Recently I’ve done a ride-along with our local PD, and attended a Police Department Chaplaincy Conference in the Des Moines area. A common theme that’s already standing out to me is the importance of practicing an intentional presence. During the ride-along I learned that it’s good for the PD to show it’s colors in the community, whether at schools, on the streets, or in businesses. Presence earns trust. And at the conference I learned that a ministry of presence is key to a successful PD Chaplaincy…just to be there for, and to be ready to serve in any capacity the community and our PD ought to be a Chaplain’s goal.
We often hear that we as believers are to preach…and sometimes use words. That’s a ministry of presence. At times Jesus Himself exemplified a ministry of presence for us when He states in John 10:36c-38, 42 that, “‘I am God’s Son’? 37 Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. 38 But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.’…42 And in that place many believed in Jesus.” The apostle Paul was also intentional with practicing a ministry of presence. He would often be intentional and go to where he knew the people would be…along the river (Acts 16:13); the synagogues and market places (Acts 17:17; 19:8); publicly and from house to house (Acts 20:20).
May we never underestimate the ministry of just being in someone’s presence. We might not have the words to say…that’s fine. Just being there for them, just developing that trust, just providing that smile, just providing that hug is sometimes all that they need…BUT we got to be there. Practice a ministry of presence…let them see Jesus in you. And use words if God so leads you to…in His perfect way and time.
Practicing His Presence,
Ox Strong Get Together in March…We had 56 men at Ox Strong this past Saturday with 14 new attendees. This has been our largest attending group in Ox Strong’s 5 years of existence: Van did an amazing job explaining the journey God’s brought him through. Below are a few announcements and then Van’s story and challenge. Enjoy!
Van Harden’s Challenge:
Ever since Van was a child he knew he wanted to be involved with radio in some way. There was just something about radio hosts that made him feel like he was their friend. He felt like the hosts of these radio stations might give him direction as to how to become involved in radio one day as well. So he wrote to five different radio hosts that he’d listened to on a regular basis and asked them what he needed to do. Some time passed by and no response from any of them. One of the letters he wrote was sent to Roy Fox from WHO-AM 1040. Roy never wrote back, but Van did receive a call one day…It was Roy Fox live on the radio. Roy read Van’s letter to the listening audience and explained to Van how others helped him get into radio and now he wanted to pay that back and help Van in any way he could as well. So Roy invited Van and his parents down to the radio station and gave them a two hour tour. As Van left the sound booth…he looked at Roy’s chair and thought to himself that one day he would like to be sitting in that very seat. Van’s dream came true…he’s been sitting in that seat for 34 years now. Van’s advice: Be careful what you wish for J No regrets!
As you just read in Van’s Bio above, he has received a plethora of accolades throughout his career in radio, but he wanted to reassure each of us that the most important thing to him is God. Van is so thankful to have been raised by a godly mother. She was always in the Word, praying, and being Jesus with skin on at all times. Van began praying that God would help him to know more about the Him and the Bible. Not too long after that prayer, he received a call from a Church asking him to lead Sunday School. He found out that there was only one person in the class, but he didn’t care. He devoted himself to the studying and teaching of the word each Sunday. He’d spend hours preparing the lessons from only the Word, internalizing what he’d learned, applying it to his life, and in doing so he grew spiritually / grew in his convictions. The class he was teaching increased in size so much that they had to knock a wall down just to fit everyone in. What he came to discover is that people are hungry for and looking for truth. No better place to look than from THE TRUTH Himself (John 14:6). He later received a call from another Church in the Des Moines area…they’d heard that he’d taught Sunday School at one point in his life. They were in need of someone to teach a class for a few weeks as a fill-in. He said he’d do it if he could only teach out of God’s Word. They said “yes” and the next thing he knew – that few weeks turned into eight years. When others ask what denomination he is, he replies with “I’m a Bible guy.” He’ll enter any denominational door as long as he’s allowed to only teach out of God’s Word. Van then wrote Life in the Purple Wedge, which deals with the challenges of living in two different/separate worlds at the same time.
Being a Bible Only Guy, rather than drawing denominational lines in the sand / putting walls up, has allowed him numerous opportunities to share the Gospel in so many different places. God just keeps putting him in interesting situations – people come to him who’d never enter the doors of a church – they come to him with no intention of a spiritual conversation, but Van has been ready when they are. These conversations that have led to sharing God haven’t happened by accident. Each opportunity is an answer to prayer and directed by God.
Chapters from God’s Word that have become significantly important to Van are John 1 and Colossians 1. Each chapter discusses who Jesus was before He came to earth. You can’t help but walk away from those readings having the understanding that God created everything. So Van’s challenge to his audience is for them to ask themselves, “Where did ____________ come from?” Just fill in the blank. And if it’s true that all things created came from God, then what percent of your heart and life do you owe to Christ? Van pointed out that there are three different kinds of people. You’re either a nothing (Jesus means nothing to you), a something (Jesus means something, but not everything to you), or an everything (Jesus means everything to you) kind of person. Van is an everything person…because without Him there’s nothing.
There was a point in Van’s life where he felt like he could get no traction. The pity party was a constant in his mind. In fact, the hot dog plant was offering more money than radio was and it was tempting to quit his job and contently start stuffing hot dogs the rest of his life. Everything changed for Van when he had a gentleman come visit him. The man shared with Van how his sister had been in a serious accident which left her in a coma. Doctors told him it wasn’t looking good, but to try to surround her with what she would have done as a normally daily routine. Listening to Van on the radio was in fact a part of her daily routine. She considered Van a friend and enjoyed her time having him speak into her life each day. So Van made a recording of his voice on a cassette tape and gave it to the brother for him to play for his sister. Van asked the brother to let him know how she was doing. Just like the letter he’d written to the radio hosts he waited for quite a while with no responses. Then out of the blue Van received a call and all the brother said when Van answered was something to the effect of “she wriggled her feet.” It didn’t take Van long to figure out who was on the other end of the line. The brother went on to explain that when he put the tape in his sister began wriggling her feet to the beat of the music, and then as soon as she heard Van’s voice her eyes opened up. Later on Van got the opportunity to meet this sister at the Iowa State Fair. She and the brother both went overboard in expressing how what Van has done for them has meant the world to their family. It also had meaning to Van. Meaning that gave him the traction he’d been looking for. Van knew right then and there that this is exactly where he needed to be – on the radio being a friend to his listeners.
Van sets his alarms for 2:45 AM every morning. As soon as his feet hit the ground he begins with this prayer routine…Show Me, Tell Me, and Send Me. Lord, Show me what You got for me today. Tell me what You’d have me to do. And then, Lord, Send me out to do Your will. Lord, I want You to know that I make myself available to be used by You in any way You’d like. Van is ecstatic about how God’s used him. He’s put Van in some pretty unbelievable situations…life and death situations. So how did Van get to where he is today? Answered prayers.
Van’s wife came to him one day and asked him to go on a missions trip with her to Zimbabwe. Van declined, but encouraged her to still go. Then Van got a call asking him to be one of the “preachers/speakers” on the trip. This particular church knew he’d been a Bible teacher and so they figured he’d be a perfect fit. Van replied, “yes” before he even knew the dates of the trip. When he did find out the dates he was floored. These were the exact dates he had scheduled off for his June vacation. Van has learned that if He asks God for something, then he better be ready to listen and respond. Van and his wife were able to witness hundreds of lost souls come to know Christ as their personal Lord and Savior on this trip. How did this all come to be? 2:45 AM prayers.
Van appreciated the name of our group – Ox Strong. Made him think of the last part of 2 Corinthians 12:10, which says,
“For when I am weak, then I am strong.”…then I am Ox Strong.
Click here to purchase Van's book Life in the Purple Wedge
Nate’s final thoughts:
John 1:14 (NIV) The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
This past weekend my family and I viewed Andy Stanley’s message on When Gracie Met Truthy…Control+Click Here to View Full Message. At about the 13 minute mark in his message Andy gives a great illustration, and then he said something that stood out to me. He said that when it comes to grace and truth, “I [tend to] want it to be one or the other. I want to push Jesus in one direction or the other.
I like the verses that lean toward truth when I’m telling other people what to do.
I like the verses that lean toward grace when it’s about me.”
John 1:14ff. reminds us that Jesus was full of both all the time. May we follow His example each and every day of our lives.
Nate Smith is a college baseball and football coach, a husband, a father of 6 girls, grandpa to 3 granddaughters, a police chaplain, a pastor, and has a passion to see men grow in Christ.
#girldad including granddaughter