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Eating Pizza With Jesus

One Sunday night, early on in my college days at the University of Illinois, when University Food Service was closed up tight and friends were scarce and my roommate was gone, I ordered a pizza which I determined to “eat with Jesus.”

That’s about all I can say about that evening, except that I remember sitting across from the pizza enjoying it…and praying.

I wouldn’t do that today, not that there was anything at all wrong with what I did some thirty years ago. But today, if I was alone for the evening and I wanted to pray and eat pizza, I would probably separate the two – perhaps take a walk and pray, and then come home and eat the pizza watching TV.

But for whatever reason that Sunday evening three decades ago, I ate a pizza with Jesus.

And this memory comes back to me because of the fascinating verse that caught my attention today:

For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 (ESV)

In the previous chapter, he had encouraged the Thessalonians about fellow believers who had died or “fallen asleep” (1 Thessalonians 4:14), and now he is returning to that idea. And he is saying that whether “awake or asleep,” literally whether alive or dead, we live with Jesus.

Isn’t that a glorious way to think about your life today? If you are a Christian, not only is there coming a day when because of Christ’s sacrifice, we will “meet the Lord the Lord in the air and so we will always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:17 ESV), but because of what he has done, today each one of us is…living with Jesus. It makes me think of what the writer of Hebrews said as he began to close out his letter:

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5 (ESV)

I love that. So, I think of the single adult who often feels so alone, and yet…is not. Or similarly, the single mom or dad, who feels very alone in raising kids, and yet…praise God…is not, and mind you, never will be.

And I imagine that all of us – at least occasionally – go through times where, despite perhaps even being surrounded by people, for whatever reason, we feel alone.

But we believers…are never alone.

For we live with him.

 

For tomorrow, Friday, August 21: 2 Thessalonians 1

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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A Lesson on Procrastination

"Looks like the U of I!"

“Looks like the University of Illinois!”

It’s been almost 30 years, so I don’t remember his name.  Could’ve been John…so let’s go with that. But I do remember the conversation we had, because he told me something I never forgot. And I remember something else too (read to the end). Here’s the story:

It was circa August 1986, and my third year as an Illini Guide at the University of Illinois. Illini Guides greeted the new freshmen as they moved into the dorms and helped them and their parents carry luggage and furniture into their new home. I loved being an Illini Guide – it fit my extrovert nature, and also provided me with a way to meet freshmen, establishing trust with the hopes that the initial encounter would lead to a conversation about Jesus as the year moved along.

And I’ll never forget John. He was a pretty good-looking guy, brimming with confidence, unlike a lot of scared freshmen moving into the big University in Champaign. So he stood out from the start, but what was really different about John was the painting/artwork he had brought with him to school. It was not a poster like most of us cheap college guys brought along – this guy had class, sort of. You see, John’s painting was a nude of a beautiful woman, and this is really what made him memorable. And you know what I thought?…”I’ve got to talk to this guy.”

You know…about Jesus.

But time and tide…you make plans and you don’t quite get to them, and John was one of those plans. I intended to drop by his room and share the gospel with him, but it never quite happened in the fall, and in fact, the conversation almost didn’t happen that next semester, but it finally did.

Spring had arrived and the school year was coming to a close when I finally dropped by his room and asked him if I could talk to him about Christ. My reputation on the floor was pretty well established as the “religious guy”, so John wasn’t surprised, and he welcomed me in. And so, with the nude overlooking the conversation, I showed him the bridge diagram, my go-to method for sharing the good news (two cliffs, man on one side, God on the other, a chasm of sin and a bridge made of a cross). And when we were finished, I asked him if he wanted to become a Christian. His response was memorable:

“Well, no thanks, I’m not really interested…but, you know what, you should have shown me this at the start of the year. I would have been open to it then…but not now.”

Hmmm. Apparently “better late than never” doesn’t always work. Now, who knows if he really would have been open back then, and who knows why I never made it that first semester, but it was a lesson I never forgot. Believers should preach the gospel now, not later, and unbelievers? Well, you should never wait to become a believer, as if you’ve got all the time in the world. That’s what Paul said, at least:

For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. 2 Corinthians 6:2 (ESV)

Now is the time to believe, not later, but now! And if now is the time to believe, now is also the time to share the good news, certainly with lewd college freshmen (who may appear more confident than they actually are), but especially with those we love. For the truth is that you just never know. You never know how they will respond, and you never know about their future. You see, I never saw John again.

I found out the next year that he had been killed in a car accident. And so it was probably at the tender age of 18 or 19 that the one-time U of I freshman…entered eternity.

For Thursday, June 4th: 2 Corinthians 7

 
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Posted by on June 3, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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The Turning Point In My Life

I sat waiting at the Illini Orange Canteen. The smell of fall was in the air at the University of Illinois. I had squeezed 4 years into 4 ½, and now the time had come to go out into the “real world.” I would be graduating in December.

I spent many hours at the Illini Orange – the bustling location where I had picked up mail during my college days was also a prime spot for late night greasy pizza – but now it was serving more noble purposes. Bill Tell, the director of Navigators for the state of Illinois, had asked me to get together, and I was pumped about what I supposed was his agenda. Up to this point, my plans after graduation were unclear, but it wasn’t for lack of trying – my interviewing had begun in earnest.

The School of Commerce and Business Administration at the U of I had a good reputation, and I was finishing with a bachelor’s degree in Marketing and Business Administration, but my heart had never quite been in it. In truth, I had “majored” in the Navigators, learning to share my faith, lead Bible studies, and disciple men. But here I was…trying to put my business degree to work. That meant interviewing.

I remember the set up. Companies would ensconce their recruiter in a business school classroom, or various rooms at the Illini Union hotel, and upon the prospective hour, you would show up in the uniform: dark suit, white shirt and red tie with little paisleys on it, a style in vogue at the end of the 1980s.

Of course, the idea was eventually to get a job offer, but the second interview was the immediate goal, usually meaning an invite and all-expenses-paid trip to the company’s headquarters. I had lots of interviews on campus, but only two big trips that I remember: Frito Lay had brought me to Dallas, and Dow Chemical had flown me to Michigan, but no offers of employment had followed. All in all, this meant lots of rejection letters, with which, following custom, I dutifully papered my dorm room door.

And now Bill Tell was recruiting, but it wasn’t really an interview: Bill had come to offer me a job.

I had looked up to him for a long time. In the tradition of the Navigators, he was a great student of Scripture with a quiet, strong manner, a crooked smile with a twinkle in his eye that made you feel he was on your side. In the Nav hierarchy, Bill was high on the food chain, and yet, much more than that, seemed to know God.

I remember his testimony. He had come to Christ during his college days through another student who, after leading him to Christ and briefly discipling him, dropped dead of a brain aneurism…the kind of experience that would tend to put eternity on your heart.

So as graduation was approaching and my plans were yet unsure, I knew that I wouldn’t be spending too many more hours at the Illini Orange. But I was looking forward to this one.

After pleasantries that afternoon, Bill spoke up: “Rog, we’d like you to consider coming on State Staff with the Navs.”

“State Staff” was a new hybrid position with the organization. It involved raising support to work part time for the Navigators and getting some sort of job for 20 or so hours the rest of the week. I would be doing ministry, and getting paid for it. It was really what I had always wanted, and I told Bill I would pray.

In some ways I had been heading this way since West Point. Even back then I had told Bob Maruna that I wanted to be a pastor, but my father had directed me away from my interest in Moody Bible Institute with a telling word: “I had always wanted you to go to a real college.”

So now I was finishing a degree from this real college and considering doing some unreal ministry work. Dad was a Christian now, and I knew he would be supportive, but what did God want?

I decided to talk it over with my dear friends Jim and Sharon Cooper.

Jim was the full-time Navigator staff member over the area of campus with a half dozen look-alike dorms known as the 6 pack. He and Sharon had been second parents to me ever since they had come to Champaign before my junior year. Not only did they disciple me in the faith, but they had me over to eat constantly, talked me through girl troubles, loaned me money ($500, a debt I think they forgave), and all in all treated me like a son. They were models of life-on-life discipleship.

And yet, to this day, I’ll never forget the advice Jim gave me: “Rog, before you go into ministry, first prove yourself in the marketplace.”

Jim had been an engineer and Sharon an accountant at Caterpillar in Peoria before coming on staff with the Navigators, and so I suppose they had lived their own advice, and it was natural to pass it on to me.

Prove yourself in the marketplace.

Jim’s advice was not a principle from Scripture, but it made sense. So, with Jim’s 5 words ringing in my ears, I turned Bill’s offer down and took a sales job with a automotive aftermarket company called Premier Autoware out of Cleveland, Ohio. It was for Premier that I would begin the task…of proving myself.

To be continued…here

On Monday, June 1st, we’ll turn to consider 2 Corinthians 4.

 

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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