Sunday, November 20, 2011

Why I Want to be a Teacher

In preparation to apply for the Teacher Education Program (TEP) @ Alice Lloyd College I was required to submit multiple papers from previous course work. One of the papers that I had to submit was entitled, "Why I Want to be a Teacher." I would like to take the next few moments sharing with those of you who have endured Tara and I's recent transition with what I wrote.

Why I want to be a teacher?

When I was a junior in high school my family members and friends would frequently ask me what I wanted to be. For the longest time this question plagued me because I had no clue. It seemed like everywhere I turned there was this inescapable question. Many times I would respond by telling them that I would let them know when I grew up. When that answer didn’t suffice I would explain my case further. I had watched too many people around me who went to work five and sometimes six days a week to a job that they hated and faced with dread. It was clear that their only motivator was money. During that time I may not have know exactly what I wanted to do but I did know that I did not want to end up like some of them who simply lived for the weekends. I will admit that it may have taken me longer than usual to discover what career path I wanted to pursue, but now I am certain. I want to be a teacher.

Throughout the following years after high school I set out on many different endeavors. It wasn’t long before I discovered that I thoroughly enjoyed working with young people. This has become one reason why I have decided to be a teacher. Over the course of the last four years I had been given the opportunity to work extensively with young people in various age groups and settings. It was during that time that I saw the spark in a young persons eye when they learn something new and it connected with something in side of me. As I further worked with young people I decided that in some capacity this is what I wanted to do with my future.

In 2006, Max Lucado wrote a book entitled, “Cure for the Common Life.” In this book Lucado unpacked the idea that every person is designed to live in their “sweet spot.” Some people may be familiar with the phrase “sweet spot.” Usually people identify it on a golf club or a baseball bat. This is the spot on these two devices that when hit correctly sends the ball in the desired direction with precision and finesse. I can say with confidence that my “sweet spot” is teaching. The first time that I officially taught a lesson was in the youth ministry that I was a part of. I was presented the chance to teach our youth on a ministry trip that we had taken out of state. I spent hours preparing for that one lesson and it paid off. I remember the moments before I was to begin the lesson, my stomach was in knots and I felt a lump in my throat. It was only moments into the lesson that I knew I had connected with my sweet spot in life.

I believe that teachers have a great opportunity and responsibility to impact their students. As President Obama said in his most recent State of the Union Address, “Teachers are the building blocks of America.” Teachers can encourage a student to excel to great heights and achieve whatever they want to become. I agree that the future of America will be shaped through the efforts of effective educators. When I reflect back over my educational experience I can identify numerous teachers who made a difference in my life on all educational levels. I could name teachers from grade school all the way into my college career that has profoundly impacted my life and shaped my educational experience. I know that this is what I want to do for others. I want to be a teacher so that I can make a difference to the students I hope to teach.

I don’t believe that a single good characteristic makes a teacher great or effective. I believe that a great teacher has multiple characteristics that shaped them into becoming effective in what they do. I am thankful for what I have been able to be a part of in the last few years because I know it has led me unto this moment. At various stages of my life I have been fortunate to unearth different pieces of my puzzle. At one stage I have discovered that I enjoy really enjoy working with young people, at another I found my passion for teaching, and another I realized that I could make a difference in someone’s life. Each part of who I am has helped me to see that I want to be a teacher because I know it’s something that I care deeply for and love.

P.S. For those of you who haven't heard, I was accepted into the TEP following an interview with the Education Department Chairs as of 11.10.11. Which means I am one step closer to seeing this dream come to pass. I would like to say thank you to all of you for your prayers and support. With Love, John

Thursday, June 23, 2011

"American Christianity"

"Our issue is not that you need another message, our issue is not that you need another fire tunnel, our issue is not that you need the glory of God to come down in another worship service. Our issue is that somebody has to awaken us to the realization that if we have the Holy Spirit of God living inside of us then we should be changing things in our communities instead of laying hands on each other until we fall down again. In the Bible they were anointed enough to lay hands on people until they got up. Because we can't make people get up, we have made the pinnacle of the charismatic experience falling down. God has not given us His anointing to make people fall down. God has given us His anointing so that we can make people get up out of sick beds, out of paralyzed positions, and cancerous comas."

The above excerpt came from a message that I have been listening to repeatedly for the past week and it has shaken something on the inside. The text was taken from Luke 13 in context with Jesus' parable about the fig tree. The sermon was entitled, "Uselessness." Let's just say that it was good, convicting, and challenging! Btw, that is the type of messages we need to be listening to.

Lately my heart has been focused on the thought of "American Christianity." Just saying it makes me squeamish. Honestly I think for the most part that we as American's our missing it when it comes to manifesting Christianity.

For so many people their Christian life does not stretch beyond an hour and fifteen-minutes per week. For others their Christian life is about an emotional feeling when they talk about God....those who yearn for an emotional experience more than God!

Let me just stop and say that Christianity is not about you having an emotional experience. I can go to the movies and have an emotional experience. God is BIGGER!

God's love toward us is passionate, yet we are passionless until it comes to our own personal pursuits.

Why is it so hard to love Him and pursue after Him with intensity?

Why do people get distracted so easily?

Why can't people commit to serving Him? Why can't He be enough?

It shocks me to think that if there were no hell that people wouldn't profess Christianity. God loves YOU! Why can't that be enough? If God never did another thing for you, would you still serve Him?

God does not just want the pieces your life that you are half-willing to give but He want's and deserves everything!

I can't stand to see wasted potential....I know my God is greater! God can do amazing things through you if you would live in complete abandonment to Him.

Maybe you have lived passionless and pursued your own desires, but don't give up. Listen what Joel 2:25 says:

“ So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, The crawling locust, The consuming locust, And the chewing locust, My great army which I sent among you."

My God is in the restoration business and He loves working on messed up "projects." He can redeem your wasted years, it's never too late. Just surrender.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Power or Praise?

I would like to again share with you an excerpt from one of my favorite books, "Why Revival Tarries." By Leonard Ravenhill.

"One does not need to be spiritual to preach, that is, to make and deliver sermons of homiletical perfection and exegetical exactitude. By a combination of memory, knowledge, ambition, personality, plus well-lined bookshelves, self-confidence, and a sense of having arrived---brother, the pulpit is yours almost anywhere these days. Preaching of the type mentioned affects men; prayer affects God.....The pulpit can be a shopwindow to display our talents; the closet speaks death to display. The tragedy of this late hour is that we have too many dead men in the pulpits giving out too many dead sermons to too many dead people....A sermon born in the head reaches the head; a sermon born in the heart reaches the heart....Away with this palsied, powerless preaching which is unmoving because it was born in a tomb instead of a womb, and nourished in a fireless, prayerless soul."

For years these words have always echoed in the deep parts of my mind and recently have made a connection to the words of the Apostle Paul as recorded in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5

1 And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power,5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.

As I pair the words of Paul to the heart of L. Ravenhill I am faced with an unsettling truth. It is possible to mistake "good preaching" for God's unction, approval, and sadly enough for some, the anointing.

Paul is very clear in this passage, Power accompanies the anointing. Preaching without the anointing is powerless and ultimately lifeless. It may make us feel good and may even inspire us but it leaves us unchanged.

Are we so patterned to comfort that we have lost sight of how important God's anointing is. For the sake of "growing" a church I believe we have discovered how to have a service without truly depending on God. If we can get the right dynamic of a worship band and learn the 5 highly effective ways of making people comfortable then why do we need God? (Insert sarcasm here).

Please know that this is not the case that is happening everywhere because honestly I have been blessed to see ministries that have refused to go "forward" without God's presence and anointing. And as a result have seen God's continued blessing and true spiritual growth within their ministries.

It reminds me so much of Exodus 33:1-3. God told Moses he could lead the Children of Israel into the promise land, which they had waited for so long. God even said he would send an angel to drive out all of the enemies BUT if this is the decision that he would choose then He (God, His presence) was not going. Listen to Moses' response:

"If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here." Ex. 33:15

What was Moses saying? Ultimately that God if you don't go with us then it is better for us to stay here (in the desert, a place of hardship void of comfort) because Your Presence is here.

That is how important God's Presence is! That is how important it is that we are not comfort-seekers! In our quest for comfort we can easily loose sight of God's Presence.

All that matters is His Presence in all that we do! If God's Presence is not in it, don't do it! But if it is, then go for it with all that you are!

Friday, April 22, 2011

He Gives us Himself

I read this today from a Max Lucado daily devotional. It was something I wanted to share with you because I feel it applies to all of us no matter where we are in life. Enjoy!

"I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
- Matthew 28:20 NIV

The story is told of a man on an African safari deep in the jungle. The guide before him had a machete and was whacking away the tall weeds and thick underbrush. The traveler, wearied and hoe, asked in frustration, "Where are we? Do you know where you are taking me? Where is the path?!" The seasoned guide stopped and replied, "I am the path."

We ask the same questions, don't we? We ask God, "Where are you taking me? Where is the path?" And he, like the guide, doesn't tell us. Oh, he may give us a hint or two, but that's all. If he did, would we understand? Would we comprehend our location? No, like, the traveler, we are unacquainted with this jungle. So rather than give us an answer, Jesus gives us a far greater gift. He gives us Himself.
-Traveling Light

Like I said, it doesn't matter where you are in life because God knows. Revelation 22:13 says, that God is the beginning and the end. It's great to know that when he formed us, he had our end in mind. The current place you are in, is not enough to be worried or upset about. God doesn't see what you are, rather He sees what He has made you to be. Can we surrender our worry, fear, past-regrets, and anxiety to see what He sees? God gave you a beginning so trust Him to also give you an end. "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end." Jeremiah 29:11

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Everything is meaningless

“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”

I have always been a person who loves to read a, “good book.” When it comes to reading there is a personal truth I have found which is, that books are season specific for me. What I mean is that I have noticed that I can start reading a book that may in fact be inspirational, encouraging, challenging or honestly one that will later land on my “top 10 list” but if I am not in a place in my life where I can relate then my interest fades away. Well, months ago I bought a book entitled, “Crazy Love” written by Francis Chan. Initially I had a great interest in this book because I had already devoured “The Forgotten God” also by author Francis Chan (Which by the way is on my top 10), but I didn’t get maybe two chapters in before I laid it down only to pick up something else. This is by no way saying the first chapters of the book are bad or uninteresting, but I know me and if I am not hooked early on I might as well not continue because I know from experience the Lord will lead me back to it when it’s the right season. Needless to say, two days ago was that day.

Well, today I am in chapter two and the question has been, “What matters in life?” It wasn’t long into the reading that Chan brought in a familiar passage from James:

4:13-14 “Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”

This chapter really hit a nerve; it talked about how we get so weighed down with things that don’t matter (the things that hold no eternal significance). While we are wrapped up in focusing on the things of tomorrow we don’t even think that there isn’t a guarantee for tomorrow. Like James said, life is like a vapor, here only briefly and then it vanishes.

After reading this chapter I went on to read through the book of Ecclesiastes and honestly I have never saw it the way I did this morning. The words of King Solomon are still ringing in my head, “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” How true! Everything outside of knowing and showing Christ is meaningless. Solomon who had everything mind you, looked at it all and said, “You know none of this matters. None of this has any eternal significance because when I’m dead what I have done with my life will be tried by fire.”

Maybe it’s just me but I find it so easy to get wrapped up in things that do not matter. When I realize that my focus is on stuff that doesn’t matter, God then helps me to become more sensitive to Him. So, today I will live with the attitude that this truly could be my last and if I have a tomorrow I will do the same. It’s not being morbid but rather being aware. The purpose of my life is not about me, but it is about Jesus. Today is not about me, but about it is about Jesus.