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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.

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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!

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

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  • 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.

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  • 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.)

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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?

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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.

I hope I’m as vital at 80 as Eugene Peterson is.  I’ve been enjoying the two interviews which Gabe Lyons had with him on qIdeas this past week.  One is on the discipline of Sabbath and the other is on immersing ourselves in Scripture.

During these rich, insightful conversations, Peterson shared the process he went through in writing his paraphrase of the Bible, The Message, and explained how intimidated he was at the beginning of his work, starting with the book of Psalms.  Two other men in the 20th century who wrote paraphrases, J.B. Phillips and Ken Taylor, were criticized–even vilified–for their efforts to translate Scripture into  everyday colloquial English–so much so that Phillips never finished more than the New Testament.

Peterson went on to say that, without much intense criticism like these men, he went on to translate the whole Bible at the slow and steady pace of

five pages a day for twelve years!

It’s in light of Peterson’s “long obedience in the same direction” that I consider my own journey with Christ as His follower today.  Unlike Eugene, I readily recognize my fits and starts, my unpredictable lurching toward maturity in Christ.  Still, whether I wait for Him or not, the Holy Spirit will not be denied His work in me–He has promised to make me more like Christ–even if He’s just writing a sentence or two in the book of my spiritual journey.

I’m instructed by Eugene Peterson’s steadfast, steady discipline to complete the pastoral work of finishing the Message, page by page over twelve years.  I need lessons from my elders like Eugene because, unlike him,  I’m often in too much of a hurry for God.  My hurry leads to impatience.  My impatience certainly leads me to miss the proverbial “Samaritan on the roadside” whom God puts in my path to slow me down, steady my pace and recognize His faithful, daily empowerment to lead and guide me where I need to go.  But the apostolic in me–the urgency of my self-imposed burden to equip the Church to be more matureinstantly (let alone within me as Christ’s disciple…)–tends to push me too far out in front of God’s good people.

I can tell the Holy Spirit has been speaking to me about being patient with his process of perfecting me because I got irritated when I first listened to Audrey Assad’s new song, “Slow”, on her lovely new album, “Heart”“Why can’t my faith just grow faster?” I gripe subconsciously. “Get me to the head of the pack!”, I mentally push people aside as Audrey sweetly sings in the background…

You’ve drawn so close
That it’s hard to see you
And you speak so softly
That it’s hard to hear you
And I guess that’s what I get
For inviting you in
Because you took me at my word
And now I know

Faith is not a fire
As much as it’s a glow
A quiet lovely burning
Underneath the snow
And it’s not too much
It’s just enough to get me home

I heard that faith moves mountains
I know it moves my feet
To follow you
And maybe I’m a mountain
Because it’s moving me
To follow you.”

So, in the hurry of your life, I encourage you to slow down and savor the good conversation between Peterson and Lyons in the next couple of days.  It’s so rich, I actually created a file for all the memorable quotes shared.

Maybe you’d like to note some of your own and add them as a comment to this post?

So let’s slow down today and, like Peterson, savor the goodness and the favor of Christ as he graciously makes us more and more like Himself.

Dad turned a significant corner on Sunday afternooon–we all knew it as soon as he started preaching a sermon from his wheelchair, with his family and friends gathered around him in the “enabling garden” at Marianjoy.

He finally connected the fact that he had suffered a stroke several weeks ago, was in the hospital and that his left side still wasn’t working because of it.

One of my greatest concerns for my Dad continues to be that he will despair, lose hope and quit on his rehab–just when he needs to dig in more than ever.  Of course, this is all easy for me to say, seeing as its not my heart that’s failing, my left limbs that aren’t moving, my blood pressure that’s been incredibly difficult to bring under control…

But back to his sermon.

Between tears, deep breaths, meaningful pauses and a furrowed brow, Dad boldly declared his determination to trust God in the midst of his discomfort.  To affirm that the number of his days is in God’s hands; but that he will honor God by giving his full effort to get better, to get out of his wheelchair and walk again.  I couldn’t have been prouder to be his son.  All of us who know him understand that Gunther is crusty and tough on the outside, but know that brittle exterior modestly protects an incredibly tender heart for Jesus Christ and His mission to rescue all who are lost.

Should I live to 77, after suffering from ten years of congestive heart failure, I can only hope that Dad’s example will inspire me to be equally steadfast.  He’s had plenty of opportunities to abandon his faith: losing his daughter Beth in 2002 after watching her endure 3 pituitary gland tumor surgeries, raising another daughter, Linda, who suffered epileptic seizures since she was 2 until they stopped after brain surgery when she turned 45, almost losing his son to brain cancer last year–significant disappointment after disappointment.

But none of that pain experienced as a loving father–and now especially his own sickness–have led him to despair.  He holds fast to Christ in his storms.  Probably my most fond memory of Dad in the last year at Blanchard Warrenville has been watching him quietly cry in the back as I preach my sermons.  He’s always been my biggest fan.  What a priceless gift his support has been to me as his son!  Despite abundant reasons and painful circumstances (harm done to him and his family because of the sinful world he lives in…),  Dad ruthlessly guards his faith in Christ–and inspires his son to do the same.

I’ve always loved Psalm 40.  I read it for Dad one day last week during a visit and I share it with all of you for your encouragement in your own pain and/or suffering as well…

I waited patiently for the LORD;he turned to me and heard my cry.  He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire;  he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.  He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. (NIV)

So keep preaching from that wheelchair, Dad.  I’m proud of you.

“Yes.”  That was my Dad’s sweet, confident answer to the consulting therapist in his wheelchair at Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital yesterday.

Just looking at those words in a sentence associated with my dad hurts:  wheelchair, therapist, hospital.  My tall, strong, intelligent Father laid so low…

His primary struggle continues to be stabilizing his blood pressure, so that’s the big prayer request for today.  They can’t even begin therapy in earnest until they can get him stable medically.  They’ve given him another week to recover and will assess him again next Monday.

I don’t understand why my Dad has to be suffering like this (I really do understand, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it…).  Like so many in our world believe, it doesn’t matter how good a life my Dad has lived serving God and others–we know good works don’t save–and the notion of karma is just plain foolishness.  Sin wins…for now.  Trapped in these physical, failing bodies for such a time as this–we are slaves to sin’s chains (both our own and those done to us by others…)–it’s a cruel, unjust, irrational, maddening constraint.

Ellie’s been singing hymns lately from her “Kickin’ It Old School” VBS in Indiana last week.  And while we were out walking the dog the other day, she wanted to know what it meant that someday she was going to “fly away” with Jesus.  That gave Karyn and I a chance to remind her that, as a child of the King, she’s going to bust those nasty, sinbound chains loose and go live to be with Jesus forever someday after she dies.  Or, if she’s lucky enough to be alive when Jesus comes back, to fly away, meet him in the sky and, in freedom, move on to heaven.

It’s interesting as I read over this post and reflect on my last year of writing in Second Campus as well, I always envisioned this blog to help inspire people in their spiritual formation at Blanchard Alliance Church–particularly the Warrenville campus.  But instead it’s become a kind of recovery diary for my own hurting family.  My hope in reading my thoughts is that you finish with hope in Christ, as I still do.  John Casey often comments that all of us “come up against something”–that it’s what makes us tethered, earthbound human beings.  I get that.  But you can’t hold me down forever.  I will fly away someday, too (along with my dad and my whole family).  Can’t wait!

The evil habit of seeking ‘God-and’ prevents us from finding God in full revelation. In the ‘and’ lies our great woe.”

Skye Jethani recently “tweeted” this Tozer quote–so I’ll use him as my muse for this post today…

Tozer has a way of cutting to the quick–making us terribly uncomfortable in just a few pithy sentences.  I’ve been reflecting on our expectation of the miraculous power of God within the Church and our own lives since Easter Sunday.  The resurrection of Christ changed everything forever for all of us who believe in Him.

Here’s where that Tozer quote makes me uncomfortable.  I really don’t think Christ is “enough” for us anymore in the Church.  Sure, we sing along with Chris Tomlin’s anthem, but do we live like we believe it?

When the lights go out and I return to me everyday life in my neighborhood, do I trust that Jesus Christ in and of Himself is enough to bring me to complete wholeness and health (spiritual, physical and emotional) as a human being?

I’m feeling both discouraged and petulant today–sad that God hasn’t changed a lick in forever and, like a spoiled, impatient toddler,  I’m on to something new every ten minutes.  A.B. Simpson’s hymn/poem “Himself” used to be one of the clarion calls of our denomination (The Christian and Missionary Alliance, in case you were wondering…).

Once it was the blessing, Now it is the Lord;
Once it was the feeling, Now it is His Word.
Once His gifts I wanted, Now the Giver own;
Once I sought for healing, Now Himself alone.

All in all forever…  Jesus will I sing
Everything in Jesus and Jesus everything

Once ’twas painful trying, Now ’tis perfect trust;
Once a half salvation, Now the uttermost.
Once ’twas ceaseless holding, Now He holds me fast;
Once ’twas constant drifting, Now my anchor’s cast.

Once ’twas busy planning, Now ’tis trustful prayer;
Once ’twas anxious caring, Now He has the care.
Once ’twas what I wanted, Now what Jesus says;
Once ’twas constant asking, Now ’tis ceaseless praise.

Once it was my working, His it hence shall be;
Once I tried to use Him, Now He uses me.
Once the power I wanted, Now the Mighty One;
Once for self I labored, Now for Him alone.

Once I hoped in Jesus, Now I know He’s mine;
Once my lamps were dying, Now they brightly shine.
Once for death I waited, Now His coming hail;
And my hopes are anchored, Safe within the veil.

Trusting Christ to be who He says He is–like Simpson so beautifully writes–trusting God to empower us to put Jesus at the center of all things is hard over the long haul, to stay relentlessly committed to.  The things of this earth have a nasty habit of creeping in to steadily diminish our full reliance on Christ–whether it’s psychology, the next, great book by the next, great evangelical Christian leader (Skye once also cleverly tweeted that “he reads dead people”).  Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not against learning from other sources.

“All truth is God’s truth” was the motto of my Wheaton College education.  But when those other sources start sapping the bedrock of my non-negotiable belief that Christ is my All, my Healer, my Miraculous Immanent Sanctifier, my primary source of life’s power to grow as His devoted follower–that’s when I (and we Christians) sink into powerlessness.

I’m discouraged by Christians who keep dragging around their old sinful selves, the sins of the past because we refuse in faith to crown Christ as Living Lord over everything—that the resurrected Jesus is high and lifted up and powerful enough today to free me from any sin that is entangling —worthy of honor and glory and praise!

So, I’ll call you what you are (or can be ) today.  Powerful, life-filled Christians—don’t get trapped or live powerlessly  in and with “God-and“-ism.  Expect the victory Jesus won by coming to life on Sunday to be enough to conquer every day’s obstacles.

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