Camping at Clear Lake

Update: Imagestation is back up, and so our more camping pictures!

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Pictures on my website and more on facebook. Imagestation is down now but when it goes up, there will be more.

Perks:

I saw a shooting star for the very first time in my life at Clear Lake. It was awesome. The sky was so clear and there were so many stars out. Stars are pretty. I should star gaze more at Cornell :)

NYTS 2007: Introduction, Reflections, and Thoughts

Introduction to the True Jesus Church

The True Jesus Church, an independent Christian church, was established in China in 1917. Its establishment and growth are very much like that of the apostolic church in the book of Acts; established not by people but by the descending of the Holy Spirit, and through its power, spreading one gospel and one doctrine throughout the world.

Introduction to NYTS

NYTS stands for National Youth Theological Seminar. It is an annual two week seminar held by the True Jesus Church in the United States, alternating every year between the west coast and the east coast. Participants mainly come from everywhere in the United States, Canada, Taiwan, China, and United Kingdom, ranging in age from college freshman to young married couples. The schedule is packed with prayer, lectures, bible study, and hymn singing so it is an event that emphasizes both biblical knowledge and spiritual cultivation. As intense as it sounds, the seminar is extremely refreshing and everybody gains a lot and wishes it could be longer, even if it seems to drag a bit in the beginning.

My NYTS experience this year

Originally I had not planned on coming to NYTS because I was in the middle of an internship and didn’t think I could get time off. I should’ve asked my manager early on but I didn’t, which was kind of stupid. Anyways, I’m thankful that my manager is really nice and said he had no problem with me taking a week off, even though I asked like 2 weeks in advance. The plane ticket was expensive but well worth the trip.

A large part of NYTS is the group experience; participants are divided up into groups of about 10 people. Everyday the group shares thoughts and prayer requests and reflections, which leads to the formation of good spiritual friendships and joyful fellowship in the Lord. But because I planned on attending last minute, I could not register and thus could not be placed in a group. But thank God that there were a few other auditors as well, and three of them stayed at my house for the week. This allowed us to unofficially form our own group and share our personal testimonies, prayer requests, and reflections with each other. And what a great group it was, albeit small. On Friday night, the beginning of the Sabbath day, before we went to sleep, we all read a Bible passage together and shared our thoughts on verses that struck us. We shared a lot of our life experiences related to the passage, often times a testament to the truth of God’s word. It was really a joyful gathering and as I sat and listened to what everybody had to say, I thought to myself, “So this is what true fellowship is. This is what true Sabbath worship is. How wonderful it is.” Even though we had only known each other for a few days, because we are of the same church and doctrine, we were able to easily understand each other and develop spiritual bonds. And we were able to pray together in the Spirit.

The first time we shared prayer requests with each other, one of us said he did not have the Holy Spirit. We decided to fast and pray for each other that day. The brother who did not have the Holy Spirit fasted the whole day, amounting to at least 3 hours of prayer total, except at the very end when he gave in and ate dessert. He said that after he ate dessert, he felt bad because he told God that he would fast the whole day for the Holy Spirit. After he felt bad, he went in to the chapel to pray. When it was time to go home for the night, I went and got him from the chapel. He said that he thought he felt his tongue begin to spin a little bit, but he wasn’t sure if it was him doing it or the Holy Spirit beginning to move him. On the car ride home, we all encouraged him to have faith and keep praying. He told us that this was not the first time he had prayed in tongues, for he had received the Holy Spirit before but lost it twice because he failed to change from his life of sin, and because he doubted that he had the Holy Spirit. When I heard this, I was shocked because I had never heard of anyone losing the Holy Spirit more than once. I decided to keep praying very hard for this brother, because I felt that despite his initial reluctant attitude towards being at NYTS, he was serious about changing his life, and I knew that God knew he was too. That night when we got home, he went in the bathroom to shower. When he came out, he told us that in the bathroom he started to pray to see if he would start praying in tongue like he did in the chapel earlier. Immediately after he said “In the name of Jesus Christ I pray,” his tongue began to roll. When he felt this, he quickly said “Amen” to end the prayer, because he did not want to doubt the Holy Spirit again. The next day, during afternoon prayer, the pastors confirmed that he had received the Holy Spirit.

To witness someone pursue the Holy Spirit and receive it is truly remarkable. After he received it again, he knew what he had to do; he had to cut off his sinful ways and his friends that lead him to sin, even though he was close to them. He knew that God does not give the Holy Spirit for the third time easily, and that he had to change his life, which he had failed to do in the past. I felt truly joyful for him because I knew that he had received something so precious and important. It also served as a reminder that yes, God does hear our prayers, and that yes, God is indeed merciful.

For myself, during my prayers, I thought a lot about what I needed to change in my life as well. I need to spend less time pursuing my own worldly enjoyment and more time seeking God and meditating on his word. The more I thought about what I needed to change, the more I felt that, truly, all I really need is God in my life and I’ll be satisfied. That though I still have strong attachments to the things in the world such as music, movies, the internet, time with friends, and others, that deep down in my soul, all I really desire is God in my life and in my heart, and thus, I can learn to let the other things go. If I only had God, I would be completely content. And because of this feeling, I should spend more of my time drawing closer to Him instead of living to please myself.

Post NYTS reflection and thoughts

Naturally, I’ve made some resolutions. A lot of them are the same as last year, which I didn’t do such a good job keeping. The main ones are devoting the Sabbath day (from Friday evening to Saturday evening) to God, staying away from movies that are rated R (or should be rated R), limiting my time on the internet and using it wisely (no more aimless youtubing and facebooking), and writing in my journal EVERY night, to at least write down any blessings I’ve received for that day. Of course, the time I save from not watching so many movies and surfing the web I will use for things that will benefit me, like prayer, bible study, reflecting, and homework :p

A verse that I came across years ago but still makes me feel ashamed every time I read it is Hebrews 10:38 – “And my righteous one will live by faith, and if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.” Every time I read this verse, my conscious is not clear because I KNOW that I have shrunk back; I’ve shrunk back from my resolutions, from my beliefs, and from spending time with God. But at the same time, this verse also serves as a motivator for me to keep going. I do not want God to look at me and feel only disappointment. Rather, how wonderful it would be if God found my life commendable in his sight, if he wasn’t ashamed to be called my God.

It’s already been a couple of weeks since I left NYTS and thank God that I still thirst for him very much. Before I felt like reading the bible and praying was sort of like a drag, and they were things that I should do because I’m a Christian. But now that I’m getting a small taste of what “real life” will be in terms of the daily routine with work, I feel like there isn’t enough time to do the bible reading, praying, and reflection that I want to do everyday. And because there wasn’t that much time between work, commuting, cooking/eating dinner, and running errands, I thirst for the Sabbath to come so I can finally put everything else aside at the end of the week and just focus on the Lord. Now I understand when Jesus said “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”

I can only hope that I can persevere in thirsting for God and following through with my resolutions. I hope that whenever I feel sad, I will ask myself “Why are you so downcast, o my soul? (Psalm 42)” I hope that whenever I feel that it is too difficult to put God first, God will remind me: “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit.” (Zech 4:6) I hope that whenever I feel frustrated and unfortunate, I will think to myself: “Blessed are those whose God is the Lord. (Psalm 144:15, 146:5)”