Picking & Choosing

Deric and I ventured to Atlanta this weekend with three of our middle schoolers to attend CIY Believe, a Christian conference designed specifically with middle schoolers in mind. And it was awesome. The trip was full of all the good things youth group trips should be: inside jokes, loud music in the van, too much fast food, a van that quickly starts to smell like stale fast food, late nights and early mornings, swimming in the hotel pool, middle school boys purposefully trying to skip showers, and of course, getting honest with one another and with God. We did the convention, the World of Coca-Cola, Stone Mountain Park for a laser show, and Passion City Church before heading home on Sunday afternoon.

As for the conference itself, it was an Indiana Jones-esque journey to discover where we got the Bible and how it evolved to the versions we have today. We traveled (via video) from Jerusalem to England and on to the United States, following the journey of the Hebrew scrolls into the English leather-bound Bibles we all have today. It was a perfect topic for middle schoolers who are just starting to explore the Bible independently, and a perfect refresher for a Bible college grad who may or may not have forgotten most of her freshman year Bible courses. I'm not sure what stuck out most to the kids, but I walked away with renewed motivation to really study God's Word and let it change my life...because it can, if I let it. I have to commit my time and study, mull things over, find answers to my questions, and ask God for His help in understanding what He says. And then I have to do what God says to do, which is the hardest part for me. I was baptized when I was twelve--twelve years ago--and I've gone those twelve years just picking and choosing which of Jesus' commands I wanted to follow. Thankfully, my eyes have recently been opened to the realization that picking and choosing doesn't count. Its all or nothing, in or out.
(Wondering what the bottom right picture is? The speaker had the kids write down a verse they could memorize on their food wrappers from lunch and bring it back to the session. An artist took some of the wrappers and made a painting to describe that while its important to feed our bodies, its also important to feed our heart/soul with God's word. Good visual, huh?)

"So because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth."
Revelation 3:16

Verses like that seem harsh to me. I want to shut my Bible when I read a verse about condemnation, judgment, hell, etc. and turn instead to the Psalms that praise God's mercy, grace, and love. But I've come to grips recently that both sides of God exist, and I should not pretend otherwise. I don't like to think about His judgment, but its there. And while I may not understand just how God works, I have to be okay with that. To me, its that same concept of picking and choosing-- just as I don't get to pick and choose the commands I obey, I don't get to pick and choose the attributes of God I believe in. It can be tough, but its worth it. He is equal parts judgment and grace, wrath and love.

(To some of you, this may remind you of a specific book...and yes, I did read Chan's Erasing Hell. And I read Bell's Love Wins before that. If you haven't read them, I urge you to read both. And while you read them, keep your Bible handy. And pray for discernment. Its a tough topic.)

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