Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A Christian perspective on #ConcernedStudent1950

After months of protesting and a week-long hunger strike, a protesting group of black students at Mizzou has successfully forced UM System President Tim Wolfe to resign. They demanded his resignation because they said he has not done enough to make black students feel welcome at Mizzou following recent racist events on campus.

If you want more context on the story, here's a good summary.

Initially, I was somewhat against the movement because I thought the direction of the students' outrage was misplaced (what could Wolfe really do to rid Mizzou of racism?) and I also thought students may have been overreacting a bit to the situation on campus.

Instead of standing firm in my initial thoughts as many seem to do in our increasingly dualistic society, I brought the situation before God and came out seeing it from another angle.

Being black at Mizzou

I first thought about my experience living in Columbia for almost seven years.

My high school was about 40 percent black, 35 percent white, 15 percent Hispanic and a mix of others for the other 10 percent. Needless to say, when I first arrived in Columbia in 2008, I was shocked at the lack of diversity.

As the years went on at Mizzou, I began to notice that rather than being integrated into the full student body, the black student population usually hung out only amongst themselves. This was saddening because I enjoy cultural diversity, and a whole group of people being isolated did not feel right to me.

Then I started to recall stories of racism and hear new ones told and started to understand why this isolation was taking place. If a group of people doesn't feel safe in a place, they will logically start to withdraw within themselves and stand with the people they do feel safe with.

The black community decided this semester that enough was enough and started to protest. Whether or not you agree with their decision to go after Tim Wolfe is irrelevant to this discussion. They felt increasingly marginalized and decided to do something about it.

Sadly, as a result of the protest, I've seen a lot of non-black people call for black students to transfer schools if they don't like the culture at Mizzou. I've seen them say that the black students should just calm down and not make such a big deal out of a couple of isolated racial incidents. I've seen them call the protesters thugs, ignoring the fact that there hasn't been an ounce of violence in the protests. I've seen even more of them call for the football players' scholarships to be revoked in light of them joining the protest.

As far as I can tell, some of this criticism is coming from self-professing Christians as well, which is the a big head scratcher to me.

Standing for the oppressed

The biggest part of my mental shift on this issue was the decision to view the issue through a Christian lens.

Instead of finding reasons why other people's pain isn't legitimate enough to get mad about — as so many people have done on Twitter today  Christians need look to Jesus for the correct response to these people's oppression.

Throughout the entire Bible, the most constant call we have from God is to stand for the poor, oppressed and marginalized. Some of the most oppressed people in the history of civilization are the Jews, God's chosen people.

Here are some scriptures that talk about standing for the oppressed:

"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly, defend the rights of the poor."
Proverbs 31:8-9

"O LORD, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will strengthen their heart, You will incline Your ear to vindicate the orphan and the oppressed, so that man who is of the Earth will no longer cause terror."
Psalm 10:17-18

"Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause."
Isaiah 1:17

I could list many more, but you get the point.

Our God is a God of justice. His will is not to see people oppressed, hurt or discriminated. Shouldn't we stand behind this God of justice and see to it that the world is more unified, as was his design?

If we want to truly profess Christ as our Savior and the leader of our life, shouldn't we have more of a heart for those who are in pain? Those who feel damaged by the actions of others? Why are we so quick to dismiss other people's pain and point out ways they should be expressing it better?

Empathy is an important trait to have for any person, but it is critical for a Christian. If we believe in the Bible, we believe that sin is running rampant in this world and true pain is a real part of this sinful world. We all experience it, therefore we can all support each other in pain.

God hates our pain more than you could ever imagine hating something. He hates it so much he sent Jesus to die so we could soon live in a world with no pain again.

Why can't we have that same kind of righteous anger toward these incidents of racism and the culture of racism on Mizzou's campus? Why do we have to so quickly discount these people's feelings without knowing what these black students truly go through?

I just find myself so frustrated at the lack of empathy being shown to the protesters. I've seen people question whether Jonathan Butler really went on a hunger strike or not (like, really?). I've seen people call the demands of the protesters "racist" because they outlined specific steps that will move Mizzou toward true inclusion. I've seen an insane amount of people telling black people to "get over" being called racial slurs and just brush it off when someone in a passing car screams at them with a Confederate flag hanging out of the window. Like, really? Are we that callous that we don't see how that can be insanely hurtful? If you're a Christian thinking that, where is the work of the Holy Spirit in you in that moment?

Christians: just stop and think about this. Please. You can disagree with the way things have transpired on Mizzou's campus, but you cannot stand for the discrimination that these students continually face. You just can't do that and call yourself a follower of Jesus.

As far as the way we should react to these situations, I think Jesus summed it up best when he said this:

"For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'"
Galatians 5:14

Moving forward, I challenge you all to take a deep look at why you have some of the feelings you have. Take these feelings before God and ask him to show you His will and His heart. I know it helped me and I hope it can help you as well.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Ready for the next chapter

Putt putting during life group!
During my major trial a couple of weeks ago, I was feeling that I wanted nothing more than to just go home and get life back to normal. I was sick of not having the ability to go get something to eat after midnight. I wanted something besides freakin' McDonalds. I was just sick of Estes Park.

Now that the trial has passed and my heart has been restored by God, I'm feeling as motivated as ever to keep on going in ministry and at LT. Since that happened, that means that I should be dreading leaving here in a week and a half, right?

Nope. I want nothing more than to be back in Columbia doing work for The Rock right now.

Don't get me wrong, I'm really enjoying and savoring my last 10 days out here in Colorado. I've learned so much about leading out here in Colorado that I'm not even sure I've processed it all. God has been incredibly faithful with all my prayers and hopes and desires and I know he has what's best in store for me. I've got a great group of friends that I'll miss dearly when they go back to Bowling Green, Kent State, Illinois, Texas A&M, etc. I will miss the crap out of my project group, JDC, too.

Even with the amount of fun I am having and the growth and trust that I'm constantly gaining in God out here in Colorado, I still can't stop thinking about next school year and how we as a church can make the biggest impact for Christ at Mizzou. I can't wait to live in Columbia and be reunited with Irene, Elizabeth, Ben, Tony and all our other awesome friends in canvas group.

I love Mizzou.
This desire was fueled pretty heavily last night. We had an awesome Mizzou get-together last night that started with sharing a little bit of what God has done with us this summer and ended with a extended time of prayer in beautiful Moraine Park. After a long time of group prayer focused on the campus as a whole, we split up into canvas groups and made a number of specific requests to God for people in our group and for the health of the group in general.

Nothing could have excited me more than to hear my brothers and sisters in Christ from Mizzou praying expectantly for God to do crazy work this year on campus. I felt that insane passion that God has given me for the college campus rise up and really overwhelm me, so much so that my body was shaking out of excitement. I can't even fully express in words what I was feeling last night.

There is so much passion and desire for our church this year. We want awesome unity in our canvas groups. I felt God calling me to pray for specific people and for a huge focus on outreach throughout the whole 2012-2013 school year. We want to be able to raise up enough leaders to multiply canvas groups next year. We just want God to move radically in a way that no one can even imagine.

My heart for Mizzou is just overflowing right now. I just want to get to the next chapter of life and see what God has for me in the next year. I just want God to use me!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

God restores those who return to him

The Y on the 4th of July. Awesome day.
Since my last blog post, I've learned first hand how awesome and faithful God is when you come to him desperately.

After figuring out what was distressing me over the few weeks preceding my last post, I heard God calling me to rest in him and allow him to fill me up and restore me. Through that, He put this verse on my heart:
Psalm 23:1-3

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
    he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake. 

This verse has spoken so much to me in the past week. I didn't even remember the reference when I was thinking about it, I just knew the part about leading me beside quiet waters and refreshing my soul. That's exactly what God did for me over the past week.

Since I felt God calling me to rest in Him, I basically took four days to spend a lot of time alone with God, reading, praying and waiting expectantly to be filled up by him again. I'm not one to usually do a thing like this, but I certainly did learn the value of it when God showed some of his basic truths to me again. 

It's amazing to me how dumb we as humans can be. How can I forget that all I need is God's love to be sustained? That is something I have known for years, but in a moment of a trial, it is easy to forget in your heart for some reason. That's what happened to me this week. Through reading and being still to listen to God, he revealed those truths to me and really showed me how he loves me individually.

I'm learning how it's tougher than most people think to be in a leadership position in a church. There are a lot of outside pressures. The pressure to serve everyone in your group effectively is quite draining, but there is no doubt that I'm learning on the job and enjoying what God has taught me this summer. 

Continue to pray for all of us out here as we are all feeling some cabin fever and anxiousness to return home and back to our campuses. We just want to make sure that everyone makes the most of this awesome opportunity and grows as closely to God as possible so we can be as effective as possible when we get back on campus.

Thanks for all your support, everyone!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Spiritual dryness

It was a rainy week in Estes, too, which could be affecting everyone's mood!
So it seems like we're getting to that point in LT where everyone is tired, getting tired of being around the same people all the time and basically everyone just feels like they want to go home. Guess what? I'm feeling the same way. Just cause I'm an intern and just because I didn't go through that at all last year doesn't mean I'm immune from these feelings all the time!

This is part of the reason I didn't blog last week. I couldn't find the energy or the motivation to do so and I feel like I'm just kind of treading water right now. It's no fun.

Through this dry spot, I have felt God calling me to keep pushing on and persevering so I can see beautiful fruit at the end of the summer, but I honestly have no energy or desire to do that. It sucks because I know time at LT is precious and I need to take advantage of it, but every part of me is having a hard time desiring to be close to God. That sounds terrible, but a relationship is not always perfect, even with our Lord. Please pray that I can get over this spiritual low and that I can allow God to fill me up again as soon as possible.

The trial has allowed me to take the last couple of days to try and think and process why I am feeling this way, but I can't really pin it down at all to any specific things. This is something I have really struggled with too: feeling bad or uneasy and not knowing why.

Still, through processing all of this, I think what God is trying to teach me is that everything in ministry will not always be fun and games. That should be an obvious fact of life for me, but experiencing it so strongly here at LT while doing ministry work is giving me a good image of what to expect for a full-time staff member.

That's exactly what I wanted from this internship. I wanted to gain a full and clear picture of what full-time ministry could look like for me, both good and bad.

I don't want to be dishonest with anyone and tell everyone that it's all going great out here, but I don't want anyone to think that it has been a terrible last couple of weeks for me either. I've had some great project days, I got to hang out with my girlfriend, Irene, and there has been some awesome spiritual growth out here to watch! LT is still a great thing and I wouldn't rather be anywhere else for this whole summer.

I hope to post a more encouraging update next week!!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Stepping out in faith

Yesterday was supposed to be one of the more nerve wracking days of the summer for me. Our the project group spent the day focused on evangelism, so we spent an hour and a half in Boulder on Pearl Street sharing our faith and the Gospel with all who would listen.

I'd never done anything like that before because of some unexplained, deep-seeded fear inside me. Because of that fear, I probably should have been really nervous for the day and sharing my faith boldly to a stranger for the first time. God wasn't gonna allow me to be nervous though.

Through the quiet time we had in the morning before we left for Boulder, God gave me a whole lot of peace about the upcoming day. My co-leader, Michelle, put together an awesome guide of verses and things to pray about for evangelism and it really helped me put my focus on God and realize that the things I did during the day really didn't matter in the end. It wasn't my work that would help lead anyone to Christ, but instead I had to let the Spirit work through me and let it plant the seeds

When we got to Boulder, I was teamed up with a girl from Mizzou named Doona. We were walking around, looking for someone to talk to and I recognized a guy that I saw on an earlier trip to Boulder. When I was there earlier, I saw the guy and thought, "he'd be a good guy to talk to for evangelism." So when I saw him yesterday, I knew that God was telling me to go over to him and do just that

We walked up to him and asked him if we could play chess with him (he had a sign welcoming all challengers) in order to break the ice. After a bit of small talk, we got into a deeper discussion with him about spiritual things. He was raised by a staunch Catholic dad and chose not to be a Christian because the spiritual leaders around him couldn't answer all his questions about the faith and he "didn't believe in a bearded guy in the sky." Both were legitimate doubts, but it was clear that he had at least thought about the faith.

Still, this guy was obviously opposed to Christianity in general, but Doona and I still tried to share our faith in a way that would be appealing to him. Overall, I feel like we did a good job just making him feel loved, which he needed because he doesn't have any really good friends as a homeless guy in Boulder.

I could tell he appreciated us giving him some of our time, so maybe some seeds were planted there. We spent the whole hour and a half talking to him about his life, his past and his beliefs. How awesome is that? After the conversation I was full of joy because I felt God was there the entire time and he challenged me a lot to ask some tough questions. Sensing the things he wanted to ask me was really cool and responding to that push by the Spirit was great to.

I'd encourage everyone reading this to share your faith with a stranger as soon as possible, if you consider yourself a Christian. I think evangelizing is the best thing you can do to help strengthen your faith because you have to overcome fear and uncertainty.

Fear is a thing I dealt with a lot for the days leading up to yesterday, but God works through everyone who is bold enough to step out and just do it and he surely did that with our group. Everyone in our project group had a cool story about evangelizing and what God did to push them to another level. It was just an awesome picture of how God can empower people to do things they never thought they could do.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The power of a true community

Things just keep happening at LT! This week has been a great week, especially in the context of our project group (JDC!).

Most people that attend Colorado LT would say that the best part of the summer is their project group. After one and a half summers, I'd have to agree with that statement 100%.

This week, our group kind of took a break from long project days filled with spiritual discussions and instead just focused on building the camaraderie of the group with fun activities. I can say for sure that this was a great and much needed day off.

What? These are our normal clothes....
Our project clicked in certain ways pretty early on, but I feel like Monday's relaxing/fun project day kind of broke down the walls for a lot of the quieter members in our group and helped everyone just get to know everyone else's personality a lot better. (obviously. see the photos!)

JDC has been a huge blessing to me personally this summer and has been a great place and community for people to come with struggles, spiritual questions or anything else. It's great to see how openness and honesty is so prevalent in our group (especially life groups) after only four project days this year.

The true sign of a healthy community of God's people is how open the members of the group are. It takes a lot of great and committed people to be open and make a small group like this work, but that is exactly what we have this summer! Praise the Lord.

So basically what I am getting at is that we are making a more connected community of Christ-followers, which we know is extremely valuable. But, why is it valuable?

Britanny, Sam and Bennie looking good!
First of all, in this day and age, the most effective way to get people interested in Christianity and regularly attending church is the provide a group of friends that make them feel loved and accepted. In doing this, the power of God's love is shown and people are able to appreciate that love in a more real and physical way.

That was why I got hooked on my church at Missouri. That's how you get people interested in a relationship with God. That's why I want to do this as a career for the near future. Nothing gets me more excited than someone experiencing the love of God in a way they never thought was possible.

With the power of the community of our project group, I've seen people experience that love for the first time. I can't wait to grow closer together as a group and keep showing that love to those around us.

Another reason it is valuable is pushing growing Christians to a better and more committed relationship with the Lord. When you are constantly surrounded by a group of Christians that all have that same goal, motivation is easy to come by and accountability is everywhere. I like to say that you have no where to run from growth at LT (kind of true, even though it sounds scary) because of the insane amount of accountability that is built into the program.

Overall, the community of God is just a beautiful thing that everyone needs to experience!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Rejoicing in the Lord's majesty

So one of my goals for the summer was to experience God more fully and realize how awesome he is and how worthy of my praise he really is. The first thing I can say about that is that God really satisfies our desires. Wow.

God has really been revealing a lot of his great love and power recently to me. If I said this to myself before the summer, I wouldn't have been surprised seeing as how I am LT and awesome life change happens out here on a yearly basis. But God has really shown his great power to me in so many awesome and different ways.

The big change is that those words (love and power) used to be just that to me, words. Now I can say I am truly experiencing God's love on a consistent basis throughout the day and it has been powering my faith more awesomely than I could have imagined. I can think of three recent things that I've realized/experienced that really illustrate this point pretty well!

Firstly, through the book we are reading through at LT, Walking as Jesus Walked, I have been able to come to the realization that Jesus was actually fully human.

That statement is something I'd heard a lot before the last couple of weeks, but I had never really grasped the meaning of it. I always picture Jesus as a human with God's powers inside of him, even though the Scripture makes it clear that he was only empowered by praying to God and having faith that his Father would provide for him.

Think about that. Jesus was exactly like any other normal human. The way he became the perfect sacrificial lamb for the sins of every other human was his incredible faith in God and the amount of time he spent in prayer. So the next logical question for me is why can't I be like that from now to the end of my life? I'm a sinful human, but Jesus was also a human and he was able to do it.

Through the talk from John Werst on Tuesday, I realized that when we suffer, we get immensely closer to Christ because he suffered in the exact way we suffer on a daily basis. He REALLY knows what we go through.

I want to walk like Jesus did.

Another way God showed me his awesome power is through a incredible miracle I saw last night. Our friend, Logan, got a pretty bad thigh bruise while playing basketball earlier in the afternoon and was having a pretty hard time walking around for the rest of the night.

Around 10 p.m., his project leader Dustin asked if he could lay hands on him and pray for healing for him. After they got done praying, what do you know? Logan could walk around with no limp and no real pain. God #doeswork if you really believe he will! It's amazing that stuff like that can still happen!

Finally, God has also been super faithful in answering prayers for me and a lot of the LT participants in recent weeks. I feel like everything I have been praying for has been answered rapidly by God and things are being made very clear to me by the Lord. I'm somehow getting more in touch with his Spirit (possibly through reading and studying his Word more consistently) and I feel really confident in what and where he wants me to be next year.

God is really doing work on me more than I thought was possible in my second go-round at LT and I can't wait for the next 7 1/2 weeks to see what else he can do!