Tuesday, February 24, 2015


    One of the most staggering stories of the Old Testament is that of Job. I've spent a little bit of time thinking about him the last few days, and really just wanted to put down a few thoughts about him.

    First off, nowhere in the Bible is the idea that Christians will live an easy comfortable life so quickly and easily refuted as in book or life of Job. In Job 1:8, God refers to Job as an "upright and perfect" man. For God to call you perfect, you gotta be doing something right. Nevertheless, we see blow after blow fall upon Job, for no apparent reason from an earthly perspective.

    That's the first point I'd like to look at. As observers seeing the whole story, we see a tremendous spiritual battle that Job could not see. I wonder how often in our lives we miss the tremendous warfare going on around us and continue about our everyday lives. Job appears to be completely ignorant to the fact He is being targeted by the Devil. All he knows is that God has allowed, or possibly caused, terrible things to happen to him after no known sin.

    As readers, we know who the villain is. We can see the whole plot: the earth and heaven, light and dark, good and evil. Job didn't have that luxury, and neither do we normally in our everyday lives. We need to remember that we are in a war. So often, I completely miss the fact that I am no longer a servant of the Devil, and thus, I am now a target. We are in a war, living in a war zone.

    Secondly, Job's losses are terrible. His life is destroyed, for no apparent reason. I've heard and read stories of people turning away from God from family abuse and violence, and honestly, although I think they were wrong, I have a very hard time blaming them. Job, though, is put through as close to hell as is possible to come on earth. Literally, everything that can go wrong does!

    His ten children die in a single blow. His wife deserts the faith. His position and possessions are gone at a breath. His health is destroyed, and his integrity is doubted, his reputation completely shattered. Even three of his four friends, assumed to be close friends, are dead certain that he is a sinner in need of repentance.

     Job utters some of the most amazing words ever penned in the Bible after all this. In Job. 13, Job is rashly proclaiming that he will plead his case before God. I mean, this is unjust! His statement in v. 15 is based upon his statement that he will maintain his case before God, but he precedes the statement with this gem, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him."

    What kind of rash, impulsive faith is that! What utter reckless abandon! To trust the very Being who had the control to stop his pain and save his family, yet didn't, is the pinnacle of trust. Here, Job proclaims the depth of His trust and faith in God, even after all the pain and misery that Job saw as coming from God!

    That is a faith I want to have. Job had a faith that some would call foolish or ignorant. Why trust a God that cruel, some would say. Job's wife did. Her response was the typical human response. Curse God, defy Him, and then commit suicide. Just give up and forget God.

    But Job hung on. He stayed true, and His faith, though severely tested to the point of his saying some really foolish things and getting a very stern rebuke from God in ch. 38-41, held strong. His faith remained in God. I hope I have faith like that someday. I want to have that kind of trust in God and in His sovereignty.

    Thirdly, we see something that is not addressed often from pulpits, because it's kinda uncomfortable. Many people will tell you that as a Christian, you are destined to a comfortable life, an easy life, a convenient life. Jesus never said that, and even a cursory look at the Bible will reveal that almost laughable absurdity of such a statement. No hero of the Bible lived a comfortable life free from trouble: Moses, David, the apostles, Paul.

    Look at Jesus for a moment. Mark Driscoll said once in a sermon on this topic that if you have a definition for a good life, it should be big enough to include God. If living a Christian life involves painless living, Jesus didn't have much of a life then. His whole life was a huge conflict. His friends fled from him, his family disowned him, the crowds yelled to crucify him. As Driscoll said, it would appear that Jesus, at times, had relational difficulties, to put it lightly!

    Job is no exception from the general lives of these heroes of the faith. His difficulties, as we already addressed were extraordinary, more than any other human being I've ever heard of. David Platt once said, "Jesus never said we wouldn't suffer, he just said it would be worth it." That's a true statement. Being a Christian is not a guarantee to improve your physical situations. It's a guarantee that your suffering will be worth it.

    Lastly, Job demonstrates an amazing trust in God's sovereignty in Job 12-13. He says that he will plead his cause before God, and God will be just. Even in the midst of incredible suffering, his confidence is in God's justice. That's incredible. Yet again, Job's faith in God and His faithfulness to justice is an amazing example to me.

    God is control. I've written about it several times recently. God is in control. He reigns! That was Job's confidence. Job's confidence was placed firmly in the justice and goodness of God, even when he couldn't see the war around him, even when he couldn't see God and talk with God through all the pain and the suffering. In all that, Job's confidence was in God, the Being he saw as the author of all his pain.

    That's faith. That's incredibly strong, enduring faith. That's faith I want someday. That's a trust, a wholehearted, reckless confidence in God that I want to have. I want that seemingly impulsive, reckless trust for God. I think it's something we can all strive for.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Quick Quote

    This is not my normal style of quote that I put on here, but this is a quote that's always pushed me to try harder and push myself. It's a great quote to encourage us to just do something.

    “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

                                      -Theodore Roosevelt

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Let the Earth Rejoice!

    It's easy to be depressed. Come to think of it, most people I talk to are not what I would call happy people. In fact, if what many friends have told me is true, I'm not usually a happy person. At a recent taekwondo event, a fellow teen told me that he had put his training on hold for a while since his girlfriend had left him, and he'd spent the next two weeks high on drugs. Life can be hard, and it can be depressing!

    So why are some people so joyful even when life is hard? There are some people I know who are happy all the time, and I always finish talking to them thinking, "What's the matter with you? Why are you so happy?!"

    Psalm 97: 1 begins in a familiar way for those who read the Psalms frequently. David talks about rejoicing in God quite often, and here is no exception. "The Lord reigneth; let the earth rejoice; let the multitude of isles be glad thereof."

    To me, this is much easier said than done. I'm usually in a good mood myself, but that doesn't mean I'm necessarily a happy person. I've been told I look pretty angry just ordering at a restaurant! I have one particular friend who urges me frequently to smile more often, and I always respond with, "I smile when I see something to smile about!"

    However, David here offers us something to smile about. It's one thing for me to tell you don't worry and be happy; it's quite another to give you good reason to be happy. Here, David doesn't stop by simply saying, "Hey, cheer up!" He gives us a good reason to be able to rejoice.

    "The Lord reigneth..." Doesn't that phrase just give you a moment of peace in your heart? He reigns! He's not in heaven running around trying to put out all the fires on earth; He is reigning! He's in charge of things, and He is in perfect control of all matters on earth.

    This is our joy. Our joy, as Christians, is not found in good behavior, good ideas, good motivation, or good plans. It is instead found in a Person. It's found the bleeding, naked, torn man hanging on a cross. Our joy is found in Person who is in control, and whose sovereignty rules every facet of our lives.

    David finishes the verse with a call to all nations (far islands and the whole earth) to rejoice because of God's sovereignty. To me, this verse gives me a peace. When I look around the world, it's easy to see persecution. It's easy to see orphans. It's easy to see dictators, wars, disasters, and the like.

    But it's not so easy to see God in the shadows. So often we forget His involvement on earth, and pray and live as if God were an uninvolved Being removed from His creation. Instead, outlined over and over in Scripture is the concept that mighty God is instead directly involved in both things that happen here on earth and in each of our lives directly. He reigns!

    This leads me to take a moment to think about the absolute enormity of the idea of the giving of His Holy Spirit to each of us. He not only is directly involved in the big things on earth, but in the small, everyday lives of small, everyday people. God, our omnipotent, omniscient God, is interested in having a relationship with people on earth, not just the world leaders and rulers, but with those of us who are swamped with school and stressed by work. That's grace!

    The purpose of this post is two fold. One, I hope when we look at this verse, the idea of God's sovereign hand ruling earth gives us a measure of comfort as we look at the world around us. We may not understand it all, but I don't have to. My Father does. Secondly, I hope this verse once again makes us look at the enormity of God's grace, that He, the ruler and Creator of the universe, would stoop to speak to and die for His Creation. The King Reigns!

    Our response to that should be fairly natural. If I fully trust God, and I know God is in control, then joy would be the natural result, would it not? Sure, there are days we'll be depressed and just mopey (like I am today), but the overwhelming emotion of our lives should be joy, joy in who God is and what He's done. Joy that He is in control. Joy that I can call the ruler of the universe Father. Joy that He cares what happens to me. Joy that He is always with me. Joy that He will never, no matter what, leave me. Joy that God is directly involved with my life. Joy that God is indeed God!


Friday, February 13, 2015

Christless Christianity

    Although I love books, I'm not one to spend much time in book stores. However, one day a couple years ago, I happened to go into a bookstore with my mom, and while she looked at whatever she came in to look for, I began perusing the clearance theology books. Sitting there on top was Christless Christianity by Michael Horton. It looked good, so I bought it, not realizing the impact it would make on my life.

    It took me about six months to finish the book, since finding time to read a fairly deep book amid an already full schedule is not easy. However, the book revolutionized much of how I view my status with God, and my relationship with Christ. These are some good quotes from Michael Horton from several of his books.

    "If we think the main mission of the church is to improve life in Adam and add a little moral strength to this fading evil age, we have not yet understood the radical condition for which Christ is such a radical solution.”

     “Doctrine severed from practice is dead; practice severed from doctrine is just another form of self-salvation and self-improvement. A disciple of Christ is a student of theology.”

     “Jesus was not revolutionary because he said we should love God and each other. Moses said that first. So did Buddha, Confucius, and countless other religious leaders we've never heard of. Madonna, Oprah, Dr. Phil, the Dali Lama, and probably a lot of Christian leaders will tell us that the point of religion is to get us to love each other. "God loves you" doesn't stir the world's opposition. However, start talking about God's absolute authority, holiness, ... Christ's substitutionary atonement, justification apart from works, the necessity of new birth, repentance, baptism, Communion, and the future judgment, and the mood in the room changes considerably.”

     “When we meet God in the gospel, we first encounter him as a stranger, come to rescue us from a danger we did not even realize we were in.”

     “Election does not exclude anybody from the kingdom of God who wants in. Rather, it includes in God’s kingdom those whose direction is away from the kingdom of God and those who would otherwise remain forever in the kingdom of sin and death.”


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Rak Chazak

    Here is an interesting video by Eric Ludy. May I have Rak Chazak Amats one day!

Sunday, February 8, 2015


    I'm approaching this subject somewhat hesitantly because I don't feel particularly worthy to talk about this particular aspect of Christianity. God specifically laid this topic on my heart to speak on at one of the conferences in Malawi, and despite my very compelling reasons (which I did present to God, very compellingly), this was one of the lessons I taught, though not from this text.

    I certainly don't understand every aspect of this verse, so I'm going to attempt to understand simply by reading it (a very good system, I think). Rom. 8:16-18 says, "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."

    Yeah, it's a beautiful verse we hear quoted frequently to describe our saved status as children of God. And rightfully so. It's an amazing statement. Being called "children of God" is unthinkable, but the idea of an heir of God is even more so. It's completely past my comprehension to think of myself as not only a child, a son, of God, but it's even harder to think of myself as an heir of God. Think of that. An heir of God!

    But there's a clause I hadn't paused to notice until someone brought it up while we were in Africa. One of the guys mentioned the amazing enormity of the statement that we are co-heirs with Christ, and he's right. That's amazing. One of the pastors with us pointed out the last clause of that verse though, which kinda took some of the wind out of our sails!

    It's a pretty major "if". Didn't you always hate that word growing up? "You can have a cookie when you get home... if you're good." That took all the fun out of it! Now it's dependent. I was happy as long as I was getting a cookie, but when I had to exercise a little self-denial to get the cookie, then I had to do some mental figuring as to whether or not it was worth it to behave just to get a cookie!

    I think Paul wants us to do the same. When he says "...coheirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may also be glorified together", that is an invitation to count the cost of whether or not it is worth it to be a co-heir with Christ. It doesn't appear to be a free prize. We have instead been offered the option of being glorified with Christ, as a coheir with him. But it comes with a cost.

    It reminds me of Jesus' response to James and John's mother when she asked to place James and John at Jesus' right hand in the kingdom. Although who sat next to whom in the kingdom was not Jesus' perogative, His response was still that they would drink of the same cup He would. Being glorified with Christ comes at a cost.

    I had never looked at that verse that way before, and I think my ignorance symbolized very well how many Americans approach Christianity. We love the concept of being a co-heir with Christ (who would blame us), but we ignore the comment what our glorification with Christ hinges upon (who would blame us for that one either).

    It would seem from this passage that our glorification with Christ hinges upon that previous statement, "if we suffer with Him". Now let's just call a timeout here. Suddenly, being a co-heir with Christ comes at a much higher cost than most of us are willing to pay.

    But I think that's why Paul followed it up with His next statement. "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." Why would anyone purposefully suffer? Because the rewards are worth it!

    I've spent hours abusing my body, twisting it into contortions it was not meant to go, and holding uncomfortable positions and working out until my body screamed. Why? Because it was worth it to me to win that competition. When I go to a big tournament and do well, it makes all the hours I spent training worth it. And until the tournament, I push myself to my limits, and sometimes past them, by telling myself, "Just a little further. You can last a little longer. It'll be worth it."

    That's what Paul's doing here. He's telling us that during that suffering, just hold out a little longer. Just push a little harder, because the reward at the end is such an amazing gift that we cannot even compare the pain to it. The glory of heaven will be so rewarding we will not even be able to compare our sufferings on earth to it.

    That's why Paul suffered. That's why the apostles died. That's why men throughout the last 2,000 years have suffered and died for Christ. Their sufferings were not worthy to be compared with the glory that is now revealed in them.

    Yesterday, I was reading about the English missionary Henry Martyn. He died at the age of 31 in Persia, having translated the New Testament into at least three different languages and was revising a fourth at the time of his death after only six years on the mission field. The girl he loved was not willing to leave England, so Martyn went to India and Persia alone, where he died of fever.

    After his death, an entry in his journal was found to contain this amazing little statement after a paragraph describing his own constant inaction for Christ so far in his life. It read simply, "Now let me burn out for God." That's amazing.

    I want you to think for a moment what the world would look like if the church decided to burn out for God. To die completely empty, completely used up for God. Would there be pain along the way? Absolutely! Would it be fun all the time? Unlikely!

    But what gives a man the kind of strength and courage to completely commit his life, to point of burning out, for God? I think it's because of an attitude that reflects that verse. "...the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory which is shall be revealed in us."

    Suffering is not something to be completely shunned by a Christian. It is our very suffering which allows us access to the glorification with Christ that is so completely amazing.

    Gaining a basic understanding of this verse helps us understand passages like Lk. 14, where Christ commands us to count the cost of following Him. If we understand that following Christ and being a co-heir with Him involves suffering and pain, we are forced to count the cost before we emphatically agree to follow Him the rest of our lives. His seeming attempt to convince people not to follow Him is instead a very somber warning to us that our lot in life as His followers involves suffering.

    Suffering is not be shunned. It is, as strange as it may sound, to be welcomed. It is an accepted, well-established part of the Christian walk, and, even stranger sounding, a gift. It is the bridge that grants us access to not only a deeper relationship with Christ but also deeper glory with Christ.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Quick Quote

    "If eternity doesn't come, and God does not exist, then, as Paul says, 'If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men' (1 Cor. 5:19). If there is no God, then Paul and all the martyrs throughout history lived short lives full of needless suffering (2 Cor. 6:4-10).

    "But since God is real, Paul and the martyrs should be envied more than all people; their suffering was worth it. If we allow ourselves to live recklessly for Him, then we, too, will see His glory. We will see Him do the impossible.

    "Christians today like to play it safe. We want to put ourselves in situations where we are safe 'even if there is no God'. But if we truly desire to please God, we cannot live that way. We have to do things that cost us during our life on earth but will be more than worth it in eternity."

                                                                   -Francis Chan, Crazy Love

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Malawi Trip

    Alright, having recovering from what was probably a mild malaria attack, I would like to write a condensed version of my recent trip to Malawi. Although certain things do make me happy to be back in the US (hamburgers, toilets that flush, a bed, chocolate, etc.), I would go back tomorrow if a trip opportunity and money dropped into my lap!

    The trip was amazing. I would not have gotten on the plane to come back except for the small fact that I didn't have much choice. I absolutely fell in love with Africa, and although my role on this trip was teaching, I still firmly believe I learned more from the African church than I could teach them if I was able to stay with them for a year.

    Our first flight was from Houston to Washington D.C., where we went to a hotel for our first team meeting and four hours sleep before going back to the airport to meet the last member of the three person group I would spend most of my time with and to catch our 12 hour flight to Ethiopia. In Addis Abbaba, we would get our first taste of Africa, simply walking around the airport for our two hour layover.
Isaac is a guy I will have to stay in contact with, a rare compliment for me to give.

    After our final flight, a three hour flight to Lelongwe, our team separated, with most of the people going north to the orphanage/training center, while the rest of us went south to Ntcheu for the first pastors conference. Our route to Ntcheu ran along a road that formed the border between Mozambique and Malawi, so five minutes was used to let us Americans jump out and run across the border, just to add Mozambique to the list of countries visited.

    After spending the night in national Pastor Howke's home, we were able to go on the next day down into Ntcheu and hold the first conference. None of the three of us were speaking at this conference, so we had the whole day to simply meet pastors, pick up some simple Chichewan phrases, ask questions, and generally soak up Malawian culture. It was certainly helpful when we did have to speak to have had a sampling of the culture.
The beautiful valley just across the border in Mozambique

    Upon finishing the conference, we drove several hours to Blantyre, Malawi's second largest city. We spent the next several nights at Andy Namalima's home in the suburbs of Blantyre. It was also here that we received our rude awakening as to the severity of African rainy season!

    Sunday we were supposed to visit different churches in the area. Because of the washed our roads, however, we were only able to go to a couple. Despite the fact that things did not fall into the order we would have made them go if we were sovereign, it was an amazing experience. The raw love for God and obvious passion for Jesus was something that, as an American used to American intellectual religion, was truly refreshing.

    On paper, the three of us were supposed to begin a conference several hours drive away on Sunday evening. However, because of the rain, we decided to put off going until Monday morning (African schedules are loose like that). However, the rains started on Monday night in earnest, and by Monday morning, the bridge over the river was in full flood, with water rushing over the bridge, to the point where you wouldn't even realize a bridge was there.

    Because of that, we were not able to get to our conference location until Monday night. Due to somewhat poor communication from tired people to tired people, we had not realized that we three were on our own. Our driver and guide dropped us off at Paul Ketchumbirri's (complete guess as to the spelling of that) house, and left us sitting there in his living room with our backpacks, looking no doubt like lost Americans, which incidentally we were.

    This should give you an idea of the devotion of these pastors to come hear God's Word. Not only was the conference 36 hours late starting, but we would find out the next morning that the roof of the church had blown off on Sunday night. These pastors had simply spread a tarp over their heads, and stayed for another 24 hours waiting for us to come preach to them! That's devotion!

    This conference was one of the most amazing things I've ever had the pleasure of witnessing. It lasted all told probably six hours, with all three of us together preaching six times. It truly was sweet fellowship with these men, and it was an opportunity to see God moving in an overseas church. It was also the first time in my life I've ever had the Holy Spirit hijack my preparations to have me speak something other than what I'd planned, changing my plans five minutes before I was supposed to speak!

    Talk about a feeling of helpless reliance like I'd never experienced, or come to think of it, I'd never had to experience it before because I'd never put myself in the position to need that sort of reliance. I've never been one to try to speak without preparation, and to get up to speak with about three sentences scribbled on a piece of paper was a true test of my reliance on God for me.

    However, these pastors were an amazing audience, paying rapt attention and answering questions like no audience I'd ever seen. They put up with the three inexperienced Americans in front of them 10 times better than I could have dreamed possible, and succeeded in putting my awkward self at ease to speak with more freedom to these men than I could to any American audience.

    Writing about the first week would not be complete without at least a quick reference to the other two guys who were with me throughout the whole week and conference. I could not have asked for better comraderie or friendship than what I experienced with these two guys. I have never had the kind of fellowship in which the name of Christ came up so frequently or comfortably as with these guys. Both Johnny and Isaac had true hearts for God, and it was a true pleasure to work along side these guys. They were awesome.
Cattle have right of way on the roads in Malawi. I'm not arguing with one of those big guys!

    From Limbe/Blantyre area, we traveled north to the training center/orphanage to rejoin the rest of the team, who had been doing various child evangelism outreaches in the area around the orphanage. After an evening of excitedly trying to talk over each other with each new story of opportunities and experiences, we went to bed to prepare for the second week of experiencing Africa.
A typical house with maize growing around it.

    After the non-stop action in the south, our week at the orphanage felt very slow. In stark contrast to the rougher conditions in the south (a hole in the ground outside for bathroom needs, a chicken in the bedroom, holes in the roof over your head in the rain: compared to toilets inside, semi-American food like fried chicken and spaghetti, dry mattresses), it was an adjustment. To be honest, the rough conditions and non-stop action were something I really enjoyed, and the week at the orphanage was kind of a "what am I doing here" experience at first.
A typical fishing canoe. I still have no idea how they keep they're balance.

    During the next week, we were able to go to two different schools to present the gospel (speaking to probably 350 kids) and a child evangelism outreach in a village to about 50 kids, and I had the pleasure of going door-to-door witnessing in a small village on Lake Malawi. It wasn't as much non-stop action as in the south, but just as fun. Just a different kind of fun.
This is the outreach in Tambalika.

    Much of my time the last week was spent at the orphanage and at the orphans school, helping some of the kids learn to read English and playing soccer (a game they absolutely decimated me at, including the little 6-7 year olds). It was great getting to know the little guys even if I didn't speak their language. There is something about having kids running to be held and calling your name that just gets your heart going!

    Our last day was spent doing another school outreach and saying our goodbye's to men and women I will never forget. We all said it, and I for one meant it 100%, but if I had had any choice at all, I would have stayed. I absolutely loved my time spent witnessing, preaching, and just hanging out with the orphans.

    The day we left, we flew from Lelongwe to Blantyre, then up to Addis Abbaba. We then once again completed our long 12 hour flight back to Washington D.C., where we enjoyed our first American meal in two weeks. Thank you, Chipotle, for putting one of your restaurants in the D.C. airport! Our final flight to Houston really was the sight of mixed feelings: happy to see family but genuine sadness that the trip was over.

    Now, as is known by anyone reading this blog consistently, I promptly got sick (probably a mild malaria attack) as soon as I had been home a couple days, but before I finish this sketch of my time in Africa, I'm going to give just a brief minute to answering a few of the questions I've been asked.
Typical Central Malawian landscape

    Food: food there consists of rice, beans occasionally, relish (an onion and pepper mixture), and en sema (maize flour mixed with water). We were often served chicken since we were considered guests and honored as such, and were occasionally served goat or chicken livers, both of which were excellent. I lucked out since neither of my teammates liked the idea of eating chicken livers, thus leaving any we were served for me!

    Accomodations: Accomodations varied. The first week was pretty much what you would picture in Africa. Any water we drank came either from a five-gallon container we brought with us or was boiled and made into tea, a drink I have now accustomed my taste buds to. Sleeping arrangements were always interesting, especially for the guys who slept nearby me, since I apparently I kick in my sleep. I was the only one who brought a sleeping bag, so while most of my nights were dry, Isaac and Johnny spent a couple of damp nights having dirt and water falling from the roof onto their heads all night.

    The second week was much more comfortable, since we stayed at an American built house built with the intention of holding Americans. It was dry, with toilets inside, and a readily available well outside.

    As a side note, Malawi during rainy season is the most beautiful place I have ever seen. It had its disadvantages (several muddy days of pushing minibuses out of mud with rain drumming steadily down on your head), but the lush green of the country because of all the rain probably made up for it in my mind! It was also complete with awesome sunsets!

    I know I mentioned that I learned a lot. However, I didn't mention what I learned. Just briefly, one of the things that came through so clearly was reliance on God. I'm not a preacher. This was my first experience preaching, and I could clearly feel my own incompetence, my own inexperience, and my own emptiness of anything meaningful. I clearly remember kneeling in some bushes after one of my speaking sessions at a youth conference I forgot to mention above, and pouring out my heart to God, saying "I'm completely empty. I don't know what I'm saying."

   However, with my own emptiness, the Holy Spirit came very sweetly and noticeably. I've heard a lot of people talk about feeling God, and I've had my share of doubts about the maudlin sentimentality of many of these experiences. However, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I could feel God comforting me and filling me with himself and the strength to continue.

    Especially meaningful throughout my whole time there was Ps. 139. Even in Africa, surrounded by people of a different race who spoke a different language with a different culture, God was there. He was next to me, in me, and going before me.

    Secondly, the verse (I don't even know where it is) from Paul where he states, "My strength is made perfect in weakness" was incredibly meaningful. I was plagued the whole time by kind of a thought in the back of my head that said, "what are you, an inexperienced teenager doing in Africa? Let some more experienced guy do it!" I quoted that verse to myself constantly, over and over, whenever the doubts that I could really do anything for God as a teenager came into my head.

    See the awesome thing? I don't have to accomplish anything for God! All I have to do is give my part, myself, my 16 year old, inexperienced, weak, stuttering self to God. What he chooses to do with my gift is up to Him. But once I've committed to denying myself, taking up my cross, and following Christ, my part is simple. Follow Him, and leave the results in His hands. Duties are ours; events are God's.

    I will probably post more pics another day this week, but I wanted to finally get a cursory briefing of the trip out here for those who have been asking for one. I'll be happy to answer any questions you leave in the comments.


Sunday, February 1, 2015