OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This will be the final post I will make for my “Second Campus” blog.

I’m so grateful to those of you who have thought and interacted with me over the past five years, through my recovery from brain cancer, as well as the thoughts which inspired me as I served as Campus Pastor at Blanchard Warrenville.  For me, this blog was a gift which often helped me more clearly understand the temperature of my own soul during the everyday challenges/surprises which are so common to not only the Christian life, but also through the calling to ministry.

The following is the text of my concluding remarks to the congregation in Warrenville on Sunday, January 6th. 

Dear friends and church family of Blanchard Alliance Church in Warrenville:

As of January 15, 2013, I have tendered my resignation as Campus Pastor of this church.  I apologize to those of you who have not received word of my decision, whether via e-mail or conversation up to now.   The reason I’m resigning, with Karyn’s full support and the good counsel from friends and spiritual leaders in our lives—the reason I’m resigning is that I did not have the confidence of Blanchard Alliance Church’s leaders, nor the significant majority of the Warrenville Leadership Team to continue serving as the pastor of this campus.  I grieve this loss deeply because I believe Blanchard Warrenville—our story as children, youth and adults together, while imperfect like all churches, is breathtakingly beautiful, full of God-glorifying potential.  I and my family have been changed forever by the rich, lasting relationships we have formed with so many of you and we mourn not being able to continue worshiping with you and leading you into the future.   Yet, like David affirms in Psalm 27, “I am still confident of this, I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”

As we leave, it’s important to express my gratitude for the countless ways you have loved us so well these last five years.  Who would have ever imagined being able to look back on having a seizure in church on June 20, 2010 and calling that a blessing?  For God to have allowed it to happen right here in the middle of this sanctuary was a gift—rather than in the car with my family, or on my awesome Vespa on the streets of Phnom Penh, Cambodia.  We thank our God because of you whenever we remember how you cared for me and my family in those dark days.

You are a gritty and tough bunch to have endured the many challenges of launching this new campus out of Wheaton in 2006.

I’m also grateful and proud of the progress we have made in becoming a more fully realized intergenerational church—where our kids and families are welcome participants together in the gatherings of our church.  I don’t know if you appreciate how truly special, rare and important this reality is for the viability of the North American Church and for all of Blanchard Alliance Church.  The fifty-or-so kids we have here at Warrenville are our greatest resource and responsibility and you all, whether single or married, have done such a beautiful job of seeing and celebrating our kids and helping them grow in their relationships with Christ.

Parents, we are the key to our kids’ growing a lifelong walk with Jesus.  They will practice the relationship with Jesus we show them at home.  So, in all these things, our highest calling is to know Christ as our life’s defining passion—vigorously guarding Him to be the very center of our lives—above all other things.  I pray, by God’s gracious power, we sense His presence giving us the bold authority to grow in Christlikeness today and in the days ahead.

I charge you, people of Blanchard Warrenville, to use the powerful voices God has given you by his Spirit to be his priests.  This is a church full of Spirit-gifted people.  Speak up!  Defend the purity of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the power of the cross to change people.  Expect nothing less from yourselves and your leaders.

And use your priestly voices to pray.  As I’ve often encouraged you as your pastor, pray for your lost neighbors, pray for God to break your heart for those trapped in the dark around you.  Walk your neighborhood and workplaces to pray for them by name.  And pray for revival to sweep through Blanchard Alliance Church and throughout the church in North America, for a renewed passion to know Christ and make him known.

I charge you, then, priests of Blanchard Warrenville, to also fully embrace the privilege of being disciplemakers.   Find someone to initiate this kind of life-giving relationship with.  Step up.  Look around.  It’s great, exciting work that you’re already gifted for by the Holy Spirit.  Jesus said, “The harvest is ripe but the workers are few.” And before he returned to heaven, he said “As you are going, make disciples…”  Choose to be a part of this harvest of change wherever you are every day.

But of all the things that I celebrate about Blanchard Warrenville, I am most proud of the way you love and care for one another in the name of Christ.  You are truly his ambassadors and I believe you always will be wherever God leads you in life.  Keep loving the hurting people all around you.

As I resign as leader of this church body, I still believe in the unlimited potential of the Church as God’s instrument to be his living expression everywhere.  Choose to be a blessing in Christ.  You are children of the King.  Bless and do not curse.  Thank you for how you have blessed me and my family while I served as your pastor.

Some of you may ask what’s next for our family.  We honestly don’t really know.  We welcome your prayers on our behalf for God to open a new door—and the courage to embrace that opportunity, whatever it might look like.  Our call right now is to be patient, to rest and to wait on God’s timing.

Finally, people of Blanchard Warrenville, we love you. We have been marked forever by your love and kindness.  So, in closing, I leave you with this beautiful blessing from the book of Numbers chapter 24:

“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

I plan on leaving the blog “live” as a marker point of how Christ met with me during my five years as Campus Pastor for Blanchard Warrenville.  I definitely learned a lot as I wrote–perhaps it will serve to be as such for others who read it, too?

UPDATE:

God graciously opened the door for the Kamphausens to relocate internationally to Thailand where Jeff is currently serving third culture kids as the Spiritual Life Director at Grace International School in Chiang Mai, Thailand.  Keep up with the Kamphausens through their new blog, Our Grace Story.

Advertisements

SunriseSecondCampus

The book of I John is shining in Advent at Blanchard Warrenville this year. As we move ever closer to Christmas, I’m amazed at the mystery and wonder of what Christ accomplished that night he was born in Bethlehem.

It’s a wonder which A.W. Tozer spoke on many years ago at Southwest Alliance Church in Chicago. As he reflected on the text of I John, he marvels at “that light”, a powerful descriptor of God as if He’s a luminous mountain, a bright presence so wholly other, so purely full of light and life–that any of us who confess our sin and darkness have access “this light”, thus restoring our broken relationship with God.

This, Tozer preaches, is the wonder of Christmas. In his message from I John, The Theology of Christmas, which I encourage you to stream or download here from sermonindex.net, is captured in its seven points below…

1.  The wonder of “that” eternal light
2.  The wonder of “that light” manifested
3.  The wonder of the nature of God:  “God is light, in him there is no darkness at all.”
4.  The mystery of iniquity
5.  The wonder of sin forgiven when confessed
6.  The wonder of cleansing from unrighteousness
7.  The wonder of “restored moral innocence” by the blood of Jesus.

May the wonder of the Light of Christ burn in our hearts anew like the two walking on the road to Emmaus experienced after He met them and explained everything about himself in the Scripture on that great day of His resurrection.

God save us from complacency this Advent season–move us to wonder and be filled with Your light anew…

A closing prayer:
As each day passes, the end of my life becomes ever nearer, and my sins increase in number. You, Lord, my [light], know how feeble I am, and in my weakness, strengthen me; when I suffer, uphold me, and I will glorify you, my Lord and my God.  –Ephrem the Syrian

Well, despite the best of intentions to report on our trip to Cambodia and Malaysia along the way, we’ve been safely back home a week now, and I don’t want to let the story get cold; so while it’s still fresh, I want to tell you all about it, albeit in summary form.  Karyn and I enjoyed rock solid health, little jet lag there (although it’s been tough to get back up to speed since we’ve come home…).

Thanks to so many of you who prayed and contributed to the trip financially.  You went before us and God blessed your partnership.  Thank you!

As we’ve returned to Chicago and dropped right into the intense busyness of the Advent season, we’ve so enjoyed being back together with our girls and are so thankful for Karyn’s parents who poured themselves out to watch them over Thanksgiving break while we were gone.

Here are some bullet point highlights of the trip:

  • The satisfaction of re-connecting with friends in Cambodia, including at the Cell Church of Christ in Phnom Penh and with former colleagues and fellow international workers–felt like we hit the ground running.  Phnom Penh was a whirlwind of change–we could barely distinguish landmarks in our old neighborhood of Tuol Kork, but managed to find our former nanny and cook’s apartment complex through calf-high flood waters.  We thoroughly enjoyed the shopping at the Russian Market–best little market in Asia, IMHO–cramped, hot, smelly, full of friendly people and great bargains, just the way we like it!

A fine Cambodia curry lunch with bread shared with our friends from the leadership team of the Cell Church of Christ…

Curry Lunch Cell Church Leaders

  • The gift of quality time with my wife and sharing ministry together.  I’m blessed to have such a great traveling partner and life companion in Karyn–we relished revisiting Asia, loved the adventure of it all and the gift of serving together–the only thing I would have changed would have been to be able to bring our girls along with us–maybe next time?  And, best of all, Karyn only had 2 flights where people next to her got airsick!

Enjoying a fancy lunch on the riverfront in Phnom Penh…

Lunch on the Riverfront

Coming home in a “tuk tuk” after one of our many market runs.

Tuk Tuk Ride

  • The fun of revisiting Dalat 23 years after I graduated and bringing Karyn to see it–still very much the same, but VERY DIFFERENT, too.  The four lane road in front of campus was a little unsettling (let alone the 2 monstrous hotels towering overhead right next door), but we still enjoyed the Hillside stalls and even got a free burger from the burger man (still the same guy!).

Dalat has been well-maintained–but who put those huge hotels up in the back yard?

Back to Dalat

We enjoyed SAB, the new Indian restaurant right across the street from the school!

19-DSC_0951

We asked the students to write ways they were challenged to see God differently through our talks…
DSC_0930

The retreat ended with a 30-minute time of solitude meditating on Zeph. 3:17, being quieted by God’s love and envisioning what it feels like to have the Father’s love singing over us…

02-DSC_0934

  • The joy of watching Brian and Valerie Weidemann, dorm supervisors at Dalat International School, serving together in their “sweet spot” as a couple–thriving as lovely, gifted complements to one another as “Dad and Mom” to the sweet kids in Jaffray Dorm.

1-DSC_0958

  • The deep satisfaction of serving fully in ministry, while being equally filled by the Holy Spirit to restore us as we worked.  Our series of retreat talks with the seventy dorm students were simple but challenging to apply.  As we encouraged the students to DISconnect from technology, we challenged them to Be There, to be fully present with their existing friendships at school and in the dorm, to Belong–to be intentionally devoted to their immediate family, both in the dorm and with their parents and siblings, to Be Rooted–to grow in their confidence of the non-negotiable foundations of their faith in Christ and to Be Still, to learn the spiritual disciplines of Sabbath and solitude as a regular practice in their lives as students (something I didn’t practice as a kid at Dalat.)

07-DSC_0939

So, in the midst of a busy ministry trip, Karyn and I have returned in the thick of Advent at Blanchard, renewed and refreshed by the quiet of God’s presence and the rich satisfaction of his Light breaking into our lives to give us hope and life.  May the words of Zephaniah 3:17 refresh and quiet you this season as much as it has for me.

The Lord your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing.”

The breath prayer which I taught the Dalat students (Do it like this:  Inhale and exhale deeply, then say “God quiets me with His love” at least ten times) has blessed me richly as I’ve returned home.  Maybe it will for you as well this Advent season, too?

2012-13SchoolTheme4Web

It’s been 22 years since I’ve set foot on the grounds of my former high school in Malaysia (yup, I’m old!), but starting next Wednesday, I’ll be back and bringing my sweet wife along with me!  Dalat International School has invited me and Karyn to be the speakers for this year’s dorm students retreat over Thanksgiving break.  I’m so looking forward to being back in Southeast Asia again, re-connecting with our friends and revisiting the place which had such an important role for five years when I was a teenager.

We’ll be stopping in Cambodia for a visit on the way to Penang and be using this blog to keep you all posted on our trip.  We treasure your prayers for us as we go–for the girls with Grandpa and Grandma, for the Spirit to anoint our ministry, refresh and renew us as we serve and prepare the hearts of the kids and staff we’ll be in ministry with next week.

Ever owned an under-powered electronic gadget?  The whole process starts slowly…the laptop doesn’t seem to last as long on battery power as it used to…and once the battery drain starts, it progresses quickly to the point where it barely holds a charge altogether.  I have an iPod that dies in a day simply by staying connected to WiFi.

It’s a senseless waste to be a piece of electronics and under-powered.  All those resources and apps with so much potential, made useless by a lack of battery capacity.

There is one thing that’s worse, though–an under-powered follower of Christ.

As we continue in our study of the book of Ephesians this fall at Blanchard Warrenville, the Apostle Paul makes it very clear that everyone who believes in Christ has total and complete access to all the power we’ll ever need for our lives today.

Let me summarize some of the many incredible promises from Ephesians Chapters 1 & 2.  As you read them (slowly!), let them soak in and fill you up with power:

  • “we are blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ…” (1:3)
  • “we are chosen to be holy and blameless in his sight”(1:4)
  • “anyone who believes is redeemed, forgiven and lavished with God’s wisdom and discernment” (1:7-8)
  • “anyone who believes is included in Christ”(1:13)
  • “anyone who believes receives the mighty Holy Spirit as a deposit guaranteeing our hope” (1:14)
  • “we (the Church) are the fullness of Christ, who fills everything in every way” (1:22)
  • “because of God’s great love for us, we are made alive in Christ.” (2:5)
  • “believers in Christ are raised up to rule with him today to be a testimony of his kindness and rich grace” (2:7)
  • “as loved ones, Jesus freely saves us by his grace” (2:8-9)
  • “we are God’s masterpieces, empowered to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do” (2:10)

Overwhelming isn’t it?  At the beginning of Ephesians 2, Paul makes it very clear that we are all faced with a stark choice.  Will we be consumed by our own fleshly passions and desires, thereby submitting to the devil’s authority, or will we obey Christ and fill ourselves up to the full of his riches?  I’ve attached the Powerpoint slide I created for my message last Sunday which summarizes the essence of Paul’s argument:

I’m particularly struck by the immediate consequences of which self we choose to live for.  The description of the kind of person who obeys the devil is pretty exhausting, miserable and toxic–we’re like animals consumed all day long by our own selfish passions which will kill us.  The terrible irony is that the devil doesn’t even have to destroy us–we destroy ourselves–he just gives us enough leash that we walk off the edge of the cliff to hang by our own selfish choices.

But look at how focused and powerful we are when we obey Christ!  By God’s grace, he empowers us to proactively create and establish Christ’s kingdom rule as forgiven ones along with him in our everyday lives rather than lurking around like reactive creatures at the mercy of our sinful habits.  With Christ at the center of all things we have unlimited capacity through the unbelievable gift of his empowering grace, power and presence.

Perhaps this post has helped you to identify areas in which you lack focus or where you are frustratingly under-powered, like my old iPod.  Accept the free gift of Christ’s salvation, then, and believe Christ’s promises to define your Today with Christ’s all-powerful authority.  Just ask for it–the power’s available right now.  And if the asking’s too much, pray like Paul did for the church in Ephesus:  He prayed that they might:

  1. through His Spirit, know Jesus better
  2. the eyes of their hearts would be enlightened to know the hope they have
  3. believe and experience his incomparably great power.

“The Future is, of all things, the thing least like eternity. It is the most temporal part of time–for the Past is frozen and no longer flows, and the Present is all lit up with eternal rays.”
― C.S. LewisThe Screwtape Letters

The present is suffuse with brilliant opportunity. That’s Lewis’ point.  Carpe diem–seize the day!  But there’s the rub.  It’s incredibly challenging as a Christ-follower to be fully present in The Present. Today isn’t the greatest day we’ve ever known (to misquote Billy Corgan) because we’re stuck in a hurt from the frozen, unchangeable past or completely stressed out about the credit card bill coming or how our kids are getting along at school.

As we continue in our study of the book of Ephesians at Blanchard Warrenville, Paul extols promise after promise about Our Immanently Present God who is available to us through the incomparable power of Father, Son and Holy Spirit–blessing us with “every spiritual blessing in Christ”.  Even the work we do today has been “pre-ordained” and “pre-powered” for his good pleasure.  So will we light up today as Christ’s light wherever we are and with whomever we spend time with?

Let’s think about the kind of “todays” some of our friends are facing.  The Martinezes’ neighbors lost their home last weekend–and almost their lives–in that raging fire.  Let’s light up their neighborhood fundraiser at the VFW in Warrenville this Friday night.  As God’s empowered, loved people, how can be fully present with their neighbors today?  As one of our very own, Marcia, enters into six months of chemo for lymphoma, how can we “Be Light”?  Some of my neighbors are recently laid-off.  I’m not quite sure how I’ll be light, but my presence brings Light because the ever-present Christ is with me.  So I’m choosing to spend time with them at a local bowling league this Friday–just to love them, laugh with them (and spend the following four days recovering from the aches and pains in my out-of-shape 41-year-old body).

The Present is all lit up with eternal rays, indeed.

Mary Ellen Slefinger popped her head into my office yesterday as she was passing and said, “Look out!  God’s up to something.”  She’s exactly right.  With our heads still swirling from John Casey’s transition from Blanchard as our senior pastor, and now with the announcement of James Grout’s incredible promotion to become the National Youth Director for the Christian & Missionary Alliance–God’s definitely up to something.

So, the Church of Jesus Christ at Blanchard Alliance, how will we respond?  Let’s pray expectantly.  

That’s what Skye encouraged us to do on Sunday during the Caseys’ farewell service.  Regarding our “tomorrows”, he challenged us to do two things: to pray and to trust your leaders.

In regard to prayer, I’m instructed by the three ways Paul prays for the church in Ephesus in Ephesians chapter 1:15-20 (read it for yourself..).

  1. that God would bless the Church with the Spirit of wisdom that we might know Jesus better.
  2. that the Spirit would open the eyes of our heart to know the riches of the hope which Jesus calls us to.
  3. that we would know Christ’s incomparably great power, demonstrated dramatically in his resurrection from the dead and his ascension to be established as supreme ruler and authority over all created things.

In times of apparent uncertainty like these, when surprises come which rock our confidence about tomorrow, let’s pray like Paul teaches us to and trust the leaders that God foreknew would be in this position long before the creation of the world.  As one of those leaders, I’m trusting my incomparably great Leader to shepherd the Church He loves into a time of expectant renewal unlike Blanchard has ever known in its existence.  Together, let’s prayerfully expect great things!

I conclude with another great word from Paul in Philippians 4:6-7:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present our requests to God.  And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will renew your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”

People of Blanchard Alliance Church, Mary Ellen’s right.  God’s up to something!  Pray…full of God’s Spiritwith great hope and power.