Monday, June 20, 2011

church camp

It’s here. You might have seen the effects of it yesterday morning, maybe the week before that. If it hasn’t happened in your town, don’t think it’s not coming. It’s coming. It is coming. And you’ll probably go along with it. You’ll probably even send your little brother and sister off with everybody else. So young. So innocent. But wave good-bye because they will never be the same.

What am I talking about? Church camp.

Ohhh, yes. It’s all fun and games until the passion-filled worship nights start, and then your friends start crying and you start crying and everybody’s crying and suddenly you realize you’re a terrible person who needs Jesus. It’s true. You need Jesus.

Then you wake up Friday morning, grab your stuff, head home. And you are SO pumped about going back with a clean slate. You walk around hugging everyone and giving high-fives to strangers. It doesn’t even matter that your bus broke down in the middle of a Texas summer, or that you’ve sacrificed your personal space to be around like, 150 teenagers singing “Don’t Stop Believing” in a vehicle that no longer has A/C. It doesn’t even matter. You just love Jesus, y’all.

And then you get home, and you unpack, and you go to sleep, wake up - but today is different, it’s going to be different - you go to sleep - SUNDAY! YEAH! - go to sleep, wake up - and then Monday rolls around.

The alarm goes off, and you’re back to work, back to class, back to life. And some of the enthusiasm has rolled off, but you want your life to be different. What you experienced was real. You got a taste of this huge God, a beautiful Savior, and you want more.

But what was it that drew you in? Your precious Jesus, suffering on a tree? Your Redeemer, who had on his head not a crown honoring His majesty, but thorns cutting His skin? Your Master, who had on his hands and feet not gold to represent His inestimable worth, but nails piercing His flesh?

What was it that caused those tears to start to flow when the worship kicked in and the speaker began to pray? You closed your eyes, and instantly, the weight of who you were and what you had done was pressed on your shoulders. You felt almost nauseous as you realized that you had tried so hard to succeed, but even your best attempts had failed you. All around you the noises began to fade, and you heard the story of a God who sent His beloved son to the world “to reconcile to Himself all things... by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.” (Col 1:20-23) And you could barely wrap your mind around it, but suddenly you saw the beauty of the cross: you did nothing, and you didn’t deserve it, but the blood of the Son of God covered your failures. And you couldn't help but cry out for strength “to continue in your faith, established and firm, [so that you] do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.” (Col 1:23)

But now it’s Monday.

Oh, “God, hold us to that which drew us first, when the Cross was the attraction, and we wanted nothing else.”

That was missionary Amy Carmichael’s prayer. In her book, Gold Cord, she told about a time when her fellowship in South India greatly required more human help. She wrote to pastors “asking if they had any women wholly devoted to [her] Lord and separate in spirit from the world who were likely to be free for such work.” Their response?” ‘Not only have we no women, but we do not know even one woman of the kind you want.’”


Amy Carmichael led a group of Indian girls, called the “Sisters of the Common Life.” These were girls who had experienced that Thursday-night-at-church-camp moment and had seen the Cross, but instead of going back to what they had known before, what Christ had saved them from, they continued “seeking to live a life of unreserved devotion” to their Lord.

“When a soul sets out to find God it does not know whither it will come and by what path it will be led; but those who catch the vision are ready to follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth, regardless of what that following may involve for them. And it is as they follow, obedient to what they have seen, in this spirit of joyful adventure, that their path becomes clear before them, and they are given the power to fulfill their high calling. They are those who have the courage to break through conventionalities, who care not at all what the world thinks of them, because they are entirely taken up with the tremendous realities of the soul and God.” (Bishop Bardsley)

I keep wondering what would happen if an Amy Carmichael of this generation asked our church pastors for “women wholly devoted to our Lord and separate in spirit from the world.” Because many of us have definitely had a moment where we've realized our need for Christ and recognized what His death and resurrection meant. But... now it’s Monday. How would your pastor respond? Would he say shake his head sadly, and say, "Not only have we no women, but we do not know even one woman of the kind you want"?

Please, God. "Hold us to that which drew us first, when the Cross was the attraction, and we wanted nothing else.”

It's only through the grace of God that we are drawn back to the foot of the Cross, and we must continue to diligently seek the One who called us, asking Him to keep us there.

The Sisters of the Common Life signed the following confession of love, which I pray will be what describes our day in and day out moments, not just the highlights from a few nights at camp, now that we belong to Christ.

“My vow.
Whatsoever Thou sayest unto me, by Thy grace I will do it.

My Constraint.
Thy love, O Christ, my Lord.

My Confidence.
“Thou art able to keep that which I have committed unto Thee.

My Joy.
To do Thy will, O God.

My Discipline.
That which I would not choose, but which Thy love appoints.

My Prayer.
Conform my will to Thine.

My Motto.
Love to live: Live to love.

My Portion.
The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance.

“Teach us, good Lord, to serve Thee more faithfully; to give and not to count the cost; to fight and not to heed the wounds; to toil and not to seek for rest; to labor and not to ask for any reward, save that of knowing that we do Thy will, O Lord our God.”


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