Sorry it took so long to get to this in. But there is quite a bit to say about the spiritual side of my Philadelphia trip. There was so much immaturity (as explained before), but there was a time for seriousness and God. Because, after all, what is – or should be – the most important thing?
The basic schedule for every day would go something like this: Wake up, be at breakfast at 7:15, be at the worksite from about 8:20ish – 2:00, get something special (e.g. Italian water ice, snacks), wait until our turn for showers, ‘huddle’ with church group to talk about the day (our church split into two groups), free time, dinner, and then club. Although I’ve had things that have come close, club was something very different than my previous worship experiences. There was a rock band playing worship songs, and people just being more on the wild side for God. I like that – when people aren’t afraid to raise their hands, or do whatever they want. My church is more stoic, if you will – they just stand there. I’m not saying that they don’t mean what they sing, but I find it much more meaningful and freeing in a way when people raise their hands, so that you don’t really have to be restrained to keeping your arms at your side and every now and then clapping to a more upbeat song.
But club was a crazy (good) wild. They played one of my absolute favorite worship songs – 10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord) by Matt Redman. I prefer it to a more acoustic guitar version ‘as written’, but it was interesting to hear it the rock way too. Back to the point… after the worship part, there would be a kind of pre-speaker, and then an actual speaker, who was different every night. The pre-speaker was one time a guy who tells stories as a profession, I think, who told us a story (shocking I know), to give you an idea. The speakers were amazing. The first night, the director, Ray (who I mentioned in the previous post), gave the talk. He discussed being ‘right’ – right with yourself, God, and others. Are you? Have you been? Are you moving in that direction? You need to be right with yourself first, however, to be right with anyone else. The next day, a guy came to talk about being ‘foolish for God’. Not the stupid foolish. But the non-conformist foolish. The kind of person who doesn’t care about what other people think, because they are too busy caring about being God’s child. So worship foolishly – be unrestrained, worship God how you want to because it’s Him. Be foolishly generous – the speaker gave a challenge: before you die, give it all away. Splurge on strangers. Instead of being scared of pan-handling homeless people, generously give. In order to change your life, God gave his life – can you give anything better? Be foolish with what we do with our lives – don’t follow what others think. But also remember that everyone is called to some kind of ministry, so find a way to do so, whatever path you go on. And remember: there will be different paths, but stay on the straight and narrow. The next night there was a kind of rapper guy who reminded me of this guy. His message was on justice and his main line was: “Shout the gospel even when no one shouts.” If you understand that Jesus died for your sins, your work will not be as difficult. Justice is about God, and God is about justice. Jesus came to serve the lonely, the needy, the lost – to serve justice. And if you understand God’ s love, you have to love him.
There were only three messages – the fourth night there was a barbecue and we had more of a church service, and the fifth night there was a come-to-God time. But I want to go back to the last message, the one about justice. Justice in this context basically means service and love – to everyone. In Ephesians 1:19-20, it says: “I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe in him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.” I think they should also add God’s love to God’s power, since it’s part of the reason he went down and back up again. If you recognize that, I think you will be more inclined to show God’s love to others, because you realized what he did for you. Like I said before – he gave his perfect son to die for all of us. We are so imperfect, and he did it for absolutely no reason. Think about that – is there any real point? We mess up every day, and if you run today through your mind, I’m sure there’s at least one point where you messed up. But Jesus came down anyways. And here’s the kicker: On that cross, as he was dying and suffering, he was thinking about you – and he thought that you were so worth it. I’m not trying to preach a sermon (although I think I just did!), but that’s kind of the reason why I love Jesus. Christianity is the only religion where the god comes down to become human, and dies for the people around him.
That week at Philadelphia was a week of discovering love – God’s love for me and for all of us. As I said in my previous post (A Swift Kick to the Butt, $1), why should we be slamming others for sinning differently than us? Or just being different than us in general? We should look at the world with God’s eyes. He gave so much for us – the least we can do is simply try to love him and his people the way he loved us. But I also found out that even when we mess up, we can think like Chicken Little: “Today is a new day!”
“God is love. He didn’t need us. But he wanted us. And that is the most amazing thing.” -Rick Warren