An Altared Weekend

It’s my first day back in the saddle after a wonderful, whirlwind weekend at our high school discipleship retreat at Watermarks Camps in Scottsville, VA.  51 of my closest friends and I ventured out away from our routines to spend some time with God and each other.  Our theme for this retreat was “Altared” and while there is no way to convey in words the phenomenal experience we had there, I would like to fire off a few bullets that might give a little taste of what we experienced with the Lord this weekend. 

1. I’m glad we decided not to have middle and high school students together for our discipleship retreat. There were a couple other groups there with ms/hs mixed crowds and I was reminded that our decision to split them up for discipleship retreats is a great one. They’re simply at extremely different points in lots of different ways and being able to address one group at a time is ideal. (Our middle school retreat was a month ago.)

2. For the past several years I’ve been oscillating between being a “manuscript” speaker and an “outline” speaker.  Each approach has its own pros and cons, but this weekend I was heavily convinced of what I felt God wanted said and I didn’t want to rely too heavily on my memory to deliver it faithfully.  So, I went more with the manuscript but hopefully didn’t sound like I was reading.  I was passionate about the content and that’s precisely why I wrote as much down beforehand as I could while not getting so rigid that I couldn’t turn on a dime if led to.

3. Friday night we talked about the crisis facing our nation. I told students they were merely born into it, but God wants to use them powerfully to turn the tide of a society that is turning away from Him.  To that end, here is one of the statements God laid on my heart to share:

“This is ALTARED because that’s precisely what we’re going to see happen. This isn’t a weekend thing, this is a call to leave behind the weak-kneed, milk toast, limp-wristed, mamsy-pamsy, beauty pageant, shallow excuse for religion and instead throw yourself onto the ALTAR that leads you and anyone who dares into a life of trend-bashing surrender.”

And…

“You can be religious about football, you can be religious about marching band, you can be religious about video games, you can be religious about watching your favorite TV show, you can be religious about your studies, you can be religious about attending church, you can be religious about taking care of your body, but please don’t be religious about Jesus.”

We discussed the life-giving love that God has for all people and how that love serves as the catalyst that propels us onto the altar of self-denial and full surrender to His design for our lives.

There was much more we plunged into on Friday night, but that was quite the start of our retreat.

Saturday morning we talked about obedience and how we shy away from that word because it connotes weakness, submission, and being under someone else’s control; things that are undesirable in our world, and especially in our society.  In John 12:24, Jesus said that unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it just remains a single seed.  But if it dies, it produces many more seeds.  He was simultaneously talking about himself and his upcoming death on the cross, and he was also talking to us and His call to us to follow His lead to lay down our lives for others.

We discussed the incredible discomfort that comes when we hear words like that and how even in the Church, this message gets watered down and instead we try and make the Gospel more palatable so that more people will embrace it.

What does the obedient life look like? We discussed a few things that mark an obedient life:

1. Abandoning every other hope, including yourself. (Identifying the places your faith is that aren’t God.)

2. Keeping your eyes fixed on Jesus. (Seeing what distracts us and what results from it.)

3. Strengthening our spiritual friendships.  (Here I made the statement that they don’t need accountability, they need spiritual friendships.)

Saturday night we looked at Romans 12:1-2 & 9-10; the first two are the invitation, the second two are the result of accepting the invitation.

Sunday morning served as a time of sharing as well as an honest look at the cross.  The cross serves as our “portable altar”.  The words of Jesus are “take up your cross daily and follow Me.”  (Luke 9:23) We wrapped up with an underscoring of the word “daily” and all that means for us today.

A couple pics I took during the weekend…

Some of our students, just before worship started Friday night

Some team building we did on Saturday morning

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