If you read this, and I sound whiny, I’m sorry.
Tomorrow, our team heads off to the Philippines. I am leading this team. Usually, when we plan these trips, there are many involved, many taking part so that not one person is doing everything. This year, that is not the case. Largely due in part of my lack of preparedness, but also, I am the only one that has undertaken a leadership role and have gone on this trip several times.
I have to plan, organize, execute a youth camp where around 175+ youth plus their pastors are coming. That number is staggering when you consider that it is basically me and 3 others who either just graduated high school or are in high school. Also, I am the only male (Not saying that females aren’t capable, I’m just going to be lonely).
I have to come up with the schedule, what we are all doing and when, come up with all the activities, who is in charge of what and how they will do whatever their tasks are, I am have to prepare every lesson, teaching, sermon, etc and then give them. And that’s just week one.
Although, if we can make it through week one, the rest will be cake walk in comparison. Thankfully, we have volunteers from these churches who are all of adult age and that can help out once we are there.
However, I can’t help feeling overwhelmed sometimes. And even now, the day before we leave I still battle it. Especially after I was told we would be having early morning prayer/worship as well that I need to prepare for. I kind of froze right there and then as I was being asked then for the schedule. My mind wouldn’t function, I couldn’t talk. I was just so overwhelmed at that moment.
But now that I’ve collected myself and have started working again, I am learning once again, to surrender myself, and be obedient to, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He leads me all the way, and I just need to keep running. I am going to be working until the last possible second, and I know that this is my fault and I repent. I could have been more diligent, voiced my concerns earlier, but my pride and arrogance got in the way. And once I accepted all these roles, my laziness got in the way and now here I am. I am really surprised God has not stricken me down. Although, this week has had its ups and downs and I’ve definitely experienced His heavy hand.
God, may I trust you ever still and even more so as we head out on this mission. Thy will be done.
Random thoughts as I continue to prepare for the mission trip coming up.
It’s been two years since the last time I went and I am excited for sure, but at the same time, I’ve never been this nervous.
We’re going there with the smallest, the least experienced, and the least prepared team ever. Sounds like it’s going to be a huge success right?
However, I know that at these times, when we’re the most helpless, we’re most able to surrender it all to God. I know that this team will work hard for the Kingdom, and if we keep believing in “Thy will be done,” then we will be fine. And not just in our states, but the work that we will do will honor and please God. A couple years ago, our team was fully prepared, ready to go. And when we got there, there was a huge rain storm, washed away roads, and we couldn’t do even half of what was planned. We felt defeated, we felt lost. But God used that opportunity and showed us to surrender even our itineraries to Him and let Him lead. We ended up doing evangelizing where ever we could go and the result was so beautifully glorious. And so, I know I can trust the Lord to make do with this trip as He wills.
As much as I have faith in that He will lead us all the way, I still feel nervous. I mean, I’ve preached and taught and all of that for most of my adult life! So why do I feel this way? There is something unique about going overseas, and preaching the Gospel, sharing the Good News in a church filled with people who do not have much knowledge if at all on who Jesus is. And I just don’t want me to get in the way of Him. And more so than at other times, my prayer is that I would have a true servant’s heart as I lead this mission team.
What’s interesting about this year is that instead of a VBS, we’re holding a retreat at the mission center for the youth on the island. Specifically, we’re inviting those who are native to the island itself. These people are very much different than what most people would consider “Filipino.” For one, you can tell that these people are different physically. Second they use a different dialect of tagalog. And lastly, their culture, is different than mainstream Filipino culture. A majority still live in huts with thatched roofs. They live off the land completely. And it’s been reported to me that we are expecting 175+ participants in this retreat. I’ve never gone to a retreat stateside that was anywhere near that number and here we go, running a retreat in a distant land with over 175 youths to adults! And more than that, I’m going to be teaching them over the course of three days. My task is to equip them as much as possible and by the grace of God win as many souls as possible. My goal, as I’ve heard this before, is to make disciple making disciples. God help me to be faithful.
Supposedly, the three hardest things to say are “I’m sorry, help me, and I love you.”
I believe that as a Christian, those three things should be some of the easiest things to say.
“When You Come Back”
"He who follows Me, walks not in darkness," says the Lord. By these words of Christ we are advised to imitate His life and habits, if we wish to be truly enlightened and free from all blindness of heart. Let our chief effort, therefore, be to study the life of Jesus Christ.
The teaching of Christ is more excellent than all the advice of the saints, and he who has His spirit will find in it a hidden strength. Now, there are many who hear the Gospel often but care little for it because they have not the spirit of Christ. Yet whoever wishes to understand fully the words of Christ must try to pattern his whole life on that of Christ.
What good does it do to speak learnedly about the Trinity if, lacking humility, you displease the Trinity? Indeed it is not learning that makes a man holy and just, but a virtuous life makes him pleasing to God. I would rather feel contrition than know how to define it. For what would it profit us to know the whole Bible by heart and the principles of all the philosophers if we live without grace and the love of God? Vanity of vanities and all is vanity, except to love God and serve Him alone.
This is the greatest wisdom - to seek the kingdom of heaven through contempt of the world. It is vanity, therefore, to seek and trust in riches that perish. It is vanity also to court honor and to be puffed up with pride. It is vanity to follow the lusts of the body and to desire things for which severe punishment later must come. It is vanity to wish for long life and to care little about a well-spent life. It is vanity to be concerned with the present only and not to make provision for things to come. It is vanity to love what passes quickly and not to look ahead where eternal joy abides.
Often recall the proverb: “The eye is not satisfied with seeing nor the ear filled with hearing.” Try, moreover, to turn your heart from the love of things visible and bring yourself to things invisible. For they who follow their own evil passions stain their consciences and lose the grace of God.
Thomas A. Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, Book One, Chapter One.
The quiet times in life, when everything is steadily moving on, are the best. Some live for busy, action packed lives, which can be good, but I enjoy the simpler seasons.
When everything is crazy, it’s hard to hear everything and everyone and so many things can get lost in translation. But when the loud voices cease, you can then hear the quiet ones. And so many times, the still small voices are the most powerful.
Also, it’s only when we can tune our ears to hear in the quietness, can we familiarize with it when things get loud.
When things are quiet for me, I can hear His words so much louder, especially in Scripture. And in these times, I learn the most. These are the times when we can search out the riches of His truth since we are not distracted. And so much growth can be had.
And here, reading the book of John, it has been so invigorating for me. I can quietly sit and hear the words of Christ as He teaches or as He prays. And I can leave my home filled with joy and the Spirit because I began the day with Him. As the light shines on the Gospel through these pages, I find myself reminded of His power, His wisdom, His assurance, and judgment this time around. And though these words are not the most pleasant of words, I find myself growing in comfort with these reaffirmations since these words help our understanding of Him. And they are all for good. So many times He affirms our inability and then shows us His ability. He tells us that we are chosen and that it was not due to merit but instead, love. Honestly, I don’t know if I would have read this book in the same way if I had been going through a different kind of season. And for that, I’m thankful.
Not a resolution, but much more, a resolve. Like last year, it is the same:
To love Jesus a little more and to know Him a little more each day. - Rick Warren
I can achieve many things in a day but if by the end of that day I had not loved Him more or known Him more, then my day was a failure.
I can fail in my many ways and lose many things, but if by the end of that day I had loved Christ more and had come to know Him more, then my day was a success.
Now that I’ve gotten a decent night’s rest, I can (hopefully) cogently talk about winter retreat.
This year, it was about the 5 solas (Scriptura, Gratia, Fide, Christus, Deo Gloria).
And it went just fine. But there was something with me.
A couple weeks before the retreat, I got into another car accident. It was very, very minor. I merely bumped the guy in front of me. But, just to be safe, we exchanged insurance info and we were off. Later, as the claim was being put in, I’m told by my insurance that my car isn’t covered. I realized that I hadn’t registered it yet since I just bought it. So I have to pay for all damages out of pocket. So the guy tells me that he will get it to the shop on the 23rd and will tell me how much it will cost and that he will need a rental car too. I say fine. But the 23rd comes and goes, I hear nothing from him. Then I start stressing out. Is this guy going to take advantage of me? Is he going to rent a very expensive car and have a joy ride? Because of all these things, it’s been difficult to be happy, to enjoy my Christmas, to fully get involved at retreat. And this is starting to kill me.
And so, on the second day of retreat, I lead worship. I do horribly. The reason is, is because my heart has been so stressed out thinking about the car repairs and all the possible scenarios that it has been a huge stumbling block in terms of my worship to God. So after praise, I sit down and as my friend is giving the message, I pray. I repent of my fixation on this problem, and how much I’ve let it stress me out and how it has deterred me from serving and worshiping. Then I ask God to get rid of the stress so that I can focus and give my all to Him. That my heart would be clean, even though it is a battle. I lift it all to Him. I say amen and I do feel a little better and start listening to the sermon on grace. Then…
Literally in less than five minutes, I get a text. It’s from the guy I got into the accident with. He tells me that he wants to keep me up to date and that he’s been busy since it’s the holiday season and all. He tells me that he will get the car to the shop and will let me know what it’ll cost me after New Year’s, on the 6th, and that we can discuss details then.
I had been fearing that this guy could very well rent a sports car and run off. But here he is, telling me that he will wait until the season is over to discuss details and whatnot. You know that feeling? Like when a balloon is so filled with air that it is ready to pop and then you release it and the air goes out? Yea, that was my heart. I felt all that pressure just release and my heart was so light again. Wow. I can’t believe how timely God is. I was finally able to enjoy and live in the moment and truly see and truly hear during the retreat. And what’s more, is that I wouldn’t need to worry about it during the youth conference that I’m helping out with later this week either!
The rest of retreat was so beautiful. I was able to witness my youth be so passionate for God, some would confess their insecurities in their faith and find it strengthened again. I was able to witness some who would come to a better understanding of Jesus and what He truly did for us, that He didn’t just die for us, He lived for us! That many were encouraged. It was such a great time, Hallelujah!
Truly, Soli Deo Gloria!
Like a man comes to an altar, I came into this town
With the world upon my shoulders, and promises passed down
And I went into the water, my father, he was pleased
I built it and I’ll tear it down so you will be set free
I found thieves and salesmen living in my father’s house
I know how they got in here and I know how to get ‘em out
I’m turning this place over, from floor to balcony
And then, just like these doves and sheep, you will be set free
I have always been a lover, from before I drew a breath
Some things I loved easy, and some I loved to death
You see love’s no politician, because it listens carefully
So of those who come, I can’t lose one, so you will be set free
Oh, you will be set free
Go on and take my picture, go on and make me up
I’ll still be your defender, and you’ll be my missing son
And I’ll send out an army, just to bring you back to me
Cause regardless of your brother’s lies, you will be set free
I am my beloved’s, and my beloved’s mine
You bring all your history, I’ll bring the bread and wine
We’ll have us a party, where all the drinks are on me
And as surely as the rising sun, you will be set free
Oh, you will be set free
This is still one of my favorite songs of all time. The beauty in these words is sometimes overwhelming, especially the first time I heard them.
No matter how many times we forget Him, He will not forget us. No matter how many times we leave Him, He will not leave us. He will bring us back. How comforting.