Friday, December 28, 2012

Arrival

23.5˚C, the voice over the intercom said. Nice, cool December weather—not bad, except for the fact that it was only 6 o'clock in the morning. Upon disembarking the plane, a strange but familiar smell greeted me. Yep, this is the Philippines, alright. We walked quickly with the eager hordes of people to immigration. Surprisingly, the entire process (immigration, baggage claim, and customs) didn't take near as long as we anticipated. Soon we were on our way out, wheeling our carts through the masses, to meet my grandpa and his driver outside.

Some guys helped us load our suitcases into the van and hung around for a tip. I think they were disappointed though—we didn't give them much (they didn't do much) but they probably expected more from foreigners.

As we drove through the streets of Manila, I watched the scenery flow by. Jeepnies. Shacks. Lots of billboards everywhere. Crazy driving. Dirty buildings. Outside the city, it was much prettier, with many palm trees and much greenery. Sort of like Hawaii. After way too many toll booths, we finally made it to Lipa City, where my grandparents live. Even crazier driving. Lots of people. By the way, pedestrians do not have the right of way here. Run-down businesses and huge grand malls, rich and poor living on the same street—the Philippines is full of polar opposites.

Since I was here just over 5 years ago, it's not exactly culture shock, but I guess I forgot exactly how different things are here. There are things here that you wouldn't even imagine seeing in North America. We are so blessed to be some of the most wealthy and healthy people in the world, and we don't even realize it.

We arrived yesterday, on Thursday morning. I will post more later. I think that we are having a family reunion tomorrow afternoon, so I'll have more to write about.

Happy Sabbath everyone!

(This was shot quickly with my iPod while driving through town today)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Headed to the Philippines

I just wanted to let my readers know that I will be off the continent in the Philippines for the next months. No, I don't know exactly how long yet. If you know me and would like more details, and if I haven't already emailed you, please don't hesitate to contact me! I'll try to keep up my blog while I'm there; I don't know yet if the internet will be easily accessible or reliable.

Any prayers for whatever ministry I will be involved in while there would be much appreciated. I pray that God will help me put into practice what I learned at ARISE, and that He would shine through me, with nothing obstructing anyone's view of Jesus. It's not me that I want people to see and recognize; it's Jesus.

I pray that this will become reality as I seek to minister and bless others in the Philippines:

"Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people; but the Lord will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you. The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising." ~ Isaiah 60:1-3


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Broken


Dear Father in Heaven,

Last Wednesday was a day full of experiences. You taught me so much, Lord, and in spite of the necessary pain, I believe it was my best day at ARISE. I went to bed with my heart full and grateful.

It was early morning, and I was preparing for the preaching practicum. It was hard; the message just didn't feel right. Kneeling there, in the darkness of the classroom, I pleaded that You would take it and do whatever You needed to. Then it underwent major surgery. This is what I had been waiting for! The message seemed clearer, concise, and better than anything I had prepared before. Yet there was still one thing… 

During my preparation, I prayed specifically that You would make me humble and do the speaking through me. You reminded me that living the message was most important, so I prayed that You would put it in my heart and enable me to live the message as I shared it. I left the room confident that it would be according to Your will.

Breakfast came and went. The moment slowly approached. 1, 2, 3… 7 sermons preached and critiqued. Then, it was my turn. Sending up a prayer, I walked up to the front, and when the 10 minute timer started, I launched in.

That was probably the worst sermon I have ever preached. 

The content was good, but that was about it. David said that he had expected a 10 from me and got a 7; he was disappointed. Some parts were not clear enough. Most importantly, I needed to spice it up and throw my weight into it—because he didn't believe me. He only believed I was sincere after knowing me for 4 months, but anyone else couldn't have believed me. He knew there was some enthusiasm lurking in me somewhere; he had seen it before. 

Content: solid. Delivery: passable. 

What David didn't know was that I had been intending to make it more relevant to our class. I had been intending to write on the board the very points he said he missed. But it all went down the drain.

After more critical remarks from David, Jeffrey added his two cents (which wasn't very much at all). I felt like the man in the Operation game—and it hurt! But I saw my weakness in speaking and took the pointers bravely. I knew it would help me in the future. 

As I sat down, however, I found it hard to pay attention to the rest of the sermons. I began to question why it hadn't gone well. Why couldn't David believe me? In silent prayer, I realized that I hadn't been passionate about the message. Of course the audience couldn't believe me.

But why wasn't I passionate about the message? The very message itself, which was "Lift up Christ, lift up Christ. He must increase, and I must decrease"—this message was not active in my heart. I was a complete hypocrite. I had fooled myself into thinking I was trusting God, when I had been trusting myself. Then I remembered my prayer that morning: "Lord, please make me humble." Ironically, You knew this was the only way to answer it. You showed me what was inside myself. You made me fall upon the Rock and be broken.

I realized that I had been holding You back by my pride. You couldn't use me to the fullest extent because I would have trusted myself, instead of You. I had fooled myself for so long, thinking I was trusting You when I really wasn't.

It reminds me of what I read in Jeremiah 17. There is the man "who trusts in man, and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the LORD" (vs. 5). Then there is the man "who trusts in the LORD, and whose hope is the LORD" (vs. 7). The first is cursed, the second blessed. But then it reads, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked…" (vs. 9). I had deceived myself into thinking I trusted in You, when I actually trusted in myself. God alone searches the heart and tests the mind, and He knows better than we the extent of our self-trust.

Before, my spiritual walk had been locked; it wasn't going anywhere very quickly. But when You let me fall on the Rock, it unlocked the barrier of my pride, and my relationship with You was freed. You brought me to my knees at the cross, and I beheld the Lamb of God anew. This broke me further still. Though I deserved nothing, You declared me worth everything, including Your own life; and still I had been blind and selfish enough to put myself in front of the cross. How could I do such a thing? Yet in the cross, You promised me freedom—freedom from this thing called self and this enemy called pride, which I hated and feared. But You told me to fear no more. Christ won the victory. I have no need to fear the enemy within.


You tried to teach me this before, but You had to wait until this opportunity to stop me in my selfish tracks and humble me before the cross. It was the wrong message, and it lacked the right heart; therefore, it cost me the chance to share a last, meaningful message with my class. But You knew that was what it would take to break me. Though it hurt, I thank You. I can honestly look back and say the cost was worth it. And that's exactly what You said on the cross as You thought of me—selfish, prideful me. You said I was worth it! What wondrous love is this!

Later that day, as I savoured our last classes and visited our contacts for the last time, I rejoiced that You were able to speak to my heart and through my mouth in deeper ways than before. 

I just needed to be broken first.

I'm sorry it took so long. Let me never forget. 

Thank You, Father.
In Jesus' precious name,
Amen.






Sunday, December 16, 2012

Time That is Left

Laptop on the floor, plugged into the wall under my window. Behind me, empty room except for a few messy suitcases. Beside me, a bunk bed—one mattress bare.

Messy dorm.
Quiet halls.
Vacant rooms.

Empty,

yet full

hearts.

3.75 months is quicker than you think. It amazes me how a group of 45, plus staff, can become so close in so little time. This will be my second class family now.


May we never forget the times...


when we partied at Jeffery's and David's till the night was long gone.

when we laughed at Cody in class because of a new epiphany he discovered.

when we struggled to understand the mysteries of theodicy and other serious subjects—and through God's grace, we prevailed.

when we laid prayer requests before the Lord in James' class.

when we met with our friends in the community, amazed at how God could use broken vessels like us.

when we sat, spellbound, drinking in Ty's words as he expounded on the deepest facets of God's infinite love.

when we cried
by ourselves in the secret place,
during communion,
at the commissioning ceremony,
in our midnight prayer meeting—our last night together.


Though we are not together in body any more, may we never be apart—
in mind,
in heart,
in purpose.

As Jimmy says, let this be the last ARISE class to graduate. We want to go home.

We need to go home.

What will you do with the time that’s left 
Will you live it all with no regret? 
Will they say that you loved till your final breath? 
What will you do with the time that’s left?

Oh, Hallelujah! 
Oh, Hallelujah! Hallelujah! 
Amen
- Mark Schultz


What will you do with the time that's left? 

"Enter into the joy of the Lord."
"Count the cost."
"Take courage."

Matthew 28:18-20.

ARISE and shine.


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