This weekend was such an awesome weekend.  I spent 48 hours in the presence of God and over 210 teenagers at Sandy Hill Camp, in Northeast, MD.  It was the venue for our youth ministries’ fall retreat.  Our youth ministry, Elevate, now represented by kids, leaders and pastors from both our Gaithersburg and Frederick campuses, came out to worship, fellowship and have lots of fun.

In the midst of our first night’s worship, Pastor Justin came at us direct, with a message from Mark 8:34, where Jesus told his followers and disciples “if anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

Pastor Justin reminded us how personal and inconvenient it is for us as Christians to pick up and carry our crosses around every day.  It might be cool to have your cross on Sunday mornings, raising your hands and singing in church, but are you openly professing your faith when you’re at work, school or amongst other non-believers?  He really inspired me to stand firm, and to stand my ground in other environments where it might not be cool to openly say that I’m a Christian.  He also reminded me it wasn’t cool for Jesus either when He picked up his cross and died for us.

Jesus said in that same scripture in verse 38 that ‘if anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.’

Guys I don’t know about you, but I know that I’m working hard to become more aggressive about my faith and my walk.  I have been and will continue to be making some tough choices to fast from the things that take me away from my spiritual growth.  I’m going to continue to remove things and people from my life that hinder my walk and my growth.  I’m making a really tough decision, but one that must be made to start cleaning up my life, so that Jesus can direct my steps, so that I can serve His kingdom without added distractions.

I’m not gaining cool points here, but that’s fine. I’m sorry in advance if you find that offensive, but I’m moving away from my dependence on the world and instead, beginning to rely on Him 100%.

I encourage you today, to pick up your cross.  God’s got something great in store for you, but faith alone isn’t going to get you there:

James 2:18 ‘But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.  You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder.’

For those of you that missed this message, feel free to watch Pastor Justin’s message here. Please know it’s well worth the 19 minutes and 8 seconds of your day:

Pastor Justin: Marvel – November 2010 from Stephen Hart on Vimeo.

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