March 23, 2014

What Is the Soundtrack to Your Faith
{aka, I got to shake Ron Luce's hand this morning}

I got to shake Ron Luce's hand this morning.

"Ron Luce and his wife Katie started Teen Mania Ministries in 1986 with a dream to raise up young people who would change the world. The ministry has expanded greatly and has become very influential within today’s Christian youth culture."

They are responsible for the Acquire the Fire weekend youth rallies that tour all over the country, Global Expeditions that trains and sends youth all over the world to proclaim the name of Christ through missions, they offer Extreme (summer) Camps, the Honor academy to cultivate and develop the leadership potential in young adults directly following high school, plus advanced education opportunities in their School of Worship and their Center for Creative Media.

I got to shake Ron Luce's hand this morning.

I got to tell him that 16 years ago I attended my first Acquire The Fire youth conference, around the time my daddy was in rehab and my parents had separated and I had just started cutting.

I was 13.

No one knew how depressed I was and scared to be myself in our youth group or how I believed that I didn't fit in or that they didn't even want me there because I was just an annoying 7th grader who was unknowingly going through hell.

It was at that ATF conference that I learned for the first time that God saw me, up close.  He totally showed up when I did the whole, open-up-the-Word-at-a-random-place-and-point-with-your-finger-at-random-on-the-page-and-see-if-it-means-anything-to-you... thing.  Thrice.

It was at that ATF conference that I silently balled my eyes out in my auditorium seat with my face covered so my "friends" wouldn't see me as Ron's words penetrated straight into my soul and rocked my world.  And GOD met me right where I was.

Ron likes to say, "When you fall in love with Jesus, you fall out of love with the world," and I walked away from that weekend never to cut again. God used that conference in March of '98 to change. my. life. I can still hear him yelling in the mic, "HOW do YOU know God is real?" and the whole auditorium screaming back, "Because He changed my life!!!"

This morning he was a guest speaker at the church fellowship our family is apart of.  He spoke on Daniel 3:16-18. Just 3 verses out of the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
He talked about this "feel good" world, and how it has easily crafted a new normal for Christians to have "feel good" faith too; "only if" faith. Only if He does this or answers this prayer or protects this person, etc. We put conditions on our following of Christ. "Lord, I will follow You but first let me..." {Luke 9:61} There's no "backroom deals" with God. There's no deal we can make that will allow us the pleasure of riding above the storms in life.

I don't want to be that kid who throws a fit on Christmas morning because I didn't get the present that I wanted. i.e. - He didn't protect my baby and keep her healthy, so... the centrality of my faith is shaken? Or how about when we see something bad happen to good people, or they even die, or get diagnosed, or children are abused, etc, and we say silently in our hearts, "Hold up! This does NOT line up with my theology." It's at this point that "feel good faith" becomes disillusioned. Scripture says, "We see through a glass dimly..."

Will I trust Him when it hurts really bad? Or how about how we all believe that He CAN do something, but that He MAY NOT choose to... so I'm afraid to even ask in faith in the first place because I could be disappointed? Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego not only believed God COULD, but also that He WOULD... and yet they added, "Even if He doesn't..."
"Even if" faith allows for the majesty of God.  -Ron Luce
Jesus said that those who ENDURE to the end will be saved. Endure is not a word we use to describe something pleasant or enjoyable. ("Hey, do you think you could endure this ice cream?")

"BE STRONG IN THE LORD!" we say. Yeah, for like a minute. Because as Christians, we usually only train for strength but not for endurance. Endure through the difficult.  Like running with with an injury to finish the race, or a military person miraculously rescuing someone even though their own wounds might eventually overtake them: choosing to endure even when it FEELS unpleasant. Or even simply choosing to worship or pray or dig deep in Him "even if" we don't FEEL His presence currently.
Brook Fraser wrote a song called faithful that says, "When I can't feel you I have learned to reach out just the same. When I can't hear you I know you still hear every word I say.  Lord, I want you more than I want to live another day. So as I wait for you maybe I'm made more...faithful."
Made more faithful.  Trained for endurance.

He shared the back-story of the beloved hymn, "It Is Well," which I already knew, but haven't heard directly after my own loss before. After the loss of all four of his daughters in a shipwreck the hymnist Horatio Spafford penned these words, "When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll, whatever my lot, thou has taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul."

Jesus asked His disciples when the going got tough, "Will you leave me too?" They responded so matter of fact with, "Lord, where would we go?" 

Ron left us with this question posed:
"What is the soundtrack to your faith? Only if or even if?"
Sixteen years ago God used this man, this imperfect soul that just wants to live for God to his fullest and impact as many youth for Christ like he was... to reach me right where I was at the time. We were just another stop on that year's ATF tour. There have been decades and thousand more tour stops along the way, and millions of youth reached like I was.

And God did that again for me today. What a pleasure to get to tell Ron my God-story that he had no idea included him. Also, at the end of the conversation he remembered both our names from the beginning of it, and thanked us. Our pleasure. :)

post signature

1 comment:

  1. Hey friend! I found you. So happy to read your words and let my mind open to a flood of special memories of our times together. :)


I'm thrilled you've stopped by for a visit! I hope you feel as though we're sittin' together on my front porch while drinkin' somethin' warm; simply sharin' life with transparency. :)

Whether you are a first time visitor or a long-time reader, know that you are welcome here in this community. Put your feet up awhile and make yourself at home!