Thursday, July 19, 2018

Pivotal Moments

If my math is correct, I’ve spent 74 weeks of my life at camps, conferences, or on mission trips.  That’s roughly a year and a half of my 46 years on this earth.  I have spent countless hours raising money.  I have put in numerous hours of preparation. I have done more car washes than I can remember.  I have sold more pizzas for fundraisers than Papa Johns.  I have written letters, made phones calls, and had face-to-face conversations with people asking them to consider donating money.  I’ve ordered plane tickets, reserved buses, rented vans, gotten lost, driven to the wrong airport, left a student behind briefly, been robbed, been cursed at, been pooped on and thrown up on at the same time, and I even had a tree fall on my house during a storm while I was away on mission. Trying to live my life on mission and trying to help others live their life on mission has been a lot of work.  At times, it’s caused a lot of headaches.  

Maybe it’s because I’m getting a little older. Maybe it’s because our recent move has made me a bit nostalgic.  Or, maybe it’s because there is a powerful youth conference going on this week called Momentum that I was very involved with as a youth pastor. Whatever the reason, the reality of having spent nearly a year and a half of my life at a camp, conference, or mission trip has recently been on my mind.  And, as I reflect back, I find myself asking the question “Was it worth it?” For me, the answer has come back as a resounding “yes!” Let me explain why.

It all started in 1985. I was in 8thgrade. In the midst of my voice changing, my hormones raging, and my face breaking out, I qualified to be on a national Bible quiz team.  Because I qualified, I was chosen to represent our “district” of churches at a national Bible quiz competition.  As part of the national quiz team, I was asked to be a counselor at a camp for elementary aged kids.  I was nearly as immature as the kids that were at the camp, but I could answer questions from the Gospel of John.  For some reason, the leaders of the camp thought that qualified me to be a counselor. So, I spent my first week at a Christian camp called Camp Albryoca.  God used that week to begin to shape my life. I was a way from home.  I was totally disconnected from all that was “normal” for me.  I was placed in an environment that stretched me and gave me opportunities to do things I normally wouldn’t do. It was at this camp that I first began to understand the importance of investing in the next generation.  For the very first time, I sang songs around a campfire and I began to understand the power of music as a way to worship God.  I was challenged incredibly and remember coming back on a spiritual “high” that I had never experienced.  Something had happened in my life.

A week later my friend Ron and I got on a plane and flew to Colorado to participate in the national Bible quiz competition at a youth conference called Brethren National Youth Conference (now Momentum).  I think I answered one question the entire competition. I didn’t remember many answers, but what I specifically remember is encountering God again in a way that I had never encountered Him in my “normal” environments.   I experienced authentic worship. I experienced dynamic sessions with speakers who spoke in a way I had never heard.  I experienced hands on ministry.  While in Colorado we went door-to-door doing evangelistic “surveys” and trying to start spiritual conversations with people.  We were also placed in small groups with others from the conference and, in those groups; there was heart felt sharing and openness.  And, since we were in Colorado, I was able to see the Rocky Mountains, hike in them, and experience God's creation first hand.  I even had my heart-broken when I saw the girl I had a crush on holding hands with someone she had met at the conference.  How could she be so cruel!  

Returning home from that conference, I started to do things that I never would have considered doing if I hadn’t gone.  My friend Ron and I came back from BNYC with a greater heart to reach people for Jesus and the two of us would go out every Tuesday night walking door to door, asking people in our community if we could pray for them and talking to them about Jesus.  We were two teenagers just naive enough to believe God could use us.  

In 1985, a pivotal moment happened in my life.  The word pivotal means something of crucial importance in relation to the development or success of something else. I can look back on it all now and see how God used that year to shape me and begin a work in me that He continues to this day …and I couldn’t be more thankful.  

Being a Christ-follower is not about staying on my own plan, building my own little kingdom, and then some day when I’m old and gray and washed up, I get to die and go to heaven. The time I have on earth right now, as a follower of Jesus, is a God-designed era in my life where I am to get on His plan and discover my role in advancing the gospel in the lives of my family, as well as people in the church, in the community, and in the world. 

Questions to consider:

If you’re a parent, what are some pivotal moments you could plan for your kids?

If you’re a pastor, how can you intentionally plan pivotal moments in your ministry?

As you look back on your life, what pivotal moments has God used to reveal His love to you and encourage you to share His love with others?

How can the pivotal moments of your life be used to help you share the love of Jesus in the every day moments of your life?

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