Thursday, October 9, 2008

Encountering Thursday

Each year, for the past ten years or so, we have enjoyed the ministry of the Encounter Revival Singers, under the direction of Ardy Parlin, based in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. As I write, I am listening to Come As You Are, a recording made in 2005.

One of the many amazing things about this ministry is that the music is not placed above all else. It comes as a supernatural overflow of young hearts submitting to the teaching and working of God in their lives through the Holy Spirit.

We have not only been blessed by their music and teaching ministry, but have had the privilege of hosting and becoming close to several members of the team over the past ten years. Through the working of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, a number of the team members have had a profound impact on the spiritual lives of each member of our family, especially our two older children.

In the past few years, we have enjoyed seeing several young people from our geographic area, including students from Canaan Christian Academy, become part of this exciting ministry team.

This week, the Encounter Revival Singers are ministering at the Honesdale Gospel Tabernacle in Honesdale. As of yet, I have not been able to get out to see them. But as I mentioned, I am enjoying one of their CD’s as I write.

Yesterday, the team ministered at Canaan Christian Academy. My daughter brought home a card signed by members of the present ministry team. For over an hour this morning, I poured over the comments and scripture references that these young people shared with me – and I was truly blessed.

Today, I hope to share just a portion of the blessings I received as I reflect on what I have learned.

First, some thoughts on God’s truth, reflected through the Encounter singers . . . These are portions of the personal notes written to me by the young people on the team.

God is my strength. He loves me with a perfect love. I can find joy in the Lord during this present tribulation. I can feel His hands in every aspect of my life. I can trust Him no matter what. He loves me more than I know. I have the victory in all things through Christ Jesus. God knows what He is doing. He will never let me down. God renews my strength daily. He is mighty and powerful. He knows the outcome of every situation. God is always here for me. I can rely on Him for strength and encouragement. God has a special purpose for every situation.

The second thing I did was to read and reflect on the Scripture references that were shared with me in the card. Some of the verses are shared below without reflection.

My heart and my flesh fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:26.

After reading this verse, I turned over a few pages in my Bible and read Psalm 84:2, My soul longs, yes, even faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh cry out for the Living God.

We have a wonderful privilege, although too often neglected, to worship the true and living God here on earth with other believers. As great as that is, it must pale in comparison to worshipping Him face to face. I can only begin to imagine what that will be like. But, like David, I long to know.

I will sing of the mercies of the LORD forever. With my mouth will I make known Your faithfulness to all generations. Psalm 89:1.

God is indeed merciful, full of unfailing love. With every breath I take, I pray that I can contribute to this symphony of praise to God for His faithfulness to all generations. Through personal encounters in the days and weeks to come – with my wife, children, other family members, friends, etc., through what I write in this blog; through whatever legacy I am able to leave behind for the glory of God.

[On a side note, my wife and I have been praying for several months now about putting this blog - this story of God working in my life - into some kind of printed form – for the sole purpose of preserving a record of what God has done in our lives and providing hope for others who face similar challenges in life. We have talked with a close friend, a godly young woman and aspiring writer, who is praying about helping us to complete this work. Please pray with us for wisdom and guidance as we seek to do this for God’s glory alone. Please pray that God would take away from us any selfish motives that our hearts may devise.]

For our light affliction, which is for but a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things that are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18.

Paul knew that the weight of future glory was far beyond the pressure of our present suffering in this world. [Physics students, please forgive my mixing of units of measurement!]

In 2 Corinthians 2:14-17, Paul describes the joyful perspective that comes from looking past our present circumstances and placing our focus on our position and privileges in Jesus Christ. [A reading of the first three chapters of Ephesians is a good place to begin to help re-focus on this perspective.] Paul reflects on the privilege of being used as an influence for Christ. His reflection reminds me that we are all called to be an influence for His Gospelin every situation of life. Like Paul, we must thank God for the privilege of serving Him. I know that God is pleased by our faithfulness.

If we are to endure the circumstances of life in a way that pleases God, gives all glory to Him, and matures us in Christlikeness, we must learn to look beyond the visible to the invisible, from the physical to the spiritual, from the temporary to what is lasting. We must be consumed with the pursuit of God – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The pursuit of knowing Him.

[Wow! I have to interject. A dear sister in Christ, Rebecca, recorded a CD of some of my favorite hymns and spiritual songs – featuring both her piano and vocal skills. What a gift! Thank you, my dear sister. Thank you for helping me to draw out whatever talent has God has given me by allowing yourself to be humbled with the likes of me. We never had the opportunity to record a CD together, but perhaps we will sing together in heaven – for His glory alone.]

You will show me the path of life; in Your presence as fullness of joy, at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11

[Wow, Rebecca! I can’t type through the tears as you sing Your Eye Is on the Sparrow. Thanks for providing the soundtrack for my life. This is surely it.]

One of the things I long to do, that I need to do, is to spend more time in personal self-evaluation.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24.

By far, the most mentioned Scripture reference in the card from the Encounter Team was Isaiah 4:27-31. As I have reflected a great deal on this passage in this blog in the past, I will keep my reflections brief here. Isaiah writes to remind the people of what they already know – that God has not forgotten them and that He is not ignorant of their present condition. He was not too weak to act on their behalf. In the words of John MacArthur, praying believers are blessed by God with strength in trials.

Oh, what a morning! What a blessing to enjoy the ministry of God’s Word through these young people. To listen to the music that flows out of young hearts devoted to learning and living out His Word. And to listen to the love that a dear Christian sister has poured into a recording that glorifies our God and floods my soul with praise and thanksgiving for the God who created and redeemed me for His glory.


Abel Family News said...

We saw the Encounter Revival Singers, last night, at the Honesdale Gospel Tabernacle, where my daughter goes to AWANA.

During the program, we were all asked to stand and sing along during a few songs.

"How Great Is Our God" one of my favorite songs...and that was one song that we sang together last night during the Ministry.

We had a wonderful time!

Our family is keeping you in our thoughts and prayers.

We don't know you, but after I found your story and blog in the newspaper, I read it daily.

In fact,your blog is now the first place I go after turning on the computer, in the morning.

It is so inspiring!

Anonymous said...

Miss you all, and continue to pray for you. Jim, we are so encouraged to see all the people that you are impacting through the blog and newspaper articles. we would love to see what you wrote in your 800 word guest writer article. Praying for the relief of pain, and for God to be glorified even in that. We are well, Grandpa Woodall is coming for a visit this weekend. Tell the kids and Merrily hello for us.

kristie and jamie

Peas on Earth said...

Our friend, Aaron, also has cancer (just finished round 5 of chemo), and is also a teacher (Associate Professor of Psychology and Counseling at Central Baptist College in Arkansas). You guys might connect, and could be an encouragment to each other. If you feel up to checking out his blog:
God bless!!

jason said...

I will include you in our prayers at our Covenant marriage Seminars.

holy order said...

May your Family Blessings never end.