SYATP 2011

27 09 2011

Not that there’s a bad verse of scripture, but the one chosen for See You at the Pole for 2011 is at least interesting. The national organization chose Matthew 18:20, which says “Whenever two or three are gathered in my name, I am there with you.” (CEV) At first glance, this seems to be a great passage of comfort and assurance when gathering with hundreds (potentially) of other students around the flag pole for the sole purpose of praying. Students pray for their schools, faculty, staff, each other, so on and so forth. And we might be quick to say, “But there were two or three of us that prayed for _______, so I know Jesus was with us.” But let’s take a quick look at the context of this scripture. What was the setting? What comes before and/or after this verse that might give us insight?

The overall context for the passage that contains this verse (Matt 18:15-20), is what folks who are fluent in Christianeese refer to as “church discipline.” In other words, it helps us know how to address a fellow church member who, in one way or another, has wronged us.

It tells us that we are to confront the individual in private. If you can work things out, then you’ve strengthened that relationship. But if things are not resolved, then we’re to bring along one or two others and try again. If there is still no resolution, then we are to bring the matter before the church. If this final step doesn’t bring about repentance or restoration, then the church should break fellowship with the individual.

The next few verses give the church some sense of assurance. Jesus tells us that in matters such as these, the church should exercise caution that Christ is in it. Furthermore, He says that “when two or three are gathered in My name, I am there.” The emphasis is added to show that this process, rightly done, can not move forward without great prayer.

Now, as for the passage that precedes and follows, Christ places a high emphasis on forgiveness and restoration. In the preceding passage (verses 10-14), He shares the parable of the lost sheep. We understand that the shepherd goes to great lengths to find the one lost sheep and bring him back into the fold. So it should be with the church when one of it’s members has strayed. In the following passage (verses 21-35), we gain the understanding that forgiveness is one of the great marks of those who follow Christ.

The overall theme here is one of Restoring Relationships. We see that there is a balance of forgiveness and discipline. You can forgive someone without accepting their behavior. You don’t even have to forget what has happened. In fact, forgiving someone in spite of the fact that you can’t forget is a deeper forgiveness. If I forget a wrong, then I have no need to forgive.

So, what does all of this have to do with See You at the Pole? Great question! For me, I am taking this as an opportunity to seek restoration to broken relationships. I am working to forgive anyone who has wronged me. I don’t want to carry that grudge. And I can rest assured that when I seek to mend a broken relationship, Christ will be right there by my side. After all, it is His blood that enables us to forgive and to restore what is broken.

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Raul

6 09 2011

He’s a hard worker, a taxi driver. He’s tough, moved to Lima alone at age 12. At 56 he began learning a new language, English. His heart is full of compassion. He loves his Lord Jesus and takes pleasure in serving Him. He doesn’t think much of himself, or rather, doesn’t think often of himself. He doesn’t have the time. He’s always thinking about about others. “How can I serve them? comfort them? encourage them?”

I met Raul this summer and he deeply impacted my life. We served together for a week in Yungay, Peru. I got the chance to get to know him more on an 8-hour bus ride through the mountains and along the coast in Peru. He has a great joy and exuberance for life. We laughed a lot. I asked him, “Raul, if you had 2 or 3 days to do anything you wanted or go anywhere you wanted, what would you do?”

“You mean 3 days with no responsibilities? No work?” He seemed genuinely perplexed…like this was a totally hypothetical question.

“That’s right, 3 days to do anything you want to do.”

“I think I would go somewhere alone and read my Bible.”

I sat there in silence for a moment contemplating what he’d just said. At first, I thought he was being “super-spiritual.” But after seeing his countenance, I knew he was serious. I don’t really know what I thought he would say. Visit Fiji? Take a sunset catamaran cruise? Spend an evening in Paris with his wife?

” And what about you?”

I know that I had already prepared an answer for myself and it wasn’t anything like his. I would travel. I’ve always wanted to visit Iceland, Ireland, Scotland.¬† But I’d probably want to stretch it out for a couple of weeks. The cool, brisk weather. The natural hot springs. The beautiful highlands. But I couldn’t share that with him. So, after fidgeting for a moment, I came up with another answer.

“I’d want to travel to the Holy Land. Walk where Jesus walked. Maybe even participate in a touring¬† Bible study.”

We talked for a little longer about how great that would be. And the truth is, if given a choice between visiting the islands of the North Atlantic or taking a tour of the Holy Land, I really would choose the latter. It’s not like I lied to Raul, but I wasn’t as ready to answer as he was. His quick response makes me think that, for him, there’s nothing like simply being in the presence of God.

I want to be like that. I love working for the Kingdom. I understand the importance of serving my fellow man and serving the King. But I want to learn to enjoy simply being in the presence of my Creator.

God, help me to listen more and talk less. You know my heart, I want to know Yours. Amen.