Note: I recently made a ministry trip to Iceland by piggy-backing with a service mission group from another church. To say that our travel plans were turned upside down is an understatement! And this was BEFORE the computer crash Delta had. Anyway, what follows is what I wrote for the group for consideration about those events and how to process them. It is written as a personal letter to the team.
Reflections On Iceland 2016 (James 1:5)
Greetings in Jesus’ strong name my brothers and sisters in Christ! I count it a great joy to have met each of you & watched you serve our God in Iceland. I pray for each of you weekly. Now…
I know I don’t have to recount for you the hiccups in our travel to and from Iceland. But for posterity’s sake, here’s a quick overview… (Many details left out. Please send any to me you’d like and I will incorporate them in a second & final edition).
Birmingham August 5, 2015. Excitement. Anticipation. T-Shirts. Prayer. Then Atlanta…
In Atlanta they told us our plane was too big to land at JFK, so we were being moved to another and would miss our connection to Iceland. We were rerouted to London England… given a room for the night and two meals. SIGHT SEEING! BUT, we would be split into two groups from there to Iceland… One went to Dusseldorf Germany and the other Manchester England.
Personal Aside: Because I’m OCD regarding time, I just missed the first group leaving London and was too early for the 2nd group. I got confused, struck out on my own, and met group 1 in Manchester but my group (Group 2) thought something had happened. Jeremy thought I might be DEAD! In case you didn’t know, the early reports of my death were blown out of proportion. Thank you Jeremy!
At some point Charlie said something like, “This must be going to be a significant trip or so many things wouldn’t be happening.” Little did we know what was to come. I think I even heard that The Adversary was trying to disrupt our plans. Upon reflection that was not the case.
After a day or two in Iceland I told Charlie I thought I had a reason for things happening as they had and God’s purpose for all of us on the trip. But that is for later…
Once in Iceland there were many bonding events and times for new experiences along with spiritual growth… the best of which may have been meeting Pastor Agust and his wife Cola. Planting trees… painting a fence (?!)… “chance” encounter in a cemetery… erecting a swing set (Special skills required! Coincidence? No!), a museum at Agust’s farm… a young girl connecting with our ladies… Johann… sightseeing (Geyser, waterfalls, volcanos, scenery, Churches, etc!).
The plans for our extrication from Iceland were fraught with oddities and weirdness. Two left one day… Levi and I left alone and separately… the rest stayed together. Cities and connections I have forgotten. I know Levi went to Florida, I went to Atlanta, the rest went to Orlando later in the day as a group… where their plane had mechanical difficulties before they could get to Atlanta to barley make their connection to get home to Birmingham. HUGE POINT: Eventually we all arrived home safely!
Now for what I think the trip was about: I think God was showing all of us, especially the younger group, what life as a Christian is, how to understand and process it. Let me explain…
Think of all the delays… missed connections… rerouting… frustrations… changing of plans made weeks in advance… things we wanted to do but couldn’t (Worship, Lord’s Supper), etc., etc., etc…
It is possible God (!) decided to show us, if we would listen, what life is. He took a seventy year or so life span and condense it into one week. How? At this point I ask you to consider the Scripture. These are worth memorizing and keeping close to your heart.
Ja 1:5, If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
Dt 8:2 And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that He might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.
Ps 66:10 For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried.
Ps 81:7 I tested you at the waters of Meribah.
Pr 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
Eph 1:11 Having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of His will…
Ro 8:28 God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son…
Now a few questions in light of the Scripture. Did God CAUSE our disruptions to teach us lessons? Was GOD the one willing events rather than the Adversary SO THAT we would learn lessons and mature in Christ? Are we glad, looking back, that those things happened the way they did? And will we learn the bigger lessons to take with us through the rest of our life?
My perspective is that God showed us in one week what life will be like from time to time. He showed us there is more to understand in the moment than what seems to be obvious.
If our flight from Atlanta to JFK hadn’t blown up, we wouldn’t have seen London. A Hindu wouldn’t have heard the Gospel in NYC. And there are many other things we experienced that required the perceived change of plans we experienced. So consider… (Thanks Charlie for the last two quotes):
Just because we don’t see how something can be good DOESN’T mean it ISN’T good!
Disrupting moments in life are unanticipated events, most of which one would usually have chosen to avoid had it been possible. But God…
The path that lies hidden around the bend is often the best path. When you some to the bend in the road The Father asks, “Do you trust me?”
Consider that in the future what happens in life may be WAY MORE disruptive than missing a connection, losing baggage, or plans being changed. The week of August 5th to 12th is First Grade compared with what some will encounter! Some will graduate with a Bachelors… some a Masters… some a Doctorate. God chooses who goes how far. The further the better! I suggest we consider the events of August 5th to 12th as a glimpse of what Paul wrote as found in Philippians 3:7-11…
Whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, 9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Was a disruption in our itinerary worth the benefits? YES! But the bigger question is this: Did we learn the lessons? Will we apply those lessons next week… month… year… or decade?
So… Is it worth losing a job to be closer to God? Is it worth losing a potential mate to know Christ better? Is it worth our reputation being destroyed to gain Christ? Is there ANYTHING worth holding on to that would keep us from knowing Christ better?!
Sure, we got frustrated… but let’s put it in perspective. Would we rather be a Christian in Turkey or Afghanistan or Syria or Iraq right now? We found the means to be ON the trip, many simply didn’t have the resources to go… but we did! God blessed us BECAUSE OF the disruptions (London, etc)! What about the thousands in Iceland that don’t know Jesus… that don’t have the hope and perspective that we have in Christ? Would we rather be them?
Brothers and sisters, I think THE lesson of this trip was not so much what was done (Good as it was!) but rather what God was gently teaching us things to apply for the rest of our lives. Let’s not forget, God is in control… sovereign… loving… gracious… and kind. He ALWAYS does what glorifies Him and is for our ultimate best. As it is written in Romans 8:31…
If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 37 In all these things we… conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
 Tim Keller
 Heb 6:1, “Leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. 3 And this we will do, if God permits.”