Monday, March 25, 2013

Tenacious Spirituality

This Ivy League Rookie of the year is intense –not just about wrestling, and academics but about Jesus.   Nahshon Garrett has been making news all season long -including this past weekend at the NCAA finals, but I want to talk about his faith.  If you run into Nahshon on campus, you will be blessed, you’ll probably have some sort of spiritual conversation, and you’ll typically end up praying together! 

I’ll be honest; I’ve seen countless athletes living luke-warm lives,  sort of ‘naming the name’ and only talking about being a Christian when they come to church on Sundays.  So I wasn’t too sure when I met Nahshon this past fall if his passion was gonna last.   He had recently given his life to Jesus, and although I was certainly hopeful that he would remain gung-ho,  I wouldn’t have been too surprised if he faded out once the season got going.  

But by God’s grace he’s even more pumped up right now!  It has been unbelievably encouraging to me and to everyone in our ministry to see the ways that God is working in and thru Nahshon!  This guy is berserk!  So many Cornellians (and others!) can be  driven, diligent and intentional in almost every area of their lives except their spiritual lives –but not so with Nahshon.   His faith is authentic and his zeal is contagious.   This guy is sold out thru and thru; there isn’t that disconnect that you see so often.   

Cornell’s wrestling program is absolutely top notch.  Hometown sensation and Cornell senior Kyle Dake just won his 4th NCAA championship –each of them in a different weight class –without even taking a redshirt year.  What he’s accomplished is unprecedented in every way! 

Like Dake, Nahshon is triumphant on the mat. But like Epaphras in Colossians 4:12, he is also one who wrestles in prayer.  He cleaned out a small basement boiler room to make a quiet time space for himself in “The Wrestling House” –the home he shares with over 30 of the guys.  Every day he’s spending time down there reading his Bible and praying for his team mates and friends.  

Nahshon is constantly talking about the Bible and repenting of pride, dying to self and yielding our lives to the Holy Spirit.  Only then can we experience God fully and be used by him powerfully.  He’s always on the lookout for an opportunity to share the good news of Christ, encourage others and speak blessing into people’s lives.  

Nahshon at the Cru Fall Retreat
More than once, I’ve been talking to a student in our ministry and when I mention Nahshon, they immediately recount to me some incredible and unusual story.   The other day the Cornell baseball team was practicing indoors because of the weather.  While running laps, a junior player named Zach who’s involved in Cru saw Nahshon walk into the gym.  (Zach is also a passionate Christ follower on campus) They waved at each other.  When Zach came around again, it appeared Nahshon was kind of gesturing for him to come over.  Even though, they were practicing, Zach jogged over to see what was up.  Nahshon greeted him and said –“hey man, you want to pray together real quick?”  Not sure exactly how the coaches would feel about him skipping a couple of laps, Zach somewhat uncertainly said “Yeah, let’s do it!”  And so the two of them proceeded to pray for each other right there in the gym. 

Right when they were done, Zach got back to jogging, and he told me he was thinking:  “What just happened?.....That was awesome!!!”  His spirit was tremendously encouraged and his mind was focused on the Lord! 

Nahshon has a real way of doing that for people! 

A couple of weeks ago he was talking to a guy on campus.  Friendly and engaging as always, he was just getting to know him a bit.  The guys wife came along to meet him for lunch and so they said “goodbye, nice to meet you” etc.   But, the Holy Spirit had more in mind, and Nahshon was struck with a burden to pray for the guy.  So, while the couple walks away, he jogs back over to them and asks him if he can pray over them.  They guy’s wife is kind of thinking “uh….did I miss something?”   But they bow their heads together and Nahshon just prays for their lives in Jesus’ name.   Such a blessing! 

When they finish, they part ways, and as Nahshon is walking away, he sees a couple of Asian students –who he has never met before-sitting there praying together at a table.  Fired up and always ready to pray, Nahshon walks right over to them, puts his arm around one of the guys and joins them in prayer right there.  One of the guy’s kind of opens his eyes and is no doubt thinking “uh…did I miss something here?”  They wrap up their prayer time and afterwards they spent some time talking about life and the Lord on campus.  I can pretty much guarantee as Nahshon walked away the guys were encouraged and even more focused on the Lord. 

I have other stories, that I don’t want to write because they involve many different people.  But, I just love Nahshon’s tenacious spirituality.  God has already and is now redeeming him from a life spent striving after satisfaction in alcohol, promiscuity or even fame and success.   Nahshon’s compassion for those separated from Jesus compels him to engage others lovingly.  He’s always trying to find ways to help others know the incomparable love of our savior.  

Monday, March 4, 2013

Boaz Gets Crazy with Ruth

With a story line straight out of a country song, the Book of Ruth chapter 3 finds Naomi devising a way for her daughter in law to get a husband!   It’s a farm town Friday night at the end of harvest season and she’s determined not to let a quality cowboy like Boaz get away.   Convinced that every guy is keen for a moonlight romp in the hay –or barley as it happened to be in this case, she’s certain she knows how to take this relationship to the next level!  

I made my first visit to Tabernacle Baptist Church this past week.  Numerous Cru students are members there and they are very supportive of college ministry all the way around.  Pastor Paris has been teaching thru the book of Ruth –and yesterdays sermon aligned nicely with the stuff we’ve been talking about at Real Life the last couple of weeks; Marriage, sex, and dating.

The book of Ruth’s three main characters are:
Naomi –a Hebrew widow who is wounded, bitter and broken by the hardships of life.
Ruth – a Moabite, one of Naomi’s daughter–in-laws.  She is also a widow.
Boaz – an upstanding Hebrew man, prosperous, hardworking and Godly.

In Chapter 1, Naomi leaves Moab in hopes of finding life and food back in her native land of Judah.  Ruth was determined to stay with her, and famously declares “your people will be my people, and your God, my God.”  (Ruth 1:16)

In Chapter 2, Ruth meets Boaz while gleaning grain in his field.   (According to the Mosaic law, farmers/landowners  were to refrain from harvesting their whole field and the poor were allowed to pick whatever they could along the edges. Leviticus 19:9-10) He treats her with kindness, blesses her with food and instructs his workers to make sure she “finds” plenty of grain.   He invites her to keep close to his guys in his field so that she’ll be safe.  He doesn’t even really know her, but he’s immediately looking for ways to tangibly bless her life. 

Boaz is a stud all the way around, and as a distant relative of Naomi he’s a potential “kinsman redeemer” for Ruth –basically he could buy her out of widowhood and marry her.  That would be fantastic!  Boaz is a man of character, he’s generous, he looks out for others.   His workers respect him, he cares for the poor –this guy is the kind of guy anyone would want their daughter to marry –and Naomi becomes set on making that happen. 

In Chapter 3, it’s the end of the harvest season.  It’s kind of like “county fair” time, and Naomi contrives this plan to “catch a catch” as pastor Paris put it.   Here’s the plan in verses 3 and 4. 

Ruth 3:3-4
Wash therefore and anoint yourself, and put on your cloak and go down to the threshing floor, but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. But when he lies down, observe the place where he lies. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down, and he will tell you what to do.”

“Sounds like seduction” said Pastor Paris!  I agree!  I’ve heard numerous sermons trying to make this whole interaction seem less funky, but I’ve always thought it seemed sketchy–especially given the norms of the day!  Pastor Paris refused to shy away from the shadiness and unpacked this section with tremendous contemporary application.

Naomi  basically tells Ruth to put on some perfume, get dressed up, wait for Boaz to finish eating and drinking wine and then go “lie with him” out in the barn.   Really wanting Boaz and Ruth to hook up –she makes a plan for them to actually hook up!  

Ruth’s supposed to go out and “uncover his feet?”  Paris explained that in Hebrew, it could certainly insinuate an uncovering of much more!   “Lie down, and he will tell you what to do.”   So she’s supposed to find him in the night, when no one else is around, crawl up to him wearing perfume, uncover at least his feet, and make herself available for whatever he says to do?!  Were the ladies in fact counting on the uncommon virtue of Boaz to make this turn out differently than one would expect?  Ruth told her mother-in-law “All that you say I will do” –some say she was just being a respectful daughter?   Was she acquiescing to a shady plan because she was trusting and na├»ve?  I can’t believe it!  I think both of these ladies, were defaulting to “Moabite methods!”*  Sleeping with a guy isn’t the best way to get a husband –but it has worked for billions of people!

At midnight, with his “feet” exposed, Boaz awakes with incredible fright to hear Ruth’s proposition.  Things definitely get crazy –but not like you might think!

Rather than engaging inappropriately with a woman who is not his wife, Boaz makes a declaration of NO COMPROMISE!  First of all, check out the way he starts talking about the Lord.  He then promises that he will follow the legitimate procedures for making Ruth his lawful wife.  He will not take what is not his.  Instead, he gives.  He sends Ruth home with grain for Naomi.  He’s a man of integrity, and rather than taking any short-cuts, Boaz is determined to do things God’s way!   Taking the responsibility upon himself, he proceeds to expend himself to arrange the marriage.

Here’s what’s crazy –on that day, and on this day –BOAZ HONORS RUTH!  He loves her, he cares for her, protects her and cherishes her.  In short, he loves her in the same crazy way that Jesus loves! 

*Moabite Methods:  What i'm calling Moabite, are certainly common enough.  People making up their own sexual ethic, trying to make marriage happen however they can etc.  But, it is interesting to see where the Moabites started.  We're talking about a whole culture of people who were literally spawned into existence thru an act of devastating sexual brokenness.  Check out Genesis 19:30-29