Crossan, Ehrman, Borg, etc) to point us to what Jesus actually said and did, we are left with basically nothing upon which to build our theology. Worse still, we are left with our own feelings to guide us. I don’t know about the rest of you, but my feelings change by the minute. I don’t even know right now how I will feel toward my wife tomorrow morning. My feelings are affected by so many undeterminable external forces. I could drink 12 beers, eat 10 chalupas from Taco Bell, get indigestion, wake up and decide that since I feel so bloated and hung-over and Jacqueline is not helping me with the problem that I need to leave her for someone else that will make me feel better. The point is, if feelings are my moral compass, my theology is different on sunny days versus rainy days.

When you start to pick and choose what Jesus said and did based on how those sayings and deeds strike you at a certain time, you end up losing any semblance of an objective standard to guide your hermeneutics. In short, in ruling out even part of the Bible’s testimony about Jesus, you lose JESUS. Take the virgin birth, for example. (Mark Driscoll is responsible for this insight) The Emergent church folks are asking whether or not the doctrine of the virgin birth is essential to Christianity (Rob Bell in his book “Velvet Elvis” asks this question). Well, here are the options: either Mary was a virgin or a lying whore. And if she is a lying whore, then why should we believe anything she says about the virgin birth, the deity of Christ (she was with the early church worshipping Christ) or anything else? And why would we follow Jesus, the bastard son of a lying whore? See, it matters. Furthermore, James and Jude, Jesus’ brothers, wrote books in the New Testament. Why should we trust the other sons of a lying whore to accurately tell the story? The point: if we lose the doctrine of the virgin birth, we lose credibility for the rest of the story, and ultimately we lose JESUS.

I want to pause and point out that I totally agree with many of the diagnoses Caputo makes in his book. I think that the hypocrisy of the religious right in this country and around the world is despicable. To stand up for the anti-abortion cause and then to knowingly turn a blind eye to the woes of poverty, AIDS in Africa (the two of which combine to kill more people than abortion), and the environment is satanic. And Jesus would (and does… I believe that the Bible really teaches a RESURRECTED, active, alive Jesus) deconstruct that hypocrisy.

I find it funny (and sad) that I am sure Caputo would accept the words of Plato or Aristotle or Homer to have been preserved accurately in the modern translations, yet we only have a handful of manuscripts that date hundreds (like 700’s) of years after the original. We have THOUSANDS of manuscripts of the New Testament that date to within a hundred years of the original (in some cases less than 50 years, depending on which scholar you believe), and ALL of them agree on major doctrines, things like Jesus’ virgin birth, his death/burial/resurrection, etc. And Caputo (among others in the historical-critical camp) can’t trust that they accurately portray Christ? I think Jesus would (and does) deconstruct that hypocrisy as well. It is academic arrogance at it’s ‘finest.’

I feel that Caputo has responded to the hypocrisy of the religious right with a different, but equally sinful, hypocrisy. And in the process of dispelling the misconceptions about Jesus that the right holds dear, he has thrown the baby out with the bath water. Jesus (as revealed in the Old and New Testaments) is the answer to both types of hypocrisy. In John 17 Jesus prays “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” (17:15-17) He prays that we would not be taken out of the world (like the religious right wants… to get away from poor people and AIDS victims) but that we would be sanctified in the truth of His word (which flies in the face of a claim that His word is not the truth, as the Emergent folks would have us believe).

It is my prayer that we will not continue to fall into either one of those camps… the religious right or the irreligious, syncretistic left. By the grace of God.