I’m writing to you this week after returning from a small town in the heart of Slovakia called Tisovec where my son Trey and I helped lead a sports camp for students and leaders from the city of Bardejov – a historic city of 33,000 people near the Polish border. Josiah Venture chose the location in Tisovec because it is one of the rare places in Slovakia that has three indoor basketball courts, a dormitory, an outdoor pool, and a place to get three meals a day. The accommodations were not ideal but the type of ministry that took place was impactful and one of the main reasons we returned again this summer after helping to lead the camp last summer. Josiah Venture truly does an amazing job of relevantly engaging central and eastern European youth with the gospel and we’ve loved being a part of their work.
The theme for this summer’s camp was You Are Here which helped students understand where they’ve come from, where they currently are in life, and where they want to go. I had the privilege of preaching on Sunday night about where they want to go and used one of my all-time favorite movies Back to the Future as an illustration. The kids seemed to know the movie (always a good thing) and resonate with the story (another good thing). As you may remember, Back to the Future was a blockbuster time travel movie released in 1985 starring Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd. In the film, Marty McFly (played by Fox) is accidentally sent back in time to 1955 where he meets his future parents in high school and becomes his mother’s romantic interest. He must repair the damage to history by causing his parents to fall in love and then return to 1985 with the help of Dr. Emmett “Doc” Brown (played by Lloyd). In essence, he and his parents’ decisions in 1955 were going to affect the direction each of them went in life, and ultimately, their futures. In the same way, our decisions in life – especially the decision we make about who Jesus is and whether we choose to follow Him – affects our path in life and our future. We looked at four different people in scripture who all encountered Jesus, the decision they made to follow Him or not follow Him, and what we can learn from each decision. Here, briefly, are the four people:
The rich young ruler found in Matthew 19:16-22. He chose not to follow Jesus because of what he perceived he needed to give up. I’ve seen many people over the years who wrestle with the same challenge when encountering the gospel and Jesus’ call to “follow me.” They value something else (position, wealth, popularity, lifestyle, friends) more than they value Christ. In the end, the rich young ruler chose not to follow Jesus and Jesus sadly moved on. The rich young ruler missed an opportunity for so much more than his earthly wealth could provide.
2. Judas Iscariot. Judas was a disciple of Jesus and was around Him all the time. He saw His miracles, he saw His life, he heard His teachings. Judas looked like an authentic follower of Jesus but he really wasn’t. In the end, Judas was following Jesus with wrong motives and an impure heart. His character was revealed over time and his life got severely off track. We can’t just go through the motions of following Jesus.
3. The Jewish people in John 8:31-41. They refused to come to Jesus and follow Him because they thought they were alright without Him. They kept appealing to their heritage, their tradition, and their family standing. “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” Translation. I don’t need you Jesus because my grandparents were Christian so I’m alright. I don’t need to really follow you Jesus because I went to a religious school. I don’t need to follow you Jesus because I’m a good person. They were offended because of the gospel. Many people today have to overcome this one because the gospel does offend us. Look at what the apostle Paul said in I Corinthians 1:18, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
4. The apostle Paul. If anyone had the opportunity to boast and trust in himself it was Paul. However, Paul had a powerful encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus and made the decision to whole-heartedly follow Him. His decision not only affected his life, but the lives of hundreds…thousands…dare I say millions of lives. He saw the future and what was really important.
It was such a pleasure serving with these leaders from Slovakia and seeing five students decide to go “all in” for Jesus at the end of camp! It never, ever, ever, ever gets old seeing people respond to the love of God and the gospel message! Thank you for partnering with us to allow things like this to happen. Love you guys.
Dave and April