Camp is Good

I'm noticing a trend over this past year or so of youth ministry: Without fail, I learn so much from these events we attend that are geared for middle schoolers or high schoolers. I go into these events expecting to be on the sidelines, supporting our kids and cheering them on, encouraging them to really listen to what God could be teaching them. And then I find myself blown away by something unexpected that God wants to teach me. Camp was no different. Its hard to simultaneously learn hard lessons and teach those same lessons to kids, but I did my best this week to convey to our kids what I believe God was teaching me, and I can only hope that God made me an effective communicator.

The day before we left for camp, Chad asked me if I would speak at campfire. For those of you who didn't grow up attending church camp, every night there are two time-to-get-serious talks: chapel, which is basically a sermon, and a few hours later, campfire. Campfire is much shorter and tends to be more personal, more like a devotion. But two minutes or two hours of public speaking, my first instinct when Chad asked me to speak was a "Thanks, but no thanks. Have you asked ___?" Before I could answer him though, God reminded me that I've been challenging myself to step out of my box and do harder things in order to honor Him. So yes, Chad, I'd absolutely love to speak to a bunch of middle schoolers with little to no preparation. That'd be great, thanks for the opportunity. 

Sunday afternoon, we arrived at camp and I looked over the theme: Authentic. I chose to speak on Tuesday only because Tuesday's topic [Getting Real with God] bore some resemblance to my own life, and I figured that would make it easier to speak about. All day Tuesday I was anxious, worried, and feeling like I wanted to die (equal parts fear of public speaking and an insane, horribly-timed sinus infection). I almost lost my voice on Tuesday. I don't remember talking to any of the campers, just writing and rewriting what was in my head so that on paper, all those thoughts bouncing around would hopefully make some sense.

Here's what I honestly believe God told me to say (say um a few times, stutter, and talk really fast, and it'll be like you were there!).

In Luke 9, there's a story about 3 men who approach Jesus and want to follow Him, but Jesus doesn't respond to them in a way I would have imagined.
As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go."
Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." 
He said to another man, "Follow me."
But the man replied, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father."
Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God."
Still another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family."
Jesus replied, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God."

In Mark, a rich young man asks Jesus what he has to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus tells him, "Go, everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

In Luke 14, Jesus is walking with a large crowd and he says to them, "If anyone comes to me and doesn't hate his father or mother, his wife and children, his brother and sister--yes, even his own life-- he cannot be my disciple."

So to recap: leave your family behind, sell everything you own, hate your parents, and potentially end up homeless. This is what Jesus is telling these people. It may sound harsh, but Jesus is just being honest about what could happen if you choose to follow Him-- you will be asked to abandon what's comfortable, what's normal, what's familiar.

So what if Jesus asked you to leave your family behind and move overseas?
What if Jesus asked you to give up a successful career?
What if Jesus told you there's a good chance you could end up homeless?

I tend to separate myself from this story because honestly, it scares me. But here's the thing: if I'm going to call myself a Christian, a follower of Jesus, then I'm in the same situation as those men who talked with Jesus. Jesus didn't ask only those few men to abandon everything-- He asks every Christian to abandon everything. We do have to give up everything to follow Jesus. We do have to love Him so much that our closest relationships on earth look like hate in comparison. And He may ask us to sell everything we own in order to take care of other people.

Now, God may not ask every individual to sell what they own, or to leave their family and move overseas. God has unique plans for each of us. But no matter what God asks of us, we all have to ask ourselves two questions:

Do we honestly believe Jesus is worth losing everything else for?
Do we trust Him enough to obey all of His commands?

Because Christianity isn't a pick and choose ordeal. When you choose to follow Jesus, you're making a commitment to obey all of His commands. Jesus didn't give us options to consider; He gave us commands to obey. Not just the easy ones, not just when you've got the time or when you've got some extra money to put in the offering plate. For example, look at the Great Commission found in Matthew 28. Jesus said, "Go and make disciples..." Not "If you've got some time on the weekends, go...", not "if you feel called, go..." He said simply, "Go."

It'll be hard. Jesus doesn't promise us an easy, comfortable life. He warns us right away (just as he warned those men) that walking with Him will be tough, and maybe even dangerous. That's where the trust comes in. But He also promises to never leave us on our own. As Christians, we're given the Holy Spirit to help us, encourage us, and strengthen us so that we can do what Jesus asks of us.

So if you really want to know God, obey Him. Take Him at His word and remember that no matter how hard it may be to obey Him, He is always willing to help you.

1 John 1:5-6 says "This is how we know we are in Him: Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did."

Do you honestly believe that Jesus is worth losing everything else for? Do you trust Jesus enough to obey all of His commands?


[Disclaimer: A lot of the ideas expressed, and a few sentences, are taken from the book Radical, written by David Platt. I've talked about his book before and it continues to hit me hard.]

Its amusing to me how God helped me prepare this talk for the kids and then throughout the rest of the week, He kept slamming it back in my face to make me realize that I needed to hear this message probably more than anyone else at camp did. Because my biggest struggle lately is obeying God fully. I've got the easy, routine commands down-- don't say the Lord's name in vain, tithe to church, etc.-- but I seriously struggle obeying Him in his more "radical" commands. And as I prepared to talk at campfire, I realized that the reason I don't obey is because I don't trust Him. Why aren't I willing to give up everything I own, should God ask? Because I don't trust Him to take care of Deric and me in the future. Because money gives me comfort and a feeling of security for the future. Same reasoning behind why I don't give money to take care of the orphans or widows. (A lot of my disobedience has to do with financial matters, interestingly enough.)

Five points to you if you're still reading at this point. I feel like God has been changing my perspective on a lot of things lately and I'll be processing all of it for a while, so I'll warn you now that there will be more ramblings to come. Which is good. Lord, continue to teach me. Keep changing my perspectives so that I can eventually see things the way you do.

(the only picture I took at camp. it was a gloriously unplugged week. took this one early Thursday morning when I went running--yes, I got up early to run! i'm very proud...and surprised.)

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