Thursday, June 23, 2011

Internal Debate

I wish I was able to find more time to sit down and write about everything that has been happening with our group! It seems like everyday we find ourselves in the midst of a new adventure and a brand new encounter with our amazing God. I still find myself overwhelmed with awe that He is so faithful to reveal Himself to us in a new way every day. I feel like this is something I say a lot, but it is so true! He has been so faithful to our group the last four and a half weeks and we are so blessed.

Even though we find ourselves going through virtually the same routine everyday, I find myself constantly refreshed in our times of worship. Only one part of each concert that I had difficulty reconciling as worship, though, was our spoken introductions to the songs. Each members of the group takes a few moments to give a brief explanation or thought before a song during the program. This serves to make the concerts more personable and to provide a worship focus for the audience. Typically, we end up say about the same thing each night for “our song”. This bothered me, though, because I felt like it was very rehearsed and, therefore, not genuine. Even though I had a solid introduction that worked well in the repertoire, I found myself scrambling to say something different every night.

Finally, I did what I should have done in the beginning and went to the Lord in prayer over this internal debate. I asked that if He wanted me to share what I had been previously on that particular night, He make it clear or reveal something new. I realized then that its not necessarily what we are saying that matters, but the heart behind it. In the same way that singing the same songs each night can still be an act of true worship when our hearts are in the right place, so what we say needs to be a genuine reflection of what God is saying. What a relief and a challenge found in one moment! For with that realization came the responsibility of ensuring that I am doing just so each night, each concert, each song. Such a beautiful reflection of our responsibility as Christians growing in their faith, who must continually allow their hearts to submit to the Greater Lord we serve.

He must increase; I must decrease.

-John 3:30

Monday, June 20, 2011

Week Three??

Wow, it is crazy to realize how much time has already gone by! With the end of today we are officially beginning week three of nine, and time continues to fly by. We have been having such a wonderful time between concerts, van rides, and free time that its been hard to find time to write anything. Part of my lack of recent posts, however, has been due to the fact that I haven't felt like I've had much to write about. We've definitely settled into a routine and it has been easy to let each day go by much the same as the previous. The Lord is incredibly faithful, though. Every night He works in us in a different way to reveal something new about our ministry and the songs we are singing. Tonight, "Be Thou Near to Me" was such a song.

Sundays are usually long days, simply for the fact that they consist of both a morning and evening concert. As tonight's began, I found myself very distracted and unfocused, a product of the long day and the "tour groove". About halfway through the concert, in the midst of the second verse, though, I found myself struck by what we were singing:

"Though in this burden of my making, yet in the shadows still a light I see Maker whose love is not forsaking. Oh Lord, be thou near to me."

Wow, what a stunning picture of our sinful state and God's redemptive power! We are shadowed and burdened, lost in darkness due to our nature; yet God is so merciful! Deep within the shadows of our soul a source of light is found in Him. The power of the chorus was so amplified as I reflected on what these few lines meant.

"And the holy voices sing 'Halleluj! Ever will Thy reign be!' As I wander through this life, oh Lord, be thou near to me."

The song is a cry, and a beautiful reminder of how our attitude should be formed toward Christ. Without Him, we are helpless, lost in darkness, and shrouded by our terribly sinful nature. When we pour out our burdens to Him and ask that He be near to us, He is faithful and does just that. James 4 reminds us that a right relationship with the Lord requires that we abandon our former, sinful lives and ask the Lord to replace them with His life and His desires. We are never called to any form of halfhearted faith, only to one of total abandonment of self.

He must increase; I must decrease.

-John 3:30

Friday, June 10, 2011


Its amazing how quickly time has passed for us! The last few days have been great as we settle into our "tour routine", get to know one another even more, and meet more amazing people along the way at churches and homestays. Every concert has been a success, and it is amazing to see how God orchestrates each one in a different way. Now that our first full week of concerts is completed and we are looking forward to spending our off-day in San Francisco tomorrow. Today we were blessed with some additional downtime and were able to spend a few hours in Yosemite. Although our visit was short, it was wonderful to spend time marveling at the Lord's magnificent creation... and having fun taking many pictures together in the process. ;)

A few nights ago in Orcutt, CA, Kelsey and I stayed with a woman named Esperanza (which, appropriately, means Hope!). She was an incredible wife, mother, grandmother, and woman of God, and we were blessed to spend several hours talking with her about her life. We heard countless stories about her life and family, including beating her teenage grandsons at arm wrestling/basketball/ping pong, growing up in the Philippines, and her work over the last several decades at the small church we had sung at that evening. The most amazing stories, however, revolved around her annual trip to the Philippines to do missions work. Although she looked around 50, Esperanza is 72-years old and has been widowed for the last 6 years. Yet at least once a year she makes a trip to the Philippines to bring clothes and gifts to the people she's built relationships with and lead Bible studies. In every story she told, her heart for these people and her love for the Lord shone through. We only spent a few hours with her, this was evident as the most central part of her life.

I went to bed that night reflecting on how my life reflects Christ. My Savior should be so obvious that He becomes what people see, rather than myself, yet this is rarely the case. We are called to it. When I started blogging about this summer, I selected John 3:30 as a sort of "theme verse". To be honest, I put rather little thought into my selection, simply thinking it seemed appropriate. God works in mysterious, powerful, and incredible ways, and I can already see how he is working in my heart and through the rest of this group to teach this to us. It is so exciting to see changes like this happening already, with so much time left on our journey! Thank you so much for your prayers for the group; we can tell it is doing something and the Lord is working!

He must increase; I must decrease.

-John 3:30

Monday, June 6, 2011

Send Off

We are officially on tour! With our send-off concerts completed, we packed up the van and headed off for the first day of concerts Sunday morning. We did not have far to travel, and it wasn’t long before we arrived at out first concert: Hope Community Baptist Church of Cherry Valley. The church building was a small, modified modular with only about 75 seats. We soon learned that it was a church plant with a rather small group of regular attenders. As the start time approached, there were only about 25 people in the audience and we were very unsure what to expect. God is a God with plans and understanding far greater than ours, however, and the service ended up being a perfect start to the tour.

The pastor preached on Luke 4:1-14, the story of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness immediately following his baptism. He spoke about how Satan attempted to attack the ministry of Christ in three ways, and these are the same ways he attempts to bring down the ministry of anyone who is rooted in Christ. First, he claims that our needs are more important than the needs of the people surrounding; second, he seeks to convince our hearts to settle for temporal gains of this world; and third, he wants us to take the easy way out in ministry. How appropriate of a message for the eight of us who were just setting out on a nine-week ministry!

Psalm 1351-2 reads:

Praise the Lord.

Praise the name of the Lord,

praise Him, you servants of the Lord,

you who minister in the house of the Lord,

in the courts of the house of our God

These two verses so perfectly sum up what our ministry is. We are traveling not to make CD sales or recruit hundreds of students to attend CBU, although these are essential parts of what we are doing. Ultimately, though, we are traveling to exalt the name of Christ in everything we do and praise the almighty God we are blessed to call Lord. As we travel we will be “[those] who minister in the house of the Lord”. But in order to be effective ministers of the Lord, we must keep our ministry rooted in Him. We cannot fall under these temptations Satan tries to use to attack the work of the Lord. It is important to take care of ourselves physically so we are able to work, but we cannot fall under the impression that our needs are more important than doing what God calls us to do. We cannot get caught up in the temporal gains of this world. The next nine weeks will be filled with opportunities to minister to countless people, but we cannot take the easy way out.

He must increase, I must decrease.

-John 3:30

Saturday, June 4, 2011

A Summer of Hope!

What a whirlwind last week it has been! Monday morning I flew back to California to begin a weeklong rehearsal camp for summer small group Hope. We had four days to learn, memorize, and be ready to perform an hours worth of music before we head out on the road to tour for nine weeks of the summer. Needless to say, the week was exhausting, fun, wonderful, challenging, etc., etc.! The week was meant to stretch us as musicians, performers, and speakers, and it certainly did just that. I can already see ways our group, and myself individually, has begun to grow. It has already been an amazing experience and I am so excited to see where we will journey together over the course of the summer.
The nature of a tour such as this absolutely requires a sense of cooperation from each member of the group. Because we will be spending nine long weeks together crammed in a van with all of our equipment and luggage for hours on end, only to arrive and perform and interact with the people we encounter, it is crucial that we maintain good relationships. Over the last six days with these seven people, I have been truly amazed at how quickly we have bonded both musically and personally. We "clicked" from day one and it has been exciting to see how we work together and use our strengths and weaknesses to balance one another. I am truly blessed to be a part of Hope Summer 2011!
Tomorrow is our first official day of tour, although we already have two concerts behind us. Over the next nine weeks, please be in prayer for us as we dive into this incredible ministry. Pray for travel safety and health. Pray for group unity. Pray for our spiritual lives. Pray for our musical abilities to remain strong and continue to grow together. Pray for opportunities to touch people's lives. Pray that we would take each opportunity given to us. But most importantly pray that we are able to represent Christ at every moment of the day.

He must increase; I must decrease.
-John 3:30