Thursday, February 26, 2015

Altar of Dreams

The old man made his way slowly to the door of his tent.  He squinted in the moonlight and gently pulled back the flap covering the entrance to his animal skin dwelling.  Quietly he picked his way to the top of a knoll over looking the campsite.  “Do you see the stars?” God’s voice gently spoke.  “Can you number them?”  The old man slowly gazed towards the heavens, steadying himself with his staff.  “That is how many descendants I will give to you, Abraham.”

Abraham stirred and blinked his eyes open.  Yes, he remembered God’s promise like it was spoken just yesterday.  God had promised him descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky.  Abraham had always dreamed of having a son, an heir who would carry on the family name and be a conduit of God’s blessing to the world.  And yet.  He looked over at his sleeping son next to him.  And yet here they were: father and son, sleeping peacefully beneath the shadow of Mt. Moriah.  The command had been given and Abraham must now sacrifice his dream, his only son, upon the altar.  “But why?”  Abraham asked the question again for what seemed like the thousandth time since he had received the command.  Isaac was the son of promise.  It wasn’t simply an idle dream of his to have a son.  God had specifically promised him to Abraham; it was a God-given dream.  And yet the Lord was asking him to sacrifice his dream on the altar, the dream he had waited for a hundred years to receive.

It was all a blur.  The climb, the question, the preparation, the knife.  Abraham’s mind was in turmoil and his emotions were seething.  Yet he trusted God.  He trusted God that no matter what the outcome, whether he lost his dream or whether God preserved his son somehow, there was a reason and purpose for the sacrifice.  Slowly he raised his arm and the knife flashed menacingly in the sun.  And then came the voice, clear and commanding above the raging tumult in Abraham’s head.  “Abraham, Abraham!  Do not lay your hand on the lad or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”  Trembling, Abraham let the knife slip to the ground.  He looked up and saw a ram caught in a nearby thicket and quickly offered it up in the stead of his son.  Abraham’s tears mixed with those of his son as they embraced and wept together on top of the mountain.  God had not only created and promised the dream to Abraham, but He had now saved it as well.  Abraham still had a son and the promise of a nation was now closer to being fulfilled.

We all have dreams.  We all have hopes for the future; an idea of how our lives will play out.  Sometimes God has promised those dreams to us, other times they are simply our selfish wants.  Whether God-given or man-made, every single one must be laid on the altar of sacrifice.  Why?  Unless your dreams are given fully to God, you will inhibit His blessing you.  You grasp the dream too tightly, it becomes your idol, and in the end, it separates you from the God who blessed you with it.

Is God calling you to sacrifice a dream on the altar?  Yes, you may have to give it up.  Yes, you may lose it.  But God has something far better in mind for your life.  Or, if you know God has given you the dream, you have the promise found in Psalm 84:11 that He will withhold no good thing from you.  Thankfully, Abraham and Isaac’s story does not end there.  God went on to promise again that He would multiply Abraham’s decedents to be as numerous as the stars of the sky and as the sands on the seashore.  “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice,” God told him.  God took the promise He had given Abraham and through his willingness to lay it on the altar of dreams, God was able to use it as a conduit for blessing the entire world.  Several generations later, Jesus, the desire of ages and the ultimate dream of hope, was sacrificed to save the world.  Yet through that sacrifice, we all can clutch the dream of a future where there will be no more pain, no more sadness, no more separation or dying.

Is there a dream that is coming between you and God?  Perhaps it’s a relationship you cling too tightly to.  Perhaps it’s a job, a college degree, a persona you don’t want to lose.  Whatever it is, God is calling you to sacrifice it on the altar of dreams so that He can make you a conduit of blessing to those around you in ways that you may never fully comprehend.

This article was written for a magazine called iConnect.  It is a publication which is focused on connecting young people with each other and most importantly, with God.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Fighting For Love

We’re currently studying obstetrics in my nursing courses here at Southern Adventist University.  It’s been quite an experience overall, but I love most of it.  There’s something about the magic of childbirth that holds me spellbound.  Every time I see a new life enter the world as a tiny, fragile human being, I realize the enormous miracle that just took place before my eyes.  From a scientific perspective, there’s a lot that happens from the point of conception until the infant takes its first breath, and for some time after that even.  All the little toes, the miniature fingers, the internal organs that have to quickly adapt from being reliant on mom to working independently, everything works together in a subtle harmony that we don’t even fully understand.  But from an emotional point of view, the miracle is almost greater.  Here is a human being that a mere 10 months prior was nothing but the parents’ dream.  As the baby began to form and grow in the uterus, the first sound it ever heard was its mother’s heartbeat.  Its environment was safe and warm and it was loved.  But did it understand any of this?  No.  As soon as it is born, the mother cries and the father wipes tears from his own eyes.  Their love for the newborn is limitless, and yet the baby has done nothing to deserve this love.  However, this love gives it a reason to fight for life.  I’ve been in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) and watched as a struggling infant wrapped its tiny little fingers around a parent’s pinkie.  Suddenly the heart rate increased and warmth began to spread across the little body.  The baby had no clue what life holds.  The future is dark and uncertain.  There are going to be days when it feels like giving up and when, like Job, it will curse the day it was born.  And yet it still fights for life.  Neither does it realize that there will be sunny days.  There will be days when it seems the world is a beautiful and perfect place amidst all its imperfections.  No, this is not why a newborn fights.  It fights because it’s loved.  It doesn’t understand anything about life; the joys, the tears, the fun, the sorrow; but it does understand love.

Our Father loves us infinitely more than any human parent can love their child.  We’ve done nothing and can do nothing to deserve His love.  Give $3 million to an orphanage in India?  God owns the cattle on a thousand hills.  Perform a lifesaving brain surgery?  God is the One who created the brain to begin with.  Bring thousands of people to the foot of the cross?  Anything we can do would be meaningless without Christ’s sacrifice.  Often we subconsciously try to please God by doing more good things.  It’s like a newborn trying to earn its Father’s love by giving away the clothes just given to it, or performing a cool slight-of-hand magic trick, or telling everyone in the hospital how great its parents are.  Seems rather stupid and needless since the father loves his newborn child without the infant doing a thing.  Yet that’s how God loves us.  Once you grasp that realization, the implications are immeasurable.  It doesn’t matter who you are, or what you’ve done, or where you’ve been, your Father loves you more than you can ever begin to imagine.

"I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness." Jeremiah 31:3

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Rehearsing for Oshkosh

Soft beams of light shoot skyward while arcing back and forth across the star studded canopy.  As the beams rhythmically pulse through the air, they occasionally dip toward the main stage looming noticeably in the foreground.  The stage is lit with soft blues and purples, accentuating the Babylonian wall d├ęcor and stately pillars.  All around me is space, tons of space.  A wide open field.  Semi trailers line the edges.  Lights are scattered throughout.  Huge speaker and jumbotron screen towers break the flat expanse.  An enormous steel island with stage lights and cameras and sound equipment stands near the front.  And there, right in the heart of this mammoth cluster of electronics and technology, sits a large group of people, quietly singing as they bring in the Sabbath.

It’s the Friday evening before the 2014 Forever Faithful International Pathfinder Camporee.  Over two-hundred people; camp staff, Pathfinders, youth leaders, volunteers, professionals; have gathered together to dedicate the stage, the camporee, and everything/everyone involved with Oshkosh to the Lord’s service.  Earnest prayers are sent heavenward, asking that God pour out His blessings on the forthcoming camporee.

It’s becoming a reality.  When I first received the email saying that I had been cast to play a role in the Daniel story during the Oshkosh Pathfinder camporee, I had no idea what to expect.  I have never been a Pathfinder and had only heard second hand about the wonders of Oshkosh.  However, I knew that the Lord had called me to be a part of the acting team, and I was willing and excited to see what He had in store.

About three weeks ago, I found myself on the beautiful campus of Andrew’s University beginning rehearsals for the Daniel story.  I met with all the actors and we excitedly began to rehearse our lines and figure out our blocking, all under the skillful direction of Sean Dale, our play director.  To condense the past three weeks into just a few sentences is literally impossible.  All I can say is that the Lord blessed immensely.  We spent long days practicing our scenes, going over and over the various acts until we could perform them in our sleep.  Almost…  We practiced together, ate together, played together, slept together; becoming a unified team of actors supporting each other through the long and trying hours of rehearsal.

And now we’re here at Oshkosh.  For the first time we as actors are seeing the amount of work that has been put into this production.  The mammoth stage is being set up by a crew of skilled workers.  The costume people are putting the final touches on our garments.  The props crew has been unloading incredible, jaw-dropping prop displays off semi trucks.  The AV guys have finished the lighting schemes, setting the lights to just the right angles.  The gigantic speaker towers have been set up.  And we, the actors, have been swallowed into the entire process.  The realization has hit home, this entire production is much bigger than any one of us.  And the more we realize just how big it is, the more humbled we are to have a part, no matter how small or large.

No, I don’t play Daniel, but I know who does.  I’ve spent the past few weeks working with him, and he’s a pretty awesome guy!  When kids find out that I’m part of the Daniel story cast, they always ask if I play Daniel.  “No,” I say, “But I know the guy who does!  I spent a lot of time with him today.”

As Christians, we’re part of something much larger than ourselves.  The body of Christ spreads across continents and oceans, embracing people from all walks of life, all skill levels, all cultures, and all races.  We are a part of God’s great last day movement.  He’s setting the stage for His grand finale to the great controversy and has called us to tell everyone about His free offer of salvation.  No matter what part He has called us to play in His plan, whether big or small, we are vitally important.  And whenever we share the story of Jesus with our friends and those we come in contact with, we can finish by saying, “And I know Him personally!  I spent a lot of time with Him today.”

Because after all, it’s not what you know that matters so much as Who you know.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

An Update

Hey readers, it’s been awhile since I’ve posted a blog update so thought it was time to let you know what is happening in my life!  Right now, I am writing this post from a small office here at Camp YavaPines in Prescott, Arizona.  I’m excited to be working as the media director here this summer.  This past week I was with the youth and young adults, filming them as they engaged in community service projects.  The pastor for the Young Adults, Jeremy Anderson (with Next Level Living ministry), spoke powerfully on practical Christianity in our hectic, modern era.  The past few weeks, I have felt God calling me to a new and deeper relationship with Him; God has been working mightily in my life and I’ve sensed the need to publicly seal my commitment to Christ.  At the end of the week, I responded to the call to be rebaptized and publicly announce my dedication to Christ - 100%.  I am so thrilled to be wholly surrendered to Christ and I look forward to seeing how He will use me in ministry through the skills He has given me.

On July 19, I will be headed up to Andrews University to begin practicing the Daniel drama production that we will be performing at Oshkosh.  I’m very excited for this opportunity to work with some pretty talented people as we share the story of Daniel’s faithfulness to over 50,000 Pathfinders.  Over the next few weeks, you will be receiving periodic updates about that production as I continue to prepare for the show, getting an exclusive behind-the-scenes perspective.  Also, stay tuned for some vlogs that we might be producing regarding the production as well.  You’ll definitely want to check those out!

I don’t get too much time on the internet here during camp, so this has to be short for now.  But keep me and the rest of the camp staff in your prayers as we continue to minister to the kids here at YavaPines, and then stay tuned for updates regarding the upcoming Daniel story production!!
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