This is my first journal entry as part of the OCC Volunteer Discovery Trip, The introductory article for this series is available here.
Everyone who goes on our Discovery Trip (or any mission’s trip) needs to be prepared spiritually! Just like you get vaccinations before the trip, we need to bolster our spiritual health before we go. We need “prophylactic” preparation to prevent spiritual sickness on our Discovery Trips. In other words we need instruction from God’s Word, on managing our spiritual health while we are there.
That is why our trip starts before we even leave! Please spent time journalling, praying and sharing what God is already teaching you… even before you leave!
START HERE: READ REVELATION 21:5-7
5 And the one sitting on the throne said,”Look, I am making everything new” And then he said to me,”Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” 6 And he also said,”It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. 7 All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children.
Take another look at this verse. It starts with the word “Look!” which is something like when someone yells “Hey!” at you. How you react to that may depend on the person who is doing the yelling. If you were not expecting it and your parents yell “Hey!” what would your first thought be?
- Your best friend
- The police
- Your youth leader/pastor
Thought: What if God yelled “Hey!” to you, so clearly you could hear it? What would you think? Something good, bad, curious, scary or something else?
Sometimes we can assume that God is always going to talk to us like a police officer, or give us bad news, or yell at us about doing something wrong. But this verse does not sound anything like that. Jesus is getting our attention so that we can see the amazing, life-changing, miraculous NEW things He is doing. That is good news!
This week, as Jesus is trying to get your and my attention, He is doing it so we hear Good News and see Him doing good work. Jesus is making everything new. That is great news!
Think about and answer this question for a few minutes: What is Jesus already doing, before I even hop on the plane, that is NEW?
Close in prayer asking God to help you see how Jesus will be working for the rest of the week before you leave on your Discovery Trip. Remember, He is making everything new!
This is my first opportunity, after having converted the entire journal from hard-copy into electronic format, to share some general thoughts. One motivation for me to digitize the journal was an intentional method for me to read through the entire 14-day reading plan. As a technique, having to type something up from another (physical) source forces you to read the material. Even if I am not thinking too hard about what I am reading, I rarely just reproduce what I read word for word as a literal copy and paste. Probably 95% of what I read gets replicated, but I always read and discern the material as a form of processing the data so that what I do write makes sense to me. Thus, whilst I detected some minor formatting issues, I also rewrote the material in full; that is I removed all instances of words like “didn’t” and rewrote it in full as “did not”, etc…
As I worked my way through this process, I also had a second intention to include the actual Bible references that the plan directed me to – Revelation 21:5-7, Ephesians 2:8-10, etc… To do this, I did copy and paste from BibleGateway. What I found was that at various times in the journal reading plan, the content made direct reference to the passage. This direct referencing meant that I needed to spend some time initially to work out the best version of the Bible to use. The default New International Version (NIV) was not the best choice since the first passage Revelation 21:5-7 did not use the word “Look” and instead had “Behold”. The King James version(s) also had the same “Behold”. I ended up selecting the New Living Translation (NLT) version which did offer the precise wording of “Look”. Whilst the meaning of “behold” and “look” is similar, I do want to try to select a version of the Bible that aligns as closely as possible to the material. Whilst I intend to have my phone present with me during the trip, I figure that if I can merge the Bible passages with the Journal, which will accompany me as a print-out, it will save me time during the trip.
The journal covers the seven days leading up to the Discovery Trip and then seven days of the trip itself. The journal is generic in this way, not specifically designed for any one of the Discovery Trips, but I have just noticed that the shortest of the three trips is seven days, which may explain why the journal ends there. Since, as part of my reproduction of the material, I inserted days & dates into the headings, I realise that I may need to drop the dates from the trip days itself…
The journal, as a generic artefact, also aims at creating a level playing field and thus takes all us participants through the same foundation material in helping us all connect to God. The “one sizes fits all” model is appropriate given participants come together from all different parts of the church community, different denominations, and these trips have been known to include high school-aged members.
The topic of “God First” and timing of the Discovery Trips is great given the current focus that my church has had over the month of January. I also pushed my life-group to meet, informally, on the first Wednesday of the year so that we could put God first. This desire to meet up in early January was also in response to the sermon preached on that first Sunday From Exhausted to Energised. God has always been the main motivating force and driver behind my service to Samaritan’s Purse and Operation Christmas Child, as a ministry that Clayton Church has been participating in. In particular, it appeals to me as something where I can get involved at the local church level, and also extend further and tap into a much bigger state, national and global program. Going on this Discovery Trip is a part of the two-three year journey, where I will get to not just observe but also be a literal part of the distribution process. Making myself available as a worker for God’s harvest is what this is all about; having the willingness to step forward and say to God “Here I am, use me”. The words of the song The Potter’s Hands come to mind, specifically the chorus:
Take me and mold me, use me, fill me
I give my life to the Potter’s hand
Call me, You guide me, lead me, walk beside me
I give my life to the Potter’s hand
Answering and addressing the questions from the guide above, when I think about the whole concept of getting someone’s attention via words like “Look!”, “Behold!”, or “Hey!”, my first thought is to stepping back from the immediate context/situation and seeking to understand the bigger picture. That is how I have been trained to think – what is the situation in which these words are being uttered, since that will provide context. Now, without over-analysing the situation, my thought process includes things like – when we are already in conversation with someone, there is no need for that person to try to get the attention of the other person. Therefore, the starting point assumed for people to fully apply this Word is that the person is not already in conversation with God, or as the guide suggests, parents, best friends, police, or the youth leader/pastor. This brings me back to the earlier general point that the material presented is an attempt to normalise the entire team, and thus caters for people who may not already converse with God regularly, Nevertheless, this is a good reminder for believers to start the day in conversation with God.
Now, I am not attempting to elevate myself and say that what I am doing in terms of my daily walk and conversations with God is the right way, but for me, the journey I have been on with God means that I talk and think about God many times a day. Much of my life, at work or where-ever I am, I have learnt and I continue to see the world with God guiding me and leading me. Thus, for me, when God says “Look!” it is an opportunity to reset and refocus to see what specific thing/person he wants to bring to my attention. I like the analogy that the Holy Spirit dwelling in me is like a fine mist permeating all around my life and being. I have sat under God’s Word and teaching for many years but the real test is how I apply it all to living out my life. Thus, God is not yelling out “Hey!” to me in my current journey, for me personally, it is a less extreme attention-grabbing call since He already has my attention. Instead, the “Hey!” I picture God saying to me is in a conversational tone, it is not good or bad – it is simply Him getting my attention. What follows is key: “I am making everything new!”.
I totally agree that He is making everything new. Right now, the tail end of January 2016, I see this truism playing out – my church is being made new and whole again, particularly after the leadership dramas of 2015. I sense that at a macro level, my career life is also reaching a point of transition. New doors are going to be opened and God will lead me through. In a lot of ways, the future events of 2016 were lined up from 2015. This Discovery Trip is very much a part of that connection between the immediate past and now. While my life is busy, God is first amidst it all – He and His calling bind all these aspects of my life together. My faith has grown and been tested in ways that highlight Jesus is my firm foundation and pillar of strength. In many ways, the journey I have walked thus far is the same journey and path to be followed for 2016. I am always mindful that I should fill my time with God-honouring activities and that I am not simply busy for the wrong reasons.
It is my prayer that God will inspire and help fuel a new conviction in me; a mindset and discipline that I can sustain throughout the year. I ask God to constantly remind me of His presence in my day-to-day life, helping me see the things He wants me to see, to be present in the lives of people around me. I was very conscious that going on this Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip would create an expectancy that God would be totally awesome over those 11 days of travel and to instead pursue a God-filled life even now in Melbourne. In that way, January had already been filled with some God-driven opportunities to share His love with people around me. Being able to support friends during their time of need, praying and encouraging them in both spiritual and physical/material ways.