This week at LTLC, we're spending the next 4 days with some of the best kids I've ever met. I've known them since they were 9 and 10. As we move forward as leaders, I keep thinking about what to pray for - what their needs are. The more I prayed about them and looked in their faces, the more I wondered if we had missed that step, that simple fact: God loves them.
Because we all had that moment when we were kids and first realized bad things happen to good people. That moment when we saw how our siblings lived and we decided to be different. When childhood ended and we lost someone we loved.
When we first wondered if God's love had limits. When we get angry, we tend to question our Creator but I believe God's love is proven in what hurts us. So what makes your heart ache? What mystery do you wish you could solve? It's key to proving this isn't smoke and lights. This was, and is, a well-planned, grace-filled revolution.
When we find what fills the heart, instead of what pays the bills, we find our ultimate end is the kingdom of God (not a Ferrari.) This is what God calls us to.
And it starts with this. It starts with love.
This is what God put on my heart this week, and to share with you:
I love you. Do you know what that means?
You stand in the shallow end, sometimes waist deep at best, calling others to join you like you're desperate for a friend. But what I call you to is a surprise. A tsunami. Imagine you are standing, not in 2 feet of water for babies that barely wets your ankles, but a tidal pool. In front of you is a wave so powerful, frothing in abundance, higher than your imagination and thicker than anything you could ever survive. The thought of it should give you a cold sweat. It's the thing you didn't want, almost as if you knew it was going to happen, you didn't want it so badly - your mom getting cancer, your coach not liking you, your grades not quite hitting the mark, your parents splitting up, your younger sibling getting bullied.
It hits you and you're wrecked. You're smashed into water that doesn't end, clean, drowning grace that pulls you down, you're not even swimming you're just flailing around.
This is God's love. You're not going anywhere in that water. You're just lost, surrounded in something that fills your throat and every cavity with a swelling and you slowly start to think you might burst. Just when you reach that point where you honestly think, I give up, suddenly - it lifts you up.
The farther you seem to be sinking there's light around you and you're Rising. Your feet hit ground somehow and you reach a peak. Higher than Everest. Like Noah, your head emerges from the flood water and there is a place to grab your hand. Higher than you could have ever climbed on your own and you grasp it in your fist, launched onto your feet.
Through the darkness you found where the pounding in your heart and the heat of your anger have met the real world.
This is your revolution.
You stand on this summit and can see exactly what God has made you to see, your eyes alone can see it, your words and your mouth alone can activate the revolution that is needed to save.
You are the scout of the Messiah, assistant to the Author of Life. He has chosen you and he doesn't, will not ever, regret it. In choosing Him, you choose a life that is not about you being attractive or important but about a love for those whose life you want to change, so badly you can't keep yourself from hitting the ground.
The tidal pool is God's love. It isn't a sprinkle of holy water it is a dunk, a drowning, a death and a new birth. It isn't feeble, it is strong. Don't you know what water can do? It erodes. It cleanses. It smothers, like God's love ought to nearly strangle us with joy.
Why are you here? You may have parents who love you to a point of crazy annoyance. Friends who you know will be there for you and wave the flag with your name on it. You have teachers, youth ministers, Core Members, dynamic speakers, who cheer you on and tell you that you have what it takes.
But it is this. This tidal pool. Where faith is formed, born, begins. This is the foundation - as solid as the water on which Jesus walked, and where Peter sank. Do you believe that He loves you? Or do you believe the one who doesn't want you to ever be loved?
When we allow God's love to be our ground, our rock, we wouldn't judge, we wouldn't be angry, we wouldn't yell, when others simply fail to believe and follow His love for them. This is all about God's love and that is step one. It has nothing to do with what you need to do. What skills you want to acquire. It's not about a task list or a resume. It's a relationship that you can't keep to yourself because you know everyone is called to this.
Why is there pain, sin, hate in our world? Because other leaders - that is, any human - didn't want to be saved. They were too scared to drown so even though the God who parted the Red Sea tells them not to be afraid, they would rather die on a cliff that they couldn't climb than fall into the waters of grace.
Do you believe God loves you? That devastating truth beyond a cheesy bumper sticker or a bookmark from your well-intentioed godmother? Love will take you. It's not just a smiley-face. It's a heart, broken, battered, bruised... and healed.
Can you jump across, to a place where you don't carry that self-doubt like a backpack filled with rocks? Can you fall down and scrape your ego, your crown, as well as your knees?
Jesus challenged me today with this: Can you take that perfect china image of yourself - the Church Leader - the Good Girl - the Funny Guy - the Smart, Reliable One - the Prodigy - the Completely Unique who Follows No Rules - and smash it on the ground so we can see Christ standing behind you? If you are not leading others to Jesus, the source of love which has changed your life and ruined all of your plans, why are you leading them at all - and have you stopped to think where you might be leading them to? As leaders, we are no more than translators. We are taking a message we can see from that mountain top, and in the language of our people, our territory, our vernacular (mine tends to be the insecure or immature) serving as a prophet. But first, we must be taken somewhere foreign. First, we must be taken.
This isn't about our failure as a leader or simple person - it's about our failure to be carried to Victory as a Child of God. In our Bible Study this morning, we studied Genesis 1:11, where God leaves a seed in all plants so that life, His creation, can keep going with the gentlest touch of His. He does the same with us. The seed of His life, which bears fruit in our patience, our kindness, our self-control (Galatians 5:22) keeps the kingdom alive. And nothing can stop it.
But first you, like a dandelion wish, must be blown off by the Spirit of God with out knowing where you are going, only that the place He wants you planted is where you will joyously, gloriously more than just bloom. You will explode with grace.
Are you ready to never be the same?