Big World, Pale Blue Dot

I distinctly remember my first time traveling outside North America. As I walked along the airport terminal, I scanned at the flights boards—London, Paris, Munich, Moscow, Cairo, Stockholm, Dubai, Beijing—and then the faces of people from these cities all around the world.

I had just come from a summer evangelism program where I’d seen God work in unbelievable ways. But now I was beginning to feel overwhelmed at the utter magnitude of people that still didn’t know Jesus.

“Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel…”  The world seemed much bigger than I realized before. Slumping down in a corner of the airport, I began asking God how His command was even possible.

Can you relate?

Let’s switch perspectives for a moment.

It was February 14,1990, and the Voyager 1 spacecraft screamed through the darkness of space, traveling forty thousand miles per hour away from the Sun. Launched thirteen years earlier, in 1977, Voyager was now beyond Pluto, having successfully accomplished its mission of photographing each of our distant neighbor planets. Amazingly, though the spacecraft was flying past the edges of our solar system, scientists had Voyager take one last Earth-facing image before continuing on its one-way journey away from the Sun through space.[1]

The picture Voyager sent back to earth has come to be called “The Pale Blue Dot”. It’s a much different picture than those taken by Apollo missions, in which the Earth looks like a beautifully designed marble floating in dark night.

For the first time, humanity was looking at the Earth from the edges of the solar system, and it rocked the world of astronomy. Suspended in a shaft of light is a tiny speck.

That speck is us. Not you and me. Not our town, our state, our country, or our continent. It’s the Earth.

The arrow points to the Earth; photo taken from 3.7 billion miles away

The arrow points to the Earth; photo taken from 3.7 billion miles away (Source: Scientific American/NASA)

This picture was taken from the edge of our solar system. The size of our solar system in relation to our Milky Way Galaxy is roughly about the size of a quarter in relation to the entire North American continent. And our galaxy is only one of innumerable others in our universe.

But here’s the kicker: our God breathed this universe into existence.

He’s the same God who came and died for us. He’s the same God who is longing to live inside of each of us so that we become like Him and shed His glory in our world, our pale blue dot.

Maybe the problem isn’t with the impossibility of the command, but with our understanding of the God who has given it.

[1] Louie Giglio and Matt Redman, Indescribable: Encountering the Glory of God in the Beauty of the Universe (David C. Cook, 2011), 59.

Retreat Report: Days 3 & 4

After welcoming the Sabbath together with a short vespers thought last night, we met again this morning at the Rochester Seventh-day Adventist Church for Sabbath School and church.  Dr. Michael Hasel, one of our Board of Directors (BOD) members and professor of archaeology at Southern Adventist University, gave a short presentation on the meaning of seals in the Bible.  We were deeply impressed by the material evidences of Bible truth that he showed us–and I think his presentation may have kindled some secret aspirations to become archaeologists!

In the afternoon, some of us went on a beautiful Sabbath hike at a nearby park.  The crisp air and beautiful trees and fields were reminders of God’s goodness.

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The Executive Committee (ECOM) let our creative juices flow in the evening with a lively brainstorming session (or as we call it, a “Green Light Session”).  We use these sessions to share new ideas we’d like to implement throughout the year and at our conferences.

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ECOM and BOD wrapped up a few more agenda items on Sunday morning.  We were reviewed how what has given GYC its influence is its simple presentation of the Word of God–and we believe that such a presentation will be the secret to the success of any other youth movement around the world.  While the ECOM and BOD do not always meet together, I have been particularly blessed by the reflections and wisdom that some of our older BOD members have shared throughout the weekend about the history of GYC as well as how God has used them individually in their professional careers.

We want to give all the glory to God for how He has led this weekend.  Please pray for us as we travel back to our respective locations, and as we follow up on the exciting things we have discussed.

Read about Days 1 & 2 of our retreat here!

Retreat Report: Days 1 & 2

Greetings from Minnesota, where we are currently in our second day of GYC Executive Committee (ECOM) and Board of Director (BOD) meetings.  Some of us have arrived quite late in the evenings from various locations around North America, but God has been giving us energy as we talk and brainstorm together.

Yesterday, the ECOM learned the power of prayer once again as we tackled a difficult item on the agenda.  After a season of prayer asking for God to collectively impress us with a solution, we were able to come to an agreement in a single hour–in comparison to the much longer discussion we’d anticipated.  We know that sometimes God leads us through longer processes, but we are very grateful for the way He guided yesterday morning.

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Several departmental heads also had an opportunity to update the rest of the ECOM on our plans for the upcoming conference in Phoenix in December.  (We hope you’re going to join us!)

Today, the ECOM was joined by the BOD, who flew in yesterday, for joint-meetings.  After breakfast and worship, we began by reviewing how God led the beginnings of GYC.  We were blessed to remember the Holy Spirit’s leading in this movement.

Please pray for us as we continue to meet this afternoon and the rest of this weekend.  Happy Sabbath, GYC!

Read about Days 3 & 4 of our retreat here!

A Definite Aim

“This one thing I do.”  Success in any line demands a definite aim.  He who would achieve true success in life must keep steadily in view the aim worthy of his endeavor.  Such an aim is set before the youth of today.  The heaven-appointed purpose of giving the gospel to the world in this generation is the noblest that can appeal to any human being.  It opens a field of effort to everyone whose heart Christ has touched.

Ellen G. White, Education, 262

Prime Time and Prayer Time

Last December I had the privilege of being a guest at the Revival & Reformation Committee Retreat. The one thing I loved best about being there was the seasons of prayer – bowing down before God in worship, repentance, and supplication for an hour at a time, several times during the weekend. On Sabbath night after sun had set, the committee began its work.

During the course of the evening, a suggestion came up. What if the General Conference put a pause in the busy administrative schedule and set special time aside for prayer? Not just a prayer for guidance as a committee began a meeting, but specific, concentrated time to seek God and His direction and blessing? I shared with the committee that I firmly believe that knowing that the General Conference was taking time out of their work to spend time on their faces before the Lord would do more to encourage every honest young person, than all the committees and documents they could produce in the quinquennium.

Considering the massive amount of business and decision making taking place at the GC, and the schedules booked years out, such a suggestion seemed nearly impossible any time soon, especially with the rapidly approaching GC Session. But Elder Wilson took out a small calendar and a pen and started looking over the next year.

Now, six months later, the General Conference is about to have their first time of dedicated, special prayer. June 16 – 19 is the GC’s Prime Time — the days when all GC officers do not travel and are in the building so special committees can meet — and they are taking time every morning to have intense prayer instead before getting into the agendas for the day.  They will do the same in their next Prime Time, January 5-8, 2015.

My heart fills with joy and thankfulness to God for the priorities the GC has chosen to take. Now it’s our turn. The GC emailed me, asking if we as young people would be willing to join them in specific prayer on those days. I told them we would.

There are so many things to pray for. Indeed, so many branches and initiatives of our world-wide Seventh-day Adventist movement. And each needs our specific prayer. But for this Prime Time, I firmly believe we as young people should pray specifically for three things:

  1. That God will specially manifest His Spirit at the GC’s prayer times, bringing everyone in the building close together in the oneness of devotion to Him;
  2. that this Prime Time will be specially guided and blessed of God; and
  3. for God to give the Seventh-Day Adventist church, from our local churches all the way to the General Conference, a special measure of His grace.

And, while we’re at it, let’s pray for a special blessing on the personal lives of those in responsibility at the General Conference.

So join me: June 16-19, from 8 – 9 am Eastern Time. Find the time to get on your knees and join the General Conference in pressing our case before the Throne of Grace. And if you can’t do it then, still take some time aside during those days to intercede specifically for the General Conference and our beloved church.

Laborers Needed

An apostle is defined as a messenger or one who is sent forth with orders. Jesus, being an Apostle Himself (Hebrews 3:1), chose twelve men and taught them how to be His apostles (Luke 6:13). They were sent with Christ’s orders to share the good news of the kingdom of God with the whole world.

Christ is looking to send more laborers into His field. As earth’s time continues to dwindle down, there is an urgent need for more laborers for the harvest. If you have never given serious consideration to attending a mission trip for the Lord, here are some reasons you should:

1) Learn to serve: The heart of ministry is service. Mission work strips you of your selfishness and forces you to put others first and to meet their needs. As you spend more time serving others, you will discover a deeper impression of servitude and humility that has taken root in your heart. You will learn first-hand how to decrease and let Christ increase in your life.

2) Reveal Christ: Many are weary and heavily burdened by the effects of sin. Short-term and long-term missionaries are needed to reveal Christ to a dying world. The world is desperately longing for the kind of pure love of God to be revealed by His followers. When you sign up for a mission trip, regardless of whatever role you find yourself, you may be representing Christ to someone who has never heard of Him before. How awesome a blessing and responsibility this is!

3) By beholding, you become changed: One of the most amazing parts of mission work is the change that is revealed in you! Many who sign up for missions may believe they are being sent to “bring deliverance to the oppressed” in some way, but more often than not, you will discover that you are the one who is changed!

4) To finish the work: Christ started this work, and He has commissioned us to finish it. Won’t you join us in finishing this work?

Please prayerfully consider signing up for our GYC INTERmission trip this August. The harvest is truly plenteous, but the laborers are few. Please be a laborer today.

President’s Update (February 2014)

During the month of February I had the privilege of traveling to Europe to meet with church youth leadership and then attending an annual convention hosted by Adventist Youth for Christ (AYC), the largest youth-led, youth-initiated Adventist movement in Australia, in Melbourne.

It was a trip of both historic beginnings and endings—the first large meeting between church leadership and GYC in Europe, and the last AYC convention after a decade of AYC’s service to young people.

In Europe, twelve young GYC leaders met with youth department leadership from within the Trans-European (TED) and Inter-European (EUD) Divisions, including the division youth directors and about 25 union youth directors. The meeting, held near Zurich, Switzerland, was chaired by Elder Gilbert Cangy, the General Conference World Youth Ministries director. We met to pray together, share, discuss concerns, answer each other’s questions, and fellowship.

I found two things particularly refreshing as I participated in the meetings; the willingness on everyone’s part to meet and converse, and the openness of our dialogue. TED and EUD leaders all flew down from their respective countries to meet with young people just for one day. The conversations that ensued were frank, open, and to the point.  The meeting closed that evening with a season of prayer.

GYC wants to extend our warmest thanks to Elder Cangy for being instrumental in organizing this meeting, as well as to Elder Paul Tompkins of the TED and Elder Stephan Sigg of the EUD, for bringing your teams together and taking time out of your planning to meet with us. And a special thanks to the EUD for taking a day of your youth advisory meetings for us.

The evening we drove back to Zurich and headed to Australia. 24 hours of flight time later, we arrived in Melbourne to join hundreds of other young people in Melbourne’s beautiful downtown city hall. Friday, Sabbath, and Sunday, we relished worshiping together and hearing inspiring and practical messages on personal devotion to Christ and on evangelism.

We also spent time with the AYC leadership, watching their operations, listening to them reflect on past conventions, and hearing their thoughts about the future. We particularly enjoyed their willingness to think in unconventional ways and their determination to live above the status quo. A heartfelt thank you to the leadership of AYC for your hospitality and allowing us to watch some of the inner workings of a great youth movement. May God bless you as you look toward the future!

At times it is easy to look around us and feel alone. Perhaps we attend a secular university and are the only Adventist surrounded by a skeptical world. Perhaps our family does not cherish the same beliefs we do. But whatever situation in which we find ourselves individually, we can know there are thousands of young people all over the world who pursue Christ, pore over the Scriptures, and long to spread His name, just as we do. I’ve met with some of them recently, and I return home inspired to live more faithfully right where I am. To be, in my small corner of the world, an extension of His family, and His hands and feet to a hurting world.

“Then said I, Here am I; send me.” (Isaiah 6:8)

My Generation

My Generation
by Justin Kim

No, my generation didn’t die from starvation, disease, or war.
No, my generation didn’t die, sending young men to battle armies, nations, and ideas.
No, my generation didn’t die seeking an honorable death, a noble cause, and higher purpose.
No, my generation died in front of their computers, from gluttony, ignorance, and indifference, where the only passion they could muster up is a finger clicking on a mouse.
My generation died screamingly silent in apathy.
My generation died hungering for nothing but satisfaction.
My generation died diseased with overstimulation and undercontribution above and beyond any another generation before and beyond it.
No…my generation died even before it had a chance to die.

Who Do I Trust
by Izhar Buendia

Why do I tend to trust in Man
Why do I want them to be my fan
I try to please those who I talk to
I change so I am the one to talk to
But don’t I know that they will fail me
That their mistakes will not help me?

So who to trust if all is failure–
Only the One who is Creator
The perfect One, The Mighty One
Who to this world sent His Son
God, He loves us as no one does
Oh, that love up on the cross
All I can do is just love Him back
With all my life I trust Him back.

6 Reasons to Start a Soul-Winning Small Group

1.  Small group ministry is the Biblical way
“And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favour with all the people.  And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:46-27).

Acts 2:46-47 summarises the outcome of the early rain experience. The change upon the disciples was not a name change, but instead a change of focus. House to house small group ministry for evangelism became central to the life of the church, not peripheral or optional.

What if your church’s AY or vespers program was transformed to become outward-focussed?

Photo credit: Jason Wong

Photo credit: Jason Wong

2.  Learn to be a balanced, healthy, winsome Christian
Does being involved in evangelistic small group ministry really result in in lower stress, higher self-esteem, an increased likelihood of healthy lifestyle choices, and improved academic and work performance? Definitely. There is increasing evidence demonstrating that altruism—doing something good for others when there is no chance of a reward—correlates with a rise in emotional intelligence (EQ).

When we invest our time, resources, energy and efforts in sharing the gospel one-on-one in a small group setting with no hope of any foreseeable return, we instead gain the biggest blessing of all for ourselves—directly from the Giver of intelligence. Those long nights of prayer, the meticulous Bible study preparation, and sacrifice of your dorm room or house for a weekly small group will result in more than you ever imagined.

3.  Experience the greatest joy
In His infinite love He has granted men the privilege of becoming partakers of the divine nature, and, in their turn, of diffusing blessings to their fellow-men. This is the highest honor, the greatest joy, that it is possible for God to bestow upon men (RH Dec. 6, 1887).

We will never experience anything else like it—the joy of personally leading a soul to Christ. Although the road is never without bumps, the joy and satisfaction that lies at the end of the tunnel is like none other.

Small group ministry provides this opportunity day-in, day-out. The entire reason for these communities is to introduce souls to Jesus. Unless experienced personally, will remain something only a distant ideal from the pastor’s pulpit.

Photo credit: Jason Wong

Photo credit: Jason Wong

4.  Revival for mission
The inspired prophet tells a story of a man freezing to death in deep snow, who as he was losing consciousness, heard the moans of a nearby traveller. Realising he too was in a similar state, he made it his sole purpose to save the other man. Upon finding him, he rubbed his frozen limbs in an attempt to warm him before struggling to carry him to safety of a warm place. Only then did the truth dawn on him that in saving his fellow traveller, he had saved himself from freezing to death (Testimonies for the Church 4, 319).

By reaching out to others who are struggling against the attractions of the world, we in turn revive ourselves from the lukewarmness of sitting in the pews. There is no better place to do that then in a small group—where you can share, care, and bear for those around you.

Photo credit: Jason Wong

Photo credit: Jason Wong

5.  Belong then believe
A soul-winning small group provides a neutral and non-confrontational setting to introduce seekers to Jesus. It’s not a social club for church members or a weekly Bible study—it’s so much more.

In a small group, you remove the negative connotations with religion and the stigma associated with a church that many often (mistakenly) hold. A small group is an opportunity to simply build a loving community and family that reflects Christ around each individual.

As distinct and often testing truths—part of “counting the cost” of following Christ—are introduced, the encouragement and support of a small group church family can make the journey easier to bear.

Photo credit: Jason Wong

Photo credit: Jason Wong

6.  Always relevant
When it comes to small groups, there is no such thing as too young or too old. Loving, Christ-like community is relevant and needed at any age and stage in life. Start a small group right where you are: for young professionals, for mothers, for college students, for prison cells, for co-workers.

Want to start your own soul-winning small group?  Here are a few resources:

Redefining Balance

My boots lose traction and suddenly I’m on the ground, feet sprawled forward, head tilted backward. I gaze at the sliver of blue above me peeking out of a blanket of gray. Snow-covered spires glisten as they catch stray sunbeams.

My daily walks these days have afforded me plenty of quality time with the glossy surface of this icy world. We’ve made friends, but now we’re starting to make enemies. I’m ready for spring.

After scrambling to my feet and brushing white powder off my clothes, I continue carefully down the drive, scanning the ground for other icy spots hidden under the snow. Maintaining balance is trickier than you’d think.

Each season of life presents its challenges. But balance is a challenge that seems to defy the changing of the temperature and the turning of the leaves.

I don’t know about you, but balance seems to be a popular word these days. For most of us, however, I think it is a rather vague concept that seems to be impossible for any human to attain.

Rarely do I meet someone who confidently declares that they maintain a balanced lifestyle. Yet finding balance is crucial to living a happy, healthy and successful life.

Who am I to speak though, when just yesterday I was holding my head in my hands, sitting amongst a pile of textbooks, wondering if I could possibly emerge with my sanity intact at the end of the day?

Yet I’m discovering that balance is more than an external put-together-ness—it is the essence of life.

Circumstances might not be perfect. I might not have everything together. But if I stay in tune with God throughout the day instead of attempting to attain equilibrium by myself, success in living a balanced life will be much more likely and much more rewarding.  After all, He is the reason I am even alive today. Simply put, balance is embodied in a living connection with Christ.

As Paul wrote, “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17, NIV).

This type of balance is the glue that holds me together when I have five deadlines in a day.  Balance is a walk in the fresh air, a kiss on a mother’s cheek, a conversation with a friend, a batch of cookies baked, a journal page filled.

So I’m learning to balance in this topsy-turvy world of ours. I’m learning to put my priorities in the right order (His order). And I’m learning to hold His hand as I teeter across the slackline. Will you join me?