Tag Archives: reflection

How Should We Pray?

Luke’s gospel records a time Jesus’ disciples ask Him, “Lord, teach us to pray.” I resonate with that question because it’s one I find myself asking even today. It’s not as though I’m unfamiliar with the practice of prayer or feel there is some secret formula to be unlocked, but sometimes I look around me and at myself and wonder if our prayers bring God maximum joy.

For example: why are we afraid to pray big prayers? It’s easy to throw up occasional prayers about traffic when we’re running late or just before walking into an exam we’re unprepared for? Deep down we know that if God doesn’t come through, we haven’t really lost anything. When we do pray for more significant things, we tend to hedge a bit in our prayers. “Your will be done” can be a sentiment of great faith, but often it’s used as a cop out: “Lord grant my request, but if you don’t (or can’t) I guess that’s okay too.”

Does God answer our prayers when we pray like this? I know He does. I know He does because I’ve hedged many of my prayers in the past and seen God come through. I’ve prayed with great hesitation and God has shown Himself gracious in response.

Yet scripture tells us there are times we can and should be more bold. That’s the sense I get when I read Jesus saying, “Everyone who asks receives and everyone who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” (Matthew 7:8). Or in John’s gospel, Jesus promises, “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:14). Or James chides us, “You do not have because you do not ask” (James 4:2).

Context matters. Each of these passages and others like them in the New Testament come with certain qualifications. Read a few verses down in Matthew and Jesus makes it clear He’s speaking about receiving the Holy Spirit. And in John’s gospel, Jesus’ purpose in answering is to inspire His disciples to do greater works than He did on earth. James cautions us that we will not receive our requests of self indulgence.

Yes, I know God is ultimately sovereign in all He does. And yes, His specific will can be hard to determine. And yes, our heart can be deceptive about their true motives. These are all true and yet we miss out on something valuable if we go through our entire faith journeys without once coming to God in tenacious faith to see His provision. David urges us to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8). To taste is to sample, to gain an experience that builds future confidence.

Jesus tells the story of a widow and a corrupt judge. Day after day, the widow comes to the judge seeking justice and she is repeatedly turned away until finally the exasperated judge listens to her. If persistence pays off with a self-seeking sinner, how much so with our loving Father?

I’m not advocating a ‘name-it-and-claim-it’ approach to prayer. God is never under any circumstances obligated to give us anything. The bible makes it very clear that anything God gives us comes from grace. “He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). We do not sits as business partners with God demanding our fair share. Rather the confidence we have is that of a small child with absolute faith in their parent to provide.

This approach to prayer is not an isolated phenomenon of faith. It comes from a lifestyle of communion with God. Unless we experience the goodness of God, every teaching on prayer rings hollow.  It doesn’t matter how emphatically we speak of belief, our hearts will never trust a stranger. It would be foolish to even attempt to. Faith grows through relationship. Paul tells us, “Faith comes by hearing the Word of God” (Romans 10:17). It is in relationship that God speaks to us, giving us direction in how to pray (Ephesians 6:18, Romans 8:26-27).

And maybe that’s where we fall short in thinking about prayer. We’ve been told all our lives that we need to have faith in God to do the impossible and perhaps we feel that faith is a conviction we simply have to muster up intellectually. But faith isn’t something we can summon by force of will.

So faith isn’t a conviction we can muster, but it’s one we can reject. It’s my belief that we know how to pray more often than we admit but allow fear to silence our petitions. We all live with the spectre of unanswered prayers. And we know that if we experience that too often, we will have to ask tough questions about why we believe. It’s much easier just to give God an out. We hedge our prayers or don’t pray for anything too specific… just in case. When we don’t have the stamina to pray persistently, we stretch our definition of answered prayer. “I prayed for a car, but I got good weather for walking.” Or maybe, “I prayed for my friend to be saved and she stopped drinking.” There’s a difference between rejoicing in everything and trusting God for too little. If we feel we have to protect God in how we pray, then is He really worth surrendering our lives? If our prayers are too big for God, then how can we trust Him with our future?

Before this becomes more preachy than I intend to sound, I’m in the process of learning this myself. I’m fundraising to become a full time missionary and my sending organization has a fixed budget I need to raise. Not by my will, I’m in a position where I cannot hedge my prayers. I need God to provide a certain amount in monthly donations by a certain time. All I get to decide is whether I will trust God completely or allow myself to get stressed out. So this is a learning experience for me, one I hope will carry through the rest of my life.

Relating With God, The World and The Church: Reflections on Hebrews 10

As many of you have come to realize, I deal often with the topics of sin and of ministry on this blog. How are we as imperfect people expected to relate to our perfect God, the world and to the church? One thing I love about scripture is that when it comes alive, it provides answers for these and other questions life throws at us.Today, I’ll be looking at a passage that’s encouraged me this past week.

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

This passage follows a section discussing the completeness of Jesus’ sacrifice for our purification. Here we are introduced to the perfection of our conscience, an element of purification through Jesus that the rituals of the Old Testament law could not provide. We see Jesus functioning as both priest and sacrifice in our mediation before God. His sacrifice need not be repeated because it does the job perfectly and completely the first time. Jesus’ sacrifice brings forgiveness for sins.

It’s in this context that our portion of scripture begins. Here the author gives three commands that come as a direct response to the preceding section. Since we have the confident access by the blood and sure mediation through our great high priest, we have the ability to live out the instructions given by the author. We are not the determining factor in our ability to keep these; Christ is. This is beautiful, and becomes more so when we explore these commands.

The first is this: Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith. When I first read it, I took it as two commands: one to draw near with a true heart and the other to draw near in full assurance of faith. The challenge of this is it raises the question, “what is a true heart?” True is an adjective that has a broad range of meaning depending on the noun that it is modifying. A person can have a true aim, make a true statement, be a true bastard, etc. True means something a little different in each context and we derive its meaning from its noun. The problem is the noun ‘heart’ is also similarly vague. Do I follow my heart, take care of my heart, speak from the heart, or have a change of heart

If we see it one command though, we get more clarity on the author’s intention. The true heart is given a definition in relation to the full assurance of faith. We can understand that we are command to draw near to God with our hearts fully convinced of the assurance that faith brings. I’ll give you an example of what I mean.

I sin more than I should (so basically, I sin). Sometimes my sin feels particularly grievous to me, especially if I should have known better. People get hurt, trust is broken and I feel as though I’ve let God down. In repentance, I believe I am forgiven, but instinct tells me to lay low for a bit and give God some time to cool down. That’s our paradigm of relationship, given our experience with other humans.

Isn’t it amazing then, that even in that moment, He invites us to draw near to Him with a true heart in full assurance of faith? Drawing near is a relational concept, and the relationship is of a son to a father. We are invited to know, enjoy and bring our requests to God as a son would his father. This is, in part, a command to pray boldly. We are well aware of all the reasons He has to ignore our prayers, and so it’s a challenge to obey. But Jesus is our confidence. We draw near to God through Him and we pray in His name. Pray in faith, because the bible commands us to.

In addition to drawing near, we are commanded to hold fast to our confession of hope because He who promised is faithful. The idea of holding to our confession recurs often in Hebrews (3:6,14; 4:14). The book also makes reference to falling away (2:1, 3:12, 6:4), becoming hardened (3:13), and shrinking back to our destruction (10:39). The author of this book does not take it for granted that everybody who professes to be a believer will continue in faith. Some will, for some reason, willingly forfeit their confession.

We are not given the reasons why a person might make such a decision. Other passages in Hebrews bring up the role of persistent sin (3:12, 10:26), immature meditation on the Word (2:1, 5:11-6:4, lack of perspective (10:34, 12:2-4) among other possible reasons. But those things that we might choose instead of God are not the concern of the author in this passage; the character of God is. Over the reality of temptation, persecution, and unanswered questions, we are called to trust in God’s character. His faithfulness is the anchor for our faith.

Why does this matter? Because there are a lot of rewards the world has to offer, and a lot of difficulty to be found in a life of faith. We will all question whether being a committed believer is worth the sacrifices. The more we engage with the world, the more we will see its joys. But instead of retreating from the world, we are called to cling tighter to the promises of God as aliens in the world.

Here’s what scripture promises to all believers: We will know God (Jon 17:3) and in that we will find true life. We will grow in character and become more good (Philippians 1:6). We will do the good works we were created to do (Ephesians 2:10). We will receive guidance to walk through life (Psalm 23). We will never be alone (Joshua 1:5,9). We will have meaningful impact in the cosmic war between good and evil in our prayer and evangelism. We will spend eternity with our creator, worshipping Him and enjoying Him forever.

The challenge is that living out our faith doesn’t always feel glorious. About 30 minutes after landing in Uganda, I was convinced I was in the wrong place. I was quickly reminded how much I don’t fit in here. I don’t think I know another African that feels as out of place on his native continent. What ministry could I do here that I wouldn’t be able to do more effectively in Canada?

What began to calm my doubts was not a change in the situation. Going out into the city with my team only made me feel more like an outsider. I can still only pick out every other word in the local accent. I’m struggling a little with being dependent on friends to get around, though appreciative of the good people God is surrounding us with. What’s changed for me is remembering that it is God who called me here. He provided the opportunity, confirmed His will and provided the funds. He began preparing me for this even when I was trying to run from Him. He’s even using the quirks and personalities of my teammates to prove to me that He knows what He’s doing. Every moment I doubt, His faithfulness is what will bring me peace, no matter how long it takes for me to remember it. Once again, it’s all about Him and not about me.

Finally, we are instructed to consider how to stir each other up to love and good works. The message here is that we are responsible to our brothers and sisters in Christ because of the cross and the priesthood of Jesus. I often think to the role of community in the Christian life in terms of receiving grace and support from the body of Christ. Here, we see our responsibility to the body. We are not to forsake gathering together, but to actively participate in encouraging the church.

The sixth chapter of Paul’s letter to the Galatians is a great picture of this. In the first five verses, we are introduced to the concept of individual accountability and mutual responsibility. We are responsible for our conduct, so that when we fall, we cannot blame the church. Yet even in bearing our burdens, we are instructed to bear the burdens of our fellow believers. In doing so, we fulfill the law of Christ. We have that responsibility to each other.

What does this look like? It’s a bit easier to visualize this responsibility when you are given a position of leadership. The job description is clearly laid out: serve people by fulfilling this assignment. But what are we to do in not in any spiritual leadership roles? Or if we see our brother struggling outside our assigned jurisdiction?

Scripture, as it often does, gives some great suggestions for this. We can encourage (Hebrews 10:25). Encouragement goes a long way in building people up in the mission God called them to. Look at the role of Barnabas (the son of encouragement) in empowering John Mark in the book of Acts (Acts 12:12-25, 15:37-41, 2 Timothy 4:11).

We can teach each other (Colossians 3:16). This gives an incentive to spend time in God’s Word. The authority from which we teach is scripture. It is God’s truth and can correct our wrong views on reality and inspire life change. We are responsible to the community of believers for the time we spend in the Word.

Finally we can love our brothers and sisters. The second great commandment is to love our neighbor as we love ourselves (Matthew 23:39). Love covers a multitude of sins. We are responsible to love the body of Christ is word and deed. It is by this love that the world will know we are disciples of Jesus.

All these things we do because of all that God has done for us. We cannot boldly approach God’s throne or hold fast to our confession of hope or stir anyone to love and good works unless we truly believe we have access to God and that Christ Himself functions as our high priest interceding for us. His death on the cross was complete for the purifying of our souls. In this we rejoice and through this we obey.

All things for Him, from Him and through Him.

Amen

Reflections on Undergrad- Part 11: Looking Forward

“Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.” – Luke 12:48

It’s fun looking forward to what life has in store. I love the thought of an adventure ahead and the thrill of the unknown excites me. I don’t know where I’ll be in five years. I can speculate, but I don’t have any plans that far ahead. I do, however, know what I’ll be working towards.

I committed my life to Jesus three times. The first time, in grade 11, I committed to trusting Him to save me from my sinful nature and allow Him to define my purpose. In October of my first year, I committed to  returning to the faith, to retake my arms in the battle for holiness. I committed to allowing God’s people access into my life to help me stand strong against sin. The third time I committed my life to Jesus was at a winter conference with Power to Change in my third year. We had an opportunity to respond to the message by signing a card that said,

“Dear Jesus, I want you in the center of my life and commit through your power, to serve and obey you. Anytime. Anywhere. At any cost. To do anything.”

The first two times I made a commitment to God with my life, I committed to knowing and loving God. The third time, I committed to make His mission the center of my life. I made a decision that the end goal by which I would measure the my success  is how I have made my life a tool through which the world would know Jesus. I believe this is the kind of commitment expressed by Paul in Galatians 2:20

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

At the time I made that commitment, I had some ideas of what that would look like. Today, I have some different ideas and I’m sure that as my life unfolds, God will be faithful to reveal exactly how He wants to use me to change the world.

This doesn’t mean I’m perfect. Far from it. I shared with you my greatest challenges as part of this series. Many of the things I learned from my mentors during university are lessons I’m still learning how to apply in my life. But God doesn’t need perfect people, He asks only for obedience, repentance and worship. As much as I possibly can, I offer these to Him.

I don’t think that living with this mindset requires that one goes into full time ministry. That’s simply how it’s worked out for me. Some of the people I look up to the most work outside of professional ministry but exemplify this commitment to God in their lives. It’s not about what you do, it’s about the heart behind your actions. Why do you study? Is it so you can graduate and get a good job to provide for your family? Or is it so that, through your excellence doors are opened for you to proclaim Christ in your words and actions in new settings?

I don’t really know exactly what I’m going to do with my life, but I know what vision will guide my life: Anytime, Anywhere, At any cost, to do anything. Imagine what the world could look like if everyone who reads this post committed to living like this.

“Do not give yourself to that which others can and will do but to that which others cannot or will not do.” – Jim Elliot

Reflections on Undergrad- Part 10: My Dad

Reflections on Undergrad- Part 10: My dad

Profile: There isn’t a single human on the planet who has the ability to infuriate me like my dad, and there isn’t anyone I respect more. I look at my dad as a testimony of what a life dedicated to worship, wisdom, and family can look like. He’s well respected in his field, a leader in the church and always makes time for his family and personal bible study. It’s not unusual to find him on a Saturday morning with his iPad working his way through difficult bible passages or commentaries before lunch. I remember early in my Christian walk, bringing many of my biblical questions to him and he was always able to explain truths to me in a way that I could understand. When I think of my passion for teaching the word, a lot of that can be attributed to watching my dad.

We have our differences. In some ways, we see the world differently. There are things he’s learned from life experience that he tries to teach me but I’m not ready to learn. But even when we fight, there are two things I can count on: he’s looking out for my best interests, and he’s probably right.

I never want to understate the value of a loving, God-fearing father. Many don’t and it’s tough. That’s why I want to take some time to appreciate him. He’s been an immeasurable blessing in my life, guiding correcting and teaching me as I try to make my mark on this world. Thanks Dad.

What I’ve learned from him: A lot. One thing about my dad is that he loves his work. He’s not in full time ministry, but he sees his work as his calling. He excels because he works hard, and he works hard because it’s not simply work to him. Watching him has taught me that I need to find my passion in life and pursue it and he’s affirmed that vocally as well. While finances are a valid consideration, he’s never made me feel like making money should be my primary consideration in what career I pursue. As I wrestled with my call to ministry, following my passion was a key factor that confirmed this was my calling.

I remember the day I told him I was thinking of pursuing full time ministry. I expected him to be disappointed that I wasn’t building on the science degree he paid for me to pursue. He wasn’t. He affirmed my decision and began helping me think of how to go about it. What decisions should I be making now to put myself in the best position financially and emotionally to be a fruitful minister? How should I go about pursuing theological and ministry training to be well equipped to minister? All through me life, he’s had hopes for me, but he’s been more interested in me finding my calling and doing it well.

Favorite memory: Shortly after I asked my girlfriend out on our first date, I went on a walk with my dad. We talked about dating and building a future with another person and I shared with him some of my fears about dating: I didn’t know if I was really ready to lead a relationship building towards marriage and whether I was in a good place to be a spiritual leader. He told me of the growth and maturity he’d seen in me and that he was confident in my ability to be a good boyfriend and someday soon, potentially a good husband. I’ve been encouraged many times in my life, but none have meant as much to me as hearing it from my dad.

Reflections on Undergrad- Part 9: Hobbe Smit

Profile: In August, I was told that I would be meeting up weekly with Hobbe for discipleship this year and I had no idea what expect. Hobbe has been on staff with Power to Change for a couple of years at McMaster but I didn’t really know him. But I willing to learn as much as I could from him and he seemed like a nice guy.

As we began meeting, I quickly realized that we’re really different people: He loves nature, I love the indoors; he values structure, I like to play things by ear; he’s into boardgames I’ve never heard of; and even our senses of humour are different. But he’s a really sincere guy, and for that reason I was able to connect with him. We talked about what things we wanted to go through together and what I was interested in learning and he was able to bring some resources that were relevant to my interests. His flexibility was one of the first things I appreciated about him. He was intentional about doing things to build our relationship outside of the formal discipleship context. He invited me to his house for games nights, we went out for lunch a few times and on days when I needed to just talk, he was ready to put aside the plan and listen. We became more than ministry coworkers, we became friends.

What I learned from him: Hobbe and I did a lot of evangelism together; more than I wanted to sometimes. In those conversations though, I found that he exemplified many of the values I felt were important in evangelism but wasn’t sure how to practice. He was personable with perfect strangers without being phony; he remembered names and was genuinely interested in what people were interested in; he was willing to engage on apologetic issues without letting debating; he was able to keep conversations centered on Jesus without taking usurping; he answered questions concisely without devolving into a monologue; he was willing to admit when he didn’t know and wrestle honestly with his faith. I can look back and say that I picked up a lot from him. I remember one conversation we had with a student that was particularly draining because he’d peppered us a million questions barely giving us opportunities to respond. After we got up, I was a bit discouraged because I felt like we’d talked a lot but gotten nowhere. We debriefed the conversation and he reminded me that even though we weren’t able to answer many of his questions, it wasn’t our job to save anyone and salvation is God’s work.

Favorite memory: Our campus has a spring weekend retreat and the last night the outgoing and incoming student leadership teams stay with campus staff and have a baton-passing type evening. The outgoing team decided to prank the incoming team by making them think we’d left them stranded (which ended up getting turned back on us) but Hobbe wanted to get some rest and so he didn’t drive away with us, staying in his room instead. After a while we wanted to know what was going on back at the retreat so we asked Hobbe to go out and scout for us, which he agreed to do. By a series of unfortunate events, he ended up getting locked out on the cabin roof. He had to wait there until we came back to the retreat center and let him in almost an hour later. I’ll never forget the image of Hobbe shivering as we opened the door. Not once did he complain though, he took one for the team.

Reflections on Undergrad- Part 8: Isaac Odame

Profile: Isaac’s presence on this list is proof that you don’t need to have a long relationship with someone to have an impact on them. I met Isaac a year and a half ago when I began sporadically attending services at Westside Baptist Church (shameless plug: I love my church). I met him as one of many people who greet you when you on your first Sunday at a new church. “Hi, I’m Isaac” “I’m Bim, nice to meet you.” I didn’t have any real relationship with Isaac until this year after I committed fully to the church. Being in my final year, I wanted to prepare for life after university by practicing the art of that initiative to seek mentorship. Within the campus ministry context, people would observe your faithfulness and approach you to be mentored. In the real world, I’ve heard it doesn’t really work that way and so I sought out a mentor within the church.

Isaac is an elder in the church with some teaching responsibilities and he works in an academic setting, so I figured he’d have some good stuff to teach me. I’m a science student; he’s a doctor who does some research so he’d understand where I’m coming from. I asked him out to coffee. He paid. As we started talking, I realized very quickly that Isaac is someone with a lot of wisdom and life experience to share from. We’ve met only a few times due to both of us being busy, but I know I learned a lot from our meetings about school work, ministry and life in general.

What I learned from him: Isaac quickly discovered after asking some questions that I love teaching. He encouraged me to find different avenues to develop that skill. One suggestion he mentioned was to try my hand at writing and see how I liked that. I took his suggestion and wrote my first article on the Great Commandment. I enjoyed writing and I got a lot of good feedback from it. I continued writing and theologytranslated was born shortly after.

Favorite memory: Isaac played a part in a video for our church Christmas party in which he did his best impression of a young adult. Imagine an older guy with a hat turned sideways, speaking in verbal hashtags. Yea…

Reflections on Undergrad- Part 7: Kelley Myles

Profile: Finally, a woman makes the list. Kelley, like Jamie works with Power to Change and was a project director on my second mission trip to Uganda. Kelley is fun. Our staff team landed in country a few days before the students and spent that time getting to know each other, thanks in part to games organized by Kelley. One exercise we did as a staff team to help us work well together was filling out some personality tests. I’d done tests like that before, but Kelley was really good at explaining the purpose behind the test. She encouraged us as a staff team understand how our personalities shape our ministry expectations. This, I’m sure, helped prevent some potential conflicts within the team due to differences in personality and communication styles.

Kelley was a constant source of encouragement. She made sure to let us know what she appreciated about us and when we did something well. More than general kind words, Kelley saw aspects of our unique characters and gifts that were of benefit to our team and commented on them. Even when she had to rebuke me, she encouraged the heart behind my actions and suggested different ways of expressing myself that I could get excited about. I found I learned a lot about myself from working with Kelley.

What I learned from her: I went on project last summer as an intern on the staff team, which was a new level of leadership for me. I wasn’t sure that my personality was suited for leadership and worried that I’d be too loud, too extroverted, too hyper, to be an effective leader. Kelley’s encouraged in seeing how my personality, appropriately expressed, could actually help bring people together. She equipped me to lead confidently without trying to be someone else. I had my best project experience and felt ready to continue serving in leadership on my campus this fall.

Favorite memory: Kelley is not a big touch person and so doesn’t like hugs. I was told this by another member of our staff team in the middle of a day out at a mall in Kampala. About an hour later, I saw Kelley from a distance and sprinted across the parking lot, making a beeline for her. I remember the look of confusion on her face. I got to her and enveloped her in the biggest bear hug I could and got two quick elbow shots to the midsection. For the next couple of weeks, I’d pop up randomly and give her a hug, simply to bug her.

She still doesn’t like hugs, but the few times I’ve seen her since our time in Uganda, she’s (very reluctantly) given me a friendly hug for old times’ sake.

Reflections on Undergrad- Part 6: Jamie Strickland

Profile: Jamie Strickland is a happily married Canadian man with two kids, all of whom are living in Uganda, nearing the end of a two year mission stint. My first memory of Jamie was in Panama after my first year. He came to speak to our team at the end of the mission trip, delivering a four part talk titled “Living a Life that Matters.” The next time I saw him, he showed me very practically what that looks like. It was at a fall retreat in my second year. He came up and tearfully shared his decision to take his wife and two sons under the age of three to Uganda to help coordinate the partnership between the Canadian and Ugandan branches of Campus Crusade for Christ International. He didn’t have to. He could have done his job just as well from Canada, but his vision was to inspire Canadian students like myself to sacrifice their comfortable lives here to live intentionally for God’s kingdom. He wanted to lead by example, and so he went.

I went to Uganda after my second year. I went again after my third year, and this time Jamie was there as a project director. I loved working with Jamie. He’s a lot of fun, very chill and incredibly passionate. He loves Manchester United and the New England Patriots (this I appreciated very much). He loves Jesus and is passionate about challenging younger Christian men to make sacrifices in living radically. His message on living a life that matters isn’t only preached when he’s given a mic; it’s the message you get after spending any amount of time with him. I remember one evening in his living room in Uganda, our team decided to put him on the hot seat so he had to answer any question we threw at him. “What is your biggest pet peeve?” He talked for 45 minutes on what a travesty it was that thousands of young men who loved God were wasting their summers doing nothing when there was so much work to be done in exposing people to Jesus around the world. We also got a 35 minute talk on what he appreciates most about his wife. That’s the kinda guy Jamie is.

We had an opportunity to spend some time together on a car ride between two cities one evening. On that trip, we got to talking about what it would mean for me to give up a year after I graduate to come to Uganda and teach students about living a life that matters. I’d been considering it before that trip, but after talking to him for an hour, I knew exactly where I was going to be this coming fall.

What I learned from him: Jamie is great at vision casting. He inspires others to join him in fulfilling his vision because he gives himself totally to living out his vision. Jamie helped change my perspective on what really matters in life. I want to devote my life to a cause that matters eternally, because I realize that everyone lives for something. He showed me what it looks like to be completely sold out to a vision, not in the one decision he made to go to Uganda, but in the many decisions he makes daily about what he will give his time and his heart to.

Favorite memory: Every memory I have of him playing with his kids would qualify but there’s a different memory that stands out in my mind. We were ATV-ing with a couple of guys and two of us were kinda racing even though our guide had instructed us not to. Jamie just kinda sat near the back of the group watching us almost kill people. Suddenly on a straight stretch near the end of our ride, he shot up to the front, taking us by surprise and settled firmly in first place. From there he was able to hoard the lead till the end and was the first one back at the compound where we returned our vehicles. Well played…

Reflections on Undergrad- Part 5: Andres Vera

Profile: Andres was one of Andy’s closest friends and became my discipleship group leader in second semester of first year. I was in for a culture shock upon joining the new group. Where my first group was very intimate and talked through basic elements of faith, my new group was much larger and very interested in tackling tougher theological topics, of which I knew little. So I was out of my depth.

In that, I was very inspired by Andres. No matter what topic was being discussed, he was never out of his depth. He always had some deep insight to share to make it all make sense. He was a master theologian and a very nice guy as well. He invited me to consider going on a summer mission trip with him to Panama, and since I didn’t have any other plans for the summer, I applied and got accepted. In Panama, I learned a lot from his patient tutelage and he challenged me to think more deeply about God.

After our conversations in Panama, I came back fired up to learn more about God. I began to listen to sermons online, read books and most importantly, I found motivation to read my bible regularly, which I’d struggled with in first year. But Andres taught me more than theology; I learned a lot about nurturing a love for theology in others. I really appreciated his patience as I struggled to grasp certain concepts and that he never insisted he was right when we disagreed; he always simply pointed back to the bible and let me learn straight from the source.

What I learned from him: The biggest thing I took away from observing his life is the importance of theology. For him, theology wasn’t simply an intellectual exercise, but a discipline of worship. And theology always began with the gospel. Every conversation with Andres always came back to Jesus and the implications of anything we were talking about were always explored in light of how Jesus reveals God’s nature. As I’ve grown in being able to study God’s word for myself, I see the value of this. It’s too easy to get caught up in minute details or forcing scripture to defend my opinions. But when I focus first on knowing Jesus and interpreting all of scripture in light of Jesus, my understanding of theology becomes cohesive and I’m more receptive to letting scripture correct me.

Favorite memory: I have a lot of fond memories of watching Andres and his housemates prank each other, but my favorite memory of him is from our time in Panama. There were a group of guys were up late talking about women, and he shared with us his spiritual turn-ons and how his girlfriend (now wife) fulfilled these characteristics. A spiritual turn-on is any characteristic of a person’s faith that you personally find sexy. Yea…

Reflections on Undergrad- Part 4: Andy Clutton

Today, I begin sharing a bit about some of the mentors who’ve had a huge influence in my life and ministry. I’m not introducing you to these people simply to exalt them, but to share real stories of how lives are changed by the faithful ministry of passionate Christians. My life has been changed by these people and I hope this section can encourage you to intentionally serve, teach and disciple other believers.

Profile: I met Andy a few weeks into my first year. I came out to a Power to Change (then known as Campus for Christ) weekly meeting because I had nothing else to do on a Friday evening. I actually had a nice time so I didn’t resist getting signed up for a discipleship group (bible study group). I showed up for the first meeting and met Andy, who was leading the group. I liked him right away.

Andy has these probing eyes that make you feel like he can see through you. This, combined with his very sincere personality helped me connect with him pretty quickly. So when he invited me out to a weekend retreat with Campus for Christ, I didn’t instantly say no. At that retreat I was moved to commit my life again to Jesus. Andy was the first one I came to pray with me.

Andy continued to play a key role in mentoring me into my second year. He was faithful with meeting with me regularly and taught me a lot about walking with God. I missed a number of our appointments, and I’m grateful for his graciousness. But I learned a lot from him and continue to till today. I believe he was the first one to teach me about the Spirit filled life. And as I began to experience God’s power and presence, he was the one I could go to and tell all about it.

What I learned from him: Andy was the first Christian leader I’d experienced who led through openness and vulnerability. I remember times in our meetings that he would tell me stories from his own life, very personal stories that didn’t make him look good. But I was able to relate. I was able to draw encouragement from his weaknesses as I struggled to grow early in my rediscovered relationship with God. He’s vulnerability in leadership is something I’ve tried to model my leadership around.

Favorite Memory: My favorite memory of Andy was standing together by a kayak rack at a campsite in Haliburton Ontario as I cried and told him that I wanted to live as a Christian again. I remember his calm probing eyes appraising the situation. He prayed with me and encouraged me and began teaching me, right in that moment, some of the implications of my commitment. I’m thankful for everything that happened to lead me to that point and I’m glad that Andy was there to begin the process of discipling me as a follower of Jesus.