“I Will Give You A New Self Instead”

This quote is shaking up my view of redemption. In his essay, “is Christianity Hard or Easy?,” C.S. Lewis really turns the tables on American cultural Christianity and shows us what’s keeping is rooted in sin.

“The ordinary idea which we all have is that…we have a natural self with various desires and interests…and we know something called “morality” or “decent behavior” has a claim on the self…. We are all hoping that when all the demands of morality and society have been met, the poor natural self will still have some chance, some time, to get on with its own life and do what it likes. In fact, we are very like an honest man paying his taxes. He pays them, but he does hope that there will be enough left over for him to live on…

The Christian way is different—both harder and easier. Christ says, “Give me ALL. I don’t want just this much of your time and this much of your money and this much of your work—so that your natural self can have the rest. I want you. Not your things. I have come not to torture your natural self…I will give you a new self instead. Hand over the whole natural self—ALL the desires, not just the ones you think wicked but the ones you think innocent—the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead…

The almost impossibly hard thing is to hand over your whole self to Christ. But it is far easier than what we are all trying to do instead. For what we are trying to do is remain what we call “ourselves”—our personal happiness centered on money or pleasure or ambition—and hoping, despite this, to behave honestly and chastely and humbly. And that is exactly what Christ warned us you cannot do. If I am a grass field—all the cutting will keep the grass less but won’t produce wheat. If I want wheat…I must be plowed up and re-sown.”

Dang. That makes a lot of sense. Why are we letting our old selves be “tortured” when we can be plowed up and be created wholly new?

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Changes (Just Keep Swimming)

A lot has (and hasn’t) happened in the last few weeks. I figured it’s time to give y’all an update, despite the fact that everything could change tomorrow…or today, for that matter. This is where Anna is at as of 6/16/14, 6:30 pm.

Way back in March, I applied to work with Cru in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. As you prob know, I was accepted on the condition that we came up with enough people for a team. Well, we did’t. I’m still the only one who has applied for this particular location. So that won’t be happening.

This hasn’t ever happened before, and Cru is currently talking with other teams in South Africa to see if I can be placed with one of them. If not, we’ll start talking about possibilities (just possibilities at this point) of re-interning in the US somewhere. But it looks like I’m not going to hear anything soon.

At the same time, I applied for an international relief and development internship with Samaritan’s Purse. This 5 month internship is my dream but only has 13 spots for 200+ applicants to fill. I’ve had an interview but because of the huge number of applicants, once again I’m not going to hear anything soon.

So what am I doing next year? Whatever God wants me to do. I’m currently in limbo, just waiting to hear back from Cru or Samaritans Purse. Because I was originally supposed to be going to Port Elizabeth next year, I didn’t get a summer assignment from Cru aside from raising funds for the trip. Which I can’t exactly do now that it’s not going.

So I’m kind of on indefinite vacation (yay?). It’s weird. It’s uncomfortable. I can’t move out of my apartment because I might be in Davis next year. I can’t raise funds because I might not be working for Cru next year. I can’t really go anywhere because at any point I could be told what I’m doing next and then I will need to start preparing. I can’t look for a different job because these are both two very good options and I haven’t been told “no” to either. I can’t even tell you what I’m doing or where I’ll be next week!

I’m not a naturally patient person, and I don’t rest well. I like to be productive, useful, moving and working. It freaks me out to have time to rest- my friends know how I tend to plan up all my “free” days so I have stuff to do. So I have more than a little growth to do in trusting the Lord and waiting on His timing and guidance.

But this I call to mind- and therefore I have hope! The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in Him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to those who seek Him. It is GOOD that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. Lamentations 3:21-26

This verse has really encouraged me to wait quietly. Trust in His steadfast love should result in a quiet rest of the soul, even when waiting. What else do we need aside from the Father’s constant love and provision?

So for now, I’m going to pull a Dory and just keep swimming ahead as God leads…

The question everyone’s asking…

The question everyone’s asking…

“What are you doing next year?”

Sometimes all the options for next year make me feel like I'm getting attacked by a bunch of crazy geese...(pic from the book Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh)

Sometimes all the options for next year make me feel like I’m getting attacked by a bunch of crazy geese…(pic from the book Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh)

First, a little perspective.

God’s been teaching me a LOT over the last month, through a variety of people, circumstances, and Scriptures. He’s been humbling me and giving me a different way to look at life. Some of my findings:

Life is short and unpredictable. Things change. People change. Sin and brokenness are throughout the earth. We live in a messed up world. I’ve felt this deeply in the past few weeks as one of my closest friends lost her baby. Elijah was born two months premature and lived twenty minutes. I’ve been convicted to use every day, every moment to glorify God- every opportunity, because we don’t have much time here and it could be over any minute. But the short time we are here can make an eternal impact. Elijah’s life and death has brought so many people closer to God. He’s reminded us to cling to the one who never changes. There is something more than just this world of brokenness. That’s a hope that I want to share with as many people as possible.

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Then there’s the fact that nearly 3 billion people on our planet haven’t had a chance to hear about this hope. 41.8% of the world’s people groups are unreached. That meansthere is no indigenous community of believing Christians with adequate numbers and resources to evangelize this people group. And we are called to reach these people.

“Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-19

You don’t necessarily have to go directly to these places to have a part in the Great Commission. Maybe you’re a sender, preparing people and getting them excited about sharing the Gospel. Maybe you are a prayer warrior, praying for the nations. Maybe you’re crossing cultures in your own city. But we are all called to be a part of this mission.

But along with that, I’m  learning that God’s plan doesn’t NEED me. The whole world will hear the gospel eventually  regardless of whether I obey or not.  Nothing can mess up His perfect plan.  He tells us that directly:

I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.” Isaiah 46:10

Talk about humbling. He doesn’t need me, but He wants to use me anyway.  I want to be a part of His plan, whether He asks me to stay in the States or go to the nations.

These are things I know. There’s a lot I don’t know, but I think that’s okay.

So back to the original question.

At the moment, there seems to be an open door for me to work with Cru in South Africa for a year! Yep, I’m going on STINT (short term international missions with Cru)!

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You may already know that South Africa has been on my heart for a long time. I spent two summers with other Cru students helping launch movements on multiple campuses in the Eastern Cape region of South Africa, and you can read about my experience in earlier blog posts from 2011 and 2012.   Our region has a partnership with Campus Crusade for Christ, South Africa (CCCSA). In 2010, Cru sent a small team of students and staff to Port Elizabeth, where they started a CCCSA student ministry movement on one campus of Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU).

This photo  was taken the second summer I was in Port Elizabeth. Khaya (center) interned with CCCSA the following year, and Tyler (left) is currently working with CCCSA at NMMU!

This photo was taken the second summer I was in Port Elizabeth. Khaya (center) interned with CCCSA the following year, and Tyler (left) is currently working with CCCSA at NMMU!

 

Four years later, CCCSA is on two campuses in Port Elizabeth and just starting on three others.  We have committed to sending a small team of interns each year to support these movements and train up student leaders until national staff can take over leadership and training. We’ve seen a lot of progress towards this goal- last year a South African interned alongside the American staff team!

South Africa is a particularly strategic country to reach as it holds significant influence over sub-Saharan Africa. While it has modern infrastructure, there are many “third-world” realities in this nation. Racial tensions are nearly as high as they were in the days of apartheid, the political sphere is extremely corrupt and unstable, and the income gap between the rich and the poor is huge. AIDS has crippled the country’s development, and violent crime rates are rising rapidly. It is a broken nation with broken people, and only Christ can heal the deep wounds this nation has experienced.

The Missionvale campus of NMMU, surrounded by slums.

The Missionvale campus of NMMU, surrounded by slums.

But tomorrow’s leaders are today’s college students! I am so excited to move to South Africa in January and come alongside student leaders in their efforts to reach students with the gospel. This university hosts many international students from all over the world who have the potential to take the gospel back home to their communities, some of which are unreached.

The only barrier we are facing at the moment is that our team needs TWO more men to be able to go. Will you join me in praying for the Lord to provide? This is something that Jesus directly asks us to pray for:


“Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Matthew 9:37-38

May the Lord’s will be done, whether our team is able to go or not!

 

Read more about unreached people groups here: http://joshuaproject.net
Read more about STINT with Cru here: http://www.wearesent.com/vision.html

Read about the current ministry in South Africa here: http://www.wearesent.com/africa.html

“Can you tell me the end of the story?”

Our international group is always an adventure. Between language barriers, cultural differences, and various spiritual beliefs we are always learning a lot (both internationals AND Americans!) It’s a lighthearted, relaxed group that loves to eat, to laugh, and to practice English.

These two international students came on our women's retreat! Pray for them to continue to grow in their understanding of the Gospel and for their hearts to be open to receiving it.

These two international students came on our women’s retreat! Pray for them to continue to grow in their understanding of the Gospel and for their hearts to be open to receiving it.

Because we have a mix of Christians, Muslims, agnostics, and athiests, we center each meeting on a common theme that everyone experiences in their lives. Then we look at what the Bible has to say about that theme. For example, a few weeks ago we talked about anticipation- how everyone has hopes for the future, and how we have a natural sense that there is something more to life. We read about the prophets in the Bible who anticipated the return of Christ and then discussed how anyone who has a relationship with Jesus can anticipate a future world without pain or evil.

Last night we talked about satisfaction. What are we not satisfied with in life? Where do we go when we are spiritually hungry? John 6:35 says that “Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.'”

One of our regular students, Bong Joo, brought his friend Cindy* from class. Cindy is a Chinese exchange student who considers herself an athiest but has never really considered the existence of God. She’s read a little bit of the Bible in Mandarin, but not much.

Left to Right: Wyatt (American), Cindy*(Chinese), and Bong Joo (Korean) discussing the storyline of the Bible

Left to Right: Wyatt (American), Cindy*(Chinese), and Bong Joo (Korean) discussing the storyline of the Bible

Cindy was extremely engaged throughout the entire meeting. She asked many questions and was eager to participate in our discussion of satisfaction. We spent a long time talking about what the Bible is, and we described the storyline that connects each book together into one coherent Bible.

“You can keep this Bible if you want,” I told her. She was hesitant at first but as we opened it and gave her a tour, her inhibitions fell away. “What are the most important parts for me to read?” she asked. I was shocked. Here is a Chinese woman who struggles with the English language and has never heard the Gospel- and she grasps the importance of the Bible and is eager to read it! We pointed her to the front of the Bible, where this particular edition lays out the gospel in simple terms and provides verses.

“Can you tell me the end of the story? What happens?” she asked after realizing just how big the Bible is. “Well, Jesus returns again and he destroys all evil and sadness forever,” I replied. “He takes everyone who has a relationship with Him to live forever with Him in a world without anything bad.”

“That’s a REALLY good ending then!” Cindy exclaimed. And it is! I love the excitement that I hear from those who are hearing the gospel for the first time. So often we forget the beauty of God’s plan for us. We forget about the good ending we are working for. What a good reminder of the hope and anticipation we as believers have for the future!

Praise God for Bong Joo’s desire for Cindy to learn about God and for his initiative to bring her to our group. Please keep Cindy in your prayers as she begins to learn about Jesus, and pray for us as leaders as we answer difficult questions and cross cultural, religious, and language barriers. May Cindy come to have a relationship with Jesus and experience this “good ending” herself!

*Name has been changed to protect the individual

Songs of Truth and Life for Lent

I have been falling in LOVE with hymns recently. They are some of the deepest, most heartfelt songs of truth I’ve ever heard. The simple melodies play in my head throughout the day, reminding me of the hope and life I have in Christ.

Just check out these lyrics from one of my favorite hymns, “Before the Throne of God Above”:

“When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free.
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.”

This was written by Charitie Bancroft 150 years ago. Yes, that’s right, 150 YEARS AGO! And every word is just as true and meaningful today. Who wouldn’t want these sweet words drifting through their house while cleaning, implanting themselves in their heart while working, whispering to them as they drift off to sleep?

One of my favorite bands, Page CXVI, brings a modern twist to old hymns. The trio has been leading worship together for years and decided to put together some albums of hymns with the goal of “making them accessible and known again.” I love the story behind their name; it refers to the page in a loved copy of C.S. Lewis’  allegorical The Magician’s Nephew in which Aslan (the character representing God) sings the earth into existence. Hence the fantastic logo.

They are currently working on a church calendar project, recording 4 albums in one year that go along with the liturgical calendar. They’ve released a fantastic new collection today called “Lent to Maundy Thursday,” featuring seven hymns to prepare our hearts for Easter. I recieved the pre-released album and have been listening to it over and over, delighting in the simple melodies and sweet words. “Behold the Throne of God Above” is remixed, keeping the original words but adding a fresh melody line. “Fast From, Feast On” gets to the heart behind Lent. It’s a reminder that it’s not about self control but about refocusing ourselves on what will truly give us more life and contentment than anything else.

You can buy it on their website,  http://www.pagecxvi.com, for $7 or you can find it on iTunes.  If you’d like to listen to it online for free, check out  https://soundcloud.com/pagecxvi/sets/lent-to-maundy-thursday to stream the entire album.

A glorious mess

You know that feeling when there’s stuff everywhere and the dishes are in the sink and you’ve got three people texting you about “urgent” matters and you can’t find matching socks? Those days when you have so much on your mind that you can’t concentrate on what’s right in front of you, when you are up all night trying to figure out what you’re doing with your life, when you randomly start crying because you burned the toast again- or maybe because you’re simply exhausted? That’s my entire life right now. I’m kind of a mess.

I’ve always identified myself with what I do. When I’m getting to know a person, it’s all about what I do. “I’m an intern with Cru, I lead Bible studies, I attend a community group, I play guitar, I live with an international students, ect.” Which sounds like a natural thing until I realized this week that there’s more to me than what I do. ShockingSeriously though, I’ve never considered that before. My life is so performance-focused, all about doing the right things, pleasing the right people, excelling and succeeding. But having an identity rooted in performance is becoming extremely problematic.

I had FINALLY found something that I could do well- agriculture. But this year, God directed me to intern with Cru. Leadership and ministry do NOT come naturally to me. It is a struggle every single day, and it’s not getting any easier. The learning curve is huge and most of it is “learn as you go.” Which is synonymous to “learn by making mistakes.” So as a performance-based person, every time something doesn’t go well CRASH goes my identity. I am “good” and “acceptable” when I am on time, prepared, and confident. I am “bad” and “worthless” when things don’t go as planned. And I don’t think I’ve had a single day this quarter where things went as planned.

But guess what? God doesn’t value or love me because of my performance. He loves me because He CHOOSES to love me. His very NATURE is love. It would go against His nature to stop loving me. How awesome is that?! And if God loves me, nothing else really matters.  Read Ephesians 1:3-12 (The Message version really brings it home for me. Sometimes I need it in my language; emphases are mine).

3-6 How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.

7-10 Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people—free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free! He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth.

11-12 It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.

God has designed me for glorious living. That means living in a way that gives glory to God, not necessarily in a perfect way. In fact, my failures force me to remind myself of the Gospel and of God’s surpassing grace. I think that gives God a LOT of glory!

So, identity. My identity is in Christ. It’s okay that I have no idea what I’m doing with my life. It’s okay if I am late to the Bible study I’m leading because I forgot to eat dinner. It’s okay if I am horribly confused by what an identity outside of performance is. Because I know who I am in Christ. I am beloved and valued, worth more than any amount of money. I can’t disappoint Him- Christ’s already paid for my failures. I can’t do anything to make Him love me any less.

And I’m going on a personality hunt 🙂 a friend pointed out that after work each day, I get a chance to  start to live my life. I get to discover who I am and what I enjoy. Anyone want to come along on the ride? It’s gonna be a mess- but  a glorious mess!

How much do you have to hate someone…

Yes, I’ve been silent for longer than normal. Life got a little crazy last week as I was trying to reach my September 1st financial support deadline as well as move from one apartment to another. Moving? Success (at 2am). Support deadline? Didn’t make it. But I got an extension of 6 days PRAISE THE LORD! Check out the “partner with me” tab at the top of the blog if you’re interested in hearing more about how you can financially support me.

Ok enough explaining and shameless plugging.

Question of the day. How much do you have to hate someone to not share with them the Good News of the only Hope that won’t fail in the world?

Yes, hate is a strong word, but I think it is appropriate in this situation. Listen to this clip by Penn Jillet, and you’ll understand where this question comes from. 2 things you should know before you watch.

1) Penn Jillet performs Penn&Teller shows. He is an outspoken illusionist, comedian, and performer who articulately advocates for atheism. His beliefs are here: http://thisibelieve.org/essay/34/

2) Proselytizing is converting someone to your own faith or religion.

“If you believe that there is a heaven and hell, and people could be going to hell…and you think it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward…How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and NOT tell them that?”

While there are some things in this video I don’t agree with, such as the description of the man’s actions as proselytizing (I think he was trying to introduce him to the person of Jesus rather than religion), I was really struck by his reasoning and his respect for those who share what they believe is most vital in life. How many times are we too afraid to share our beliefs because we don’t want to be disrespected?

Rom 10:14-15 “For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?”

I think his description of the guy who gave him the Bible gives some good clues to how we can share the Gospel effectively. First, he says over and over how “sane” the guy was. He was a business man who could appreciate a secular comedy show. How can we expect to reach the world if we hide from it? In the college world, this is things like spending time with classmates, going to their parties, being the designated driver, finding things in common.

Then he talks about how the man wasn’t defensive but was polite and kind. This doesn’t mean spiritual discussions and debates aren’t wrong, but what people notice is HOW we approach them. Penn could tell the man truly cared about him. In an essay, he wrote about previous experiences:

” I don’t travel in circles where people say, “I have faith, I believe this in my heart and nothing you can say or do can shake my faith.” That’s just a long-winded religious way to say, “shut up,” or another two words that the FCC likes less. But all obscenity is less insulting than, “How I was brought up and my imaginary friend means more to me than anything you can ever say or do.”

Just some stuff to chew on. What are your interactions with nonChristians like? Do you even have any, or are you hiding from the secular world? Are you showing your friends the greatest love by sharing your source of hope and life? Or are you showing a greater love for your personal validation and reputation as you try to keep faith out of the picture?