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:
"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
- Your understanding of God's provision in your life
- The pleasure you take in God
- The trust you put in God
Here are some questions he posed to us that made
me think, and I recommend you write them down and answer them
- If you truly understood God's desire for His provision in your life,
how would live?
- What would a total stranger say about what your greatest
pleasure was by watching you over the past year?
- Are you experiencing living in God's joy? Why / Why not?
- Does God trust you? Why / Why not?
- 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!