Monday, August 22, 2011

...but God gave the growth.

I've been in Arizona for about 2 weeks now after spending 7 weeks in North Sacramento. It was the second summer training program that I did this summer. Just like the first one, God kicked me in the rear to show me that He didn't just call to these STP's to use me, but also to teach me something and to show His greatness.

The reason I wanted to go to this particular training program was because it was working with fatherless young men, which was kind of a no-brainer for me since I grew up without a father myself. During the first couple weeks, I was asked if I would be able to share my testimony with the boys as we had a section called “Knowing God.” I agreed to do it. When I was actually doing it, I was nervous as all get out. But I told them about growing up without a father to teach me how to be a man, how I had created a god out of my report card, and how God had shown me that He is my father and that He is a much greater and more stable God to serve than a letter grade. It was frustrating because I knew some of the boys really didn't care and were actively not listening to anything I was saying.

However, one kid came up to me afterward to ask questions that he didn't want to ask in front of the whole group. He asked, “Do you still hate your father?” which is indeed a loaded question. I told him that God is helping me work towards forgiveness, but I know that that's just not possible without the help of my true Father. I asked if he was angry with his father and he said that he was just angry in general, and blames his father's absence for it. He said he doesn't want to use that as an excuse, but that's the way he sees it.

I was floored. First of all, I didn't really expect this kid to be listening at all. Second, I saw great maturity in him for wanting to take responsibility for his anger. Most of all, I saw a great vulnerability behind his words, that he was essentially a little kid crying out for a father that was never there.

As the rest of the summer played out, that moment really stuck out to me. God showed me how He had orchestrated that day to happen:
First, that was the only day this summer that that kid came.
Second, I was only the 2nd person this summer to give his testimony. When I thought about what I'd say, I thought I would tweak it a bit to be more relatable to the kids, so I mentioned my father, a figure who not only has been absent from my life, but my story as well. Others later in the summer hadn't done that so much, so if I'd gone later, I probably wouldn't have included that.

I have no doubt that God worked July 8th out so that that kid could hear my story and hear about the hope that the Father gives to those who were wronged by other people. Also, in typical God fashion, He didn't let me see what happened past that. I don't know if that kid's a believer now, or if he ever will be one. But that's not my job to know or make happen, though I sometimes think it is. He didn't call me to convert that kid, or any of the other kids I saw. He called me to share my story. He'll take care of the rest.

There were other things that happened in Sacramento this summer that God used to teach me, but it was this that stuck with me the most. I saw God's hand moving undoubtedly that day when He told me to speak to a bunch of crazy kids about my life. And really, He gave me the story. God gave me the seed to plant, now I need to trust him to provide the waterer, and for Him to cause it to grow.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Pine Valley 2011-Sonship

This summer has been pretty busy and that busyness doesn't seem like it's going to come to an end any time soon. Not too long after school ended, I went to Colorado Springs for my fifth and final (tear) EDGE Summit. For a reference to what little turn around time there was, we had graduations happening while I was in the Springs. I was there for a week before saying good by to my EDGE classmates, a lot of whom I probably won't see again this side of heaven (a sad thought, but it's true). Some of us are continuing on staff as Staff In Training. I think there was one or two couples doing entity staff, which as I understand it, is sort of like a third year of EDGE where you are on campus, but you are getting less training and it is not a long-term commitment. A few others, myself included, are doing associate staff, meaning that we have or will have jobs outside of the Navs while still committing to campus and other Nav events. Still others have decided to leave Navs completely. It's sad to see us all go our separate ways, but I know that we are following God where He leads us.

Five days after I got back from Summit, I headed to California for a summer training program in Pine Valley, outside of San Diego. I was there for a little over 2 weeks. 2 weeks after that one ended, I will leave for another training program in Sacramento to work with inner-city kids.

I thought it would be nice to tell people about the awesome things that happened at Pine Valley via my blog. I also thought that just telling you things would be boring. So I decided to write a small story, a parable if you will. This one was actually told by someone a lot smarter and holier than me (Jesus), but I'm editing it a bit.

Some background: We studied the book of Galatians at Pine Valley, which deals a lot with works-based justification that the church was dealing with. Some people told the Galatians that they had to be circumcised to be true believers in Jesus. The apostle Paul, himself circumcised, let them know that it was not by following any Jewish law that they were saved, but by faith in Christ alone. He said that if they made it necessary to follow one law, they would have to follow all of the law. They were making themselves slaves to the law rather than accepting the freedom that they had just by being sons and daughters of God. That's what this story is about.

The Son
I wake up in a daze. The sun painfully hits my skin, reminding me of the even more painful realization of a new day. "Will this ever end?"

I think back. I had it good. I didn't know how good I had it. Like an idiot, I told Dad, "I'm fine living on my own. I got this. I'm just going to take what you've blessed me with, and hit the road. Thanks for everything, but I don't need you anymore." How wrong I was.

This life is pathetic. I don't have anything left. No money. No bed. No food. I'm so hungry. I look at the stuff the pigs are eating. When I was living with Dad, that was appropriately called slop. Now, I'd give anything just to eat what they're eating. Heck, I'd give anything just to eat
anything. This is absolutely miserable.

I know what I have to do. I have to go back. It will be a big shot to my pride, but I don't care anymore. I would gladly give up my pride for a meal, a place to sleep, clothes that are cleaner than the ground I walk on. Dad's servants aren't even in the miserable state I'm in right now. I have to go back.

"What, are you going to waltz back in and pretend like you didn't completely dishonor and disrespect Dad?" The thought won't leave me as I walk towards the place I used to call home. This isn't a matter of my pride, but my family's. How could they just take me back in? "I know! I'll work off what I've done. I'll go back and be servant for Dad's house."

I know what I'm going to say. "Dad, I screwed up royally. I'm not worthy to be your son anymore, so take me back as a servant." I'm rehearsing this over and over again. It's all I can do as I walk. Am I still walking? I've been at this forever. Am I there yet?

I think I see my house in the distance. Yes, I do! It could be a shack, but nothing could look more like a castle. I can't wait to get there.

Is that... is Dad running? What a shameful thing to do. What's a man his age doing running like that? Did one of the horses get out again? What is he doing?

He just called my name. I haven't heard that name uttered in so long. It's like sweet, sweet music. But wait, does this mean he's coming to me? I wasn't expecting this. "Just tell him what you've rehearsed."

Dad finally catches up to me with a bigger smile on his face than any man should have after running so far. I look down in shame, not wanting to look into his eyes that I'm surprised even want to look at me. I start my speech: "Dad, I screwed up royally. I'm not worthy to be your son anymore, so-"

is him!" Dad yelled towards the house, interrupting my speech. "Quick, fire up the grills! Bring my robe and ring! Cook the very best steaks! My beloved son was dead, but is now brought back to me alive!" I went from being in the middle of a speech to being speechless. Did I hear him right?

He's almost pushing me towards the house now. "Wait, Dad, this isn't right." I stop to look at him. "This party, the robe, the ring, this doesn't make sense. I dishonored you. I took what you gave me and squandered it. I don't deserve a party. I don't deserve to be your son. I barely deserve to be your servant, but that's what I'm asking to be."

"Son," he said, taking my shoulders in his hands, as he always did when he was making a point to me, "do you know why I'm throwing this party? Don't you know why you get the ring and the robe? You're my son, with whom I am well pleased. None of this nonsense about being worthy. You're my son, and nothing can take that away. No matter how many times you leave, no matter how far you go, no matter how long you're gone, you will always be my son. That's unconditional. You don't have to work your up to sonship again. That's ludicrous. You didn't have to work to obtain it, you don't have to work to retain it, and you don't have to work to regain it. You are always my son, whom I love."

And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
-Galatians 4:6-7

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
-Romans 8:16-17

...and behold, a voice from heaven said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased."
-Matthew 3:17

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I feel like a senior again

This time 11 years ago, I was in 8th grade, and thinking about where I was going to go to high school the next year. I was in the Cesar Chavez zone, but wanted to go to South Mountain because it was closer and it was a black school, while Chavez was a Mexican school (you probably didn’t know 8th grade Jason, and you should count that as one of your blessings). I eventually went to Chavez for 4 years, met Jesus, and did some other stuff that was wholly insignificant.

This time 7 years ago, I was in 12th grade, and thinking about where I was going to go to college the next year. I applied at the three public in-state schools, got accepted to all three, and got scholarships to all three. NAU was my first choice, but they only offered ⅔ tuition. U of A was second, and their offer of full tuition was appealing. However, my last choice, ASU, gave me full tuition plus an extra $1000 per semester (or maybe per year; I can’t remember). I went there, despite losing my scholarship after my sophomore year, really got to know Jesus, and did some other stuff that was mostly insignificant.

This time 2 years ago, I was a supersenior, and thinking about what I was going to do after college. Thinking is actually probably too light a verb. I was freaking out. I mean, this was bigger than what school I was going to next. This was my future we were talking about here. A whole lot of prayer went into this, tons more than what high school and college I was gonna go to combined. As you should already know, after I graduated I went on to EDGE Corps for two years (well, one-and-a-half so far).

Which leads me to this time. 2 weeks ago, I was in Colorado Springs for a training summit with EDGE, and the big question everyone asked was, “What are you doing next year?” It feels very much like my final year of college all over again.

No, this is not a post to tell you what I’m doing next year. I don’t know that yet. It’s just listing options that I’m praying about. Options such as:

Staff in Training: This would mean continuing on on staff wherever they would send me. Chances are, they would send me somewhere other than ASU since that’s where I did my undergrad and both years of EDGE, and they would want me to get some diversity.
Entity Staff: This is staying on staff, but without the long term commitment that comes with Staff in Training. From my understanding, it’s kinda like another year of EDGE minus training summits.
Associate Staff: This person works at a job outside of the Navs, but is still involved with the Navs in their spare time. The only fundraising they have to worry about is for ministry stuff.
City Life: This is a new sector of the Navigators. From my understanding, this is a group of people who still live by the Navigators calling statement (“to advance the gospel of Jesus and His Kingdom into the nations through spiritual generations of laborers living and discipling among the lost”), though they are not employed by the Navs. They live together and minister together, maybe even work together, for the purpose of bringing Jesus to the workplace and to the neighborhood.
Leave Navs: This would probably mean climbing the management ladder at the movie theater or finding a better paying job.

Considering there was one point in my life when I vowed never to go into ministry, I don’t want to take any of these off the table, because I know God can put it right back on. I wanna skip the middle man. I am leaning towards one of these, but I’d rather not say which until something’s more set in stone. So, until then, I will be talking to God, to my campus director, and whoever else will listen and give godly advice.

And fortunately, I don’t have finals this time around.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Outreach Night

Every Tuesday night during the semester, a couple of my co-laborers and I head over to the honors dorms to serve smoothies and other goodies to students in hopes of engaging them in conversation.

Tonight we’re doing something a little different.

We’re showing up a little earlier this week, and serving a full meal. The price of admission for them is to write in our God Journal, which asks something like, “If you could ask God something, what would it be?” or “What are your thoughts on who God is?” We’re really hoping that tonight, before we leave the honors dorms, that we will be able to engage in a deep conversation with the students that they can mull over during the break. Please pray for tonight, as we will be fighting against “Glee” (which will be on in the lounge where we’re eating), studying, and some possible end of the year celebrations. Pray that these students will hear God’s Word and think about what it means for them. Lastly, pray that this would be an open door for us to continue discuss spiritual matters come next semester.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Prayer for the Supreme Court

Today, I ask you to be in prayer for a Supreme Court decision. I received this from a higher up in the Nav office, so I'll just let them explain what's happening rather than summarize:

On April 19th, [that's today!] the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments to decide whether groups like The Navigators, InterVarsity, Campus Crusade and others can be removed from college campuses because they require their officers and voting members to share their core religious commitments. According to some universities these core religious beliefs violate their affirmative action policy.

Seventeen organizations and 13 state attorney generals are working together on this case. Pray for the justices to rule on the side of religious freedom. For more information on how to pray, go to This case has far reaching implications for religious freedom in all areas.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Spring Break!

At 1 in the morning, 35 or so of us are hopping on a bus and heading to Lake Tahoe for some fun in the snow. Please pray that lives will be changed in this trip, as we have a few people coming who don't know Jesus.

I'll update later with how it went.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The First Stone

On Tuesday nights, we've started going out and sharing the gospel with people out on north campus (or the NC as they call it in da 'hood). It may not be the most effective way of evangelizing, nor is it my favorite way of doing it, but I know that God can use this to bring people closer to Him, so we do it. 

On the first night that we did it, Big Pat and I went out together. The first gentleman that we approached was a culinary student at SCC working at Sparky's Diner to pay the bills. He was from the Bible Belt, and grew up Christian. However he left the church when he came out to his parents as gay and they "made (his) life a living hell." In fact, it's why he and his boyfriend moved from Georgia to Phoenix; to get away. 

This made me sad. We didn't ask him what "a living hell" entailed, but I can imagine it was far short of loving him despite whatever flaws he may have. He said they're on good terms now and he doesn't hold any kind of grudge against them (which makes him a better man than myself), but I can't imagine a family pushing one of their own members away in the name of Jesus instead of showing him Christ's unfailing love regardless of the sin in his life. It seems to me anti-gospel to say "Change, or else."

Now, do I think that there should be some correction and uncomfortable confrontation if a Christian is seeking a homosexual lifestyle? Absolutely. But I feel like urging someone to go straight is far from the correct approach, because even straight people are not without sexual sin. On Sundays, our churches are filled with people who are into premarital sex, pornography addicts, divorcees (which Jesus said makes them adulterers), and a slew of other people who we like to extend grace to, and that's good. Why is it that when it comes to homosexuals, then, that we are quick to cast the first stone?

I'm really glad that Pat and I (mostly Pat) didn't focus at all on this guy's homosexuality. It's not our job to play the Holy Spirit and try convict someone of sin. We just presented the gospel as we would to anybody else. The rest is in God's hands.