Friday, June 28, 2013

ONLY a Test

Just this morning during the time our housemates habitually meet to pray, I was sharing with Jane Takahashi that I think God is teaching me that I am finite. There are a lot of large events coming up for our church within the next three weeks and I must confess that I’ve been stressed over them. 

On the 4th of July my church, REACH Philadelphia, is hosting our second block party on the street in front of my house. The very next day our church is launching into the “wilderness” of New Jersey’s Belleplain State Park for our annual campout. One week after that our Vacation Bible School program starts. I’ve felt the responsibility primarily falling on me and it’s been heavy. Anxiety has sapped my appetite. I’ve been moody and a high percentage of the breaths I take have been sighs. I’ve been putting long days in to focus on these work priorities and have neglected to take responsibility for my daughter so Deanne could experience more moments of sanity. We had a very important conversation about that last night. God is teaching me and I’m all ears at this humble point.

I promised that I would watch Eden until 8 AM this morning and that I would watch her again from 3 - 5 PM this afternoon. I left the house to have worship at the quiet church building in Chestnut Hill before starting my office work.  This is the passage I read for today. 

...Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward [H]im, [H]e said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for [H]e already had in mind what [H]e was going to do.

Philip answered [H]im, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”

Another of [H]is disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up,  “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”

Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.

When they had all had enough to eat, [H]e said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten. John 6:5b-13 NIV

Here’s the part that grabbed me, Jesus ONLY asked Philip where they would get the food to test him. What kind of test is that? I think Philip’s realization that purchasing food for all those people was outside the realm of their human possibilities at that moment was an important one. I wish Philip hadn’t stopped there. I wish he had offered some morsel of faith to Jesus as Andrew did. 

Though it was illogical, Andrew brought a boy and his lunch to Jesus, not because he thought the child’s meal would be enough food to feed a the massive crowd, but I believe he had a small ray of hope that Jesus could do the inconceivable. He brought what was available to Jesus and Jesus rocked the sides off their small boxes of logic.

So much of what rides on me and the limited time and ability I have to get the deeds done this week makes no sense to me. It’s a test I can’t pass on my own. But’s actually exciting to imagine what God ALREADY has in mind for my challenges while looking at Jesus lesson plan for His pupils in this story. They saw that the problem was WAY BEYOND THEM. Jesus showed that it was NOT A PROBLEM for Him. He was much more than enough. There were twelve baskets of leftovers signifying that Jesus is not only enough for the 5,000 men and their families present that day, He’s also enough for all twelve tribes of Israel. He’s enough for all of us!

May I acknowledge my finitude moment by moment while always praising God expectantly for His omnipotent care for me. One with Jesus, there is not test I can’t ace. Bring on the day! Glory to God!!!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Let's Do It Again, and Again and Again!

You're gonna like this!

My friend Tyson Shaw showed me this hillarious video last night. What struck me was the amazing object lesson. Observing the pranked, cursing and threatening car salesman's quick and total attitude adjustment once he realized the driver wasn't a two-faced old man endangering both of their lives, but one of the most decorated NASCAR drivers in history is telling. It gives us perspective for when our own lives seem way out of control. When his rage turned to delight, he actually asked if they could do it again. I'm sure the second round was much more pleasurable.

Why is it that we hate the feelings that come when we fear an epic fail or total destruction but we love theme parks? Though roller coasters reach speeds higher than we are legally able to drive, and flip and turn, and rattle our brains, we see people get on and we see them get off with smiles on their faces. We know Jeff Gordon has driven souped Chevy's around the raceway thousands of times at much higher speeds than he test drove that Camaro. We know it's safe enough to enjoy over and over again.

Jesus is better at directing our lives than Jeff Gordon is at driving race cars.  He can also design better thrill rides than Werner Stengel. We hear testimonies of the miracles He performs in response to prayer and can see the awe inspiring account of His abilities anytime we read the Bible or take time to gawk at the beauty of nature.

But sometimes we experience moments that don't occur to us as a good idea. Jeremiah even said that God deceived and overcame him to make him do the prophetic ministry in Jeremiah 20:7. Just six verses later he says, "Sing to the Lord, praise the LordFor He has delivered the soul of the needy one from the hand of evildoers," in Jerermiah 20:13 NASB. In the very next verse he goes on to curse the day he was born. So if you ever feel like you are back and forth with your feelings about how God drives when He's behind the wheel in your life, you're in good company with a prophet who probably followed God's direction more than most.

The wise king Solomon said to, "[t]rust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge [H]im and [H]e will direct your paths.," in Proverbs 3:5,6 NKJV. He wasn't famous for doing what God said, but he too knew what was true. If we put our faith in God, we will have no regrets in the end.  

As the parable by Morris Venden below teaches, God will let us take back "control" of our lives at any point. But after driving ourselves into the ditch time and time again in contrast to His sovereign navigation skills displayed with every obstacle and trial we allow Him handle, I pray that we will repeatedly plead for Him to take over. Let's do it again, and again and again. He'll always say, "yes, let's."


2 Chronicles 20:1-30


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Humbled and Honored and Praising God

So today I found out that it was voted by the Pennsylvania Conference Executive Committee that I get to have a Ministerial License in the Seventh-Day Adventist Church...two weeks ago. I guess I should check my conference email more often. 

I then found out from Ray Hartwell, the conference president, that yesterday a special committee officially decided to recommend to that same Executive Committee that I be sponsored to go to the Andrews University Theological Seminary in Fall of 2014. That means they want to pay for me to get my graduate degree and bring me back to Pennsylvania to have a job when I finish. 

It gets even better, my amazing boss, Pastor Tara Vincross, was cc’d on the email and replied to Ray saying, “I must tell you that each week I find new things to appreciate about what God is doing through the life and ministry of Pastor Nick Snell and I know that ADCOM is making the best decision to move forward with this recommendation to Executive Committee.  He is a gifted minister and will continue to be a blessing to our conference.” As I wrote to them, I share with the world now in this blog, I’m humbled and honored and praising God!

Later on PT shared something with me that blew my mind on a whole other level. I am not at liberty to say what it was, but it was even more meaningful to me than all the other things mentioned above. Needless to say, I felt very affirmed today. God knows when we need encouragement. All this was very unexpected today.  I don’t see this as something that means I’ve arrived, but it makes me want to run to my God who made all this happen all the more. I celebrate Him, the God who says that to Him who overcomes, those that invite Him into their lives, He will invite to sit on His throne. What an amazing God that He would promote little ol’ us!

I pray for myself and for all who read this that we will let God have full access to our lives (heart, mind, strength, time, money, talent, EVERYTHING!) Wherever you are, join me in praising this God who humbled Himself to the point of becoming one of us and gave Himself up to death on the cross so we wouldn’t have to suffer what our sins deserve. He is alive. He is exalted. He is available. He is MY God. I’ll praise Him forever!