Camp Adventures: Get Excited About the Little Things

Well, last week at camp was a light week. Light in the sense that there were not that many campers numbers wise. This was probably due to the fact that it was a holiday week, as the 4th of July was last Wednesday for those that forgot what the date was and what day of the week it is.

So Monday I was really pumped, here it is the second week of day camp, not really feeling tired yet, only for some of the senior staff members to tell me to give it a few more weeks. Wednesday came and I was not really sure what the day was going to look like. The weather was not the most promising looking thing either. Only a handful of campers showed up, as expected since it was after all the Fourth of July.

My fellow counselor and I doubled up on devos, she went first and I followed after her, because you know, always have to do the gentleman thing and let the ladies go first. I shared with the campers about the ultimate freedom that we have in this life. The freedom that we have to carry Bibles wherever we want, have worship services whenever we want, and how God gave his only Son, to die on a cross for our sins and the sins of this entire world so that we have a relationship with God.

Overall, it was a relatively normal day at day camp. Shortly after all the campers left, something struck me, throughout the day I had been struggling to be excited about the various day’s events. I blamed it on the lack of campers that we had that day. Ironically, had there been an overwhelming number of campers, I probably would have made the comment that I can’t wait until they all go home. Then the Lord struck me with something that was convicting and encouraging.

In Matthew 14:15-21, we see the well-known passage and the account of Jesus feeding 5,000 people. That’s the end of the story. I know you usually tell stories from the beginning, but I wanted to change things up here. The beginning of the story, Jesus only had 5 loaves and 2 fish to work with. Yet, the Bible said Christ blessed and gave thanks for what was provided to him. Now, if I had been there I may have laughed to cover up the frustrating feeling that I would have been having. You’re out all day, in the heat probably, getting hungry and 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish are all is what is being offered for dinner. A valiant effort and innocence of the willing young man that brought these things may have made me laugh, but I would have all sorts of things to say. Yet Christ blessed the gift. The hymn says, “little is much when God is in it.” What seemed like little numbers wise, became much and everyone ate, was filled, and there was even plenty of leftovers.

Sometimes as Christians I think we get so caught up in how much, numbers wise, is in the basket, that we forget about the quality of what is in the basket. The Bible didn’t say that the fish were too small, or old, or an uneditable type of fish, just that there was only two of them. It didn’t say that the bread was a small loaf or a gluten-free loaf, or that some liked the bread and others didn’t, just that there were only 5 loaves amongst thousands. I lost track what was in my basket, and just looked at the numbers. Only had 2 campers, yet I could have invested and built a strong lasting foundation of a friendship with these 2 campers instead of wondering what do I do with them today. What I needed to do was to be thankful and bless what was provided and let God provide the increase. In the Christian life, there are going to be things that maybe we plan, or try to plan, or and the attendance numbers can become discouraging. Yet, whether thousands come to church or 5, we can be excited. Where two or three are gathered God is in the midst of them, as we are promised in Scripture. But also, those that attend could be the most faithful, dependable, and the most committed believers that we know and God can and will use them. Whether there are many are or just a few, it isn’t all just about numbers. No matter what the numbers, God can and will continue to do great and mighty things with whomever and however many, as long as we are willing to follow after Him.

Advertisements

Camp Adventures: Getting Hooked

I love the woods and nature, just the ability to be completely surrounded by God’s magnificence is truly wonderful and such a blessing.

Here at camp you don’t have to look too far to realize there are life lessons and sermon illustrations that can be found everywhere.

Fishing, what a great way to spend time. The other day the kids were fishing and I was helping out. I was told, “they really never need help, you’ll be fine.” The irony of that statement. All was well, then suddenly yells and all kinds of chaos broke out, as one kid thought that he caught the “big one”. What we soon realized was, he caught a big one alright, but not a fish. He caught a turtle. I thought, well so much for them never needing help.

The turtle obviously was not too thrilled about the hook that was deep into his upper lip. When I tried to wiggle and get the hook out, he tried to pull away from me and go back into his shell and kept fighting me. What he didn’t realize was, that I was only trying to help him and he was making it worse.

Then it hit me, this was me at one point. Sin had taken a hold of me and everyone that was trying to help I resisted. The more that I pulled away and fought with the ones trying to help, the deeper into trouble I got.

Back to the turtle, the turtle finally wore himself out and at that point I was able to wiggle and maneuver the hook out of his mouth. I then dropped him back off in the pond and off he went. But, here’s the thing, there is the chance that very turtle can get caught again. Or, because he has been severely wounded, something else may come along and take advantage of his injuried state and he could be the dinner special on someone’s menu.

Again, this is us to some extent. We fight and fight and finally we get to a point where we can’t fight anymore and we accept help because we no other choice. Sin will wound us and leave us exposed. The damage that is done we aren’t really aware of, but we aren’t the same.

Now, there is hope in the midst of all this. Galatians 6:1 tells us that,”those that are over taken in fault, ye which are spiritual restore such one in a spirit of meekness, considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” Those that are spiritual does not mean that if you think that you are a super Christian you have the right to bash and kick people while they are down. It means that when you see others fallen into whatever has them hooked, that we encourage them. Most importantly we pray and pray and do what we can to restore that individual with the tools and resources that God has given us.

So if you are the turtle fighting those that are trying to help, may I encourage you that those who are trying to help mean no harm, but truly do want what is best for you. But don’t fight so hard, especially God, and create for yourself a situation where you have no where to go but to God. Because rock bottom is never a pretty place to be. Accept the help while it is being offered. If you are the one trying to get the hook out, understand that helping someone takes patience, gentleness, and most importantly love. May we all help restore one other to better serve and run our race that God has set before us.

So Much Time, So Many Different Bible Versions to Choose From

I was recently reflecting back to a time when I was in Africa, (last summer to be exact) and a friend and I were in a discussion about Bible versions. I had explained that in Tanzania, where I particularly was, they had the Good News Bible because that was what could be translated into Swahili because the King James Version could not be translated into their language very well.

Now, that got me thinking, there are many that are so baffled that people wouldn’t use the KJV Bible and only the King James Bible. I for one, prefer the KJV. If I am going to read scripture in a service or teach or preach it’s going to be from the KJV. I wouldn’t, however, say that I am KJV only person, I think a better way to say it is, I am a KJV preferred person.

Now some of you reading are already mad at me for stating what I just did, and that’s okay, I appreciate all opinions and input and this is just my personal conclusion that I have recently come to.

I can’t understand why people would say that other versions of the Bible are simply “not the word of God”. Who are we to say, well that’s not the KJV, therefore, you cannot learn and grow, so here, here’s the ‘right Bible’. I have many versions of the Bible and often times in my personal studies I will use different versions. One, for the different study notes. Secondly, to compare translations, because I do enjoy seeing the differences. Thirdly, because sometimes the different versions of the Bible help me to understand a particular passage better.

When I see others that have a Bible that maybe isn’t the Bible that I favor, I am not going to tell them their Bible is corrupted and inusable. Rather, it’s a blessing to see someone with a Bible, and by that I mean a paper one, (I don’t have a Bible on my phone, which is an entirely different post for another day). Rather than argue and bicker amongst ourselves, why not use what we have. Why not disciple someone using what they have, whether that be an ESV, NKJV, NLT, or NIV. I have run into many people and when I have asked them why they use the KJV only, they really had no idea. Which I can admit for a while I was the same way. I really didn’t know why I liked the KJV or thought that was the only Bible that there was to use.

There are many countries where the KJV Bible cannot be translated very well, and other Bible versions are used. And guess what, those Bibles are reaching, teaching, and impacting people’s lives. Why would that not be the case here in the USA. I almost feel that if we say that the KJV Bible is the only Bible that we are to use as Christians, then we are putting God in a box. We are almost saying that we cannot walk someone down the Romans with an ESV Bible, or that John 3:16 has no impact to anyone if it is the NIV version.

Isaiah 55:11, “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing where to I sent it.”  It is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword. The Bible doesn’t say God’s word will go out void if you are using an ESV Bible. God can, and he will use any version of the Bible. There is no limit to what God can use to touch the hearts and lives of the unsaved.

Think we need to be careful and draw a clear line in saying, ‘well son if you are going to teach, preach, read scripture here at this church we prefer the KJV.’ Rather than, “you use a Bible other than the KJV so you cannot preach, teach, or do anything at this church.” There are people in other countries that would die to have a Bible or pamphlet with Scripture on it. We have such wonderful freedom here in America, we can purchase Bibles anywhere and carry them anywhere we please. So why limit it to just one Bible.

I love God’s Word. I love that I get to teach, and preach, and read, and learn, and grow from it. I love when I am given any Bible of any version. They have all been a great blessing to me. So I challenge whoever may be reading, search out why you believe in what you believe. Don’t believe in something or hold hard to an opinion just because that is how you were

So I challenge whoever may be reading, search out why you believe in what you believe. Don’t believe in something or hold hard to an opinion just because that is how you were raised, rather search out and make your own conclusions. Be able to defend your views, whether it is Bible versions, or doctrinal issues or whatever it may be.

Be Strong and Courageous

Have you ever had a job or get assigned a task and you think to yourself, why in the world was I chosen for this? There is no way that I can get this done. I have often felt that way about numerous things.

In I Chronicles 28, David gives instructions to Solomon to build the temple. But he doesn’t just give him the instructions and then send him off on his merry way. He encourages him as well. God did the same thing with Noah, he gave him in the instructions on how to build the ark and then provided everything that he needed to complete the task that was before him. Joshua was left to complete a task after Moses had died, and he may have thought how am I ever going to get this done. But God encouraged and reminded Joshua that he was going to see him through all the way to the end.

“…as I was with Moses, so will I be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” – Joshua 1:5 Again, in verse 6 he tells Joshua to be “strong and very courageous.” And then a third time in verse 9, “Have I not commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed, for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” 

I often need to be reminded of verses such as Hebrews 13:5, “…I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” God doesn’t just give us a task to complete and then fold his hands and sit in a rocking chair and wonder to himself, I wonder if they can handle that one. No, thankfully, God provides and sustains us through whatever task he gives us.

David encourages Solomon in I Chronicles 28:20 “And David said unto his son, Be strong and of good courage, and do it; fear not, nor be dismayed: for the Lord God, even my God, will be with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee, until thou hast finished all the work for the service of the house of God.”

Our issue and mine as well, is that we often already have a pre-assumption that whatever God wants us to do we aren’t adequate enough to complete, so why bother even trying. What’s the point? The point is that we have gifts and skills that God gave us, and if we are willing, he will work through us and allow us to use those strengths for his glory, and in a way yes, we aren’t really adequate enough to really do much of anything for God, but that’s why we need his help! He’ll see us all the way through.

God will even provide the right people to come along side of us and help as well. I Chronicles 28:21, “And, behold, the course of the priests and the Levites, even they shall be with thee for all the service of the house of God: and there shall be with thee for all manner of workmanship every willing skillful man for any manner of service, also the princes and all the people will be wholly at thy commandment.” 

Just like a baseball team, you can’t show up with 9 pitchers. You need a catcher and a pitcher and all the other positions filled. The pitcher can’t just do everything on their own, thats why they need everyone else on the field supporting them. As Christians we can’t do everything on our own. We can’t do anything without help from our Heavenly Father. With God helping us, willing and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ helping us as well, we can accomplish whatever God has asked us to do!

 

 

“Two are better than one; because they have good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

“Being confident if this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” – Philippians 1:6

 

 

 

 

 

Helping Hands

In Luke 10, in verses 10-37 there is the famous account of the Good Samaritan. Jesus is speaking to a lawyer and he begins with the question, what can he do to inherit eternal life. I’ve been told that a good lawyer will ask questions that he already knows the answers too. Jesus replies with a question, asking him what has he read in the law. Very clever of Christ because he would have realized that this lawyer would be very knowledgeable of the law and what it says. The lawyer answers and says “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.”  (v.27)  A correct answer and Jesus acknowledges that but the lawyer wants to really to get the win here, and seemingly prove his case and asks the question, and who is my neighbor? As I was reading the account it got me thinking and wondering the same question that the lawyer had asked. Who is my neighbor? Is my neighbor the folks that live on either side of me, or perhaps could I consider everyone in my neighborhood my neighbor? Really not that bad of a question if you ask me.

Today we can turn on the news and within a matter of minutes, we see stories about all kinds of death, hurt, destruction, illness and really just madness. With recent terrorist attacks in other regions of the world, I think it can become easy for us to come to the conclusion, that I’d rather not have any neighbors. If I can take care of me, myself and I then all other needs just become secondary or even non-existent.

This account in the Bible has never become more relevant. We see a Jewish man that is “stripped of his raiment, and wounded, and departed, and leaving him half dead.” (v.30) He’s obviously not in a good spot and yet what is to come is rather disturbing in one sense. A priest, which represents a religious man, comes by this wounded man and, “when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.” (v.31)  A priest is the first one to see the helpless man, and he we could say represents a religious man. As a Christian I feel like we are always being criticized, and it may even be fair to say that all those are considered people of religion share constant criticism, but God help us if we get to a point, where we see something and decide to not only let someone else handle it but rather take ourselves way out of the picture, and ‘pass by on the other side’ so to speak. We live in a society where everyone has to have their needs met right away and we are inconvenienced when we are asked to assist someone else.

Next, a Levite comes along, and his reaction is actually worse. “…when he was the place, came and looked on  him, and passed by the other side.” (v.32) It’s not that he glanced over, or tripped over the man, but he saw, he took the time to gaze upon, and then made the decision, to not even walk by but to take himself to the other side of the road and then pass by.  Today I think we can all relate in a sense. I remember in school seeing a fight break out and I never really wanted to get involved, and it seemed that the crowd that gathered around to watch didn’t either. Even if one person was getting annihilated everyone just waited for someone else to handle the situation. It’s sad that so many times in churches this same thing happens from time to time. We hear of a need, but we are too busy, or we have the ‘someone else can do that’ mentality. I have been guilty of that. But the fact of the matter is if I am able then I should help my neighbor and as a Christian I believe that is part of the following of Christ, to help those in need when I can.

Lastly, a Samaritan comes and takes care of the wounded man, cleaning up his wounds, and he even goes so far as to bring him to an inn and further take care of the man. (v. 33-35) Now we read that and honestly, we don’t really think that the Samaritan did anything that amazing. But what he did do was use his resources his animal, clothing, money, and energy. Something that we can do all do to help the needs of others.

But at the time of the story Jews and Samaritans hated each other. They had no dealings with one another. But yet the Samaritan helps this Jewish man to the ultimate degree and then some. When Jesus asks the lawyer who he thinks proved to be a good neighbor, the lawyer can’t even bring himself to say Samaritan, he just says, “he that showed mercy.” (v.37) 

So can I challenge everyone with this, as I have been challenged – it doesn’t matter what color, race, creed, gender, social status is can we be a Good Samaritan, because it doesn’t matter if someone is a homosexual, or a drunk, or a drug addict, or rich, or homeless, or black or white, or purple or fat or skinny or a pastor or a satanist. We all are neighbors of each other even though it may mot be a geographical sense. We all have neighbors that are in need. We probably don’t have to drive far and we’ll see a neighbor in need. Let’s put aside these barriers of why we can’t help someone else and instead come together like chain links and help those that needy. People may have less than us but that doesn’t mean they are less of a human than us.

 

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” – Matthew 5:43-44