March 6th, 2015

A Week of Tom Short

Desert's End Church Community

A guest post by Jason Vera.

The week the college team spent with Tom Short was full of blessings. Every day was a new day, where my only goal was to spread the good news of Christ to everyone I spoke to. In the beginning, I did not know what to expect. I had heard a lot of crazy stories and awesome things that God had done with Tom and his ministry beforehand but it was hard to imagine what that would really be like. The first day I spent listening and working with Tom set the stage for the rest of the week. On the first day, Monday, we were all eager for Tom to kick things off. After everything was all set, everyone dispersed into the surrounding area and mixed in with the people that were lounging outside the MU and left Tom all alone on his stool. He sat in a large walkway where there is a lot of traffic and began speaking and it struck me how his voice projected throughout the whole area. He began by saying that it was time for ASU to listen up. Within 15 minutes, maybe even 10, Tom had drawn out someone to speak and argue with him over the existence of God. Their discussion quickly drew a sizable crowd. It was incredible to see how God brought everything we needed together in the form of the heckler and the crowd. This created the perfect environment for the rest of us to begin.

As Tom continued to loudly debate and argue the heckler(s) (more of them joined in after a while) and the crowd grew, we all began to ‘work’ the crowd. Maddie, who was with me the whole time, went and began speaking with people to my right and I began speaking with the guy in front of me. This particular guy I spoke to for the better part of an hour and had a great discussion. He is agnostic and has no doubt in his mind that the universe has a creator. He could not, however, accept the Christian God mostly on account of all the horrible things that he commanded and similar things found in the Bible. We went through every single problem he had with God and the Bible and I showed him how it all pointed to Christ. It was incredible to see his willingness to listen to me when I responded to his questions. Although he did not accept Christ, it was apparent that he had begun to see things differently than he had before.

That was essentially the story of all my conversations throughout the week. In every conversation I had, it amazed me how easy and how well I could answer everyone’s questions and explain the Gospel and Bible to them. I spoke to atheists, Muslims, agnostics, and all sorts of different people each day Tom was out there preaching, and they ALL listened. That was the story for many of us working that week. In all the conversations I had, I was never stumped, or stuck, or unable to explain my faith.

I can only praise God for that and say that the Spirit was working in all of us and preparing the hearts of the unbelievers for the honor and the glory of Him.

Tom himself had great talks with everyone who spoke up to him. God certainly was using Tom in a powerful way. The last day, literally as Tom began speaking, there immediately came a heckler that drew a big crowd. At one point Tom was surrounded by a crowd of predominantly Muslims as he went through the Bible and the Gospel with them. Without fail Tom drew people to him as he was very approachable and not too aggressive. Crowds came to him easily, and at one point he was asked to move from his spot because the crowd was disrupting the huge walkway he was speaking on. Everyone knew that Tom was different. He wasn't like usual campus preachers that come on campus that offend, condemn, and yell at people. Everyone agreed that Tom actually was genuine, and simply had a loud conversation with you and discussed the ideas of whoever was willing to bring them forth.

By the will of God, Tom came at the perfect time for the Desert’s End Student group. It was right after our flagstaff retreat and it helped keep our spiritual momentum going. That week with Tom was incredible, not only because Tom is an awesome influential person, but because we were all actively seeing God work in not just the people we all talked to, but also in our own lives and in the group as a whole. During the dinners with Tom, our college team asked him and his crew so many questions about what God had done in their lives and it was truly incredible to hear their stories. Tom has so much experience doing what he does and his crew is learning so much and tasting all the wonders that God is doing in their lives. Every member of Tom’s crew has amazing testimonies and it was just brilliant to be a part of what God was doing with these people.

That entire week was a week of running after God.

I couldn't stand being apart from where Tom was speaking because all I wanted to do was share the Good News with the people around me. It’s a contagious feeling that spread throughout the college group and is still going. Our group has even increased in size as new people have come from hearing Tom speak and talking with us. It is evident that God is working in us right now and all I want to do is continue to delight in the Lord and what he is doing.

So what was it like having Tom around, interacting and working with him? It was hard, it was tiring. I only ate once a day, I left class early, it was scary and exciting, but above all, it was simply amazing serving the Lord and sharing the Gospel all that week.

February 12th, 2015

The Gospel, Plain and Simple

Desert's End Church Community

A guest post by Alex Janss.

I’ve been to a lot of Christian conferences, and I know one thing for sure: they are always really, really good. And really challenging. I went to Frontline knowing exactly what to expect: through the teachings and my own prayer times, God was going to ask me to do something really hard for the next year. I had no clue what it was going to be, but I had my guesses. God was going to ask me to share the gospel with people on a weekly basis, or ask me to give up video games and movies, or something along those lines. That’s how God works at these conferences; He gives you one monstrously hard new year’s resolution. My prayers leading up to the conference were filled with, “God, I’ll do whatever you ask. Just ask it, and I’ll do it, and we can get this all over with.”

Obviously my attitude wasn’t quite right, but I was oblivious to it. My life in the previous months had been filled with lots of spiritual action. I had cut back on movies and video games, I had been reading the Bible as often and as much as I could, and I had been very active in ministry with the church college group. I was subconsciously trying very hard to be a good Christian, and I was ready to take whatever last step was needed to be completely surrendered to God.

During the conference, as I listened to the teachings. my mind honed in on what I needed to do better as a Christian. I was making a mental checklist of what I was doing well on, and what I needed to work on. I think that deep down, I at least suspected that I was way too focused on myself and my own efforts. God nudged me with Philippians 3,

"But whatever was to my profit, I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith."

It’s the gospel, plain and simple. Accepted completely by God apart from me or any of my rubbish.

God was trying to show me that my rubbish, my efforts, my diligence, had crept their way back into my heart. After reading this verse I remember crying out to God, “What do you want? What am I supposed to do for you that will make you happy?” I could almost see the pained expression on God’s face. “You’ve missed it completely,” He seemed to be saying. The conference kept getting more and more frustrating for me. I kept looking for something I could do to satisfy God.

One of the final nights of the conference, God seemed to ask me, “What sacrifice would you give me? What could you possibly do that would satisfy the Lord of the universe?” Nothing. And Everything. Nothing I could ever do for God would ever be a gift worthy of him, yet every little thing we do is a delight to him, provided we do it for our Father, and not to earn anything from him.

Through the conference, God was bringing my heart back to the right place. Shortly after the conference I read this from Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret:

To let my loving Savior work in me His will, my sanctification, is what I would live for by His grace. Abiding, not striving nor struggling; looking off unto Him; trusting Him for present power; . . . resting in the love of an almighty Savior, in the joy of a complete salvation, "from all sin"––this is not new, and yet 'tis new to me . . . . Christ literally all seems to me, now, the power, the only power for service, the only ground for unchanging joy . . . .

How then to have our faith increased? Only by thinking of all that Jesus is and all He is for us: His life, His death, His work, He Himself as revealed to us in the Word, to be the subject of our constant thoughts. Not a striving to have faith . . . but a looking off to the Faithful One seems all we need; a resting in the Loved One entirely, for time and eternity.

. . . . I looked to Jesus, and when I saw––oh, how joy flowed!

This was what I needed so desperately. Christ is mine, and I am his!

There is nothing left for me to do, but to sit and gaze at his beauty. I still struggle with this, but God is taking me on a journey. At times in my life I get way do focused on doing things for him, and I forget to abide and just sit at his feet. Other times, I use his grace as an excuse for laziness. But I am so thankful that God is faithful to bring my heart back to the right place.

Praise the Lord for he is good. His love endures forever.

February 4th, 2015

Waking Up

Desert's End Church Community

A guest post by Nate Claeys.

I am so thankful to God for the experiences that I have had at conferences like Frontline. They have been so encouraging and refreshing to my walk with Jesus. They are a special time where I get to seek God away from the world, I get to hear teachings and set my mind on Noble things that are above, and let them steep there. It is also a reunion with a bunch of brothers and sisters I dearly love. This year was all that, and something more.

I really connected with Pat Sokoll's last teaching of the conference which was titled "Session 11: Determining to Live the Rest of My Life on the Frontline (you can listen to it here: Frontline Session 11). This last teaching comes at the end of several days of up and down emotions, struggling with sin and ulterior motives, and digging into heavy things of the heart. In his teaching Pat gives his no-nonsense call to discipleship, what is has meant to him, and getting to the heart of it with three simple questions we should ask every day.

1. "What do I want?" Seriously, what do I want? In all honesty that is not an easy question for me to answer. I know that I am supposed to say Jesus. To follow him, to be filled with him, all his goodness welling up in me and producing good fruit, 30, 60 or 100 times what was sown in me. To be found in him, and to appear with him when he appears. For Jesus to look to me and say "He is mine" and "Well done, good and faithful servant." I do want that, oh God, how I truly do want that. However, that's not all I want. I want fun now, I want to have a good time with my friends. I want to be entertained continually. I want work to be easy. I want everyone to like me. I want lots of games and to waste countless hours enjoying all those things. I want things my way, I want them how I want them, when I want them. Ever I wanteth.

I was, and am forced to examine my heart and see all these conflicting desires and ask myself honestly which ones am I living for? Which of them, by my actions, do I really want? I know which desire that must rule over all the others, I will follow Christ.

2."What am I willing to endure?" So, I know what I want, I know that I must have Jesus. What am I willing to endure to get him? What is my Pearl of great price? Pat said "There are no shortcuts." Conferences and mission trips cannot make up for poor training in righteousness. This is, for me the hardest and most discouraging part of my Christian walk. I've seen many war/military movies where the special op hardcore soldiers are training, putting their bodies through incredible strain and fatigue, there is always a bell that any of them at any time can go and ring and they are free to stop the training and walk away. I know deep down in my bones that I would ring that bell, I would quit. I have often hoped for an overnight transformation into Christlikeness, I have prayed really hard after some very stirring teachings that God would change me forever, change my heart to be forever his, that I would be different. For some people maybe God will answer that prayer, but not yet for me.

God has given us the only opportunity we may ever have in all eternity to really have faith and give to God things that really cost us something.

I am reminded of a time when David was going to build an altar to the Lord and needed to buy "the threshing floor" (I don't know what that even is) from a man named Araunah. Araunah wanted to give him the threshing floor, and then some, for free, but David responded "No, but I will buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing." It hit me afresh that we have a unique opportunity here, to get in while the getting is good, as they say, to buy things from God and they will be in proportion to how much it cost us. The image we are given from Paul is a race to win a prize. What is costs us is daily training, preparing and hard work. How much do you want to pay? The more you pay, the better it is.

3. "What do I believe?" How will you define what is true for you? We must believe the Scriptures. For me, I really want to know what is really true; about God, about myself, about this world. I have lots of ideas in my head that motivate all kinds of actions and habits, and I find this question to be a good reminder to intentionally choose to believe what God has said over what I might happen to think or have been told. We will face all kinds of questions, from the world, from the devil, and from ourselves that need to have answers we really believe in. The truth has to be our guideposts. I don't want to spend all my time and effort trying to earn salvation because I did not really believe the scriptures.

I cannot prefer my own ideas in place of hard truth.

As I engaged with this teaching at the conference I felt like a part of me was coming awake again. I will often get up to go get something, and on my way forget what I was going to do. This was similar, "oh right that's what we're all about, that's where I am headed, that is what is real. What am I doing wasting my time with all this junk?" So I get back up and press on. The next day I wake up, there's all this junk around me and I have to get back up again and press on. And the next day... and the next... and the next... We can't stop, We can’t quit, Jesus took the quitting bell, there is no ringing it anymore, not for us anyways. We are not of those who shrink back.

"Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls."
Hebrews 10:35-39