Revival

IMG_5147

Our church started Exodus, a mentorship program, years ago where we would take some of the youth on a camping/backpacking trip. The program consisted of an overnight backpacking hike and a shorter day hike, with a sharing at night from the Word followed by some one-on-one time with each youth paired with a leader. We just got back from I think the fourth trip, this time spending four nights at Yosemite national park.

This actually was my first trip since I was busy with either medical school or residency. What an amazing time we had these past couple of days. We went on the backpacking trip first, making our way up to the top of Yosemite Falls. The hike was only about 3.5 mi one way, but it utterly destroyed my quads. We basically climbed stairs for about 5 hours carrying 40 lb packs.

IMG_4915

IMG_4938

 

We spent the night there and explored the river feeding the falls the next day before hiking back down. Going down was easier, but again quads-destroying going down those steps. We made it in about three hours.

IMG_5001

 

100_0431

For our day hike, we made our way to Vernal Falls. The original plan was to continue on to the next waterfall, but we cut short the hike since most of us were out of commission. I was pretty happy about that.

IMG_5089

I prayed for this trip that God would work tangibly in our group and that we would come away with an unmistakable experience of His presence. I wanted to see revival happen in our church, starting with these guys and in myself. God certainly answered.

When we think revival, the picture we conjure up often is fire coming down from heaven Acts 2 style and miracles starting to be performed. That didn’t happen, but there were some close fire encounters back at camp with the lighter fluid…

I read something by Tim Keller recently that I really liked. He writes that revival is not necessarily seeing crazy miracles, but “is an intensification of the normal operations of the Spirit (conviction of sin, regeneration, sanctification, assurance of grace) through the ordinary means of grace (preaching the Word, prayer, and the sacraments)” (Center Church, loc 1253). Through the conversations on the hike, interacting with the messages shared, and one-on-one times, we saw hearts soften, sins confessed, relational issues confronted, and a deepening dependence on what Christ has done for us.

For myself, the Spirit convicted me again of my pride (and of course that would be the case since the topic I shared on was pride), from my silly pride in my thighs to again bringing to mind my strong tendency to depend on myself. Being in such close fellowship with the brothers made me realize again how independently I was living in all aspects of my life.

As a church leader I think the temptation is to always be in serving mode and it is difficult to open yourself up to be ministered to. There is a pressure to live a certain way, to have an image that I have everything figured out spiritually, and to have to keep that up is not just exhausting, but so stifling to my spiritual growth and what I can offer to others. We see this kind of dynamic in medicine as well, with doctors always having to do the caring while neglecting their self-care.

One brother made the comment that if he had to do the hike up to Yosemite Falls by himself wearing the pack, he wouldn’t have made it. I have to agree; I was already having second thoughts after the third switch-back five minutes in. We need one another, but it is so easy to isolate ourselves because of either shame or condescension, thinking ourselves better. The cross takes care of both of those, reminding us that we are all sinners on equal standing before God, but that in Christ we can be fully accepted through forgiveness of sins.

To all the guys that made it to the trip, I’m so thankful for the experiences shared. I pray that God would continue what He started, and that we will continue to grow as a church in dependence on God, and interdependence on one another.

Check out my Facebook page for more pictures! And if you are bored, there’s a silly game for a chance to win this!

IMG_20140612_080417772-2

 

Help

The sisters of our church threw a brother’s appreciation night this past weekend. The theme was “Heros” and the encouragement was for us to be strong and courageous in the Lord  (Joshua 1:6). A big thanks for all the work and love that was put into that night, it was amazing! It made me think a bit about strength, and what it means to be strong in the Lord. It’s a very different picture than what this world paints as being strong.

It’s a bit ironic that those of us who spend our lives helping others find it so hard to seek out help ourselves. We make the worst patients, most of us refusing to go to the doctors until we absolutely have to. We probably won’t admit it, but I suspect most of us see neediness as a weakness. It is weak to have to ask for help, because that is acknowledging that we can’t do life by ourselves.

Society tells us that we need to be strong in ourselves, that weakness is bad. If we aren’t careful, we might think the Bible teaches that too. We might point to the example of Paul. 2 Corinthians 11 gives us just a taste of what Paul endured and triumphed over: shipwrecks, beatings, prison, even stoning! Yet his words in 2 Corinthians 12:10 is shocking to our western sensibilitiies: “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” God gave Paul an affliction to remind him that it’s only in his weakness that he experiences God’s strength.

It shouldn’t surprise us that those who have learned to depend on themselves find it difficult to feel close to God. It’s the old problem of our pride, wanting to be our own God rather than to surrender to our creator. It isn’t until we come to the end of ourselves, understand our inability to save ourselves, that we can truly experience the power of God in our lives. The medical journey is hard, and we might think we are being humble by not complaining and plowing through. That’s actually our pride, and Satan is pleased by that.

It is a huge tragedy that depression and substance abuse in the health profession is more common than we would like to admit, and much of this is related to our inability to put to death our pride and call out for help. It is not weak to need others. It certainly is not weak to need God. We were created to live in relationship with both. When we try to fight against that, we can get into deep trouble. Is there a burden in your life that you need help carrying? Let’s lay aside our pride so that we can really embrace and experience life as it was intended.

9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10