Wednesday, July 25, 2007

BUCKIT Week—Tuesday, July 24

Wednesday, July 25, 2007 [writing about Tuesday, July 24]

Picking up where I left off, the first two sessions yesterday were taught by Craig and were about “Unfolding the Book of Romans.” Several helpful things we learned:
  1. Know what the book is about
  2. Master the doctrine of Romans and the language of John (both books are about the gospel; John gives it all in illustration and example. Craig did this: he would teach some deep things and then give an example that appeals to common sense and justice.)
  3. A kleptomaniac is not judged, when caught, because he is a kleptomaniac, but because of what he stole. We learn that God doesn’t punish us for being sinners, but for sinning. But the fact is that He did deliver us from both problems: the wrath of God (because of sinS) and the wreckage of Adam (we sin).
  4. We went over the witnesses of Creation, Conscience, and the Law in God’s courtroom. All of them are lower than God’s perfect standard, but we can’t even meet those!
  5. Belief is not a work meritorious of eternal life anymore than a bum on the street’s extending his arm to take a hamburger, that you graciously offer him, earns him the hamburger.
At the first break I was talking with Megan and Rachel H. and David about Japanese. Megan spent a school year in Japan and has been taking Japanese in college.

A few smiling faces during a break. :) Craig is the one standing in the middle.

During the lunch break (boxes and boxes of pizza brought in), I decided to hang out with Jeremiah. His prayers were very Bible-based and powerful, and I saw a heart for God in him. We had great conversation—Jeremiah, Daniel K., and me—discussing what we had learned and encouraging one another.

After the first two sessions we had several hours of free time. Daniel and Rachel were indicating going over to the mall here to pass out tracts and talk to people about the gospel. Frankly, I was terrified. But our group, minus Nathanael, drove over and prayed, then entered the mall.

The mall, viewed from the direction of the hotel.

Rachel and Jessica paired up, as did Arielle and Bethany. Daniel wanted to go off by himself, and that left me by myself. I saw Daniel got into a conversation with a man right away, but at every turn, when I saw someone sitting on a bench, I was reasoned my way out of doing anything. My time there was visibly unprofitable, except to show me how cowardly I am in beginning conversations about the gospel! Then I saw Jeremiah and Anna and was encouraged that others were there for evangelism too. Jeremiah soon was talking to a young man at a cellular phone kiosk. He is very outgoing...what an example! I also ran into Josiah and Megan, and David and Rachel H. They were all there and passed out a couple tracts, but Josiah felt like it was horrible, because of how little they did. I felt even worse about how I did, and I told them what happened with me.

My group returned to the hotel about 5:45—we were expecting to go somewhere for supper at 6:00. Daniel and I took a brief walk around the hotel, and we discussed the difficulty I had doing God’s work earlier. No revelatory solutions came of it, but it was good to talk. :)

When we had left the mall, Jeremiah was still talking to that fellow at the kiosk! We all left for supper without him. Transportation was the same as the previous evening: all those with cars drive past the entrance and all the people pile in, and we drive off. Supper was at El Ranchero, obviously a Mexican Restaurant. I sat in a booth in the corner with Nathanael, Josiah, and Daniel.

As we waited for the food and then ate, we talked about all the things that we had learned that day and the previous day, and just how different our lives could and probably should be. Like what are we doing here in America, living like Americans? Shouldn’t we be Christians? Let’s live more simply, giving up all the world craves, so that we can have more time or money or resources to devote to the Lord’s work. We discussed the treasures we lay up in heaven versus the treasures of earth; the importance of doing everything for God from the heart or else it’s useless; and we marveled that Jeremiah was still talking at the Mall! Josiah sent him a text message, but we never heard back from them, so we were continually amazed. After the meal was finished and we were still sitting there (while the whole group finished), Josiah encouraged us to pray for Jeremiah’s work for God over there. So at 8:00 all four of us prayed for him and for the week and for our lives and God’s glory. We prayed with power that God would save the young man today. What a great time of fellowship and marveling in the calling to which we have been called!

Nathanael and Josiah

Me and Daniel

When we got back, we found Jeremiah and Anna in the conference room with sandwich materials on the table. Jeremiah began telling us about his experiences.

The young man I saw him with, Collin, had not been sure whether we evolved or were created, and didn’t know if heaven and hell were real, physical places. Jeremiah asked if he had some time; he looked around and said, “I have all the time in the world!” (the mall was not at all crowded).

And he heard the complete gospel. Jeremiah said that he was able to incorporate things that we learned only hours before, as he talked with Collin. When he was done he asked him if all of what he said made sense.

“Man, that’s made the most sense of any religion I’ve ever heard,” was the reply.

Jeremiah and Anna made sure to get him a Bible, and Jeremiah is pretty sure the young man is now saved!

God gave him an open door with a man from another kiosk as they were leaving, and he stayed for another hour talking with a man who used to be in the churches, but who now suppressed the truth in unrighteousness, denying Jesus as the Son of God. The Lord was so faithful to bring to Jeremiah’s mind answers regarding evolution that he had heard many years before from Ken Ham, and there was nothing to which he had to say, “I don’t know.” Finally, despite this man’s talkative nature, the Lord impressed on Jeremiah to share his personal testimony with the man, whose name was Cory. God shut Cory up the whole time that Jeremiah told his testimony. As he said is usual while he shares how he was saved, Jeremiah was weeping, and at the end, the man had gone away quiet and with a changed countenance, having been upset from his mindset of denial.

Just think: God brought Jeremiah from Kentucky to Maryland to tell the gospel to these two people! I pray Cory also got saved.

Jeremiah shared more of the details before the whole group in a few minutes, just before the last session of the evening. When he had finished his account Craig asked someone to pray for Collin and Cory and the night’s session (it was now 9:00). The Lord moved me to pray, and during the prayer, I was overcome by God’s grace and goodness in bringing together things we had learned, and the power and love of God through Jeremiah. I couldn't help but break down in tears, and I didn’t care. I was praying to God, not to men. In my spirit I claimed in those two men’s salvation. I ended the prayer, just falling into the Father’s arms, praising Him. O Lord, to you be all glory and honor! May I decrease and you increase forever!

After the prayer, Jeremiah got up, came over, and gave me a hard hug. Craig suggested we sing “Thank You, Lord (for saving my soul).”

The last session was about some tips for presenting biblical truths, very helpful for newbies like me!

Afterward I noticed Rachel, Jessica, and Arielle retired immediately. It was kind of amusing, because it is so easy to get involved in conversations and go to bed late, that if you want any good amount of sleep, you have to not talk to anyone!

I went over to Josiah and Jeremiah again, and Nathanael was there again too. We talked some more, marveling over God’s work. Jeremiah suggested—since he was going to bed—that we commit our night to the Lord in prayer. Josiah began, then Nathanael, then Jeremiah, then I ended. It was another tearful and awe-struck prayer session! I feel such a bond with these brothers! God, your power is amazing, and we owe you everything. You loved us despite our deserving wrath, but we can’t love you even according to what you deserve! Thank you for the privilege to spread your love to the unlovable world.

Jeremiah went upstairs to spend time with his Lord and talk about the day with Him, while Josiah, Nathanael, and I decided to go for a walk. A young lady named Katie joined us after our prayer, feeling like she just missed something really important and deep. I felt sorry for her, because I have known what that’s like—walking in on the tail end of something so awesome and wishing I’d been there. So we invited her on our walk, and we walked probably a mile around the whole mall. She went in when we got back, but we men made lap after lap around the hotel while we talked some more. We must have walked four miles last night! What great fellowship!

I managed to get to bed at 11:30 and sleep seven hours. Nathanael stayed up talking about biblical things with Justin until 1:00 or so! What a sweet sleep, and a sweet remembrance of what God did yesterday. I am so thankful that He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Monday, July 23, 2007

BUCKIT Week—Monday, July 23

Tuesday, July 24, 2007 [writing about Monday, July 23]

The pillows were very downy and squished down to thinner than I’m used to. I finally got to sleep about 12:00. Unfortunately I couldn’t sleep past 6:00 am., so I managed to survive on six hours of sleep for the day. I took my Bible and notebooks outside for a while to spend time with the Lord. It was a little chilly, but refreshingly so. After a while of looking at the 1 Chronicles 17 passage I’m studying, I determined I needed to write some more down, so I set up the laptop computer back in our room, while Daniel and Nathanael went down to breakfast.

About 8:00 I myself breakfasted in the lounge with James A. from Georgia, Austin T. from North Carolina, and Leah R. from Georgia. It’s inexpressibly joyous to fellowship with these people! We come from all over but are as close as family.

A little past 9:30 the first session began. Jabe Nicholson is only here Monday and Wednesday this week, so we had three sessions in a row from Jabe. The first session was an introduction to Local Church Truths, concentrating on what God’s big idea for the church is:
  • man and God in intimate fellowship!
  • The church should be marked by supernatural love and supernatural power. We are to live lives so different that there is no way people can refute the existence of God. What an awesome responsibility!
We had a half-hour break after the first session. Daniel, Rachel, Nathanael, Bethany, Megan (from Maryland University), Rachel H., and Austin and I all were talking with Jeremiah M. about his upcoming tour with the Good News on the Move bus, and evangelism methods. It is so encouraging to see this eighteen-year-old’s zeal for the Lord and the gospel.

David and Jeremiah

The second session concentrated on culling church principles from the Acts, looking to what the early believers did before we look into the epistles. This was also insightful into the fundamentals that make up a church.
  • Patient waiting on the Spirit of God—so often we just run ahead with our ideas instead of really relying on the Holy Spirit.
  • Occupation with Christ—the early church was willing to die for the name of Christ. Everything they did was in His name, and everything they did therefore reflected well or evil of Christ.
  • Loyalty to the Word of God—they were faithful to show from the scriptures why Jesus had to die, and to point out Israel’s and everyone’s sin which separates them from God. The Word of God was their only authority; nothing was from their own opinions.
During the second break—in which we ate Chick-Fil-A brought in—I got to talk to Daniel G., an MK from Zambia. It was very interesting to hear about the mission field there: the struggles of the believers to overcome their cultural preference for going to the witch doctor or to buck their traditions and not conform to their close-knit communities. I know better how to pray for believers in Zambia now, and believers in more tribal kinds of cultures.

The third session involved some small-group discussions about hypothetical situations in which churches could begin. For instance, a remote tribe gets a hold of a Bible in their own language and is converted through reading God’s word. What do they do now? How will they form the church? They won’t be preprogramed with Western ideas of Church. This session, though long, was very informative. Very eye-opening about how little we need to “do church.”

For supper, we went up I-81 a couple exits to Ryan’s, a buffet restaurant. There was great food and fellowship. I got photos of all the tables of the BUCKIT Week attendees (below are most of them). We finished supper about 8:00.

Our teachers: Craig Shakarji, Jabe Nicholson, and Mike Flester

Me and Daniel K.

Rachel K. and Rachel H.

David, Jeremiah, Mike A., Jonathan, Austin

Jason, Andrew H., Shane

Sharon, Katie, John, Nathanael, Josiah

Mike and Jess R., me, Tami and Ozzie

Tiffany, Elspeth, Leah

Jeremy, James, Joe-Paul

Charlotte, Megan, Anna H., Elizabeth

Bethany, Arielle, Joyce, June

Back at the hotel I tried to figure out the wireless network on Mom’s laptop (on which I’m typing this) but to no avail. Nathanael and I traded photos we’d taken so far.

As you can see, the network problem was frustrating! :)

Craig had given us an assignment of a passage of Matthew to read and make observations about, so I tried to do that in the lounge. It proved too noisy to be fruitful, however, and I went back to the room to work on it. That worked! It was about 10:30 by the time I was done observing, and I was tired enough to go to bed, but lonely enough to return back to the lounge to see who was around and what was going on.

I found Nathanael, Daniel
G., Rachel and Anna H., Bethany, and Austin talking. It wasn’t long before Justin found and joined us and immediately wrested control of the conversation! I smile to think of it, because Justin is an extreme extrovert, and loves finding connections between other people to facilitate conversation. He’s so funny and inspiring. He makes me want to step out of my reserved shell.

(Clockwise) Bethany, Daniel G., Rachel H., me, Justin, Austin

After a good long time, it was down to Austin, Nathanael, me, Justin and Daniel Geesey. Justin, having no sisters good-naturedly grilled Nathanael on what it’s like to have eight sisters, and what
they are like. That kept us up until 12:30. I slept for six hours again, getting up this morning at 6:30.

[writing about Tuesday, July 24]

It’s almost time for the first session now, so I’m going to pause for now and pick this up later.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

BUCKIT Week—Sunday, July 22

Monday, July 23, 2007 [writing about Sunday, July 22]

Yesterday Rachel and Daniel K., Arielle H., Jessica S., Nathanael P.
, his friend Bethany W., and I drove down here to Hagerstown, Maryland for BUCKIT Week. BUCKIT stands for Bible University Christian Knowledge Intensive Training. We left directly from church on a 330 mile trip that took five and a half hours.

Arielle, Bethany, Rachel, Me, Nathanael, Jessica, Daniel

Everyone ate packed lunches while I drove the first section—from Newtown, Connecticut to I-78 in New Jersey. Then Rachel took over so I could eat. We swapped again when we were just past Harrisburg.

We arrived at the hotel about 6:45. The weather was absolutely beautiful—warm, not too humid, pink and blue clouds, and a light, warm breeze. Inside the lobby we met Craig Shakarji. I was glad Nathanael had met him before, or I wouldn’t have been sure who he was! He checked us in with his system and gave us the key cards to our rooms. Daniel, Nathanael, and I are all together; Rachel, Arielle, and Jessica are together; I’m not sure with whom Bethany is—she was assigned to a different room. We decided we’d check out our rooms, dump our luggage and meet back in a half hour to decide what to do for supper. Bethany and I bought some Quiznos salads, while everyone else ate some more food they brought.

We had an orientation session about 8:30 in the conference room. There were 40 to 50 people there. Craig went over some details of the week, and Mike Flester gave a quick, insightful encouragement about presenting the gospel to people.

About 9:30, that was over, and I got to talking with one of the young men here, Josiah M., who’s nineteen. I had left my toiletries at home, so I had to avail myself of the 24-hour Walmart Supercenter just north of us by an exit. I mentioned to Josiah that I was going there, and He expressed that he and some others also were headed over there. I offered the use of “my” van (really my family’s van) to go over there. He was grateful, and I ended up taking Josiah, his brother Jeremiah, a fellow named Shane, from California, and Rachel and Anna H. We were there until 11:00 and I didn’t get to bed until 11:30, but we had a great time talking in the car to and from Walmart. Christian fellowship is so amazing!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Doing Hard Things Starves the Flesh

Alex and Brett Harris have chosen ¨Do Hard Things¨as the motto, or ¨battle cry,¨of The Rebelution. You can read more about what Do Hard Things means here.

As I was musing on the subject of Hard Things recently, I thought of a practical reason to Do them.

What's the opposite of Doing Hard Things? That's right: Doing Easy Things.

Doing easy things feeds the flesh. Playing computer games in free time when I could write to missionaries, tinkering on the guitar instead of cleaning my room, even building a web site instead of following up on that business lead I got—all these feed the base desires of the flesh for pleasure and self-satisfaction.

Regular election to do easy things builds a habit of feeding the fleshly pleasures. Therefore it hinders my fellowship with God throughout the day.

It's analogous to desiring good health and nutrition. Eat a fruit at breakfast or be sure to include a few carrot sticks in lunch, but otherwise eat sugary, frosted, refined-grain, and deep-fried foods. You still wish to be healthy, but by choosing all the foods that "taste good," you are actually choosing not to have good health.

Doing Hard Things, on the other hand, is choosing to eat healthful foods. It builds habits of starving the flesh, suppressing that hindrance to a closer walk with God.

Paul even did this in 1 Corinthians 9:27—
But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
Why do Hard Things? To keep the flesh in subjection (or at least to keep out of fleshly habits that keep you from God) so you can have a more effective relationship with God. Doing Hard Things in mundane aspects of life also builds discipline for doing hard "spiritual"* things like sharing the gospel with strangers.
Galatians 6:8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.

*I put spiritual in quotes because all of our lives ought to be spiritual! See Romans 8.