A Mountaintop Experience

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Who am I? What is my purpose here? What are the right moves to make? Where am I suppose to be heading? What is the point of this life? 

My life has been haunted by these questions for years. We live in a time and place where we can basically do whatever we want to do, go wherever we want to go, and be around whoever we want to be around. We have infinite decisions to make everyday from the type of cereal we buy to the Netflix show we binge.

In a world with such limitless possibilities how do we ever narrow ourselves down to one thing? How do we pick just one career, or one home, or one person? Isn’t there still a lingering chance that no matter what I pick, there is an alternate reality where I am happier with a different choice?

With all these decisions pushing us to a life of indecision it begs the question: what are we living for?

Of course I am A Christian so I want my life to reflect God’s love and glory, but what does that look like practically? How do you make Him the center of your life. How does someone come through on the “He>I” symbol that we all claim to adhere to?

Over the last  280 hours God has been showing me the answers to some of these questions. What I’ve found has been life changing for me, and has maybe altered the entire course of my life. I won’t lie and say I was expecting any of the revelations and changes God caused in me. This all came as a shock to me, and I’ve been grappling with everything and I still am even now.

This is how I woke up.

At 4:30 a.m. on June 3rd me and the Outlet (LTC’s Youth Group) left for Student Life Camp located on top of Lookout Mountain, Georgia. For anyone who is unaware of what Student Life Camp is let me explain. Basically Student Life are camps located across the country where churches bring their youth groups for a retreat. The camp is generally a good experience for kids. It allows them to spend a week focused on God with hundreds of other student believers. There are games, and skits, and usually some pretty powerful worship services.

This is where things begin for me. Worship services.

A little about me: I am (was?) incredibly cynical when it comes to worship services. It has been years since I had a time where I worshipped God, and didn’t feel a tinge of pessimism as I looked at the fellow believers also worshipping. The problem for me has always been that I feel like fancy light displays and overpowering musical swells are designed to make people (especially students) feel something that they aren’t. I guess in my head I always viewed it as an artificial way of trying to manufacture the feeling of the Holy Spirit coming on to you.

This has been a major problem for me, and has severely crippled my walk, because this cynicism spread to other areas of my faith. Whenever I would see people becoming saved at conferences I would let myself become inundated with thoughts of doubt about their salvation. It was so bad that I walked away from two Passion conferences not really feeling anything.

My faith in God was dying, and I didn’t even really realize it. I mean how could I? On the surface I was living the Christian life. I worked as a Christian educator, lead Kid’s service on Sundays, was a youth leader, and was friends with many many other Christians. On paper I was an excellent Christian, but on the inside I was barely hanging on. If you can’t truly take joy in the things Christ is doing in the lives of others than there is something fundamentally wrong with the way you are walking.

So here I was sitting in an auditorium with hundreds youth kids all ready for something to change in their lives. Some of them needing healing, some of them needing to recommit, and some of them just needing to experience God for the first time. The only thing on my mind at that moment is the thought “Here we go with another Student Life Worship service. Can’t wait to see all the changes these kids make, only to forget about them in a week.”

Then one of the actors for the camp walks on stage and begins to deliver a monologue. My scoff canons were ready to fire, but just before I dismissed him he started talking about the very things that had been distracting me in my worship. The lights, the music, the atmosphere. He talked about all of that being something that is expected, but does any of it matter if the Holy Spirit doesn’t move? He talked about how all those flashy technical aspects were all just ways to celebrate God, and that they are good because He deserves a nice show, but that at the heart worship we should be focused on Him. It has to be about connecting to Him.

This utterly floored me. Such a simple and elementary concept: God is at the center of worship, and we should be celebrating Him. I’m sure I’ve heard similar messages and had the same thought before, but for some reason that night God allowed me to break out of my tomb of pessimism.

What happened next was the first session of true worship I had experienced in years. That is not an exaggeration. I had forgotten what it was like to truly be in love with who God is, and to celebrate the victories He has accomplished for me. I smiled as my hands reached out, and I cried as I was overcome by His love and spirit.

That was day one. That was how I remembered who God was, and what a connection with Him felt like.

Then day two came.

At the camp they put us leaders in charge of leading small groups called Family Group. There is a stack of curriculum to go through with the students, and I’ll admit my pessimism had spread to that too in the past.

I was lucky enough to be given a classroom as my family group meeting place which included a white board, a lectern, and a desk. I prayed with God to let the group be something special, and not something that the students felt obligated to come to. I know in years past that is how I always felt when I was in a family group. It was just kind of the boring thing you waited through before you could go to dinner.

God was faithful, and our family group was legit. I experienced something I hadn’t experienced before and that was the Holy Spirit coming on me and using me as a vessel to teach. It felt amazing, and the words that came from my mouth were completely given to me by God. The students were paying attention, and God was being glorified even in the “boring” camp activity.

We got out our Bibles and actually studied them, and God brought us good messages. After it ended I went back to my room and fell on my knees and prayed. God came upon me in that moment and said He would be revealing things throughout this week to me. Big things.

The rest of the week had many high points, but one that stood out to me was our next to last night there. Our speaker’s name was Sam Bhatt and the dude was an amazing advocate for Christ. On this night in particular he spoke about the death of Christ. In painstakingly detailed words he described to us the death that Jesus had endured, and how He had thought of us throughout all of it. How we were worth it to him.

There was an insane amount of kids who responded to the word that night. More than I had ever seen at a camp or conference before. I was flabbergasted, and no one was more wrecked by that sermon than me. I remembered that Jesus had thrown his life away for me. What kind of response did that demand from me if I truly believed it.

That night He called me out onto the lookout point. From there I could see off of the mountain, and every visible star was shining brightly. I sat out there for a long time and pondered the complete sacrifice God had made for me, and what I was doing with this life he had given me.

This brought me to Matthew 10:39

“Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”

This hit me super hard. I had planned out my entire life. I was going to eventually become a principal, and have 2.5 kids, and live in a nice house with a pool.But this isn’t what God has planned.

God was challenging me. He was asking me what I had ever given up in my life to pursue Him. He was asking me to examine myself and see if I was really happy in Him and Him alone. He was commanding me to take up a call and to follow Him, no matter what that meant.

If He decided to strip my life down to the bone would I still praise Him? Is my faith in Him only real as long as it feels good? Am I suppose to only follow the words Jesus spoke that are comfortable?

I’m still dealing with everything I learned on that mountain top. I believe I am called to make His name great through pastoring and missions. I believe that the soul purpose of my life from this moment on is to make Him known to all people.

My faith is alive for the first time in ages. I refuse to let this fire die quickly. The only way to stop that from happening is to respond, and to live on the edge for Christ. That means changing who I am, and what I’ve been living for. In a way I am really being born again.

God led me to Zechariah 1:3

“Therefore tell the people: This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Return to me,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the Lord Almighty.”

Just has He had promised to return to the people of Israel and rebuild them, He is promising to rebuild me. I had fallen far from God and never realized it until now. It is time to return to Him and earnestly seek Him again. He will be faithful and return to me, if I return to him.

So this is where I am now. Radically changed to the bone. I am able to care about other’s now. I am less afraid to share the good news of Jesus. I’m going to let my heart break for what breaks God’s heart.

All the decisions that plague me and keep me from acting are now strangely less daunting. There really is only one decision: to follow or to not.

My life is now in His hands.

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