Camp Adventures: I Want Out

Camping has always been something that I have just loved. The outdoors is awesome. Everything from bugs to bonfires.

I was fortunate enough growing up to be in the Boy Scouts, and we went on many overnight camping trips. My dad always came with me and that was always helpful because I never knew what to expect at times. Different trips always provided a different experience.

This week a camper who has been here before came, and unfortunately there were several things that he was struggling with and eventually, a parent picked him up and he went home. (Side note- I won’t get into any more details about this to protect the person that just happens to be my illustration. .)

So, the camper went home, that was it. I was sad because I wanted this individual to have fun and hear the word of God presented. But, it hit me. This type of thing happens so often in the Christian life. We hear a Gospel presentation and it sounds so wonderful. Eternal life and a debt that we can never repay paid in full for a world of people that are so undeserving. What better news could one ask for?! That this gift of life is free and available to me and whosoever will if we just extend our hands and accept.

The Christian life can be a lot like camping. It all sounds good and looks good but we aren’t sure what to expect when we get started. Accepting Christ as your Savior does not mean that life automatically becomes a bed of roses and is smooth sailing. I wish that was the case but if I told you that, I’d be lying. We aren’t sure what to expect. Maybe it starts off great and then there are some things that we are just struggling with that seem like we can’t get over. Then slowly the smaller issues become bigger ones. Or one struggle ends and a new one begins. After a while we may start to think, I want out of this. I don’t want to continue. Questions of doubt and frustration begin to enter our minds. Is this worth it? Can I just quit and try again later? This isn’t what was mentioned in the brochure.

Have you ever been there? Have you ever thought that that following after Jesus sounded great but there are some things that have happened and you find yourself wanting out, or perhaps even angry at God. Maybe we want to take a break and come back to it another time. I’m sure we have all been there. I know I have. We could look at the seats in church on Sunday and probably think of a few people who use to fill the empty spaces, but now are no longer there or even walking with God.

My fellow brothers and sisters, don’t give up! Keep walking with God. Keep giving, keep praying, keep reading, keep studying, keep growing, keep fighting the good fight. You are not alone in this. You are not the only person that has struggles. You are valuable and have worth and you are an important piece of a giant puzzle board. The Christian life is not the easiest but it is the best life. All my good times with God and what I have seen Him do outweighs the bad times, it is not even comparable.

As 2 Thessalonians 2:15 says, “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.” Maybe you need to revisit the day when you got saved. Or perhaps look through your Bible at different dates and events that have occurred in your life. Or revisit a favorite sermon or re-watch a conference. Whatever the case may be, go back and remember and relive the things that you have seen God do, and the things that you have learned from the Lord. Refresh and renew yourself. The old saying goes, failure is not an option, but neither is quitting. There is a lost and dying world out there that is searching for something. They are looking for hope in a dark world. Guess what my fellow believers, you and I, have the Good news to share, the Gospel. So, let us seek those that have fallen away, and pray through that God may use us as tiny instruments in the restoration of lives and furthering of His Kingdom.

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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.

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.

What Kind of Friend Are You And What Kind of Friends Do You Have

Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”

Do you have any friends have been there for you in adversity? Let me ask this question, are you the friend that someone can call when they are in a time of adversity?

In Luke 5:17-26 is the account where Jesus heals a man that has palsy. Here are 4 friends, helping 1 man, making 1 trip, to get one ultimate healing.

Palsy, can affect either motor centers of the brain or the spinal cord. Sometimes it can cause a loss of sensations, and it can affect one side of the body or the whole system from the neck down. In Mark 2:3, the Bible describes this man with palsy as, “being borne of four.” Now here borne means to be brought, carried, and one definition was to be supported. So this man is depending on his four friends to get him help.

First, we see their faith caused a determination. The Bible does not say the distance that they traveled to get to the house, but you can imagine that they must have been tired. Carrying their friend, they all had to work together, and together they may have felt discouragement. They finally get to the house where Jesus is teaching, only to find that there is no way they can get inside, but the crowds would not stop them. Are there any crowds that may be stopping us from getting people to Jesus? Maybe even consider something else, are there any crowds that are keeping ourselves from getting to Jesus? We can have friends, family members, perhaps even a relationship that can be potentially be stopping us from getting to Jesus if we are not careful. I remember friends that kept inviting me to church and Bible studies and services, why, because they wanted to get me to Jesus. They knew that I was in desperate need of healing, spiritually speaking. Thank God for the friends that bring us to Jesus and let us be that friend that brings others to Christ.

Secondly, we see their faith brought restoration. As these friends are lowering down their friend from the roof, in Luke 5:20, the Bible says, “he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee.” See, Jesus healed, but he did not address the physical need first. He took care of the spiritual need first. There are many people that we know that have physical needs. Maybe we are praying for those with cancer or some diagnosis that isn’t very good, and those are great things that we should pray for. But we also need to pray for people to be spiritually healed. I want to see souls saved and lives changed. Perhaps even someone that maybe was full time in ministry or involved in the things of Christ but has walked away, our prayer for healing for them would be, that they would make a return to being in fellowship with Christ personally, and other believers. In this account, we see that there were doctors, but they were the wrong doctors. Verse 17 says, “there were Pharisees and doctors of the law.”. The only thing that they wanted to diagnosis was how they may condemn the work that Christ was doing. But Christ would make it clear that “the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” May we continue to pray for those that we know that need spiritual and physical healing.and we thank God that Christ is able to forgive us and make us new again.

Lastly, we see faith was rewarded. Jesus “seeing their faith…”. Think about that, these friends of this sick man all believed in the same thing, Jesus Christ. Even the man that they are carrying, he had to have faith. He’s assuming that these men all knew what they were doing not only in bringing him to Jesus, but then lowering him through the roof to make sure that he was seen by the Great Physician.

Do we have friends like that? Maybe the question that convicts me is, am I that kind of friend? Ready to go through adversity, no matter what the obstacles could possibly be, to bring help to someone that I love and care about. Do we have friends that still believe in bringing others that are hurting and are in what seems to be helpless, hopeless, pointless situations to Christ? You see after all was said and done the man with palsy “immediately rose before them, and took up that whereon he lay, and departed to his own house glorifying God.” Not only did the man glory God after was made completely whole, but in verse 26, “and they were all amazed, and they glorified God…”. So when we come together and we work for the same cause and believe, and allow God to work, there is no way for those that are watching to deny the power and the working of God. May we continue to glorify God in the healing and restoring work that He is still continuing to do in the lives of people today.

What Will You Do With Jesus

When I was a younger, I was always reminded by my parents that the choices that I make will always follow me. As I get older (and I’m not even old right now) I have realized that statement is very true. I have found this out the hard way a number of times, but I get it. In scripture, we see there are many different accounts of people that made good and bad decisions that had long-term effects.

In John 19:1-16 we see that Pilate and Jesus made some choices. But even before this passage we see that Judas had a made a choice as well. So let us briefly look at 3 different people who made 3 different decisions.

First, Judas. He sought out the Pharisees and went to them and asked, what will you give me if I give you Jesus? Judas had walked with Christ and seen him do many great things, yet he chose 30 pieces of silver over Christ. Now it’s easy to rip Judas, but how many of us have been like Judas? We choose something that has little value over Christ. Judas never did enjoy any of that silver that he had acquired from the Pharisees because he would later hang himself. Matthew 6:19-20 tells us that our treasures should not be laid up in the things on earth but in the things of Heaven. Looking at the outcome of the life of Judas and his decision to chose silver over Christ, it’s evident that the things that we invest in, especially sin filled choices, will leave us empty. Hebrews 12:1-2, encourages us to lay aside things that are weighing us down as we run our race that has been set before us. A runner wants to be as light as possible, and for us in the Christian life, there are things that we need to lay aside because they are weighing us down.

Second, Pilate made a choice. Had he made a different one than he had, our whole Bible would have been written very differently. In John 19:1-6, Jesus is brought before Pilate and as verse 12 says, “Pilate sought means to release him…“. But then something happens. Again in verse 12, “…but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar’s friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar.” If Pilate were to have released Jesus, the Jews would have accused him of high treason against Caesar. Pilate gave into the crowd and what they were saying. So, let me ask this question: what crowds are we listening to? What voices are we listening to and letting influence the decisions that we make for the cause of Christ? Psalm 1, gives us encouragement that we can be blessed or some translations state happy if we walk NOT in the counsel of the ungodly. I personally have found that the listening to the right voices such as the voice of God first and foremost, my parents, pastors, and accountability partners have greater benefitted me that listening to the wrong people. The advice I have gotten wasn’t always the easiest or what I even what I wanted to hear, but I’d rather get counsel from those that have my best interest at heart, rather than those that could care less about me.

Thirdly, and lastly, we see Jesus. In John 18:10-11, as the soldiers have come to take Jesus away, Peter strikes a soldier with his sword and Christ quickly tells him to stop. He makes known to everyone that the cup that the Father has given to him, is for him to drink and that he must go through with what his purpose is. In verse 36, Jesus tells Pilate that if he truly wanted he could have servants or angels fight for him, yet he never gives that command. 1 Peter 2:21-24 tells us that Christ gave us the perfect example that we should follow, and because of the fact that he was obedient to his Father’s will, that “by his wounds, you have been healed.”

So, to whoever is reading this, and for myself as I feel conviction about this, what are we going to do with Jesus? Will we betray him as Judas did? Choosing something that seems like a great thing, but in the end, leaves us with nothing. Will be like Pilate, and give into the voices of the wrong crowds. Or will we be like Christ? Who not only said to the Father, ‘thy will be done’ but in actions followed through with that statement. It has been said before, “One prayer that will never go unanswered is, Father not my will but thine.”

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.