Year Two in Penland Hall

If this post feels a little disjointed, its because a couple of my residents next door are testing the limits of their 500 watt speaker system. I’m back in the freshman dorms for year two. I live in Penland Hall with 480 of my favorite freshmen. I’m a Community Leader (Baylor’s version of an RA) here.

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As much as I love Penland and am blessed to be living here, my neighbor playing Guitar Hero next door reminds me that I don’t really belong here. I’m not a freshman. I’m not leading sic ’em cheers in the Penland dining hall, stumbling over my words at mixers with our sister hall, or walking around with an overstuffed backpack on the first day.

This feeling of not belonging reminds me of the Gospel. 

That sounds kind of strange. Christians are supposed to be really big on belonging. We use that word all the time. It’s a buzzword in our sanctuaries. We talk about about belonging to the local Church or belonging in God’s family. But I think that in some really significant ways, the Gospel tells us that we don’t belong. 

It tells us that we don’t belong in our sin, our junk, or our messes. It is God calling us out of our brokenness, to come to Him and be redeemed, renewed, and restored. It tells us we were made for more, for relationship with our God and Savior.

I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.

Psalm 40:1-2

And yet the Gospel tells us we don’t belong in another way. The crosses in our churches and on our necklaces and car bumpers remind us what had to happen for us to belong in that relationship with God. The wine we drink in communion is a bitter reminder that we don’t really belong. We don’t deserve God’s grace, but He gives it freely because He is good.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

Isaiah 53:5

So what does this have to do with Penland Hall? Whenever I have to tell my residents that bowling in the hallways is frowned upon, or that genuine swords are not appropriate wall decor, it reminds me that I don’t belong. 

I don’t belong in my sin and shame because my God has called me out of that.

I don’t belong in the presence of my Jesus because my sin put him up there on that cross. I deserved that.

I don’t belong.

And whether you’re a freshman or a senior or a senior citizenneither do you. 

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3 Things I Learned At Kamp

The other night, I was talking with my Ames friends and I found myself stumbling over my words, unsure of how describe such a full and weighty month.

I spent the last month working as a kamp kounselor at the K-Seven Kanakuk Kamp (and yes, by contract I have to spell those words with a “K”). I’m still processing through all that the Lord did this last month, not just in the hearts of my kampers, but in my own heart.

It’d be great if I could just sort through all the Lord did in my heart, type it up, put a bow on it, and put it on here. But I don’t think I’m there yet and I don’t think it is something that I can force. In the midst of processing, when things are still a little bit hazy, lists are helpful. So here’s mine.

Three things I learned at K-Seven

1. It is easier to make fans of Jesus than disciples of Jesus.

Fans of Jesus sit somewhere and believe something passively. They might sit somewhere  where they hear really great sermons or go to a great kamp where they hear the Gospel and see it being lived out. They might even cheer for Jesus, or come to the pep rallies on Sunday morning or Wednesday night, but they don’t play in the games. It’s not very hard to make fans of Christ. You can do it with funny skits and water slides or a compelling speaker.

It’s much harder to equip kids to follow Jesus for “the other 51 weeks,” as we like to say at Kamp. As a leader of a Bible study and as a kamp kounselor, I know how easy it is to tell others all the stories, scriptures, and doctrine they need to know and stop there. Bob Goff calls that “memorizing Jesus.” We are called to be followers, and following Jesus starts with believing that He is Lord and then standing up and running after Him. We must get that His grace isn’t powerless, that it changes us and moves us and makes us more into the image of Christ. As a kounselor, I first needed to make sure I wasn’t just memorizing Jesus and was actually loving, obeying, pursuing, and being changed by Him. Then, I needed to everything I could to share that with my kampers, that the full Gospel could not just be believed passively.

We must believe and share the full Gospel, the one that makes ourselves and others stand up and run after our Savior. 

2. Our convictions are more important than our emotions.

At Kamp, there are so many times when you aren’t feeling it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an incredibly fun work environment. Boat-driving by day and dance parties by night is a hard life to complain about, but the volume and repetition drains you like a Texas summer heat wave. So often I didn’t feel like waking up early to pray for my kampers or dancing like a wild man at the foam party. I had to recognize that my convictions came before my emotions. If I believe that the good news of Jesus Christ is paramount, this conviction will drive us to do things we don’t feel like doing. Kamp was all about that. The kids needed to both hear and see the Gospel. In order to do this, I needed to be fueled not by fleeting emotions but by lasting convictions.

 We must be fueled by our convictions. They both come before and shape our emotions.

3. The amount of patience we have for others depends completely on our grasping of God’s unlimited patience for us.

If you ever want to do a little experiment to find out how impatient you are, spend any period of time with 11 and 12 year old boys. I spent two weeks as a kounselor of this age group. Do the math and that’s a little over seventeen thousand minutes of being humbled by my own impatience. Thankfully, God is good and showed me this scripture a couple days into Kamp.

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.                         1 Timothy 1:15 (emphasis added)

I was only able to be patient with these kids to the extent that I was aware of God’s immense patience for me. No amount of yoga in the mornings provides the patience that gospel wakefulness provides.

Knowing that we follow an immensely patient Savior can, should, and will make us patient people.

Kamp was incredible. God is good. I’ll close with this.

So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace… 2 Timothy 1:8-9a