This past weekend at Fall Retreat we saw God show up in ways that I personally have never experienced. There, in that packed sanctuary full of students and adults, we experienced the presence and the power of God come down on us in such a powerful way that many students were cut to the heart with their sin. Their eyes were opened for the very first time, as they saw their need for Christ.
It started first with a high school girl, who rushed up to me during the last worship song, “Heather, I want God in my life,” she exclaimed! I shared with her that the bible calls us to repent of our sins and make a decision to follow Jesus, laying down our life to pick up His. Together, we prayed as she cried out to Jesus to rescue her from her sin.
After that more students started coming up, no one forced them, there was no “altar call” or pressure to receive, they came on their own, at random times throughout the night and the following day. There words were simple as they approached me some that night and some the following day, “Heather, I want Jesus.” Heather, “I want to give my life to Jesus.” Some prayed with other leaders who shared the gospel with them.
Others came up to me and said, “Heather, I gave my life to Jesus tonight.” I knew it was true as one young 7th grade boy, along with about three others, looked me square in the eyes and told me so. Another high school boy came up to me in tears, I said, “what is it?” He, barely able to get the words out, choking through tears said, “I WANT JESUS!” I said, “then you tell Him! Confess your sin to Him! Tell Jesus of your need for Him,” and that he did.
Many of our students live with deep brokenness, they come from painful situations in life, they have buried their hurts and disappointments, but we saw one girl find the freedom to share a deep hurt for the very first time with a couple of our adult leaders.
Students got up, shared testimonies of what God had done in their lives. They confessed their addictions, showing true and honest transparency before their fellow peers. The gospel was shared with boldness and conviction from our speaker, Steffan Nass. He spoke of the cost of following Jesus. He shared there’s no such thing as a half-hearted response to following after the Rabbi, Jesus.
I believe, because of the prayers of the people in our church, who committed to covering our entire event in prayer, the worship that led us to hear and receive the word of the Lord and the word of God being preached with truth and love, the Spirit of God came down on God’s people. We saw lives changed and transformed that night as many students eternities were changed.
After the weekend was over, 15 students said, for the very first time, I want to follow Jesus. I want to take up His life and lay down my sin. I’m still a bit in shock over all of it. Yet, I am not surprised, because God wants to work in ways like this among us, we just have to be willing to get out of the way and let Him in.
Now, the handwork begins. The evidence of their confession will come out over the next few weeks and months as we seek to disciple these students and provide opportunities for them to grow in their faith. Pray their decisions were genuine and they truly understood their need for Christ. Pray they would get connected to a body of believers who can help them grow in their faith. Ask God to show them His love. Pray they would surround themselves with people who want to follow Jesus too.
As I reflect on this weekend, I can’t help but think about our theme, Radical Obedience, and something Pastor Luke said around the campfire to the students on Sunday afternoon. Quite simply, true Radical Obedience is living for Jesus in the mundane. It’s getting into God’s word daily, seeking Him in prayer, pursuing His heart and engaging with Him through confession of sin. It’s making time to read His word, allowing it to change and transform our hearts. It’s being in fellowship with other believers, actively involved, weekly, with a local body of believers in a church. That is Radical Obedience and as we seek those things overtime, God starts to change our hearts as we grow to be more like Him.
The danger is to live for the mountain top experiences, somehow trying to sustain our faith living only in those moments. Our faith cannot grow in this type environment. We must come down off of the mountain and choose to Radically Obedient with God everyday.
Students, please know that you are DEEPLY LOVED. We are here at Collide Youth Group to walk with you as you pursue Jesus. It is a hard journey, but God will walk with you, and we will be here by your side to help you as you follow Him. The handwork of Radical Obedience for you begins now. Are you willing to live out your confession of faith that you made this weekend? Will you put aside distractions to get alone with God, reading His word and seeking Him in prayer? I will pray that you will! I know many others will be praying the very same.
I remember how I used to daydream about being seen by others. There I would be, doing something great for God, being noticed by man and receiving their approval. I had no idea how much this daydreaming would effect how I actually interacted with people, but it certainly did. It caused me to place myself at a distance with others, not allowing them to see my real brokenness. I came off as holier than thou and lacked depth. I wasn’t relatable. I had it all together. At least I came off as though I did.
I was much like the Pharisees, those men who made their tassels long and their phylacteries wide in order to be seen by men. (Matt 23:5) Sure, I wasn’t rockin some huge WWJD bracelet or a cross necklace the size of New Jersey around my neck, but I was certainly desiring to be seen by others.
About a year and a half ago, after it was brought to my attention by some dear friends in Christ, I made the conscious decision to start living differently. It had to start in my heart and my mind. I had to be willing to go to hard places, and when it was appropriate to share my own struggle with sin and brokenness. Once I started doing that I noticed some beautiful things start happening.
1. I became approachable, because I finally started letting go of my pride, I was able to say, I’m messed up too, but we all need the grace of God.
2. I became relatable. As I shared my own personal struggles with sin it gave others the chance to relate with me in the same way.
3. I’ve become more compassionate. You know, it’s hard to receive a rebuke from someone who acts as if they’re perfect. Now, I can better love people in the midst of their sin, challenging them to rise above it and going shoulder to shoulder with them instead of casting down judgement upon them, but not being honest with them about my own.
4. People are starting to get to know the real me. I think too often we fear people will reject us or think poorly of us if we share who we truly are. We think they won’t be proud of us or that we’re a bad Christian, but the truth of the matter is, none of us have it all together. We need one another to walk this journey of faith.
5. My friendships are multiplying and going deeper. Something happens when you start opening up your life. People come around you in love, they support and pray for you. They feel like they can trust you and can share their own struggles without judgement or condemnation.
6. I’m growing in my faith. We’re all in a process as Christians of becoming more like Jesus. I wan’t to live an authentic, transparent life for the glory of God. Now that I’m opening up myself to others, my faith is growing as God starts to work out that ugly pride that has directed my heart for so long.
As I was praying this morning, Lord, I just want to play the background. I want you to be put on display in my life. I want to walk in humility. Although, I still struggle against my pride, I’m not where I used to be. In that, I can rejoice, because that my friends is the power of God.
Don’t fear opening up your life to others. It’s ok to show the real you. We’ve all got junk we’re trying to sort through. We’re all in a process of being made more like Jesus as Christians. None of us have it all together, me included. I’m asking God to shape my heart with greater humility. I don’t want that old prideful woman to win out. I want Christ and His humility to be seen in me. I pray you’ll ask God to do the same in you. When we do, something beautiful happens in God’s people. As His body says, you’re broken, me too, but God can make us new.
Matthias was a man who showed great faithfulness in how he followed Jesus. The bible tells us he was with Jesus and his disciples the whole time for those three years Jesus did ministry. We don’t hear about him until the book of Acts. Yet, it is quite clear that Matthias had a heart of purity in his pursuit of Christ. God chooses him to take the place of Judas Iscariot, the man whose heart betrayed the Lord Jesus.
As the disciples prayed for God to show them who Judas’s replacement might be, they prayed a simple prayer, “God you know their hearts, show us which one to choose.” There were two men they were choosing from, but it was Matthias whom they chose, because God revealed to them which man had the purest heart in his pursuit of following Jesus.
Many of us live in the now, but not yet stages of life. We are waiting for God to raise us up, to our next step in ministry. The truth of the matter is, no human effort on our part can make this happen. It is God who sees the hearts of His followers and makes a way for them to be called up, according to His timing. The role of a Christian is to walk in faithfulness, and seek a heart like His. Overtime, people see the purity of our walk. They see our pursuit of Him is not to gain anything for ourselves, but to make much of Him.
Maybe some of us haven’t been called up yet, because our intentions are wrong, we want to be called up so we can be seen by others or to make a name for ourselves,, but until we choose to be faithful with the little God has given us, we will continue to wait until we let go of our impure motives to embrace a heart like His.
I don’t know about you, but I want a heart like His. I want to be one of the ones whom he calls up, because He sees that my heart longs to know Him and that I am actively fighting to kill anything that stands between me and my relationship with Him.
Lord, if there is anything impure in me, please show me. If anything stands between you and me, show me by your grace that I may repent and seek to do away with it, so that my walk with you is all about you and not about me. In Jesus name, Amen.
God fix this. God make me a more patient person. God heal my marriage. God take this addiction away. God…….
Many of us are waiting for God to wave the magic wand and make our lives all better. We’re expecting him to do all the work, because well, he’s God and he can, so he should, right? God doesn’t really work that way. He’s asking you to join him on the path towards healing and restoration, partnering with him in the process of rebuilding.
The prophet Haggai went before the nation of Israel as they were preparing to rebuild the temple of the LORD in Jerusalem. He said this to them, that still applies to us today, “Now give careful thought to this from this day on– consider how things were before one stone was laid on another in the Lord’s temple…..give careful thought to the day when the foundation of the Lord’s temple was laid.” – (2:15, 18)
The temple; the place where they worshipped God and his presence dwelt had been destroyed many years earlier by the Babylonians. Haggai reminds the people before this moment as they laid foundation of the Lord’s temple that, “until now, the vine and fig tree, the pomegranate and the olive tree have not borne fruit.” (2:19)
Yet, as they took steps of faith to start rebuilding Haggai gives a word from God saying, “From this day on I will bless you.” (2:19) I wonder how many of us are waiting for God to do all the work, because we refuse to join him in the process. It could be because we’ve laid some ugly bricks full of lies, bitterness, anger, resentment and pain. We’ve found false comfort in believing those lies, so we refuse to dig up that old foundation and start laying a new one of trust, hope and belief that God can redeem and restore our situation.
We would be wise to tear up that old foundation, God will give us grace when we do and as we start laying new bricks full of his grace and mercy he floods our lives with his love. God can always make something beautiful out of what seems broken, our part is merely to join with him and trust him in the process of restoration.
Don’t give up dear friends. Keep tearing up and rebuilding with the Lord Jesus. Yes it is an arduous process, but in the end we’ll have something more beautiful in our lives because of it. For God’s glory, in Jesus name.
Many of us live in a world full of broken relationships. We don’t want things to be this way, but they are and we’re not sure how to fix the problem, so we pretend as though it isn’t there or try to convince ourselves the relationship, which is broken, isn’t that important to us anyways. Truth is, most likely, the relationship is of great importance to us. We are relational beings. We long to be known and have someone know us at the depth of who we are. To deny such a thing is to not be honest with ourselves on an ontological level. It is to say, I am an exception to the rule. That’s like someone saying, I don’t eat, ever, because I’m an exception to the rule. Relationships are that important to human growth and development.
This is why some people spend their lives trying to find one that will satisfy and fulfill them in a way that brings them peace and comfort, but all the while burning bridges with the ones that didn’t fit their felt needs and wishes at the time the relationship was birthed.
It is heart-breaking when one or both of those persons destroy the foundational places of trust in a relationship, making it too difficult for one or both to move forward, because someone involved cannot offer forgiveness and work towards rebuilding trust with the other person.
Forgiveness is the key to moving forward in the rebuilding of any relationship. Without it the relationship stymies and neither party can move forward in the repairing process. It will be a difficult journey of rebuilding, it could be a long process of letting go of emotions that come rushing to the surface as old hurts and disappointments become triggered through the process of forgiveness. Yet, without it, there is no future to the relationship.
Relationships are sacrificial in their nature. The second piece of restoring any relationship is to sacrifice of ones pride and chose to serve the other person in a way that removes all selfish motives. Without sacrificing our time, energies and efforts towards the restoration of the relationship, it stifles, because it has become stagnated by selfishness and impure motives. As they say, it takes two to tango, and any relationship that wants to progress forward must have both persons ready and willing to offer forgiveness, actively sacrificing themselves to the betterment of the relationship.
As you begin the process of rebuilding and restoring you must first ask yourself, is the relationship worth it? Is it a relationship God has entrusted you with and if so, your feelings on the issue do not matter much. What matters more and the question we should be asking ourselves is, what are God’s feelings on this relationship and how should I progress forward with it? If I have a child whom I’ve neglected and abandoned I cannot filter how I will proceed based on how I feel about the relationship, I must bow my feelings and will to Almighty God and submit myself to His thoughts on the matter.
Now, if the other person chooses to not work in tandem with you on the process of restoration, you are not held accountable for their actions, they must choose to humble themselves. If they do not, they are actively working against any restoration God wants to bring and are in sin.
Don’t grow weary in the process. Keep laying one brick at a time, as you do, eventually the foundation starts to be restored and the relationship, over time becomes new as God restores, “what the locusts have eaten.” (Joel 2:25)
Father, we entrust our relationships to you. We need your grace. We know as Christians that we must always be seeking to lay ourselves down as a living sacrifice for the betterment of someone else. Help us to do that today, for your glory, in Jesus name. Amen.