My 500 Mile Challenge

I usually look forward to being with my running group, but was tempted to stay home last week the training plan said “500 Mile Challenge.”

I’m so glad that I went

The challenge ended up being a relay, so runners would go around a 400 meter track then get in line waiting for someone to tag them, and run another 400 meters. Thankfully they brought in people from all of our running groups so there were around 100 of us there (so everyone ran about 18 laps).

At about lap ten I started to notice that everyone was running differently

1. Instead of a relaxed pace they were trying to pass everyone else
2. There was no conversation going on (we normally talk a lot during our runs)
3. Towards the end of every lap they would sprint to the finish

At lap twelve two people from a slower training group blew by me as if I was standing still (though I was sprinting for the finish line) between sips of water I said to one “wow you guys were flying out there.”

She smiled and pointing at the other runner said “I couldn’t let him beat me.”

For the rest of our 500 Mile Challenge I watched runners push each other (sometimes verbally, sometimes by going faster) into racing the last 100 meters in their lap…it was an awesome thing to watch individuals who claimed they had nothing left turn into Usain Bolt when challenged by a friend.

When we reached 500 Miles those who had completed their laps stood applauding as others finished their last ones….

And everyone sprinted.

Our 500 Mile Challenge taught me some very important truths about being competitive, or driven in life

  1. 1. Some of us are born with a strong competitive nature, others aren’t

2. Those without this many times feel they can’t be competitive
3. This isn’t true because amazing motivation can come from a loving friend who challenges us

Last Fall a runner in our group named John simply wouldn’t believe me when I told him I wasn’t fast enough to keep up with him. Many dark nights running around Hanes Park Track when I started lagging behind he would shout “come on Johnny boy you can do this!” and every time I was able to keep up. It wasn’t always pretty or fast but I finished.

I firmly believe if the world had more people like him, then we would accomplish a lot more.

Three Ways to Disciple Those Dealing With Drama

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Last Wednesday while pulling lesson plans out of a notebook I asked my English student how her week had been. This is a normal way of starting class because it allows her to practice small talk, and since the answer is always good I wasn’t really paying attention while asking it.

Instead of the normal response though she looked down at the table and shaking her head said “so many problems.”

Suddenly the lesson plan didn’t seem all that important.

My student proceeded to explain some problems she was having with a rebellious teenage daughter which included among other things

  • Skipping school with forged notes and parental excuse forms
  • Telling the school her mother’s phone number had changed (it hadn’t) and then getting a friend to send messages using that number excusing her from class
  • Creating a second Facebook account for herself that her parents didn’t know about
  • Failing classes because they were too “boring”

To be honest I was pretty overwhelmed and didn’t really know how to help (single young men with no children don’t have much rebellious teen experience). Yet the pain in this mothers eyes challenged me to do something about the situation.

As Christians in a broken culture we have the opportunity to interact with people struggling with the drama (crisis situations) of life. And though we may not have all the answers, God calls us to enter into that suffering with them for the sake of the Gospel.

There are a number of ways to minister in the midst of drama, but here are the ways God led me to help my English Student.

  1. Offer Sympathy-The one thing a suffering person needs more than anything else is someone who will simply listen
  2. Offer Personal Assistance-It didn’t matter that this rebellious child would respect me even less than her parents, asking “how can I help?” still had tremendous healing powers
  3. Offer Insight-Share lessons that the Lord has taught you along the way that can help them in their time of great need

Of course in this situation it’s also necessary to pray for the student, preferably right there after getting permission.

People around the world are overwhelmed by the drama of their lives and desperately looking for someone to help. Sadly many are too busy (or burdened by our own drama) to stop and help, so there is a greater need than ever for Believers who would bind up the wounds of those who are hurting instead of crossing to the other side of the road.

Why My Heart Needs To Be Heavy

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Tuesday morning at the local Pastors Fellowship a representative of Baptist Mid Missions played a recently completed field video from Australia to highlight the need for more foreign missionaries.

That video is important to me because I’m actually in it, and even remember driving the men from their audio and visual department around when the filming took place…however I’ve never watched it.

The video has been played in a number of Churches while presenting my ministry of course, but I have never watched that DVD on my own because of the things it reminded me of.

•      It reminded me of the people in Australia who desperately needed Christ

•      It reminded me of the great need for more missionaries

•      It reminded me of the dear friends and co-workers in Australia

•      And more than anything else it reminded me of my desire to return

These emotions have a profound effect on me since I’m in a stage of ministry that focuses on getting practical experience while waiting for my Visa process to be completed. Therefore the faces and voices in that video are powerful reminders of what I miss, but cannot do anything about right now.

Yet there must be a healthier response to these emotions than putting a DVD in one of my drawers never to see the light of day.

In recent months the Lord has been teaching me ways that having a heavy heart (sadness, sorrow, frustration) can be a blessing for my life instead of a curse.

1.     A Heavy Heart keeps me close to God

2.    A Heavy Heart highlights an inability to live in my own strength or wisdom

3.    A Heavy Heart keeps me from losing sight of what’s important (returning to Australia)

4.    A Heavy Heart leads to sharing my burden or struggles with Brothers and Sisters in Christ

5.    A Heavy Heart is a constant reminder God has called me to Australia

Most of us have parts of our lives that will bring great sorrow and pain to our heart just by thinking of them.  It’s tempting to hide from that, but those emotions actually come from God, and therefore are part of His plan for our lives.

Which is why I just watched the field council video from Australia

It felt like someone had taken out my heart and stomped on it but that’s okay, someday soon I will watch it in Melbourne, and thank God for His faithfulness.

Celebrating a Students Birthday

This is just a video of a small celebration for Carlos (one of my English students) celebrating his birthday this week.  I apologize for my very loud and emotive (exaggerated) speaking in the video, it does help them understand me during class, but will try to be a bit more reserved in the future :-)

 

Earning the Trust of Teens in Four Not So Easy Steps

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One of my favorite ministries in Australia had to be a Religious Education class teaching fifth and sixth graders in a Public School.

There were numerous challenges to this ministry; The greatest challenge however was earning their trust….

I’m grateful to say by our last class (in the picture above) I had earned their trust and respect, but it was a long hard process. As a ministry to others who work with teenagers some of the most important lessons learned along the way are included in this post.

1. Be Honest: The first time we met, one of the boys asked “have you ever swore in your life?” After trying to change the subject he looked me right in the eyes and said in a very serious tone “answer the question”

Instead of trying to lie about it I confessed to using bad language a few times in my life, but confessing it to the Lord right away. His next question was “why did you do that?” and it led to a conversation about the Gospel

2. Be Answering: Teens have hundreds of questions about God and few people who will actually answer them. The Lord used a simple exercise that asked the students to write down questions they had for God to teach me this.

While most students wrote a few lines one girl started writing furiously and kept going after the others were finished. When she handed me her paper I had to take a picture of it to remind me of the need to answer their deep questions.

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3. Be Effective-I don’t care how crazy a group of kids is, there will always a way to motivate them. Shouldn’t be
surprising that giving a candy bar to the best behaved student allowed me to control eight teenagers (it also worked for eighteen kindergartners by the way.) The important thing is bringing a form of structure or discipline into their lives in a way that works, since many of them don’t have it.

wpid-img_03302-2014-02-24-19-40.jpg4. Be Listening: As important as the lesson is, there were moments in class when the Lord allowed me to learn about, or minister to a students deeper need. This meant having more than one conversation with students who were no longer BFF’s and immersing myself in teen girl drama for the sake of the Gospel, it also meant helping a student who was moving to another Country and would never see her friends again understand God was still Loving.

The road to earning trust is long and hard…that’s why so many people haven’t traveled it. However if your willing to put in the hard work God will give you a powerful influence in their lives.

How to Share the Gospel With Twenty Biblical Events

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Yesterday as part of a blog post on Telling the Gospel as a Story I referred to an evangelistic tool which I have found very useful in sharing Christ with individuals who don’t have a foundation of Biblical Truth.

This curriculum is called The Story of Hope, and published by Good Soil an evangelism and discipleship program of ABWE (Association of Baptists for World Evangelism). What makes this material unique is it’s centered on sharing the Gospel using forty major events of Scripture (twenty in Old and New Testament).

My favorite resource they offer is a set of cards that on the front has a picture of that specific event, and on the back gives information about how it fits into the Gospel Story.

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These same events (and pictures) are also offered in other formats such as a condensed version of the material that shares twenty events, Power Point Slides, or discipleship material for new Believers.

There is a huge need for material like The Story of Hope since in many cases we have to start with page one of the Bible when sharing Christ. Unfortunately we live in a culture were foundational truths are overlooked such as:

  1. God exists, and created everything include man
  2. Mankind lived in perfection and was given the choice between obeying God and rejecting Him
  3. All sin, suffering, and death came as a result of man refusing to obey God
  4. Along with that curse God promised to send a deliverer who would Redeem mankind from their sin
  5. The rest of Scripture is a cycle of man sinning against God, the Lord judging their sin, and then providing a way that would redeem them from that punishment (a picture of Christ)

When you link the Old Testament (particularly the promise of a Redeemer) to Christ’s incarnation and death, it becomes clear the Gospel was part of God’s plan from the very beginning.

There is always going to be a need for new material that can help Believers share the Gospel in a confident way, thankfully ABWE offers tools that help us do that without overlooking foundational truths.