Sunday, August 29, 2010

We Are Created for Community

I like to think about the Creation story in Genesis. It’s pretty crazy. I mean, when we read it through fresh lenses and just observe it as if we haven’t heard it a million times before, it rings true just like it always has; but there are some really cool things in the first two chapters of the Bible. The story of Creation goes a little something like this:

God is. The story begins with God and His eternal, infinite existence. So, there He is—just doing God things...because He’s God. The Triune God of the soon to be universe is just fellowshipping with Himself—just kicking it—in His triune nature. God is three in one and one in three—there is this Godhead community. Then the Godhead decides to start creating stuff from nothing. He creates and says, “It’s good.” He creates some more and says, “It’s good.” Then He does some more and says again, “It’s good.” He does this seven times: creates and declares His creation to be good.

But then He says something interesting. God says, “It is NOT good...” Well, what is He talking about? He finishes the sentence by declaring that it is not good for man to be alone. This is really cool. Adam is there in the garden surrounded by animals of all kinds—and yet God says man is alone. He designed us for community with Him and for community with others. He declares this at the very beginning of the story. He created man and it was good—but it wasn’t done yet. God’s plan was always community.

I think I’ve always understood this to be true—academically. But I think CCP has grown me in the depth of being really acquainted with this truth. I miss my CCP teammates. There is no debating it. Community and fellowship with them deeply blessed and enriched my life. But praise God because I have found sweet fellowship with Kiwi believers here in New Zealand. Even though university has the week off, and all the students have left for the holiday, there is a remnant that is still here in Dunedin. It brings me great joy to know that the Father ordained that this week in my life should be laden with the fellowship of believers.

There are men here that ferociously love Christ and I am so thankful to be around them. I think this stirs my heart to worship because they are living proof that God is making good on His promise to save and transform peoples from every tribe, tongue, and nation. Let our prayer be that God would bring more and more Kiwis into our community—that He would save men and women and bring them into sweet fellowship with Himself and also, us.

-Nate Xanders

“If you really believed in an omnipresent God, you would operate as if you were never alone and without community and fellowship.” –Dr. Del Tackett

Friday, August 13, 2010

And Then There Was One

On July 6th, twelve Americans arrived in New Zealand as the Cross Cultural Team. Seven weeks later, on August 20th at approximately 9:38am New Zealand Standard Time, eleven members of Cross Cultural Team got on a plane to begin the 30+ hour journey to Nashville, Tennessee, USA. But one team member was left behind. The twelfth and final member watched as the plane pulled away from the terminal at the Dunedin airport. There were 12...and then there was one.

Calm down, they left me here on purpose—nobody panic. Yes, the rumors are true. You read Zach’s blog entry correctly. I (Nate Xanders) am still here and it wasn’t a mistake. Well—I mean them leaving me here wasn’t accidental...only time will tell if it was a bad idea or not. I’m kidding. It’s not like being left on the other side of the planet all alone is a big deal or anything. And living all alone in this big, old, dark, cold house is a cake walk. Sure, I almost peed my pajamas last night because of how terrifyingly empty this house is at 2am, but it’s all for the sake of the gospel big deal. I’m just joking; it’s really not that bad. But seriously, it’s hard to fill such a large humor void left by the departure of Sean Stallings and Megan Sparks. It’s like a laughter vacuum has been created here in Dunedin and now the whole town has no idea why they’re so sad.

On a happy note, I won’t have to do any grocery shopping during my extra month here. There’s enough food here to last me a good six weeks. If we had left the other Nate here, he’d have enough food for about 10 days. Thank you to all the girls for buying way more food that you could have ever eaten. I think I could eat Weet-Bix three times a day and never run out. Sam...that flounder you bought...what were you thinking?

Buying way to much at Pak n’ Save = CCP Fail
Leaving it all to Nate = CCP Win

Also, you guys have no idea how much work they did getting this house ready for us. It’s crazy—and now I’m helping put it all back the way it was before. It’s pretty encouraging to see the church’s vision for this house. I hope CCP 2011 will grasp the weight of Grace Bible Church’s dedication to this ministry. I think we all know how greatly they served us this summer (winter here in the southern hemisphere).

I’d like to give each of you my thoughts about you over the past 48 hours as I have missed you all very much.

Megan and Liz: your bunk bed refused to come down. It is rebelling against the fact that you’re no longer here in the house. I think you two should fly back so you can take it down yourselves.

Nate F.: All our apples still smell like your stinky tea. Thanks for nothing. But hey, I still love you brother and can’t wait to fellowship with you soon.

Fennell: I miss you snoring right above me in the top bunk. Something about it was soothing. Every time I hangout with Hugh I think about how encouraged I am by you.

Kyle: Kyyyyle! When stuff goes bad around the house, I have no one to blame. When stuff goes bad around the house, there’s no one to fix it. Also, I miss our conversations...and when I say conversations, I mean you talking to me in your sleep and me telling you, “Shut up, Kyle!”

Sam: Once again...the’re killing me. The whole kitchen smells like fish now. You owe me (and Zach) one “Blood Brother” and/or a “Christ Receiveth Sinful Men.”

Kendall: Skew! Skew! “Grow up Kendall.”

Sean: Finances took Josh like a million years—and it was just me. Thanks for serving us this summer and being the goofiest dude on the planet. I dig you and everything about you.

Girls: Your shower is like a phone booth—for oompa-loompas. It is really that small—like, I’m amazed. But thanks for leaving me all the girly soaps and stuff. I smell great—like flowers, bubbles and the stuff that dreams are made of.

Megan: Since you left I figured someone would need to take your place at spilling food everywhere. I got tuna, egg yolk, apple juice, and milk all over the kitchen in 24 hours.

ZNR: I found some boxer briefs with your initials on them. Thanks for being a great CCP team-leader. I appreciate you and all you did for us as a team.

I love you all. Please pray for me and continue to contact via email and Facebook. I treasure your encouragement and prayerful intercessions on my behalf.

My friends have left me alone on the other side of the planet and yet I will praise God for He, and not my friends, is my rock and my salvation. He is my fortress and I will not be shaken.

-Nate Xanders

Monday, August 2, 2010

Rightly Placed Hope Frees Us to Love Well

This summer during my quiet times I have been doing most of my reading in the letters of Paul. Because of my particular aptitude and personality, I really like the truly meaty theological selections from his writings. The truth is this: when I read through his letters, I usually just read all the other stuff as quickly as possible just so I can get to the passages that are my favorites. This is a really worthless way to read scripture. I already know what those favorite passages say and I know what they’re communicating doctrinally and theologically, but I don’t often stop to meditate on the other stuff that is just as important—if not, more important for me to read and implement into my life. I give you Colossians 1 as Exhibit A.

I think Colossians 1:13-23 is one of the greatest passages of scripture that Paul ever wrote (and for goodness sake, he wrote 16 unbelievable chapters in Romans). But as I began to read Paul’s letters this summer, I decided to really, really read all of the text and try as best I could to absorb it all. As I took this approach, I didn’t even make it past verse 4 in Colossians before something new really jumped off the page. Colossians 1:4-5 tells us that the Christians inColossae have love for all the saints, because they have placed their hope in heaven. Paul seems to suggest in the next sentence that loving others is a basic part of the gospel. I believe it was Tim Keller who explained that love isn’t really love until it costs you something—love by definition requires sacrifice. For instance, to love well this summer, we’ve had to sacrifice. Because let’s face it: there are 12 of us and that’s a lot of sinners saved by grace to stuff into one house. But, I think it’s shown us all where our hope is. If that hasn’t shown us, then evangelizing and building relationships with the lost has for sure.

I think that’s the biggest lesson the Spirit shone on my soul as I read Colossians 1 the other day. I felt like Spirit was whispering, “Nate, they’ll never know the Supremacy of Christ from Colossians chapter one if someone doesn’t love them sacrificially.” It’s true. Relationships are a mess of sacrifice, but they’re a mess worth making—especially if my hope isn’t found in the relationships, but rather in Christ. Jesus didn’t make a great sacrifice so that we as believers could avoid sacrifice—his sacrifice enables our sacrifice for the kingdom and for people. The past couple weeks, it has been really hard to get lost students to call us back, text us back, or even come out to get free food. I’ve never encountered this much of this in the States and it’s been challenging. I have been encouraged by our team though. Our rightly placed hope frees us to love well. These guys (and girls) lay it out there day in and day out. They desire so much to love people well and to sacrifice comfort, sleep, feelings, emotions, pride, and even physical well-being to reach the lost. I count myself richly blessed to be with this team.

If you read this, please pray that we would look to make more and more sacrifices to love the lost in Dunedin. Please pray that God would move in us to be aggressive with our love and that He would move in them to respond. Thanks for reading and thanks for praying. Thanks for loving us.

-Nate X.