By This Will All Men Know…

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“When Jesus died, He died alone. There is no greater pain. When we die to ourselves, we’re to do it together, with our community. There is no stronger bonding.” Larry Crabb, Connecting, p. 95

I’ve been discovering something so simple and radical in the Gospel: loving the Lord with all my heart, soul, mind and strength is not enough. He also demands I pour myself out in love for others.

Think about it: In Eden, no sin existed—no brokenness between God and man—yet God declared it “not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18). The law of God required that Adam love someone besides God.

We need connection with others because we’re made in God’s image. “God exists as a community of connected Persons. We were fashioned by a God whose deepest joy is connection with Himself, a God who created us to enjoy the pleasure He enjoys by connecting supremely with Him but also with each other.” Larry Crabb, Connecting, p. 55

By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.

While the Bible is the only place God’s love is accurately described, few people recognize God’s love there without first witnessing it through interaction with a loving follower of Jesus. That’s why instead of designing us to hatch out of eggs in the forest and look only to Him for support, God ordained families to exemplify love to children. Of course, all parents are sinners, so every child’s image of God’s perfect love is somewhat warped by parents’ flaws. But parental love is often the spark that first kindles love for God in young hearts.

However, for those who don’t have healthy, nurturing homes, and even for those who do, relationships beyond biological family are needed to portray the love of God adequately. Could this be the purpose of the fellowship of believers—to teach the principles of love through deep, authentic community?

Jesus said so. “As I have loved you…also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34, 35).

I suggest this radical thought: the Gospel enables, and demands, that we live vulnerably within a fellowship of believers, as Jesus did.

Dare I even suggest that “doing evangelism” is at best a dangerous venture, and at worst a hypocritical farce, if it does not include living in soul-baring, accountable relationship with other Christians?

Oysters without shells, living in a world of poking, stinging sea urchins—I don’t like the implications. But we can’t soften the demands of the Gospel just because they’re painful. Our Example walked the thorny path of the painful Gospel. His followers will trace His bloodstained footsteps in human relationships.

I don’t mean that Jesus trusted or lived in vulnerable relationship with everyone. That would be humanly impossible, emotionally and physically. When eager crowds followed Him, the Bible says “Jesus did not commit Himself unto them” (the Greek word means “trust” or “depend upon,”) because He “knew what was in man” (John 2:25). Jesus knew people were untrustworthy. But in studying His earthly relationships, I discover three layers of friendships: seed-sowing, cultivating and reaping. One might picture them as three concentric circles.

 

 

The outer circle included careless passersby, sour Pharisees, curious fans—everyone within His influence. Nicodemus was in this category; people you meet on an airplane or old friends with whom you stay in loose Facebook contact might be in yours. With these people we don’t live in deep community. We reach out, but we don’t expect much in return. We model Jesus’ acceptance, treating each soul as priceless in the light of the cross no matter what their outward appearance.

Jesus actively cultivated the second relational circle—the disciples, the seventy, and others. These relationships devoured much precious time—time He could have used preaching or healing. What a waste! But the wise Teacher was strategic. Only a few were growing into His inner circle, but He was investing in all of them—nurturing a precious crop of souls, of soul-winners. Wise Christians will follow His example, giving much to a few, investing time and love in developing well-rounded leaders.  “Make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19). It will pay off in eternity, though Jesus’ example warns us—there will be Judases. It will hurt.

Jesus’ enemy was sin, not pain.

Jesus’ inner circle was small—likely only seven (Peter, James, John, Mary Magdalene, Martha, Lazarus, and his mother). With these people He not only gave, He received. He sought encouragement and comfort from them. Significantly, He embraced Peter as one of these whose betrayal could hurt Him like no other. Jesus’ enemy was sin, not pain. Through loving deeply despite the resultant anguish, He modeled living vulnerably with fallen people.

If we omit one of these circles, our lives easily warp into imbalance. Without purposeful contact with an outer circle, we become narrow and insular. Without strategic investment in cultivating disciples for the kingdom, we stay within our comfort zones, cheating ourselves and others out of rich opportunities to love and learn. And perhaps most crucial, we must have an inner circle to whom we are accountable, and with whom we can “take off our armor” and be vulnerable. Sometimes they are our mentors; other times we trade places. Without such deep, satisfying relationships, we risk burnout, or worse, self-sufficient pride. Without counsel and confrontation from fellow believers, we may trust our own judgment and miss God’s radical call out of our comfort zones.

Jesus purposefully modeled authentic community. When anguish or temptation crushes us, like Jesus we will need others to cry with and pray with us. And unlike Jesus, we have weaknesses and cherished faults we may not even recognize as sin issues. Without being vulnerable to confrontation, we risk hindering the work of Christ by our blind spots. We must be open with spouses and close friends who know and love us well enough to confront us. Because we trust their love and spirituality, we will take such confrontation seriously. In a world of huge, shallow friendship networks and comfort-based living, God calls for deep, dissatisfied seekers—people who are determined to grow, and to help others grow.

“He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked” (I John 2:6).

 

Post-Christian or Post-Atheist?

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Wow!  If only you could have been there (some of you were!) at Youth In Mission in Germany, April 21 – 25.

We often hear that Europe is post-Christian.  Don’t believe a word of it.  In fact, what I experienced there was anything but.

…though I know these emotions don’t tend to last long, I know that this will.

It was a life-changing experience for me to see these young people united through their love of Christ and passion for spreading the Three Angels messages.  I came back so invigorated, and though I know these emotions don’t tend to last long, I know that this will.

This year marks the fifth YIM convention. They’ve sold out every year, with more than 1800 registering this year alone. But perhaps even more exciting was the fact that no one who registered was over thirty-five years old!

Elder Ted Wilson preached. His passion, sincerity, and vision for the church, message, revival and reformation was powerful and contagious for all of us youth.  It means so much, especially for the youth over there, to know that their world leaders are on fire for the message and mission.  We all, especially young people, need a purpose in life. The call to preach to every nation, kindred, tongue and people (Revelation 14:6) can give us, at any age, a real sense of purpose and meaning.

The program was fantastic.  Everyone who organized and led out was younger than I am.  Despite the age (or, probably, because of it) this was one of the best run programs I have ever seen.

I had the privilege of sharing a seminar on leadership.  It was an absolute delight!  We packed into a classroom and learned how to lead out in a local congregation, youth movement or even a business.  The young people in Germany are passionate about getting things done.

Speaking of which, everyone went on outreach on Sabbath afternoon; an entire train was rented!  The city of Mannheim will never be the same.

Breakfast was bread, water and jam.

Each day the program began early in the morning and ended late at night. The young people slept in classrooms – about thirty per room in sleeping bags on the floor.  Breakfast was bread, water and jam.  Lunch was meager.  Supper was bread, water and jam.  No question, this wasn’t five-star lodging – but no one cared.  They were there to have an experience with God, not an experience at a convention.  The enthusiasm was electric.

Best of all, I had a chance to meet with youth leaders from 12 different countries. We are working on developing a plan to reach all of Europe.  And from what I saw in Germany, we might very well reach so-called post-Christian Europe before we reach Christian America.

Report: World Youth Advisory

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From the inception of GYC back in 2001, our goal has always been to work with the Seventh-day Adventist church at every level and in every way possible. Though not officially part of the church structure, we have always been more than just a supporting ministry; we have been a very supporting ministry. This has been shown by, among other things, the fact that many of our top church leaders, including former General Conference President Jan Paulsen, as well as the current president, Ted Wilson (not to mention a host of others) have spoken at our events.

Thus, we were very happy—and took it as a strong affirmation of our ministry—when GYC was invited to participate in the World Youth Advisory near our nation’s capital in March of this year.  The advisory, which is held once every five years (after each General Conference session), was a meeting with the GC youth directors and all the division youth directors from around the world. And we, from GYC, were there—a strong signal that the church wants to work with us in the common goal of empowering our young people to be on fire for Jesus and for our witness to the world of His Second Coming.

During the advisory, the directors all went out to eat, and Yamil Rosario, Sebastien Braxton, Amy Sheppard, my wife and myself were invited. We had a great meal, and then a two-hour discussion about GYC.  No question, we all came away with a deeper understanding of each other and with intentions of finding ways in which we can all work together under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to work with our church in as a whole in proclaiming present truth.

The meeting concluded with the leaders of GYC being surrounded by the division and GC youth directors, who offered a special prayer of dedication and success for us. This was definitely a highlight of my presidency of GYC.

I appreciate the focus of the church youth leadership, their dedication to our mission and message, and their prayerful submission to seeking God’s will in this important work. I was very thankful for the opportunity to be there. As I said, it was a highlight of my presidency at GYC, and the beginning of something that will greatly benefit not only our youth, but our church as a whole.

Here I Am Jesus, Send Me

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Here I am Lord, send me. It sounds cliché when it comes to speaking about mission trips, but it moves my soul when I know that it was the cry of my heart and God answered it so faithfully. There I was on my couch, knowing in a few weeks I was heading to Honduras with the GYC INTERmission board to plan for the upcoming mission trip. I was excited and yet unsure.

“God, I have no money and I am not sure if you called me to go to Honduras. Maybe I led myself. I’m not sure.” As I prayed to the Lord, I claimed a Bible verse from Matthew that says, “And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.” (Matthew 21:22)

“Jesus, honestly, have me go where You have called. Make it clear, Lord, so that I would follow Your will not my own. I love You and so I’m asking You to please send me where You would have me to go. Here I am Jesus, send me.”

Within 3 hours of praying, as I went to camp meeting and as I was walking, I heard a man call my name. “Diana.” I saw him and it was a pastor I had only met once and did not know well. We spoke and then he asked me what I was doing in August. I informed him I would be gone to Honduras in the middle of the month and could not help with any evangelistic efforts during that time since I could not commit for a full month of Bible work. He then said that was perfect as he was inviting me to preach a series in Honduras that would end a day before the GYC INTERmission meeting. I was blown away. “Wow, Lord, no way! I have not told anyone my plans yet, but You know the plans You have for me!”

He then said that was perfect as he was inviting me to preach a series in Honduras that would end a day before the GYC INTERmission meeting

I skipped and sang out loud on my way to my friends. It was as if Jesus had sent me a love letter and I could not contain telling the world! Not only that, but when I came back from the mission trip He led some of his servants to cover all my costs! Going to Honduras confirmed in my heart how God had not only been moving my heart to help God’s children in Honduras, but that He had called other young Christian soldiers to the same location!

The presence of the Holy Spirit was working so vividly in Suyatal, Honduras that it made me realize that God has been preparing the people of the community to surrender all to Him for some time. The best part is He wants to use you and me to help be guiding lights for them! I challenge you to pray and ask God if He is calling you to Honduras this summer. I am excited to hear how He will answer your prayers as He calls you to join this mission trip that will transform each of us!

2011 Ecomm Retreat

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Minnesota is not exactly the first place on most people’s list to visit the first week in February—unless it’s for a cause. That’s why the GYC Executive Committee found itself in Minnesota February 2-6, 2011. After a month, it was time for us to get together and debrief the No Turning Back Conference, processing the feedback we received and discussing improvements for future conventions. We also brainstormed projects and opportunities for action that GYCers can stay involved in throughout the year.

On Sabbath, we worshiped with the Dodge Center Seventh-day Adventist Church. We were excited to contribute to the local church by leading out in Sabbath School and actively participating in every part of the Divine Service.

Perhaps the most cherished time of the retreat was the time spent in the Word of God together. In anticipation of the 2011 Conference, members of the Executive Committee took turns leading the rest of the team in Bible study on different aspects of the Holy Spirit. If this short series of studies is any indication for what’s to come, GYC 2011 will be a blessed experience as attendees from across the globe study the Holy Spirit together.

In One Place

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Those Crazy Millerites. . .

It’s been almost 170 years now since the Millerite movement swept through New England with their powerful tent meetings. Those were exciting times. Intense preaching. Radical commitments. These people were yearning for the kingdom of God. They were a force to be reckoned with and would eventually catch the attention of the media. The prominent members of this group would soon become household names across America.

These people were yearning
for the kingdom of God.

In the November 17, 1842 issue of The Midnight Cry Joshua V. Himes described the conviction and fervor that characterized the movement: “We sacrifice time, health, money, personal comfort, and all earthly possessions, to the cause.”  “We have held 30 camp meetings within the last four months.” It’s easy to miss the significance of that. Wrap your mind around it. We’re talking 1842! First of all, that would be amazing even in our day. Yet this was done in difficult circumstances, with poor transportation, and without the modern technology which we take for granted today. That’s awe-inspiring determination. Even the worst enemies of the Millerite movement were willing to admit that.

Why the emphasis on meeting together? Why the urgency on assembling the believers? Is there a connection between their conviction that the Lord was coming soon and their desire to unite together under one tent? Is there a relationship between a passionate love for the truth and an eagerness to join forces with like minded believers? Yes! It seems like this is what Paul had in mind when he wrote: “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together. . . but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10.25

The Day is definitely approaching. And as we get closer to the end, God will bring more and more young people together from every corner of the earth. This is an essential ingredient to how the Holy Spirit leads a movement. But why?

Remember Your Brotherhood

“Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.” 1 Peter 5:9

It’s interesting to notice the context that these words live in. Peter is addressing Christians who are struggling through persecution and have been scattered throughout the world. He’s speaking to people who are engaged in a struggle for spiritual survival in an unfriendly world.

This verse follows the apostle’s often quoted warning about how we need to be “sober” and “vigilant” because the devil is trying to “devour” us like a “roaring lion” (1 Peter 5:8). It’s with this in mind that 1 Peter 5:9 comes into focus. It presents a compelling motivation for us to resist the devil and remain faithful. What is that motivation? “Knowing.” Knowing what? Knowing what is being “experienced by your brotherhood in the world.” In other words, being aware of your fellow soldiers out there! That awareness is essential to our own survival and perseverance in the faith.

Most of us live in our own little circles. We attend our individual churches. Often, all we see is the Laodicean environment immediately around us. It can get lonely out there. Sometimes it’s discouraging. Sometimes it feels like there are few other young people who share our burden to do something meaningful for the Kingdom of God. It’s easy to forget that there are more committed young people than what we see.

And then there’s GYC…

Not just another gathering. But a special reminder that ours is a world-wide movement! We come for a gasp of fresh air. To be refreshed. Inspired. Encouraged. Challenged. I need this because what awaits me out in the world will demand all the guts and glory I can muster:

“. . . to fight the battles of the Lord when champions are few–this will be our test. At this time we must gather warmth from the coldness of others, courage from their cowardice, and loyalty from their treason.” (5T 136)

That’s the real world we live in. Those are the brutal facts. But at GYC we can turn that on it’s head. We gather warmth from the warmness of others, courage from their courage, and loyalty from their loyalty!

I need to rub shoulders with my mission minded brethren from South America. I want to meet those walking testimonies of faith and sacrifice from my people in Africa. I want to shake hands and pray with excited young people from Asia and Oceania. I want to walk through those booths and learn about more ministries starting up throughout Europe.

This fires me up! It makes me want to do more damage on the devil’s kingdom!

See you in December!

GYC Report from 2010 GC Session

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As President of GYC, I was sent to the GC Session to represent the vast network of young people who make up GYC. But it’s from the perspective of a regular Seventh-day Adventist layman that I want express my views. And that’s because, of all that I saw, few things touched me more than the fact that, however impressive our church structure is – it’s the lay people, youth included, who are the heart and soul of God’s Remnant.

For starters, unless you’ve been to a GC Session, you can’t even begin to grasp the sensory overload. Even for a young person such as myself – immersed amid the sights and sounds of smart phones, iPads and iPods, laptops, etc. – it was, at times, overwhelming.

It was overwhelming in an inspiring way, because amid all the energy and hubbub, you could sense the dedication, the commitment and the enthusiasm of our members. And though the place was teeming with “church bureaucrats,” I still came away convicted of the role laity has in doing the work that God has called us to do.

I was also impressed by the sheer volume and diversity that makes up the Adventist church. It’s amazing, laypeople and church leaders from all over the world, from all walks of life, people who would have nothing in common were it not for the truths that we have been given.

I also couldn’t help be amazed, too, at how the church operates. It was the democratic process at work, big time. It was fascinating to watch, in fact, the delegates – which included lay people – vote down a measure that the church leaders had really wanted to pass! That’s democracy, and our church without a doubt has it.

The highlight, though, was Elder Wilson’s sermon Sabbath morning, and his appeal to the church to move forward in the truths that we, as a people, have been given. You can read the sermon, you can see it online, but it was thrilling to experience it in person. The place sizzled; that’s the only way I can describe it.

There’s a lot more I could talk about. But, again, in the end, it’s the lay people working with our church leadership who are going to accomplish through God’s grace the mission that we have been given. Thus, I appeal to all the young people involved in GYC to dedicate themselves to the mission Elder Wilson outlined that amazing Sabbath morning at what was, truly, an epochal General Conference Session.