Tuesday, February 07, 2006

For the Sake of the Call

I served on two STINTs. My first one was in Kazakhstan. My second one was in a large Asian nation that shall remain nameless. It was definitely a contrast in many ways.

My first STINT was back in the day when the Soviet Union first fell apart. It wasn't like we didn't see anything happen our first semester but it was hard to tell if we were making any impact or just gathering random people who wanted to learn English. In January, we had this conference in Moscow for all the staff serving in the former Soviet Union. We affectionately called it 'Diet Camp' because there was virtually no food only kasha and maybe a few cold sturgeons. I had the flu all week and was miserably cold. We went from there to a midyear in Switzerland. Talk about culture shock. It was impeccably clean. The grocery stores were packed with stuff I had not seen in months. I didn't want to leave. I was skiing in the Alps for heaven's sake! Surely they need a team in Switzerland right?

On my second STINT our team had an unbelievable fall. In fact by the midyear everyone on my team was discipling at least one believer and most were discipling several. We had this cool Christmas party in early December for all of the believers. I still remember the 'ah ha' moment when they realized that the 25 or so people who were at that party were all new believers and they were a part of a family. I enjoyed the midyear in Thailand but I really couldn't wait to get back. I was looking forward with an expectation of what God was going to continue to do on our campus and among our team.

I don't know where you are on that spectrum. Maybe you and your team are really looking forward to the Spring semester or maybe you wished you could have stayed at your midyear especially if it was on a warm beach.

One passage that really speaks to me about getting back in the game is John 21. This is the scene that starts with Peter saying to his team, 'I am going fishing.' Here is a guy who left his everything to follow Him. But Peter didn't live up to his own high expectations and maybe he was ready to rethink this STINT of fishing for men. Being the leader he was, his team followed him on the expedition. Then Jesus shows up causes them catch a miraculous amount of fish after fishing all night to no avail just like in Luke 5 when he left everything. I don't think this was an accident. I think he was reminding Peter of that time. It was like Jesus was saying, 'Pete, you remember when you left everything to follow me? What changed, bro?'

Jesus cooks the eleven breakfast on a charcoal fire. I look at that and think, 'why charcoal?' Surely there is driftwood along the shore. I wonder if that is significant too. The only other time in the NT that you find a charcoal fire is when Peter warmed his hands up to such a fire and denied that he knew Jesus. In Isaiah 6:6, the seraphim take a charcoal ember from the altar to cleanse Isaiah's lips. I like to think that the charcoal fire is a reminder of the need of forgiveness and the cleansing that only comes from Christ. Whatever excuse you have for staying on the sideline, Jesus dying on the cross trumps that.

You know the rest of the story, Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves Him and each time Peter responds with an honest answer but not quite the fullblown love Jesus was asking about. Each time Jesus tells him to get back at the job of shepherding. Jesus even lets Peter know how he will die. Then when Peter tries to change the subject and talk about John, Jesus says in essence 'what does it matter about Him, you do whatever you called you to do."

As you head back into country and start up a new semester maybe these questions will help you and your team think through no matter where you are: what caused me to sign-up for this anyway? Has anything changed? Do I need forgiveness and cleansing from anything that is holding me back from finishing well? Do I really love Jesus? Am I willing to do whatever He calls me to no matter what it costs me?

When we left Switzerland back on that first STINT, after first stopping in Moscow, I boarded my Aeroflot plane back to Kazakhstan. In my walkman I put in a tape of Steven Curtis Chapman. (Remember this was a long time ago and he had even a mullet back then.) I remember listening to the song 'For the Sake of the Call' and committing again like those crazy fisherman to leave everything at the shoreside for the sake of the call.

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