Wood Shavings – True Believer?

I haven’t had time to write for way too long.  Each week I look for time and end up with other more important tasks.  But today I am feeling “under-the-weather” and cancelled Polish class.  Cancelling class meant getting a lot of other stuff done, including time to write.

So, what to write?  I am not feeling the football lessons at the moment.  What is really on my heart is deeper spiritually.  The following is what is on my heart.

What does it really mean to have a relationship with God?  I find myself asking this question in various forms often lately.  It comes to mind most often as I deal with people who call themselves Christians.  These are “good” people who don’t have blaring contradictions in their life.  I am meaning the contradictions of people who look, sound, and act like perfect believers on Sunday morning and don’t the rest of the week.

The question comes from a decade of or more of wondering why it seems there are so few ecstatic and “on-fire” followers of Jesus.  (Matthew 7:21-23 is a huge insight and maybe where this blog post should end, but I will continue and risk putting my foot in my mouth or worse.)  I am not meaning those who flame out quickly, I mean people who burn more brightly (Matthew 5:14-16) each year as they serve the Lord.  By about this time the people I most talk to about this start giving qualifiers.  Qualifiers such as: but you can’t judge their hearts, not everyone is a “preacher”, I am so busy, not everyone is a missionary ready to sell all and move to the jungle, etc.  It seems to me the “qualifiers” are sometimes excuses.

It is true that you can’t judge a book by it’s cover.  Not all faithful believers in Jesus look or act the same.  As a mater of fact, they are all different.  But I believe more often than not there is an obvious difference between a true believer and a ______.  (I really don’t know what should be written there.  One sized does not fit them all.)  But a qualifier I do believe is legitimate is we are all at different stages or levels.

So young believers tend to have similar traits with each other, but are rarely as mature spiritually as those who walk with the Lord for say 50 years.  But I still haven’t really touched the original question.

The first thing I try to keep in mind is I don’t know!  Only God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit know the true spiritual state of anyone.  Matthew 7:1, Romans 2:1, and 1 Corinthians 4:5.  These verse all help us see that we can’t judge another person’s heart.

But there are many more subtle ways to recognize a person’s probabl spiritual condition – the “fruit inspection”.  Probably the best way to start this is to recognize a person’s spiritual power source.  John 15 came to mind and the whole chapter is full of indicators of a person who is attached to the true vine.  Galatians 5 is also a great “gauge” to measure fruit.  Maybe one of the bigger challenges with Galatians 5 is the modern day, so called, interpretation of the meaning.  The standard for the fruit of the spirit (5:22-23) seems to have moved way down for many church attenders.

And this is where I will almost end.  (Yea, I have left more loose ends than maybe answers and yet it is still just about time quite.)  I wonder if the overall standard of faith has come down so far it is hard to tell the believers from the world?  This is nothing new as Dietrich Bonhoeffer taught long ago about – cheap grace.  Part of this, I believe, is people are looking around the church at each other to determine the spiritual standard.  Jesus is THE spiritual standard and we are to be conformed only to Him (Romans 8:27-29).

I will end with this thought.  If I don’t want to grow more spiritually (I want to say nearly every day), am not free to share my sins and struggles with other believers to pray with me and keep me accountable (James 5:13-18), and I don’t feel compelled to tell others about my Lord and Savior through word and deed…  Something is wrong, something is very wrong!

Youth Winter Camp Wood Shavings

I will get back to exploring my lessons from the Seahawks in my next blog.  But this week I want to share about youth camp.

Last week I was in Belice, Poland.  About the only way you realized you are entering a town is the sign.  There are so few houses on the pitted road it looks more like small ranches in the hill country.  The main attraction is a single ski run, but this year there was no snow.  It was my first time to the retreat center, and I was told it looked more like summer than winter.

Apparently about 15 years ago 1st Baptist Church Wroclaw bought a barn with two outbuildings in Belice.  Over the years they converted it into a very nice and rustic retreat center.  By rustic, I mean bunk beds and lots of tight spaces for everyone.  But every February there are two winter camps back-to-back.  First is children’s camp and then youth.  The main attraction, most years, is the snow.  This year we had to get creative.

There were 36 youth, 9 staff, plus kitchen workers.  For seven days we had a great time.  I was asked this year to be the camp pastor.  I was told about 60% of the youth were not believers.  By the way, I love going to camp, especially youth camp!

Last year I lead a smaller retreat group of youth to study Joseph.  I felt limited time this year meant using the same general theme.  I had hoped the youth would start each day with a time of Bible reading and self study, but in the end we chose to work through small groups.  Then each evening I had time to share and then more small groups.  The focus was on learning “Life Lessons” from the life of Joseph.  I think some day I will try to put all my notes together into a study of some sort, I have lots of notes.

We started off the week with choosing a “camp culture”.  I believe strongly that youth do best when they have as much buy-in as possible.  A great way to start this is by them choosing what kind of camp they would have.  I generally followed the Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5:22-23, and gave them options.  Ok, so they were pretty obvious options.  A camp filled with love or hate.  They chose love.  In the end there were six choices, they wrote them in the front of the booklet, and signed their name as a commitment to each other.  We never had to go back to enforce the camp culture.

The lack of snow meant the typical two times a day skiing became hikes, games of nearly every type, flying kites, crafts, and learning skills.  The lack of snow also meant some of the focus that would have been on skiing went to the Bible.  Hurray!

On Thursday evening the time focused to an invitation.  The believers were challenged to get out of their seats and sit in a chair in the middle of the room.  The chair would symbolized a step of faith in obedience to the Lord.  The non-believers were encouraged to make their first step of faith.  I believe 11 came to sit in the chair including one who gave his life to Jesus for the first time.  Praise the Lord!

In the end everything went far better than I had hoped.  The general evaluation of the Polish staff was that this was the most spiritual retreat they have ever had, even compared to camps for only believers.  God answered lots of prayers.  This was all despite the camp pastor, a foreigner, needing a translator.  Today I was formally asked to lead the summer camp as well, and it is the youth that want me back, not only the leaders.  I am totally shocked and honored.  Truly the Lord works in mysterious ways through the Holy Spirit.

Now, I believe, some of the most important work continues by the Polish staff.  They will follow-up on the commitments made at the camp.  Please pray that the end result is disciple makers of all ages.