Hopetown Highlights - Session 4 - 9th-10th Grade Camp - Changing from the Inside Out

"For as he thinks within himself, he is…" Proverbs 23:7

"Our brains think in 1300 words per minute", Melissa told us during our 9th-10th grade camp.  A majority of those thoughts are negative.  Have you noticed? What kinds of things do you say to yourself?  Are you critical of others? Are you critical of yourself? Do you say things to yourself like:

“I can’t…”  “I’m not…” “If only I was more…”?

It’s important to know your thoughts.  It’s where we all start.  And most of us start with pretty negative thoughts.  But we decided together over the course of the week, thanks to the movie Race and the story of Jehoshaphat, in 2 Chronicles 20, it’s not where we want to stay.  

But we have to know where we are to know where we want to go.  Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  Renewing our minds starts with knowing them first.  And, for most of us, we end up landing in one of these negative categories with our 1300 words per minute.

  • Predicting the Outcome:
    • I’ll be the only one trying hard with others.
    • I’ll always be left out.
    • I’ll go to camp (or insert another activity), but I won’t enjoy myself.
    • Nothing ever works out for me.  There’s no point in trying.
  • I Know What You’re Thinking:
    • No one understands me.
    • They’ll think I’m weak.
    • No one takes me seriously.
    • They don’t care about me.
    • They’re mad at me.
    • I’m the only one reaching out.
    • I know the right way and no one will pay attention.
  • Blame:  I have all these feelings, so there must be a reason
    • I’m angry…things didn’t go my way.
    • I’m sad…someone left me out.
    • I feel insecure.  There are so many cliques and everybody already knows each other.
    • I feel anxiety…this place isn’t safe for me yet.
  • Habit of Making Things Big
    • I’m sad—I must have depression.
    • I feel awkward—I must have social anxiety.
    • I cried hard—I HAD A PANIC ATTACK!
    • If I’m not the best, I have nothing to offer.
    • They didn’t ask me to sit by them, so I have no friends.
    • If there’s a chance I’ll mess up or look stupid, I’m not going to try.
  • Making Demands
    • I just want to be loved correctly.
    • If I do it right, I expect you to do it right.
    • I want to live correctly.
    • I expect you (and myself) to live up to what’s in my head.
    • Don’t ask anything of me.  I expect you to make me feel better.
    • I’m uncomfortable or I don’t know what to say, so I’m going to cover it up with, “I’m so hot,” “I don’t feel good,” “I’m really tire, “I’ve got something else to do.”
  • Black & White Absolutes
    • Other people or funny or boring
    • Other people or cool or weird
    • Other people or good looking or awkward.

In other words, we find a variety of ways and thoughts that we think are going to protect us.  But, the truth is that there is someone bigger than we are who loves us and is for us.  He is the one who protects us—who wants to renew us.  He wants us to be freed up from the negative thoughts that come naturally for us.  He wants us to come to him in our weakness, in our most negative thoughts, and give those thoughts to him.

The Message puts Romans 12:2 this way:

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you:  Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.  Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.  Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.  Instead, fix your attention on God.  You’ll be changed from the inside out.”

When we surrender before God, bringing our thoughts and feelings to Him as an offering, He’s the one who renews us.  He changes us from the inside out, and frees us to move more toward where we want to go and, even more importantly, who we want to be.

Some day, we will all appear before Christ.  Until that time, don’t judge each other.  Don’t be so hard on others.  Or on yourself.  Eventually, we’ll all be on our knees, side by side, when we see Him face to face.  Until that time, He calls us to take our ordinary, everyday lives.  He calls us to surrender—not just our spiritual lives, but our everyday lives, and place those before God as an offering.

If you’re afraid, place it before Him.

If you don’t know what that means, place it before Him.

If you feel like you’ll be the only one and don’t want to be different, place it before Him.

If you think you’re so busy you have a hard time thinking about him, place it before Him.

Whatever has happened to you, place it before Him and come.  He’ll change all of us from the inside out and free us to learn the unforced rhythms of grace.

“Are you tired?  Worn out?  Burned out on religion?  Come to me.  Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.  I’ll show you how to take a real rest.  Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it.  Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.  I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.  Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30, MSG