Tuesday, November 20, 2012
I spent this past weekend in Buhler, Ks at the annual Southern District Youth Conference for MB churches. And my first SDYC as a Youth Pastor was, I would say, a success. No students were injured or lost and we had no vehicle problems. (2 of my greatest concerns... obviously ;) Now, we did have 3 boys go to PetCo on their free time and returned to the van with a living purchase: 2 Betta Fish. I'll let you guess what high school boys intended for the fate of those poor aquatic specimens. This was the only 'questionable' event of the weekend... well, the only one I witnessed. Praise God they called me to ask for permission before making their originally planned purchase: a hamster. Yes, this was my sign that I am working with high school boys. No, they did not ask about the fish.
Leading up to the trip my heart was heavy. There is a growing epidemic of people who want Jesus to save them, but are increasingly less interested in God sanctifying them. So we have spent a significant amount of time over the past few months talking about true discipleship and saving faith. In other words, we've been asking the question, "What am I REALLY living for?" and, "What does my life represent?" and, "Where is the proof of Jesus in my heart? If genuine faith produces fruit, has any been produced in my life?" We've been pouring over scripture to better understand what Jesus calls his followers to and what the Bible says about who will enter the gates of Heaven. There have been some difficult conversations about our lives and our hearts. As a leader I've had moments of terror, feeling a lot like Moses must have felt in Exodus 6 & 7 when he told God, "listen I just can't do it! I don't have the words! I'm totally uncapable!" God booms back at him in 7:2, "You are to say everything I command you." So, with Scripture as the ultimate authority I have been unapologetically searching for TRUTH with our students. It has been an amazing thing. But I was nervous heading to SDYC because I knew a chunk of our students were still just not getting it--and maybe not so much that they weren't getting it but rather that they just didn't care to 'get it'. Their apathy towards God and towards Christ's commands has had a way of creating in me both a sense of sorrow and a sense of rage.
It isn't uncommon for students to go to a youth conference, mission trip, or some sort of revival, and to experience God at these events, but to come back and quickly forget what they have learned or how they have been changed. I often think how offensive to God this must be: we go, we encounter Him, we FEEL the presence of the world-spinning, people-making God and then we return home and quickly become so submersed in our own self that we forget Him. Ouch. So I've been praying against that for our students and before I left for the event had asked several others, including our whole church, to do the same.
The theme for the week was RELENTLESS: 1 Peter 2:9. The speaker was Chad Stoner. (it's okay, he gave all of us permission to laugh about his last name). Upon first glance at this passage you may wonder what this has to do with Relentless. He said the same thing. And he took the theme verse and included verses 10 through 12. There were 4 sessions: A Relentless God, A Relentless Battle, A Relentless People, A Relentless Praise. We learned so much and God used Chad to say so many powerful things... but that isn't what I'm blogging about.
What I AM blogging about is the amazing thing God did in my own heart. Friday night, our first night there, the session was great, the music was done excellently (Thanks Discovery Bible Church band!), and The Holy Spirit was tangibly present. After the message by Chad, we stood to sing together again.
TIME OUT: Isn't singing in unison together such an amazing thing? It is so beautiful to me to hear voices together praising God--It pleases me to know how much it must please God.
Back to the subject:
While I was joining in worship to God I felt His presence on me. The presence was so heavy and the burden he placed on my heart so moving that I couldn't help but weep nearly uncontrollably. At first I tried hard to hold it together, I didn't really want the students to see me so emotional. But God was persistent, relentless even, with what He had to give me.
One by one I began to pray for each of the students. My heart was so heavy for them. If only they could understand! If only they would open up their hard, 'too-cool' hearts to the power of The Most High God! As I prayed I saw in my mind a tangible image of the spiritual battle being fought for all of our hearts. I was standing around each of the students, every single one, giving everything I had to fight away the evil luring them into sin and darkness. I was fighting, thrashing, wrestling, giving all of me, spending me out to protect them. Like a mother bear I covered each of them. I was pleading with God, "Just help me! Please! I'll do anything, ANYTHING, for them to know you! I'll do anything! Help me get through to them. Break through to them! Bind Satan! I beg you! Tell me what to do, I'll do it. I'll DO ANYTHING!" This went on for several songs. The tears were streaming down my face. My chest was racked with sobs. I heard a question, maybe from God, maybe from my own mind, "Would you die for them?" Then the strangest thing happened, I responded to the question that I didn't know the origin of. "Yes, I would die for them. If it took my death for them to see YOU, I would die. If it took my death to wake them up, then let me die. Anything God, anything, just as long as they will KNOW you." Was I thinking of Lydia? Yes, I was. I know it sounds crazy, but I was certain, 100% certain, that if that is what it took to bring these students into God's kingdom that I would do it and I trust if that was His plan, that He would provide for Lydia in my absence. I would do the same for her to make sure she KNEW God, not just knew of Him.
I know at this point how crazy I sound. I know how 'spiritual' and 'too passionate' I sound. I even feel a little strange typing it, sharing it so publicly, but God convicted me to share my experience in order that I may not forget. So I know to some of my friends and some of the students who will read this post that I sound strange, maybe even, "too-Christiany". But I will share it unapologetically, because it is Christ's work in me.
This lasted for the duration of the music. At one point I think I saw only what God placed in my mind to see: me, in the battle, my part in the battle. And I committed, in that moment, to fight in the battle for every student whose path meets mine. My greatest weapons: Prayer & the Sword of Truth. I don't care if students think I'm crazy or out of control, I won't stop pursuing them for Jesus.
The best part? God won't relent either. God won't relent until He has ALL of me. God won't relent until He has ALL of each student.
Saturday night I had a similar experience. Except this night when we stood to sing together once again at the end of the session, I couldn't even stand. I just buried my face in my hands and prayed as fervently as I could. The sorrow in my heart was so heavy--so burdened by the luke-warm and apathetic hearts. Burdened by the choices so negatively affecting our students. Burdened by their captivity to sin. Burdened by the weight of their eternity. Burdened by my inability to change them. I had no idea what was going on in the room around me. I had no idea that at that moment the presence of The Holy Spirit was heavy on nearly every member of our group. I just kept praying. I just kept crying. I just kept letting God break me for His mission. If ever there was a commissioning for a Youth Pastor, this was it for me--straight from God. He poured His mission on me so heavy I collapsed at its weight, and then I stood up, shouldered the yoke with him, and thanked him.
When I got to the break out room that night, I quickly realized I was not alone in my experience. What God shared with our students was different than what had been imparted on me, of course, but God was moving. Thank night, instead of rushing off to an activity time filled with fun and entertainment, we spent an hour of it praying and sharing with one another.
We have since returned home and I will do everything I can to keep the passion alive in my heart, to put God's mission for those students' hearts forefront in my life--whatever it takes. Whatever. It. Takes.
It isn't weird to me if they read these words. God's mission in my life won't be a secret to them. My intentions are clear from the onset: my goal with every student in this ministry will be to Love and Disciple them in the Holy Name of Jesus Christ. I will not relent for my God does not relent in His pursuit of me.