July 5th, 2005

after a week away preaching at a camp, then a weekend away with christi to st. louis, im finally back at home.thanks for the prayers that were offered up last week while i was teaching. it was a great week. the group was much younger than we had anticipated, with the average age being probably around 14. that age group is a very important one, ill be the first to admit, but i definately am more comfortable with an older group -college, young adult and up- but the challenge was a good one. i got along well with the kids and i think i at least communicated the gist of my messages to the point where they could know what i was trying to say. i was reminded once again how humbling the gospel is. we all stand on equally condemned ground before the cross, and it is only the grace of god that saves people i speak to- not how polished my delivery is, how funny my illustrations may be, or even how earnestly i emphasize the importance of my topic.anytime i do a camp/conference/retreat, i have the group keep an anonymous journal. each person has a journal with a number on it. they choose it the first night, and no one else knows what number they have. they do not write their names anywhere in or on it. the notebooks provide them with adequate space to take notes, but they serve a greater purpose by allowing the individual to ask questions that they may not ask if they had to reveal their identity. they can also ask for prayer on certain subjects or situations that they would otherwise remain silent on. i feel like it is beneficial for them to express these things without fear of condemnation from a “leader”, or ridicule from the group.this past week, i had questions ranging from ” how do you like your hotel room… is it nice??” to ” i noticed that you said that ‘christ died for the sins of those that would believe in him’….i thought he died for the sins of every person ever… could you explain the scope of the atonement??” [yes, this person used the word “atonement”]i was up untill 2 a.m. one night answering questions and making comments in those things. i know that i was blessed more by the honesty in those thirty-five cent notebooks than they were by my answers and comments. one of the most memorable was a question one night after i had gone great lengths to talk about the difference between simply being “religious” and being a christian called to holiness. it read:“how do you know when you are ready to be a christian? what does it feel like? can you please answer??”
as i started writing my reply, i stopped to pray every few moments. i so wanted to accurately convey not only the gospel, and the response of obedience, but i wanted to be totally transparent about the joy that comes with knowing you have been accpeted by god almighty.
i am reminded of psalm 51 where david wrote :Restore to me the joy of your salvation,and uphold me with a willing spirit.(v.12)
the *joy*of his salvation granted to us. joy. how often do i go day to day, week to week, month to month, living each day without giving consideration to the wonder that i am saved, much less joy.i sat with over 47,000 other people at a st. louis cardinal baseball game this weekend. the sound of tens of thousands of conversations filled the air before the game. but upon announcing the starting line-ups, and especially the individual players as they came up to bat, the stadium was deafening with cheers and applause and shouts. i was right there with them. my uncle and i remarked several times how there was “nothing like being at a st. louis baseball game.”in no way do i criticize the enjoyment of such activities. there are so many things in life that we should do and enjoy. but the fact remains, i rarely get excited about the fact that because of the work of christ, i a sinner deserving the eternal wrath of god, have been redeemed. not just getting excited about a church camp, a sunday service, or any other activity, but just simply the fact that i am saved.we have so cheapend the word “joy”. our world and particularly our culture has stripped the word of all of its passion and has made it a limp synonym for “glad”.oh that the lord would restore to us the joy of the salvation he has given us. true joy. a washing over of awareness of our inability and utter inadequacy to express the fulfillment,completion, supreme satisfaction and delight in our lord and the work he has done.
-stephen

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