Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Reflection, Four Years of Young Life

I have come to understand that in every Christian’s journey there is one fundamental change that we all experience that is more monumental than any other area of growth. This is the move from always wandering what I can get out of church, young life, vocation, and even people to wandering what I can give. Essentially the transformation is from a selfish and narcissistic consumer to a self-less, others focused person who wanders: how can I serve others? what do I have to offer to this group? Rather than only being concerned with what you can consume from church or wandering in what ways others can serve my interests.

For me, Carmel Young Life has been the medium God has used to transform me from a person who was constantly self-focused and concerned with what young life or other people can do for me to a person who finds real and full life in being self-less and serving. For the past four years Young Life and the relationships I have had with Carmel kids have been the most important thing in my life. More important than my own family, college grades, friends, my social life, or internships. As a young life leader you are almost obligatorily forced into being self-less. Otherwise, you are going to be a pretty crappy leader. High school kids deserve consistency and persistence in a way in which is only achieved through them being the number one priority in a leader’s life.

Through this “obligatory selflessness,” these past four years have been monumentally transformative and solidified to me that life is fully lived when we are not concerned about “me,” but consumed with the constant battle to turn away from my own selfishness and find a full and adventurous life loving selflessly. Jesus says in John 15, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” Through Carmel Young Life I have actualized this in my life, but I have also realized how I still have a life time of struggle ahead of me to truly embody the selfless love Jesus calls us to.

Gosh! I could go on and on about how my experience in Young Life has transformed me into a more confident person, a better communicator and leader, a more articulate Christian, and even a better future father and husband. What is more important than how I am different is the ways in which God has impacted and transformed lives through me simply just showing up in guy’s lives. I will try to incapsulate in a few sentences how God has transformed a handful of lives through me.

I have spent the past four years building relationships and pouring myself into only a handful of guys. When I started out on this journey my hopes for their lives were simple and few. First, I hoped and prayed that God would move in their hearts so that they might know the truth of the Gospel; that God became man in Jesus to die and rise again so that God might restore our relationship and we could experience eternal life in the next life but mostly in this life.

My second priority was helping them realize following Christ is not only about the personal relationship with God but about taking part in God’s sweeping story to restore and redeem this broken and suffering world. Following Christ in not just about quiet times and going to Church but about taking part in God’s massive restoration project that is this world.

Finally, what I have spent countless hours praying they might realize through conversations is what it means to means to be a “man of God.” One of my favorite moments as a young life leader was at the end of a week of a crazy co-ed Wilderness trip. One of the guys that had been on our trip and that I had been challenging all week to serve and love the girls in our group well, stood up during the part of club when the kids were given an opportunity to share what they had learned after a week on the trail and said, “I have learned this week that men (myself included) are called to love women as Christ loved the Church.” All of the girls awed and the guys sneered while my eyes welled up with the proudest and most joyous tears my eyes have ever produced. To think that a seventeen year only kid would know this monumental and gospel truth at such a young age!

There have been so many other moments like this that have helped realize most of my goals I sat out to accomplish with these guys have come to fruition. Not at all by anything I have done other than showing up consistently and allowing the grace of God to work through me. I share with you these goals only to express to you the ways in which God has worked in the live of a number of Carmel high school kids in the past four years.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

My Systematic Theology: Heaven

The modern Christian view of heaven is quite construed. Where is heaven? Is it out beyond the stars in some distant galaxy?

It is highly unlikely that one day an astronomer scanning the universe with a giant telescope will ever come across a distant galaxy full of puffy clouds and the righteous drinking pina coladas in “paradise.” Therefore, if heaven is not a “place” then what is it?

It is my understanding, that heaven is in fact not a place but a state between man and God and creation and God. Sin corrupts the sate of God’s relationship with man and creation causing a broken relationship between both of these with God. It is thus God’s main purpose since the fall of man represented in Genesis to restore his relationship with man and creation. This comes to complete fruition in Revelation when John describes heaven breaking in to our present sinfully laced reality to wipe away tears, end suffering, erase pain, and do away with sin. Thus it is my understanding the heaven is not necessarily a specific place (although I don’t discount this possibility) but a state of perfect union between man and God and God and creation.

In this light, Jesus' confusing and seemingly paradoxical claims in the Gospel about heaven and the coming the kingdom makes sense. Jesus says in the Gospels that heaven is now, I am heaven, and that heaven is yet to come at the end of times. Because of Jesus’ work on the cross and the grace one receives through faith, one can experience heaven (as I have described it) on earth, before, death in this present reality. Yet, as long as sin persists in this reality one can never fully experience an unadulterated relationship with God. That is why heaven is also yet to come.

It is my understanding of the Biblical text that at the “end of times” God will enact a process in which “heaven” or the New Jerusalem will break into our present evil and sinful world to fully restore creation and man to God. Everyone that has professed faith in Jesus Christ (including the dead, that are in some state that I do not fully understand) will rise from the dead and experience this new reality, free of sin, evil, and suffering. A new reality that is in fact the heaven we have been longing for and trying to figure out how to describe.