Blessings in Botswana

I am currently entering week three of ministry here in Africa, and God has been faithful to show us people who yearn for a relationship with God. He has used our combined Botswana-USA Cru Mission Team the past few weeks to bring the Gospel to the people here. We have been praying God multiply our efforts and honor our obedience so more people can hear the message of truth and life proclaimed within the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In meditating in God’s sovereignty over our time here in Botswana, I remember this Pauline prayer, knowing that God will take our willing hearts and do great works through our team.

“In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

‭‭Philippians‬ ‭1:4-6‬ ‭NIV‬‬

During our first week in Botswana, we spent meaningful time together bonding with the Botswana Cru Team and getting acquainted with the city of Gaborone. As a team, we have adopted “the four L’s”: to Love the Lord, Love our team, to Learn the culture, and to Launch Movements. One morning during a team devotion, we spent time identifying many different characteristics of God and his love for us through the story of Moses.

“And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.” Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.” And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.”

‭‭Exodus‬ ‭33:17-19‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Here, we see God’s love for Moses and his people, which shows us today that God’s love for us and the nations is limitless. By loving the Lord, we, though imperfect and broken, can be living examples of his steadfast love. Through this, we can love each other as a team and serve each other as Christ served his disciples.

This past week, we had an incredible opportunity to venture out to a nearby village called Otse, and spent a few days there sharing the Gospel and partnering with the local church there.

I had my first experience with facilitating a Jesus Film showing, and this was my favorite part of the week. After setting up the screen and placing the reels on the projector, over 70 people saw and heard the story of Jesus told to them in Setswana, the heart language of Botswana.

In between scenes when we had to change the film reels, I was given the opportunity to share my testimony with the people at the showing. My friend KD translated each sentence of my testimony into Setswana, and I was in awe as I heard God’s love and grace in my story translate into the language of the Batswana.

This was a moment that I got to see firsthand God’s love for the nations come into picture: He used my story to point people from a completely different culture to point back to Himself, the same Almighty God that created every tribe, tongue and nation in his image. After the film, the Pastor of the Assemblies of God Church in Otse gave a small talk inviting people to come forward who wanted to follow Jesus and commit their lives to him.

We saw 11 people give their life to Christ that night.

The next few days, we went out sharing our faith and inviting the people of the village to the Church for follow-up videos and further training. We saw many more come to Christ in these outreach days, and people came to the church, desiring to learn more about Jesus and how to start their new life as a Christian.

We led discussions about prayer, reading the Bible, discipleship, and how to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit. It was encouraging to see new believers invest in learning about Jesus and how to live a life submitted to His love and plan for us!

Our last day in Otse was yesterday, and our Male Director, Chaz, gave an incredible sermon on John 15. He emphasized the importance of growing in our faith, and that spiritual fruits will appear in our lives, which are symptomatic of the word of God changing and rewriting our hearts.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing…As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.”

‭‭John‬ ‭15:5, 9-10‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Continually pray that we as a team would abide in the love and commandments of Christ everyday we are here. Apart from God, we can accomplish nothing: pray that we will seek Him first, and then from our submission that He will multiply our efforts and use us to declare the name of Jesus here.

Additionally, pray for the Assembly of God Church in Otse, that they would embrace these verses as well. We are praying that God will use this Church to disciple and mentor these new believers in the village.

This week, we will be doing ministry at the University of Botswana and surrounding campuses: pray again for Holy Spirit empowerment and ready hearts to receive the message of Jesus. We know that God will meet and exceed our expectations for the week, and we ask as a team that you would come alongside us in prayer for our ministry at the university.

Thank you so much for reading, and stay posted for more updates!

The landscape of the village was gorgeous, the sky seemed to never end, and the hills showcased God’s artistry in creation!

I, along with some of my teammates, got to go and speak in the local high school about striving for excellence, as well as pursuing sexual purity and abstinence from unwholesome behaviors.

Setting up the screen for the Jesus Film Showing at the soccer field.

On Tuesday, I went out for door to door evangelism with Mpho, the Director of BotsCru. She is an incredibly wise woman that helped me learn the culture and how to best share the Gospel with the Batswana. She also acted as a translator when we shared with people that spoke primarily Setswana and less English. Also, this tree looked like it was straight out of a storybook, I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was! God really is an artist.

Myself and 3 BotsCru students Gorata, Tawana, and Dorcas with the film reel ready to show the Jesus Film!

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New Beginnings in Botswana

Hello friends! In just five short days, I will be heading overseas to Botswana for my second Cru Summer Mission, and this will be my first time pursuing mission work overseas! I am blessed to partner in ministry alongside eight other Cru students and three staff members while in Botswana, and five other members of my team are from my own Cru movement at WVU. Additionally I am ecstatic to meet and connect with BotsCru, which is another Cru movement much like our own, but located overseas at the University of Botswana. We will be primarily focused on reaching the college students at the University of Botswana while in the country, and I am excited to minister to fellow college students halfway across the world!

A few facts about the country of Botswana: It is located in the southern region of Africa, and it is  It is bordered by South Africa to the south and southeast, Namibia to the west and north, and Zimbabwe to the northeast. The capitol city, Gaborone, is on the southern border of the country, and it is the most populous city in the country at over 200,000 people. Setswana is the native language of Botswana, although the official language of the country is English. The people of Botswana are referred to as “Batswana”.

I am looking forward to immersion in a brand new culture, as I have heard from many friends who have been to Botswana that the people are genuine, down to earth, and incredibly open to talk about spiritual beliefs. I have been praying that God will use this culture of genuine affability to allow the Gospel to permeate the lives of every student we will talk to. The Batswana know who the person of Jesus is, but they have little to no understanding of the Gospel, or how his life, death, and resurrection gives us eternal redemption. They see Jesus as merely a historical figure, and not as their own personal savior and redeemer. There is a dilemma here: many of the people of Botswana have never heard a full presentation of the Gospel, and do not understand the true nature of Jesus. They know Jesus only nominally; they do not know that he loved each of them enough to die in their place.

14 But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?15 And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”

Romans 10:14-15 NIV

This is the reason that God has sent me overseas to Botswana this summer! I want God to use me to make his great love for the nations known among a people group outside my own. If the Batswana do not know who Jesus really is, who will tell them? Why are we to go overseas to tell people about Jesus? The main reason lies in the fact the Jesus commanded us to do so!

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

-Matthew 28:18-20 NIV

Jesus’ command here is not optional, he first called the disciples to tell the world about the good news, and they obeyed. Had the disciples given in to any fear that Jesus had equipped them for this laborious task, how would there be any Christians today? They persevered through intense persecution, and many of them died as martyrs. They accomplished God’s will for Jesus to be made known among the nations by resting in the fact that Jesus was still with them the entire time.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

-Acts 1:8 NIV

The Disciples were gifted the Holy Spirit when Jesus was no longer with them. Through God’s own spirit dwelling within their person, they were able to accomplish this seemingly impossible task: to go and tell the world about the eternal freedom found only in the name of Jesus. Without the Holy Spirit, the Disciples would have ultimately failed to lead even one person to Jesus. The Holy Spirit is the reason Peter preached on the day of Pentecost, and three-thousand people were saved.

As Christians, we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to share this message of truth and redemption with the world. Without the Holy Spirit, we are powerless to bring this great truth to even one person. Peter and the disciples were not extraordinary men on their own, but throughout history, God has had a tendency to use unimportant people to launch some of the most impactful  spiritual movements the world has seen. I pray that he will use me to have a meaningful impression on the lives of the people I will meet in Botswana this summer. I know that God has called me to be a workman for the sake of Jesus, and that by the power of the Holy Spirit, he will faithfully use me, a broken sinner, to make himself known among the people of Botswana.

 

 

Peace in His Priesthood

As I reflect on God’s incredible goodness over every hill and down into each valley, I am continuously reminded of one book in the Bible that has become a stronghold of grace and truth within my own walk. The book of Hebrews contains many reassuring promises so that we would know God’s love for us in the person of Jesus Christ. We also know his love for us through the permanence and power of Jesus’ divine priesthood, which is portrayed through his death and resurrection. Through his suffering and death, we know that the result is that we would be able to be reconciled to God and experience him fully, as he created us for this purpose! Before we explore how Jesus perfected priesthood, let us look at a brief job description of a High Priest.

“Every high priest is selected from among the people and is appointed to represent the people in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness. This is why he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people. And no one takes this honor on himself, but he receives it when called by God, just as Aaron was.”

Hebrews 5:1-4

A High Priest in the time of Jesus was the most holy, law-abiding, and morally upright man who the people could appoint. They knew God’s law backwards and forwards, and were called by God to this role, just as Aaron, Moses’ brother, was the first high priest of Israel. Consequently, Jesus did not become our great high priest in his own accord, but rather, he obeyed and acted through his submission to the Father’s will. Jesus continually affirms this truth through the entire gospel of John, as he constantly repeats that he acts solely out of the Father’s will, and that he cannot do anything without his direction. On the other hand, Jesus is different from every other high priest who came before him because he himself was without sin!

“Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. For the law appoints as high as priests men in all their weakness; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever”

Hebrews 7:26-28

Jesus perfectly fulfills this role of being a high priest, as he was not merely a notch better than those who entered the inner room before him, but he is completely set apart from any priest before him since he himself was the only to enter God’s presence without sin! Since he was without sin, it was not necessary for Jesus to enter the Lord’s presence with an animal sacrifice to be the payment for sin. Jesus himself was the spotless lamb that was to shed his blood for our cleansing!

“He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!”

-Hebrews 9:12-14

Jesus’ calling to be a high priest was completely unique, as God did not call him to offer up temporal retribution for the sin of Israel with the blood of lambs, but he was the first, the last, and the only high priest who did not enter the inner room for the atonement of his own sins, but for the entire world’s. Since he became the spotless lamb who was sacrificed for us, we no longer must offer up a temporal payment for our own sin, but instead, accept Jesus’ death on the cross as the atoning payment that frees us from the chains of the law! In his sacrificial death, the single greatest act of love in all of history, is where we find comfort and peace in the perfect priesthood of Jesus Christ!

“Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”

Hebrews 10:19-23

Our peace in the priesthood of Christ is in this very passage! Since Christ entered on our behalf, and his body was broken for our transgressions, the curtain that once separated us from God’s holiness has been torn so that we could enter his presence with our sins covered by the cleansing blood of Christ! Through Jesus we can experience a relationship with God that we were meant to have! Since we now have this confidence in Jesus righteousness as our own garments, we can stand before God clothed perfection just as Jesus did when he entered inner room for the last time. How amazing is it to know that God withheld nothing from us in giving us the everlasting joy that comes from knowing him fully?

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need”

Hebrews 4:14-16

Since we have this faith, and this hope that is an anchor for our soul (Hebrews 6:19), God desires that we would diligently and vigilantly walk the path he has laid out for our lives. He has given us Jesus so that we would know that he loves us, and so that we would be given this all-surpassing power to live a Godly life through his perfection. Furthermore, we receive comfort in knowing that Jesus has been into every dark cave, and has descended into every valley alongside us. He even experienced complete separation from his Father in heaven in a moment upon the cross when he took on the sin of the world, and he was obedient to die the most unfathomably painful death. Jesus knows our pain and suffering! We receive this permanent peace in his priesthood when we acknowledge that he went before us, and secured the favor of God that we alone could never purchase. His love for us shown in his death is our sustenance in famine and our rescue from the storm. Let us rest in the truth that Jesus alone is all we need and that his love for us the greatest joy we could ever experience.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

“We shall never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our doings, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul. If we would at once overcome Satan and have peace with God, it must be by looking unto Jesus! Keep thine eye simply on Him; let His death, His sufferings, His merits, His glories, His intercession, be fresh upon thy mind; when thou wakest in the morning look to Him; when thou liest down at night look to Him. Oh! let not thy hopes or fears come between thee and Jesus; follow hard after Him, and He will never fail thee. ‘My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness: I dare not trust the sweetest frame, But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.’”

-Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Abundance and Blessings

Lately, God has been pressing the words “Abundance” and “Blessings” into my heart. Over the past few weeks, He has continually reminded me that I have been given bountiful blessings that far exceed what I deserve. Even when the world begins to crowd out the joy we have in these blessings, this passage of scripture roots us in the riches that the Father has given to us through innumerable acts of love. His goodness is on display in all of creation, and yet we still find ourselves discontent with aspects of our life that either challenge us or push us towards discomfort. In these moments, our hearts need a realignment so that we can understand the magnificence of what God has given us. Instead of focusing on what isn’t true about our lives, how different would our conscious towards God be if we lived freely, focused on the many truths that have radically molded us into sons and daughters of God? Our reminder of what God has given us should immediately start with his son Jesus.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves”

-Ephesians 1:3-6

God has given us every spiritual blessing through his Son, so that we can experience the majesties that He has prepared for us! Every single desire or appetite that we have is fulfilled to perfection when we know that Christ’s life was given up for us so that we may live eternally.

In verse four, we know that God chose us to be washed pure from our sin; that we are no longer viewed as what we once were, but now by who we are through Christ dwelling within us. In verse five, we see this second great truth that details who we belong to. Through the cleansing of our sins, we are adopted into his family as his own. We pass from being slaves to sin, to sons and daughters of the King. He chose us before time to be his own, so that we would be given this great inheritance that will never perish! We also see that this gift was given to us freely; that we could never repay this gift that has turned our brokenness into redemption. How wonderful is it that God, finding no favor in us, still chose us to be rescued through his everlasting grace?

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.”

-Ephesians 1:7-10

Here lies another important truth that we can continually praise God for. The mere fact that he enabled us to understand his son Jesus and the grace he has gifted to us is grounds for the continual praise and worship of his holiness. He has freely given us this wisdom so that we can know his promises, and see his will unfold in our daily lives. Only a God that is sovereign over all of creation could love each of us with omniscience that knows every inner-working of our heart, as he knows his children fully!

“In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.”

-Ephesians 1:11-14

If God, in his unfathomable wisdom, knew us before we were even formed, would he not know every detail of our lives that has past and is yet to come? He sees through every storm we pass through, knows every mountain we must summit, and has charted out every path that we will descend into the valley. Though we face these challenges and obstacles, He has placed each of these in accordance with his good pleasure; that we would be able to experience a life that is fulfilled by the fact that he knows us, and we know him! The final truth that we see in this passage is the token that shows we are part of God’s family. The Holy Spirit is our means of showing that we are no longer bound and ruled by sin, but that God has bought us as his own, and that have been included in his own family alongside our elder brother Jesus who bore our sin.

How wonderful are these foundational truths that God has promised us through Paul’s letter to the Church of Ephesus? We know through this passage we have been chosen, adopted, and rescued from our sin through his son Jesus’ death and resurrection. We have been given the capacity to understand God’s grace through the wisdom and understanding that he has freely gifted to us, though we have nothing to offer on our own. We know that in all things, everything is working within the conformity of his will for our lives, which is for us to live a life overflowing with his love that fulfills and satisfies the deepest longings of our hearts.

These are the truths that dispel all doubts and fears that the evil one throws our way. May we place them in our hearts, knowing that the God of all creation dwells within us, and empowers us to live a life worthy of the calling we have received.

New Year, New Mercies

Hello friends, I have decided to resurrect my summer mission blog with the hopes that I can write more about what God has done in the year 2017, and what he will continue to do in 2018. If I were to have a theme to characterize the year 2017, it would be that his grace was shown to me through innumerable acts of mercy. Through challenging life circumstances and experiencing brokenness head on, God has redeemed all the struggles and trials he had me go through! Through these hardships, God further solidified the promises of an abundant life that I have inherited through the cross and his son Jesus! Through this redemption and restoration, I think that God has taught me more in 2017 than any year previous, and this is truly an amazing fulfillment of his promise that he is always working for our good, that he is always for us, and that he cannot be against us!

For many of us, 2017 was one of the hardest years yet, as the world became a more tumultuous place, and our lives were marked with more stress and strain than ever before. We all feel relieved that 2017 has passed away, and that the new year has arrived, bringing an opportunity for a fresh start and a refocused plan. The question we ask ourselves now, is how can we cast vision and purpose for this new year that will guide us towards a year filled with the Lord’s blessings? The answer lies not in making unrealistic news year’s resolutions and trying harder to meet these resolutions than we have in the past years we may have failed, but instead, it requires laying down both our desires and fears of the coming year at the feet of Jesus. This is not to say that all new year’s resolutions are bad, in fact they can be very good! Even specificity in these goals can be helpful in marking out our desires for measurable change and growth, but we must examine our hearts and desires thoroughly, and be vigilant that we are aiming these goals at how Christ can continually mold our hearts and minds into his own.

All our goals, whether scholastic, personal, or spiritual, can be aimed back at the question of, “how can I honor God with what he will have me do this year?” The answer to this question is the antidote to self-effort that we may have missed by trying in our own power and failing every year.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

-Matthew 6:33

Trying to honor ourselves and lead our own lives with improperly aimed goals and resolutions is a roadblock to meaningful spiritual and personal growth many of us have faced in the past. I know in my own life, relying on self-motivation and effort and has not allowed God to teach me the things he had been trying to, but in his timing, he transformed my heart and restructured the source of my desires so that he could lead into the new year. We don’t need new-year’s resolutions and trying harder to meet them. We need God-centered goals and heart-transformation!

We ought to start the year off with re-focusing our hearts, so that our goals are aligned with God’s heart. When we yield our goals and desires to God’s plan for the year, it is a bow to his Lordship: that we are only able to fulfill his will for our lives through the cleansing of our souls provided by Jesus’ blood. For our hearts to be tuned towards the promises that God’s plan and purpose for our life is good, we must lay aside the lies of the evil one that have twisted us into not seeing God as who he really is.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.”

-Hebrews 12:1-3

We know that Christ perfectly bowed to the Father’s will his entire life, and that he took on the death we deserve. When we focus on living our life empowered by the grace and mercy he has given us, God is able to work through us in unimaginable ways! When we can focus our goals and desires towards his direction, we experience his plan unfold in our lives! Our new year’s resolution, if we were to have only one, would be to live our lives empowered by the grace and mercy shown to us by God through the death and resurrection of his son Jesus and the gifting of his own spirit to us as our guide. Every resolution we have for 2018 and for the rest of our years should grow and develop from these roots. We were given a new life and a new heart through him, so the very start of all our yearly passions, goals, and desires should be built on the firm foundation of God’s eternal grace and mercy.

Therefore, let us fix our eyes on him, so that we may be in step with the Spirit’s direction and guided by the new mercies God has for us each day. May we rise everyday with our minds renewed by the cross, and our ambitions led by the continual mending our hearts.

The End is Merely the Beginning

It has been barely a week since I have left Hampton Beach, and with classes having started today at WVU, I am already back in the swing of things. Having given some time to process my experience on summer mission, I have gathered some thoughts together about how God has moved this summer.

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Matthew 28:19-20 NIV

If you had asked me eleven weeks ago how God was going to use me to serve him at Hampton Beach this summer, I wouldn’t have been able to foretell even a minute fraction of the incredible work he would carry out through our mission team. As I sit here typing this post, I am filled with an intense joy coming from the Lord and the wonderful work he did at Hampton Beach this summer. From the early morning wake-ups for our jobs, through the evenings sharing the Gospel on the Beach, and to the nights filled with genuine fellowship among believers, God orchestrated an unforgettable summer spent in devotion to the great commission.

Through our outreach times, God showed me how broken New England is, and how this entire world needs to hear about the infinite grace gifted to us through the death of God’s only son. He continually placed a burden on my heart to go out and share my faith, so that we may be fulfilling Christ’s commission towards us before he ascended into Heaven. God helped give me an eternal focus during outreach times, and He showed me that he is continually using me to make an eternal difference for his kingdom. Outreach times also helped me to be more intentional with placing the Holy Spirit in the driver’s seat of every conversation I was in.

Experiencing outreach at Hampton Beach allowed me to completely surrender every spiritual or Gospel conversation to the Spirit’s direction, and allow him to lead me no matter the circumstance. Leaving everything to the Lord’s direction when sharing is so relieving! This has helped me conquer different fears I have had to go out sharing while continually reminding me that He is leading regardless of where we think He is taking us! God gave me many opportunities to share my testimony this summer, and he used my life experiences to help share how he has transformed me into a completely new person through the blood of Jesus. I am so thankful for all the opportunities I had to go out into the community and share my faith, and to see God direct all eighteen of us to fulfill his plan for us this Summer.

Seeing God shape and grow our team of eighteen students throughout the summer was a monumental and unforgettable experience to witness. As God transformed me into a new man throughout the summer, I am thankful that I got to go through this process alongside seven other Godly Men.  With all eight of us, God helped us be vulnerable to share our brokenness with each other in many ways. Some of my favorite memories from this summer were Tuesday night Men’s times, and getting to press into the word together and look to the ultimate example of biblical manhood: Jesus himself! Studying the different faces of manhood and how Jesus perfectly portrayed the face of a King, a Warrior, a Lover, and a Friend helped inspire meaningful discussions where we came up with practical ways to take our manhood seriously as Jesus did.

Additionally, none of the growth we experienced as a men’s community could have happened without the presence of ten Godly Women who constantly encouraged us to be steadfast in our walk with the Lord. By seeing the Women pursue God before anything else, it helped encouraged us to seek him first. By watching them speak faithfully, we as the men were challenged to keep in step with the walk God has laid before us. By seeing them walk humbly, it showed us what a true servant of Christ ought to do for others. Finally, each of them showed what true beauty looks like, which is from the inner self marked by reverence for their creator and the manifestation of biblical fruits in their lives. Seeing the Women root their identity in their creator inspired each of the Men to continually find our worth in the love our Heavenly Father has for us. Each of the Women helped me grow immensely this summer, and I was blessed with an incredible friendship with each one of them.

Summer mission did not come without trials and failures. By week four, I began to see the infinite depths of my brokenness, and where the roots of this brokenness began earlier in my life. I began to see how huge sins in my life such as pride had been festering for the past twenty years, and how it had been continuously drawing me away from the life God has wanted me to live. God allowed me to uncover not only the roots of my pride, but also the soil where this tree of brokenness had grown. As I sat crushed amid the smoldering heap of my sin, God did not leave me where I was. He showed me how the cross is what brings me across infinity to reach the unattainable height of God’s holiness. God is transcendentally holy! He desired for us to have perfect fellowship with him and walk among him forever, so the, He gave us the cross! Jesus negated all my brokenness, and gave me the purest linens to wear as my own.

Through dealing with my brokenness, I was engaged in spiritual warfare, and God helped grow me in knowing how to fight the lies of the Devil with the truth of his word. He helped teach me what it looks like to put on the Armor of God to protect myself from Satan’s attacks. This is one of the verses that I had to constantly use to fight the lie that I was not being utilized or grown at Hampton Beach, and this verse among many others, will always be ready to be used on my belt.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Romans 8:28 NIV

God is always on our side. Even when I think he isn’t working for my good, He is! I must always rest on the truth of his word to help dispel the lies that come in times of hardship. Learning to continually use the word of God as a sword to slay the enemy and as a light to unmask the lies of the Devil was a skill I am thankful the Lord helped me grow in this summer.

Now, I sit on the front side of my junior year at West Virginia University. I am an ambassador for the truth here in Morgantown who happens to be a Music Education student. I pray that God would use all the things he taught me through an entire summer serving him to serve others through the outpouring of love given to me by Christ. I thank God for all of the ways he used me this summer, and how he will use me to make disciples wherever life takes me the next two years.

Submitting to Stewardship

This past week, we explored stewardship through a talk given by Dave MacArthur, the owner of the house we have stayed in for the summer. He talked about the basic definition of the word, and how God has called us to be his workmen within his creation. This definition is a great spot to begin understanding how we are to embrace biblical stewardship.

stew·ard·ship

ˈst(y)o͞oərdˌSHip

the conducting, supervising, or managing of something; especially the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care

 

Looking at this definition, we notice the words managing and supervising, meaning that a steward is not in ownership of the item he or she is overseeing. This means that we must put to death any notion that we as stewards serve and maintain for our own satisfaction, and that we are only given our role to take care what has been given to us.

Acting as God’s stewards, we are living out our free will that God has given to us, rather, he could take care of his own creation without our help. God chose the former; He gave us free will to be stewards of his creation. In the beginning of our history, God gave Adam dominion over the animals and the world because he desired for us to have a meaningful part in his new creation. His design is for us to manage what is his!

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters.

Psalm 24:1-2 NIV

 

Since we know that God has appointed us since the beginning to be the caretakers of his creation, we have an innate responsibility to this role. God has called each of us to be his stewards, though we ourselves do not contribute anything new to his creation. Though we build and create upon the earth, none of this adds to the fullness of what God has already constructed. His creation was good even before he created man. I think C.S. Lewis said it quite well here:

“Every faculty you have, your power of thinking or of moving your limbs from moment to moment, is given you by God. If you devoted every moment of your whole life exclusively to His service you could not give Him anything that was not in a sense his own already”

-C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Our responsibility therefore does not lie within the addition to what has already been established by him. Knowing this, all pressure to perform and work to fulfill what has already been fulfilled is immediately lifted. What a relieving truth! On the other hand, this does not mean God wants us to shrink in to passivity and not faithfully guard what has been perfectly formed. We might then ask what God wants us to be stewards of. The answers to this can be many, but focusing on the simplest yet mysterious truth of history is the one in which we are called to protect and carry with us.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Matthew 28:18-20 NIV

As stewards, we are ambassadors for the truth. Through the great commission, Jesus gives us an imperative to go and take this free gift of redemption to the entire world. Here at Hampton Beach this summer, my co-laborers and I have been called to bring the message to a small slice of his creation.

There are times that our own hearts prevent us from being stewards for Christ. In those moments, God has been teaching me to come before him and kneel in humility towards him, the true owner and creator of the world. I have also seen God working in my friends here on mission to become better stewards, and I am thankful that he chose each of us to be at Hampton Beach this summer. He has been pressing on our hearts to die to ourselves and carry his cross everyday, regardless the situations we are going through. As Christians, we have been written into the most intense love story of history. Therefore, as His sons and daughters, let us kneel in service to the highest of kings knowing he has entrusted us to bring his message to the ends of His earth.

Sovereignty in all Situations

Hello friends! I apologize for the delay in blog posts, but my computer broke a few weeks ago and still has not returned, so I decided to type up a post on the house computer to let you all know how God has been growing me here. Through the past few weeks, I have been through some intense spiritual warfare, and have had to battle through the lies of the evil one to understand that God has a wonderful plan for the rest of my summer. Even though my plan is rarely the same as his, he has been showing me that his plan is better. Even when I am still too stubborn to admit this, he humbles me to see the brokenness in my own life that prevents me from trusting in his timing.

Throughout the summer here at Hampton Beach, I have questioned even if I am growing as much as I wanted to, or even growing at all. I even question why God placed me here instead of elsewhere for the summer. Though the answer may seem simple, I still searched for assurance that God had placed me here this summer to be a life-giver to non-believers and fellow Christians alike. Why did God lead me here? Am I making a difference as a builder of his kingdom? Am I being utilized fully as a functional member of the body of Christ? These questions have constantly reverberated through my thoughts, and I will even believe the lies that I am not being used by God here at Hampton Beach.

To counteract these doubts, I constantly have to fight the lies from the evil one with the truth of God’s Word. I have to realize that God is working in my life regardless of how bad my day has been, or how tired I am after work. Even when I feel like I didn’t share the Gospel with someone as well as I wanted to, The Holy Spirit is still moving and working regardless of how I shared the message. God’s goodness and his plan for my summer are not bound by how I feel, or my immediate perception of the trials he has put in front of me. He is good simply because he is a loving God and is capable only of perfection.

God’s logic transcends our own human logic, meaning his sovereignty exists outside all bounds of comprehension. Even though he is so transcendentally holy, God desires an intimate relationship with us and wants to be our Shepard.

The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”-John 10:3-5 NIV

Once I meditate on this passage, I know that God does want to lead me and that he desires for me to follow him and listen for his voice to guide me. He also has been reassuring me that he has me here as a part of his plan for my life, and even though I may not realize the truth of this now, God still is working in my life to help mold me into the man he wants me to be.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.”-Romans 8:28-30 NIV

This passage brings the truth up against that lies that have been thrown at me the past few weeks. God is working for my good, and he is growing me regardless of how much I think I may or may not be learning. His word promises that he always works on the behalf of those who step out in faith and love towards his call. I have been called to Hampton Beach this summer according to his purpose, even if I feel like I am not being used well here. This assumption is also a lie I have had to dispel.

“Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.”-1 Corinthians 12: 14-20

When I want to believe that God is not using me specifically, I turn to the promise in his word that he has created me to be a unique part of the body of Christ. He designed in me a unique spiritual gift that I can use to better glorify him, as well lead others around me to do the same. He has used my passion for music to help lead other students in worship and to help create an environment at the weekly meetings where everyone feels challenged to grow. In the past few weeks, I have slowly started to see God work more through unexpected events that have thoroughly surprised me.

Today, God threw me one of the craziest surprises of my life. He taught me a huge lesson in one of the most unexpected ways possible. At approximately 2 AM, I woke up with severe chest pain that felt very different than anything I had ever experienced. I was feeling a horrible burning that did not get better when I tried to take antacid, thinking that it was an acid problem. When all else failed, Caleb, one of my mission friends, took me to the emergency room around 4 in the morning.

The doctors took an X-Ray, monitored my heart, and did blood tests, and could not figure out what was going on, but thought that something was not right with my heart since there was a high troponin level in my blood. They thought I had myocarditis, which is inflammation of the tissues surrounding the heart, which was not a good sign at all.

Around 7 in the morning, I was transferred to the Hospital, where they took my blood pressure at least 50 times, drew blood at least 5 times, and did a sonogram and an echogram. After 7 hours, the doctors determined my heart was fine and discharged me from the hospital. Thankfully, my heart is fine! What had happened was a viral infection had caused Pericarditis, which is inflammation of the area around my heart, which was placing direct stress and strain on my heart muscles. I realized that being confined to a hospital bed hooked up to multiple cords was actually a great blessing for me and that God used this to grow me closer to him.

In my bed, I was reading a copy of John Elderedge’s Walking with God when I realized one of John’s stories was identical to what I was experiencing at the exact moment I read his story. John was talking about a day at his summer cabin where he had to slow down and listen to God’s voice because the rain prevented him from grinding out the work he wanted to get done. Today, I had to slow down and take a break because of the problems with my physical body, and listen to the Lord speak. In the midst of the chaos of summer mission, God provided clarity to a lot of my doubts I had been having, and through this time in the hospital, God forced me to listen to his guidance that he has wanted me to hear. Even though this was the last situation I expected God would use to quiet my heart to hear his voice here at Hampton Beach, he used it to tune my mind towards his, and to open my heart to understand his abundant grace. God can use any situation to grow us according to his will and show that he is sovereign regardless of the situation we are in.

Fighting Well

This week at Hampton Beach has been an eclectic mix of different events, life lessons, and new realizations. Through the crazy days at Dunkin Donuts and the numerous ministry activities, I have been getting tired! Throughout the week, God has continually been speaking to me in several different ways, with each one unveiling a new quality of his character that I have desired to know deeply. This week, I have gained more heart knowledge about relationships with my brothers in Christ and how good accountability can keep these relationships healthy. Seeing God provide insight to me through one of our Staff members has helped show me practical ways to evaluate how I process hardships and how to encourage others who are also experiencing trials in their own walk with God.

At our men’s time on Tuesday, this was our focus. Ben Bennett, our Men’s Time Leader, spoke about his experiences with healthy and unhealthy accountability in his own life. He mentioned a verse that has shaped my mindset on accountability into a more meaningful picture than it ever has been.

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7 ESV

God has shown me that accountability is not just a time to tell a brother how we have been struggling; it is also a time that has been given to us to encourage one another to fight the battle before us empowered by the Holy Spirit. This is a concept that is crucial to address so that brothers in Christ can fully understand how to spur one another towards spiritual growth. God has already been showing me this here at Hampton Beach through my relationships with the other guys I am on mission with, and through my relationship with my staff mentor.

This past Wednesday, we had our first community dinner, complete with walking tacos and yard games. We invited people we have met here at Hampton Beach to come and enjoy food and a positive environment that is uplifting and encouraging. Everyone had a fantastic time, and we have been praying God will use the community dinners to draw everyone we come across here at Hampton Beach. I look forward to seeing how the dinners will be used to start spiritual conversations and present the Gospel to those who are searching for meaning and purpose.

On Friday, the weather was not so great, and we were unable to do our weekly outreach time, since there was nobody outside on the beach. Instead, we did some training and equipping pertaining to outreach. I got to go through different sample spiritual conversations with some of the staff to practice using a few different Cru evangelism tools, which was helpful in giving me more experience using the tools. I look forward to our outreach night later in the week when I will head out to share the good news empowered by the Holy Spirit.

On Sunday, I got to spend the morning at Church, and then some time with my host family for lunch. We had some super delicious enchiladas, followed by both my roommate and I sharing our testimonies. It was great to get to know our host families better, as well as share with them how we came to Christ. Their hospitality to me was so humbling, as they have been praying for us by name for months asking God how they could serve us when we finally arrived at Hampton Beach for the summer. Their prayers have been helpful in encouraging me to press into the church community I have been blessed with for the summer.

I know this has been a shorter post, but I will be putting up a longer, more detailed post that will be focusing on a streamlined theme that God has been putting on my heart lately. In the meantime, check out the new tab entitled “prayer requests”, which has a detailed list of ways to be praying for me and the other students I am serving with. Thank you for keeping me in your prayers as I head into my fourth week here at Hampton Beach.

Who Shall I Work For?

It has been over a week since I arrived at Hampton Beach with expectations of an incredible summer. In this short amount of time, I have already seen God reveal several blessings not only in my life, but in the lives of my fellow Christian soldiers.  Seeing his hand in forming several friendships quickly has helped me understand his design for us on a deeper level. There are very few circumstances where you can walk into a house knowing almost nobody, and within an hour or two, already connect with them on a spiritual level. His design for community has been very prevalent in my experience at Hampton Beach so far, and I wait in anticipation for how God will use 20 of his children to make his name known.

Along with many of my friends, we are required to have a part-time job while we are on mission at Hampton Beach. I was hired to work at a local Dunkin Donuts, and my first day was on Tuesday. Having only been on the job for three days, God has shown me that I am exactly where he intended me to be. I am working with two other friends on my mission team, and I know that God will use our time working together as a blessing to others we meet. My manager was so excited to hear that more Cru students were working for her this summer! She is a solid Christian herself, and she knows what our purpose is for this summer. She is a joy to work with, and has already been encouraging to us even when we make careless mistakes. Given that we have only been working for three days, she has shown us love and grace even when we mess up an order during the morning coffee rush!

With my job this summer, I spent time with the Lord asking him how I could honor him with a job that required 35 hours of dedication during the week. I remembered a passage of scripture that I read a while ago that helped me understand this in other situations where hard work was always the expectation.

“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” Romans 13:1 NIV

Paul even emphasizes this point twice to the Romans; He shows that our earthly leaders have been given to us by him, and that if we are to rebel against them, we also trespass against God’s authority.  Furthermore, our obedience to God’s instituted leaders should not come out of compulsion to please them.

“Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Colossians 3:22-24 NIV

The word “slave” has a different context today than it did in biblical times, but Paul is writing to us that our masters are essentially our bosses. They are our earthly masters that God has placed in a position of authority according to his purpose. Our work should be done from the outpouring of a servant’s heart aligned with the heart of Christ.

Work that we do to please mankind is only useful in the sense that it fulfills a temporary need for a product or service that is soon quickly forgotten. This work is empty compensation for the insecurity of our own self-importance. When we work to please the likes of man, we feed an unquenchable desire to see ourselves as loftier than we really are.

Work turns from circuitous emptiness to direct fullness when we walk in the power of the Holy Spirit. It is the only path where our work will be fulfilled in obedience to the Lord, which he will use to bless our earthly masters and our co-laborers. The second that we realize that we ourselves are incapable of performing this type of work is the moment that the third entity moves within us.

Compensation for Godly work is the greatest gift we could ever receive. It is a gift that far outweighs any material treasure that many people pursue as their own fulfillment. Working to glorify God comes with an eternal inheritance that is our salvation, which is lived out through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Knowing that our salvation comes not through our works, but by contrast, works from our salvation, we carry around the life of Christ with us wherever we work with the Spirit leading us.

Working for God is becoming more like his Son and walking as he did out of love for our Heavenly Father. Jesus’ love for others came directly from his love for God, and this is where our work should be rooted. This is the only type of work has an eternal impact, and it can change the heart of the one who is served from stone to flesh.

I desire to work in admiration of my creator. I want to serve others out of the love Christ portrayed on the cross. Riches I need not, nor man’s empty praise. The treasures of earth will quickly fade, as well the temporary self-elevation that comes from the approval of others. May the Lord use a broken sinner at a small Dunkin Donuts in New Hampshire to show others his steadfast love. May God use me to serve him, and to give life to my coworkers as Christ did for all.