Being home has made me realize what a privilege attending ARISE was for my life. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was undoubtedly there! I did not know much about the instructors, but before I came I prayed that they would speak the truth of the gospel. And that they did. From the first class, my mind was full and my heart was beating for Christ. They completely exceeded my expectations. Every instructor and guest speaker had a love for Christ that I had never seen before. No matter where you were on your walk, there was never, in any type of way, judgment or condemnation. They were real humans, and every class they humbled themselves before Christ with constant prayer for the Holy Spirit’s leading. And it was evident that by the end of every session God had spoken through them.
From the first class, my mind was full and my heart was beating for Christ.
It was at this program that I began to allow Christ to heal my shattered heart. I know now that I was crushing it by carrying the weight of my own guilt and shame. I realized these were burdens I no longer had to bear. Everything was centered on the love Jesus has for sinners like me, and with each passing day my walls were breaking down. It was here where I heard God’s voice speak louder than I’ve ever heard, yet in the most quiet, peaceful way. It was here that I had to let go of many hard things and place them in Christ’s left hand, and like a gentlemen, He held me with His right one. It was here that I saw the cross of Calvary in a whole new light and learned how to center Christ in every biblical, doctrinal truth. It was here that I learned that I could know the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation inside and out, yet without the love of Christ in my heart, it would profit nothing.
It was here that I saw the power of prayer and the true meaning of discipleship. It was here that I saw how going out of your comfort zone and into the community does make a difference. I found people who are waiting for Christ-like Christians to inform them that they are loved and that there is a GOD OF LOVE waiting to embrace them. It was here that I have seen the mighty hand of God work during every outreach. The stories that we shared after outreach brought tears to my eyes on so many occasions and with each story, my faith increased. It was here that I realized you don’t have to know everything in order to show people Christ, but through small acts of kindness, someone’s life can forever be changed. It was here that I witnessed first-hand how full the harvest certainly is!
There was a small group of people that surprisingly told me I have a nice singing voice (I told you mom—they exist!) and I also learned how God has blessed many with the ability to sing. It was here that I learned to appreciate and see the beauty in singing for Jesus. There are people that sing not for their own glory, but rather to honor God! I have heard beautiful voices all in harmony, singing to our Redeemer, and I can tell you, there is no greater privilege than to sing to Jesus Christ. I even learned that no matter how many times you sing the same hymn, the words never lose their meaning—I will forever have the hymn 448 engraved in my mind!
At ARISE, I encountered the glorious gift of friendship. I have seen the good, bad, and the ugly sides of my classmates (and myself) yet I would gladly give my life for them. I have seen the charming character of Christ in every single one of them and that is definitely a rare find. I will never forget every smile, every laugh, and every tear that we endured together. I have not just friends for a lifetime, but a family. It was here that we formed a bond so strongly connected with Christ that when one had a burden, we all felt the pain. It was here that I learned how selfish I truly am, yet how patient my family was with me. I will most assuredly cherish our memories at ARISE forever.
It was here that my heart had been abundantly filled with the love that Christ has for me. I always knew He loved the world, but for the Son of God to love me? I must say that it was here that I have fallen deeply in love with Jesus Christ, in such a way that I cannot imagine life without Him. It was here that I learned to walk with Christ, trusting in His covenantal faithfulness, because where I fall short, His mercy and grace abounds much more. And though my nature is to be unfaithful to Him, He is always faithful to His Word. It was here that God tried me through the fire and it hurt at times, but with much prayer and faith the size of a mustard seed, we got through it together. It was here that I learned the moment you begin letting doubt and fear come into your head, to fall on your knees and seek help from Jesus Christ, because without Him we tread on dangerous ground. It was here that I learned many hard lessons and that no matter what, I can do nothing on my own, but with Christ all things are possible.
I learned to walk with Christ, trusting in His covenantal faithfulness, because where I fall short, His mercy and grace abounds much more.
And I must brag for a moment that it was here, at ARISE 2014, that I tasted the most delicious vegan and vegetarian food on the planet, and I am not exaggerating. Every meal prepared by our outstanding chef Beverly (who I am convinced was an angel sent by God) was delicious to say the least. The colors, the taste, and the aromas of her cooking are literally making me hungry as I type. I must say that my taste buds would dance after every meal and I praise God that He gave us our five senses. It was here that I still did not learn to cook (working on it), but that God truly blesses those who seek Him. I learned here that God gives talents to everyone and mine are not found in the kitchen, but I thank God that He gave us a woman who has that talent!
Out of everything, one of the most important things I have learned is that the closer you come to Jesus, the closer your love and compassion grows towards others. It was easy for one to say, “I love God,” but before ARISE, I found it very difficult to actually love people! But it was here that I soon discovered that only by submitting your will to Jesus, does He then take hold of the reigns of your heart. The more I saw how gently Christ handled me, it changed how I handled His children, even those “hard-to-get-along-with” brothers and sisters. After all, these are souls in which our Lord died to save! It was here that Christ taught me to be patient with others, for He is patient with me. These past three months have changed my life forever and I owe it all to Jesus Christ working in real humans; for He is in the business of changing hearts every day.
Lastly, it was attending ARISE that I learned some of the valuable history lessons of our Advent history. It was here that I beheld with my own eyes the godliest couple to ever exist (I haven’t met every couple on earth, but it is true for me). And under his teaching I have taken with me the most beautiful quote, written by one amazing woman and messenger of God, which states, “We have nothing to fear for the future, except we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history.” It was after these special classes that I came to appreciate our Advent history and how biblical the Advent movement really was! It was here, at ARISE, that a new kind of fire was set ablaze to go share Christ’s last message to the world. What a privilege it is to be a co-worker with Christ and to share the three angels’ messages to every nation, tribe, and people. It was here that I learned Christ is waiting for His people to manifest His character in their own lives, and to be active laborers with Him!
I learned Christ is waiting for His people to manifest His character in their own lives, and to be active laborers with Him!
My experience at ARISE has given me a paradigm shift (I sound like Ty), and I see this life through a whole new lens and it is beautiful! If we want to see a change in this world, don’t be afraid to BE the change. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth… for therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, the just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:16-17). Faith is the victory! If we want to see our Lord return soon, we must not sit around and wait! He bids us to “take up our cross and follow Him.”
This is my appeal (are you ready James, Ty, Jeffery and David?): my brothers and sisters, how would we live our lives if we knew Christ was returning in two years? We must all ask ourselves, as God-fearing Christians, are we willing to give up everything, even our lives and follow Him? Christ has endured the enormous weight of this sinful world and conquered death for our sake! How undeserving are we, yet He invites us to fall in love with Him and that where He is, there we may be also. My friends, I have lost a lot during the past three months, but in return I have gained the most filling peace, comfort, and happiness I have ever known. What are you still holding on to? “For whosever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:35-36). There is nothing this world has to offer, no amount of money, fame, reputation, etc., because all those things pass away, but there is hope in the gospel and there is life in His blood. We are loved, we are not slaves, and we are not accidents, but God himself manifested in flesh came down to us, and said, “I have called you friends…” I have found my Best Friend, who loves me just as I am. I have met my Father, who loves His daughter more than His own life and sometimes has to rebuke and chasten me but it’s always out of love. He desires me to grow and be more mature but to never forget my need and dependence on Him, because He wants to give me all my heart’s desires. We are ALL a part of this love story and the God of love desires a relationship with us! He is truly a God named Desire (I totally stole that from Ty).
I have lost a lot during the past three months, but in return I have gained the most filling peace, comfort, and happiness I have ever known.
After that amazing appeal I just shared with you all, I will end with this. I have learned also that separation is not the way God intended humans to be. But a humble man once said, “We are not separating, but stretching….” So to you, my ARISE family, I thank God for how He placed every single one of you in my life. I have witnessed Jesus in all of you and have learned so much from our time together. Remember our memory verse (that’s right, Matt Minikus!) “And lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” No matter where we are in this world, Christ Jesus is with us! So, until we meet again, whether on this earth or on that blessed day, may you all keep your eyes fixed upon Jesus the Rock.