Kicking the Summer off ...

   Today at six in the morning the first major ministry opportunity in my summer came to a close, and I look back in awe at both how fast things went by and how deeply I was affected personally as I attended the camp and poured love into the kids placed under my care.  First off, I am so grateful for the support I have been getting, which has allowed me to be able to participate in this unique ministry.  I desire this to be a section not only devoted to sharing the great news of what your offerings are harvesting, but hopefully to encourage you and build you up in Christ as I attempt to pass on some message of hope and love that will have a godly impact the way you live your life.  If you are reading this and have not been involved in supporting me, I especially ask you to read on and be encouraged regardless.  This testimony is for all, and a report of how God is moving in my life and I hope it means something to you.

   This past Sunday (the second of June, 2002) I arrived to help load up the buses and get the Heights Baptist youth group kids (7-12th grades) and their stuff (there were about 310 of them) onto the six charter buses heading towards our hotel in Panama City Beach, Florida.  I was at a point where I was extremely tired starting off as family strife and a developing complacency in my walk with Christ were taking their toll on me.  I still remember the profound experiences I had when I was a camper four years ago and beyond, and was hoping that somehow God would take this worn sinner, change my heart, and use me to make significant impact in the lives of those around me- whether kid or counselor.  I was in for a challenge- but I knew this one thing: that I needed to place God first and set in my heart that I would obey Him no matter how I felt.  I have been reading Pursuit of Holiness, a great book by Jerry Bridges in which he urges those in Christ to diligently pursue holiness without compromise.  In it I have been challenged to act out of obedience to God regardless of how I feel emotionally inside and to resist (hate) sin in order that I may be closer to God.  This book has been a highlight of the early part of my summer during the 'dead time' before I dive into the Josh McDowell internship.  Anyway, I sat on the bus, hurting and tired, yet greatly desiring something of value to come out of the experience.  I proceeded to settle in comfortably on the bus at the front with the other counselors and open up the Word to get my daily personal dose of time with God.  I am currently going through the book of Judges as part of my Old Testament studies and I came upon Judges 13 that evening on the bus, which talks about the birth of Samson.  I found the preparation of Samson's ministry to be quite intriguing.  He is born into a time where, once again, Israel is doing evil in the sight of the LORD and the LORD responds by paying a visit to a couple on the Philistine/Israeli border and commanding them to set aside their unborn boy Samson to be a Nazarene in service to God and His chosen people Israel.  I made personal application to my life in this- Samson is a rare case, as he was set aside as Nazarene from birth (usually they were set aside later and for limited periods of time) - but I could learn from it simply by offering the week to the LORD completely.  I made a declaration to surrender to the LORD the week and break away from the bothersome sins of pride, lust (yeah, most guys struggle with thinking about women the wrong way- but more than that, desire for my own gain at the expense of others is what I specifically had in mind- note the contrast of love (desire for others' benefit) to lust (desire for my own selfish satisfaction)), and laziness.  Actually, here is what I wrote in my prayer journal ...

I need repentance.  I need revival.  I set this week - just this week - seven days - and determine to make it holy.  I will not be proud.  I will not lust.  I will not be lazy.  I will be humble.  I will love.  I will be diligent in serving.  Make it so.  I make this week yours.

 I know that this prayer is what made the week.  I resolved not only to do this but to conduct my own personal study of the book of Malachi to help prepare me for next year (It is one of the books I will preach on as chaplain of KYX).  I'll get to the results later.  After this time I basically spent a few hours reflecting on God's goodness and listening to praise while I offered it in my heart to Him.  I then threw my sleeping bag in the aisle and got a good six or so hours of rest.


   I awoke the next morning with the sun shining on my face and feeling pretty awesome considering I didn't expect (and rightfully so!) very good rest on the bus.  I felt a great burden permanently removed from my life and this lack was freeing me up to charge full speed into ministry for the week.  We stopped for lunch around noon, I think, and I hit a local buffet (local food is ALWAYS better than fast food!) with some of my buddies, and for kicks we went next door to the dollar shop.  The couple guys I was with and myself decided to buy little necklaces with animals on them for fun (I got a whale, which was promptly given a nickname: the "Believe it or not Blue Whale").  Since I really like reminding myself of things, I figured that I would go ahead and make a promise to keep the necklace on the whole week as a way to remind me that I had given it away to God in service.  After an arrival and a couple hours in the sun waiting for the hotel to get the rooms ready, I hit the beach and patrolled the seas to make sure the kids were safe for a few hours.  I then proceeded to go eat at 5:00 (the food all week was excellent) and then get to know the kids in my room better.  I was put in charge of five eighth graders, and while I wasn't excited about their age (I generally prefer to work with older students), I quickly found out that these guys were dang cool and quite mature for their age.  After a bit of personal praise and worship (there is nothing quite like singing praise to God while watching the waves crash against a beautiful beach!) I headed off to corporate worship and teaching time.  The Robbie Seay Band was in charge of worship for the week and Neil McClendon was our speaker.  Listening to the music, I found myself compelled to my knees in worship before God.  While listening to the lyrics I could no longer justify standing when I needed to be on my knees begging my Savior to use me for His glory and to change lives for the better.  I had come once again to the realization of how much I need God and how nothing done in service for Him means really anything of value if your heart is not one of glorifying God first and above all else.  I realized that if I lived the week out on my own strength, my week was literally purposeless.  I begging Him to change me and use me and surrendered up whatever desires I had to follow Him wholeheartedly.  Neil went on to discuss a plethora of scriptures to come to this basic and true conclusion ...

The amount of Life (i.e. God-given enjoyment) you experience is proportional to:
  1. Your understanding of God's provision in your life
  2. The pleasure you take in God
  3. The trust you put in God
"The reason you don't feel the way you were created to feel about life is because you don't feel the way you were created to feel about God" - Neil McClendon

Here are some questions he posed to us that made me think, and I recommend you write them down and answer them yourself...

  1. If you truly understood God's desire for His provision in your life, how would live?
  2. What would a total stranger say about what your greatest pleasure was by watching you over the past year?
  3. Are you experiencing living in God's joy?  Why / Why not?
  4. Does God trust you?  Why / Why not?
  5. How will you respond to this message and these truths?  Will you?  When will you?  Why not now?

Afterwards, I led a discussion group with Robbie Sutton, an incredible woman of God who was a pleasure to work with.  We discussed these questions with them and got good participation back from them.  There is not a kid in the group I am not impressed with and excited about seeing their spiritual growth progress.


   My goal in writing this is not to get caught up in detail, but I feel that the most important part for me of any trip is the beginning.  If the trip or mission is placed totally in God's hands at the start, it cannot fail.  It goes back to probably my worst joke ever, which I will repeat simply to embarrass myself..  Why is choosing the CDs at the beginning of a trip (for those of us who have changers in the trunk!) the most important part of the trip?  Because it sets the 'tone' for the entire journey!  This is the worst joke I have heard in my life.  Worst as in, it is simply in no way funny at all, but it does carry a point that is extremely important.  You can't choose what happens to you in the world around you, but you can choose the music you listen to.  You choose what music you will listen to BEFORE the world happens.  You choose how you will respond to situations before they happen- or am I the only one that daydreams what would happen if I won the lottery (even though I don't play), became president (even though I am not a polititian), had a situation come up where I was called to give up my life for others, or encountered some other disaster?  You'll find out probably more than you want to about your attitude in life if you place yourself in these (and other) imaginary positions.  Are you living for your own ability to feel good for a short period of time, or are you living to glorify Jesus Christ, which results in everlasting pleasure?  Now what if you came upon these situations in smaller scales, and reduce them to the point that they are feasible.  What happens if you come upon extra cash?  How do you spend it?  If you are put in a position of authority, how do you use it?  If someone does you wrong, how do you respond?  Set it in your heart right now to glorify God, for in these little and imaginary situations you find out what you are living for.  I challenge you to live daily and consistently for a purpose- to give your life back to the One you owe it to.  And this challenge goes out once again to those who think they already are (which applies to me to, and in which I realize I do harbor pride in me, which is ridiculous considering God is the One to whom ALL glory for my good deeds are due!).  If you are offended by the question, you should be offended by your pride.  We will be held accountable by God for the time we spent on earth at the end of time (I am not joking!  Check out Hebrews 13:17, which is one verse among many proclaiming this!!!), so we might as well remind ourselves of this fact now instead of letting pride take its course and not humility before God for His goodness in our lives.  Not a good word coming out of my mouth or good deed out of my body is to my credit, only to God be the glory for anything He is able to accomplish through me (Matthew 5:16).  I just know my mission in life is to be obedient to God and let Him work His ways in my life and others, giving life to me and those around me.  If this testimony is an encouragement to you, praise God!  If not, perhaps I am a poor medium for proclaiming this testimony about Christ or perhaps you are not allowing God to use me to speak to you.


To be continued ... I will finish this soon, but now must sleep!