Why Am I Doing This?

There he was, lying defiantly limp on the floor. All the other children were bouncing along their way to the next Vacation Bible School activity. Not this four year old.

And there I was. I’d had it. I didn’t even want to be helping with VBS. But there was no turning back. I decided to make this boy my mission – not in a ‘God’s love pouring out from me into his life’ sort of way, but in an ‘I will conquer his naughtiness’ sort of way. I sat with him, talked with him, showed him I could be just as stubborn, and tried to prod him on. Eventually, he just drifted off to sleep on the worn pew in the back of the Sunday school room. And I brooded about all the difficulties I was facing.

At home I angrily and tearfully slapped some sandwiches together for my four whining kids (oh, and did I mention I was pregnant with number five at the time too?). I did not want to go back for the rest of the week! I thought, ‘Lord, this isn’t fair.’ I needed a break like the rest of those moms that eagerly waved goodbye to their kids after dropping them off for the morning!

After lunch was cleaned up and my youngest was down for a nap, I dropped myself into a chair and came face to face with what was going on inside of me. I most definitely had not been walking in the Spirit that morning.

In fact, I came to realize an even more puzzling yet convicting truth – agreeing to help with VBS in the first place was not obedient.  What? Serving not obedient? But the fact was that I didn’t even consider consulting God in this decision. I was led by obligation and duty, not the Holy Spirit. And how can I be pleasing to God in any capacity if it is not His will for me to be participating in the first place?

I should have prayed about it and then had the courage to say no. I should have given it more thought before fulfilling what I thought were my ‘duties’ to the church.

God impressed truth on my heart.

If we are not Spirit led, we rely on ourselves instead of the Holy Spirit for strength.

And we all know how well that works …..

I learned that sometimes God may want me to say ‘no’ to ministry!

Even the apostle Paul had to say no out of obedience to the Lord. Acts chapter 16 tells us of the marvelous work that Paul was doing in all the regions he visited. However, the Holy Spirit would not allow him to go teach and preach in Bithynia or Asia. It’s strange that God would say no to something that, to me, seems good. But God had different plans for Paul. If you keep reading in Acts, you’ll see how God used Paul elsewhere instead.

I do not know the mind of God, though I do trust Him implicitly. If God told Paul no to a specific ministry, might He not do the same for us? Might God have different plans than ours?

We are not responsible to accomplish every good work, or to say yes to every ministry opportunity. No one can possibly do everything! We are, however, responsible to obey the Holy Spirit’s directing in our individual lives.

Because we are far more effective for the Lord when we are Spirit-empowered instead of self-empowered!

Well, I finished the rest of VBS that week. It went well. Not because of the circumstances but because of my attitude. I knew God wanted me to follow through with what I had already committed to – in His strength instead of my own. I even had the privilege developing a precious friendship with the boy who had put me over the edge on the first day.

God taught me an important lesson: I need to commit myself to Him before I commit myself to tasks.

The crux of the matter is acting out of Spirit-driven obedience rather than flesh-driven obligation – or duty or striving.

Jesus was all about doing only the will of the Father. We must be too.

Light and Dark

There are bright and dark sides to ministry, but in both God is completely present and effectively working. Half way in to camp we experienced both sides in one day.

We started Wednesday with worship through music and devotion time, and then headed to a nearby beach for some fun and fellowship. It was a bit chilly for Okinawa standards, but to us Oregonians it was still lovely!

After a few team competitions we witnessed one of the bright sides of God at work – six students were baptized! What a beautiful manifestation of the Lord moving in the lives of these young men and women. I get teary eyed every time I’m present at a baptism, even if I have no idea who is being baptized! It’s a glorious thing!

IMG_0568 The Baptism Crew!

The baptism time was followed by bento box lunches – yum! – and free time on the beach. Cyrus and I had a chance to chat with students and take a quick stroll down the beach. We found some cute little hermit crabs. We also picked up some beautifully bleached coral to bring home for the kids. We wished we could have stayed longer to explore, but we had to return to camp to prepare for the evening session.

IMG_0575 A Hermit Crab 🙂

One aspect of our Corban group’s ministry (which I have failed to mention until now) was to take turns sharing our testimonies. Each testimony gave a glimpse into the dark places we all have been and how God has worked and is continuing to work to heal and mature us in those various areas.

This night, though, one of the college students took her testimony a step further, sharing in more detail the trials and temptations she has faced. She shared about being sexually abused and the tremendous toll it has taken on her life – spiritually, physically and mentally. She shared about her subsequent struggles with eating disorders and self harm and how God has been healing her. Not only that, she opened herself up as a resource and listening ear to those facing the similar struggles.

The response was overwhelming. Dozens of students approached this college student seeking someone who understood their trials, and admitting to someone for the first time their incredibly private struggles.

Much darkness was beginning to be revealed. And it was a heavy sadness to me to become aware of tremendous amounts of pain buried inside the lives of some of these students.

But there is a Light to shine into those dark places. God is our great healer and I believe many students took a step in the healing process. They took the risk of brining what had been hidden in the dark of their souls into the light of Christ and His Body of believers.

It is a process that I hope and pray will continue in each of their lives.

Our dear Corban student, because of her vulnerable testimony, spent the remaining days of camp hearing story after story of pain, hurt, sorrow, despair, and darkness. This was a heavy burden for her to bear alone and I did my best to be there to ease the burden in any way I could. It was a challenging time for her, but I know God is working in her life as she seeks to pour in to others’ lives.

All of this was a poignant reminder of God’s ultimate purpose: to bring light into the darkness. And in serving Him we must go into the dark places to manifest His light. He is using us to accomplish His will and it isn’t always pleasant. We need His Light in every dark place. In the despair of death and loss. In brokenness and abuse. In the mess of divorce. Even when suffering for the sake of righteousness.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you 

out of darkness into His marvelous light!

1 Peter 2:9 (NASB)

The Day I Remembered I Am An Intovert

Time to continue with our adventure in Japan!

Day two of camp arrived. I already shared the devotion I wrote for the students a couple posts ago. In addition, it was seminar day. Students had the opportunity to attend two seminars of their choice. The offerings ranged from Identity in Christ to Preparing for College. Cyrus taught a seminar focused on answering some tough theological questions. I taught on overcoming worry (I plan on sharing more about this later – maybe as a series). We were both privileged to be used in this way!

After the devo time and seminars we broke for lunch and then some afternoon free time.

And that’s when it hit me. I was exhausted. Not physically tired but emotionally and mentally drained. Since we stepped foot in Japan I had been caught up in a whirlwind of introductions, remembering names, and get-to-know-you conversations. I know for some people this is exciting and energizing, but not for me. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy people, but after a while I need a relational rest. I need time for introverted introspection and reflection.

Fortunately, I was able to nab a bit of that time before we were on to the next activity; but I also was reminded of my need to rely on God for strength in the areas of my weakness. It was only by His power that I made it through the next several days with very little introvert time!

And His power at work in me brought joy to my heart. That evening I once again jumped out of my comfort zone and into a post evening session small group. It was an amazing opportunity to witness a small group of High School girls open up with each other about their hurts and convictions. One girl even shared her desire to make a u-turn in life and start living in a way that pleased God – she wanted to recommit to Him!

I absolutely love seeing God moving in people’s lives – no greater joy!

I’ll close this post by sharing Wednesday morning’s devotion with you. May you be encouraged!

No Longer a Child

Bible Reading- Eph.4:14-32

In the world’s eyes you are on the brink of adulthood. Many of you have already made decisions about what you are going to do after high school. You have spent time preparing and growing academically, physically and mentally for what lies ahead. But where do you measure on your Spiritual Growth Chart?

In our reading today we are reminded that it’s time to grow up – spiritually. We all need to grow by being rooted in God’s Word (not swept away by every new idea), by loving others, and by becoming Christ-like. But this growth is not accidental. God works in us as we respond to His Spirit and pursue His Truth.

  1. Just as you purposefully do certain things to grow physically or academically, you can purposefully take action to grow spiritually. What can you start doing, even today, to contribute to your spiritual growth? 
  1. Sometimes we all feel confused or have doubts about God, but it is important to continue to pursue the Truth. If you are confused or doubtful about God, the Bible, or Christianity right now, have you given up pursuing the Truth or are you continuing to seek it? What would it look like for you to pursue God?

Pray – Be honest with God about any doubts you have and ask Him to help you find the Truth! Ask Him to convict you of any areas in your life that you need to start obeying Him.