Importance of Giving Thanks
Thanksgiving was just under a week ago and I am still feeling all the wonderful feelings of the holiday! You know: the joy of spending time with family mixed with the stress of spending time with family, the joy of getting to over eat without being judged for it, the thrill of carrying around a food baby, but most importantly the authentic atmosphere of thankfulness. I am reminded during this holiday season every year that being thankful is something I lack far too often. Not to say that outside of this specific time of year I have nothing to be thankful for, just that I fail miserably at taking time to be thankful unless I am reminded to do so by a national holiday. This lack of everyday thankfulness tends to lead me to be ungrateful for the blessings I have in my life. Hopefully you do not struggle with this mentality as well, but if you do here is some encouragement I have found in the Word that might help you too!
God is the provider in times of need, comforter in times of loss and loneliness, and shows us unconditional love though we are undeserving of it. By giving thanks to Him regularly we will consistently be reminded of all the He does for us. Not a single day goes by that He does not give us a reason to be thankful. He is deserving of our thanks always and it is His will for us to exalt Him in all circumstances. Take time to bring praise to God for what He has done, is doing, and will do because it will change your outlook on life in an amazing way!
I have been thinking a lot lately about the different parables that Jesus told as a means of relaying truth and application in one cohesive relatable story. Jesus would use parables to teach those around Him important lessons in a format that they would understand and relate to. He would take potential life circumstances and coat them in truths that anyone could understand and incorporate into their daily mannerisms. Every parable that Jesus taught can be taken as a lesson for believers to grow and broaden their understanding of what we should be doing daily.
What are some things that we as believers struggle with daily? Finding purpose, staying the course in difficult times, feeling accepted, understanding what to do with the talents we have been given, etc. The list could go on and on. Through the teachings of Jesus we can find answers and solutions to these things that burden us day in and day out. Mark 4:11-12 says “And He said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that they may indeed see but not perceive, and may hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.”” When Jesus was asked about the parables He told, His responded by telling us that as believers they show us the “secrets of the kingdom of God”! How irresponsible would it be of us to not learn from these secrets to strengthen our relationship with the God that created us?! I hope that you will take time to look into all the parables that Jesus taught, but for now lets just look at a few together.
There is real world application to be learned from every parable that Jesus told. We can grow as individuals when we take time to read them and open our hearts to what lesson God wants to learn. Throughout that growth we will then have stories of personal parables that we can use to help, encourage, and inform others!
I am unqualified—He is not
I don’t know about you guys, but I frequently feel as though I am not qualified to be in the position I am in. And I am not just talking about the position I have here at camp. I often feel unqualified to have the friendships I have, to lead bible studies, to teach Sunday school classes, and even just a natural feeling of being unprepared and unqualified for daily activities. I am not the kind of person who plans things in advance and that is probably the root of this mindset. Luckily for me, I have a heavenly Father who knows and cares for me so much that He chooses to use me regardless of all my inabilities. It is my hope that people see Him in what I do and understand that if it were not for His more than capable abilities working through me, I would not get much of anything done. Surely some of you feel the same as I do, and if you are one of those people there is good news! 1 Corinthians 1:27-29 tells us “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” ESV.
It blows my mind to think about how true those verses are in my life. You can ask anyone who knows me well if a majority of my life is made up of me doing foolish things that somehow work out properly and they will tell you that is true. I am also, aside from being pretty weak physically, a generally weak mentally and emotionally person as well. So it is mind bottling that God uses me to teach others, encourage others, and lead others. It is solely because of the guidance of the Spirit that any of those things are possible. In regards to being low and despised, I did not come from the lowest of poverty stricken or socially influential families, but things were not always peachy. It was never a guarantee that I would become the man I am, and I can confidently say that I would not be where I am today if it were not for the endless grace and mercy of God transforming me from nothing into something for the glory of His kingdom.
I am still severely lacking in most facets of my life, but God is not done working on and in my life. I am reminded of the old (to me) church song “He’s still working on me”. I can daily see the ways He is continually investing and working in my life. If I had to pick a saying that embodied my life it would be “God does not call the qualified, He qualifies the called”. No matter what phase of life you are in, you do not have everything together. We never do, and doubtfully ever will. Our God doesn’t wait for us to be perfectly prepared before He calls us into action because then we would think that we had something to do with our success. The reality is that we are never fully prepared for what God has planned for us, but He is and we can take comfort in that. Please remember that our inabilities are unimportant to God. He is concerned with our willingness to be obedient when He calls and our trust in Him to qualify us for what is to come.
Even though we are unqualified—He is not!
What Does The Great Commission Mean For You?
Recap of Part One:
In the last post we started to look into what the Great Commission means for us personally. We have all been tasked, as believers, to fulfill the Great Commission which is found in Matthew 28:16-20. We talked about what our Jerusalem and Judea look like. Jerusalem for us should our immediate relationships i.e. family and long-term friendships (BFF’s). Judea for us is the next ring in our sphere of influence i.e. coworkers, teammates, and neighbors. Today we will talk about our Samaria and end of the earth.
What is your Samaria? This would be the next ring in our sphere of influence. It would consist of those people that we have to go out to interact with while still staying in close relation geographically to our home or Jerusalem. A simple way to think of what our Samaria would be is to think about it as the state, or even country, you live. Take a college student for example, they have the perfect Samaria on their campus that they go to everyday. Those campuses are a melting pot of students that come together from all over the state or even the country. As a college student your campus would be blend of both your Judea and Samaria. What about those of you who are not yet in college or maybe have college already in the rearview mirror of your life? Lets start with those not yet in college. For you Samaria would be all the places you get to visit through traveling for sports teams or clubs that you are a part of. Now for those of you who are already professionals within your desired occupational fields. For you Samaria would be the partnerships you make while at a conference, or on a business trip. It is our job to prioritize sharing our faith regardless of which phase of life we are going through. The next time you are in an unfamiliar location because of school, sports, or work make sure you remember that your witness is just as powerful in those times because you are pointing people to the feet of Christ!
What is your end of the earth? This one is a little tricky to nail down. We could go the obvious route and say that it is solely the mission field in regards to you going to another country. While that mentality is very much so included in what was meant by the end of the earth, some people may never have the opportunity to travel to a different country for a mission trip. With that being sad I think that the end of earth will look unique for each of us. If you get the chance to travel overseas and share the gospel I highly recommend you do so! It is a surreal experience that will change your life and would fulfill the end of the earth category. However, for those of you who never get that opportunity your end of the earth would look a little more intimate. For you it would be finding the courage to share your faith with those people that you thought you never would—not even if the world was ending. It could be a family member that is dead set in not believing, someone you feel so negatively towards that you would never share your faith with, or maybe that group of friends of that you are afraid to share with because you think they will start to judge you and end up with you being rejected from the group. No matter which of these is a more apt description of what your end of the earth looks like, we are expected to dig deep and find our courage in Christ to boldly proclaim His name and what He has done for us!
Nowhere in the Great Commission will you find an order in which you are supposed to approach these four areas of your life. That is why we must follow what it says in 1 Peter 3:15 “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect”. Are you prepared??
What Does The Great Commission Mean For You?
As believers we have all been tasked by Christ to fulfill The Great Commission. This call to intentionally go out and make disciples can be found in Matthew 28:16-20. We learn in verses 19-20 that we are supposed to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (ESV). The first step of this commission is to understand that our call is to “all nations” which means to proclaim truth wherever we go and with whomever we are around. Paul helps to clear this commission up in Acts 1 when he speaks of what we are to do once we receive the Holy Spirit. Paul writes in verse 8 that Christ challenged His disciples when He said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth”. With this in mind what does The Great Commission look like in your life?
I want to preface this with saying that the root of our commissioning is to show Christ to “all nations” regardless of where we are at—home or abroad! With that truth as the foundation lets move into what Christ tells his disciples in Acts 1. He tells them to be His witness in Jerusalem (their immediate home), Judea (their surrounding area), Samaria (the people and places a little bit further out), and to the end of the earth (the people who will not hear unless someone goes out to them). Throughout the growth of the church in Acts Paul tells us that all four of these areas are reached, so as Christians we win right? Sadly not because the world we currently live in is just as lost as it was when Christ gave this task to His disciples. This means that we must evaluate our lives to find out what we can do to get truth to our Jerusalem’s, Judea’s, Samaria’s, and end of the earth.
What is your Jerusalem? What do you consider your immediate home? You need to start with proclaiming truth to the people inside of your innermost sphere of influence. This would be your family and whoever you chose to let that consist of—your mother, father, sister, brother, best friends, etc. Take time to figure out what your Jerusalem looks like and who it consist of. Once you have done this think about how you are showing Christ to them. Are you doing a good job? What could you do to better yourself as a Christ-like example to them? When you are confident in the work being done to those in your “Jerusalem” you can move on to your “Judea”.
What is your Judea? This area of your life will consist of people in the next ring of your sphere of influence. The people who you have regular contact with natural proximity—people like classmates, coworkers, teammates, neighbors, etc. It is your job to be an example of Christ to them as well. Are you boldly proclaiming truth to your classmates, coworker, and other people you have regular interactions with? In what ways could you strengthen your witness to them? You get to see these people everyday, and they pick up on the little things so make sure you take advantage of opportunities when they arise!
We will dive into what our Samaria and end of the earth look like in the next post! I hope you take time to really analyze the work God is trying to do through you in your Jerusalem and Judea. Be intentional with how you use your witness to those closest to you!
Boldly Proclaiming Christ in Difficult Times
While preparing for this blog post I was also trying to figure out what topic to use for our Wednesday night bible studies that are starting back at The Church In The Valley. I went down a long rabbit hole while thinking of things that I thought would have been useful to me when I was in middle school and high school. The root of just about all of my struggles throughout those seven years was the same thing—low self-esteem. Between the ages of twelve and eighteen I didn’t have much to hold on to in regards to creating my own identity, or at least that is what I had convinced myself. I didn’t realize until years later while reflecting on that time of my life that during most of that time I had the greatest identity someone can have, I was a Christ follower! This brought to light my obvious struggle of trying to be the hero of my own movie, when it was actually a supporting role I was meant to play.
The middle and high school years of your life are a difficult time for anyone. Attempting to overcome the obstacles you face during that phase of your life alone is the most ridiculous thing you can do—especially as a believer. We have a heavenly Father who wants nothing but the best for us when are a part of His family. One of the things He asks for in return is that we boldly proclaim Him in our day-to-day lives. Of course this is usually easier said than done, I mean even Peter caved to the crowds when asked if he was a follower of Christ moments before Christ was crucified. (Luke 22:54-62)
However, standing up for Christ is one of the most influential ways we can make a difference in the lives of those around us. Being willing to place our identity in His sacrifice and becoming accepting of what that makes you is the most freeing experience someone can have. Our heavenly Father has a love for us that is so deep and perfect that it is called unconditional, unending, and unexplainable! Rather than trying to take on the world ourselves we should lean into this love and embrace it for what it is. God’s love for us is what gives us true identity. Through God’s love Christ was sent to be our sacrifice so that our identity could be found in Him and not in the world. Keep this in mind when you are faced with difficult times during middle school, high school, or frankly any phase of life.
I think that Timothy explains it best in 2 Timothy 2:11-13 “The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.” Be willing to boldly proclaim Christ in your life because if we are persecuted even to death, we will live with Him. Be willing to boldly proclaim Christ in your life because when we endure through the hardships life throws our way, we will reign with Him. Be willing to boldly proclaim Christ in your life because even when we have a lapse in faithfulness, He remains faithful. Pray that you will have the courage to boldly proclaim Christ in all the difficult times of your life!
The Purpose and Power of Togetherness
As the off-season gets underway I have the opportunity to look forward for what is to come. I am excited for all the things I am about to be a part of like bible studies starting back, Wednesday night worships starting back at the church, potential small group opportunities, and free time so that I can enjoy fellowship with friends I haven’t seen all summer. Don’t get me wrong, I love the relationships that are formed over the summer, but there is something about a small group of people coming together that is very intriguing. I was curious as to why this is, and while studying I cam across some things that I found very interesting. Hopefully you find this framework of togetherness to be true in your life.
Let’s start things off by delving into what togetherness really means. One definition I found states that togetherness is warm fellowship, which in personal opinion is the best way to describe it. Togetherness is much more than simply being in proximity of other people. Yes, you need other people to have togetherness, but it is more about a feeling—a warm feeling of acceptance and unity. I also like this definition because it uses the word fellowship, which is a $5 Sunday school word. The term fellowship gets over used in my opinion and this causes it to loose its meaning. Fellowship isn’t just getting a group of people to be in the same room. It is about getting a group of people together in a way that they all leave better off. Simply put, togetherness is when you take a group of people and they accept each other and invest in each other’s lives.
For me the definition somewhat explains the purpose, but lets dive deeper. Each of us individually gain from gathering together, but the purpose of these gatherings should be to further the kingdom of God. This purpose can be found in 1 Corinthians 12:12-14 “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many.” We learn from this that we, as believers, have a responsibility to each other to behave like one body. Our purpose for gathering is to find out what ways we can help each other, encourage each other, and motivate other in times of need.
The purpose behind our togetherness shows light on the power of it as well. Matthew 18:20 says “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them”. This is taken from the context of how we as believers are to act when a brother sins against us. Christ walks us through a process of seeking forgiveness rather than vengeance. This of course is in parallel to us being in line with His will rather than our own will. It speaks volumes to the authority He gives us when we gather in His name though. If we want to make the most of our time together, we need to put aside our selfish ambitions and focus on His will. This will open the door for God to work in our lives in a way that makes us a blessing to those around us. That is true power—being a tool for God’s handy work in the lives of people we care about.
As your schedule gets clustered with commitment and commitment please do not loose sight of the importance of togetherness. Be intentional about creating time to surround yourself with fellow believers whether at Sunday morning worship, Wednesday night bible studies, or a weekly small group. It is important for us to find unity within our community of believers. It is our job to work together as one body with many members in an effort to bring glory to God!
Approaching the New School Year
Our Summer Camp season will be over in just a few short days. For anyone who works in camp ministry this is the greatest sign—aside from our ability to use and read a calendar, that a new school year is on the horizon. During the summer we focus our time and effort on showing our campers who Jesus Christ is with hopes that they will start/strengthen their relationship with Him. Once this happens we pray that God will equip them with the proper tools to be a light in their families, communities, and especially their schools.
While visiting and enjoying fellowship with the youth at Sharon Baptist Church last Wednesday I heard a great message about the mentality we should hope all students have while going back to school. Nick Cancemi, the youth pastor, used a piece of scripture from Matthew 16 to challenge his students on how they should view Jesus Christ. In verses 13-20 Jesus is on the way to Caesarea Philippi with the disciples and He asks them “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” (verse 13). Their response is pretty flattering. They say that some people claim He is: John the Baptist who was a great preacher, Elijah who was a great prophet, and Jeremiah or one of the other prophets who were chosen messengers of God’s truth. It would be a great compliment for anyone to say that about us, but Jesus was asking about Himself. Jesus follows up this response by asking the disciples “who do you say that I am?” (verse15). Peter responds with “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (verse 16).
While at school this year students will cross paths with people that have very different views on who Christ is, and it is the responsibility of students who know the truth to help others learn it. That truth is that although Christ has the characteristics of a great preacher like John the Baptist, a great prophet like Elijah, and willingness to share God’s truth like Jeremiah or one of the other prophets, He is so much more than any of those things. Jesus is the Son of living God! It is on this truth the Christ built His church and it is on this truth that students will find courage to be brave, bold, and a bright light in the darkness of their schools. With this truth students can be the hands and feet of Christ and share His love with those around them. Students could make a positive change in their classes, grades, and schools by sharing this truth.
I hope that if you are a student starting school, a parent that has a child that is, or you are just reading this for fun that you will join us in praying for all students going back to school. It is obvious that satan has a stronghold on public schools in general but with a bold proclamation of the truth that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God amazing things will happen in our school systems. Please add to your prayer list that God will work in the lives of students everywhere helping them to be brave, bold, and a bright light to their classmates this school year!!
Throughout the summer we try our best to put people in place that can best show our campers the love of God and the life of Christ. This requires giving the campers a lot of attention a lot of the time. However, we also value investing into our staff and counselors lives. This summer we have been blessed to have a great God focused man that has taken the lead on this through our Sunday night bible studies. David Luck has taken time every Sunday to meet with our staff, and occasionally counselors, to help show them what biblical leadership looks like. During the study we looked at the life of seven individuals who symbolized biblical leadership and ended the study with David, Beth (David’s wife and camp nurse), Alan, and Lisa praying over our staff about God sending them out to continue His mission as the summer ends. I would like to share a little bit about those leaders we looked at this summer with hopes that they can inspire and encourage you the same way they did us!
i. With Moses from his youth
ii.Respected the Spirit’s leadership in Moses
B. We must also find a mentor who is lead by the Spirit who will help to teach and encourage us the same way Moses did Joshua
A. Delegates when needed – Judges 4:5-6
i.She had a lot on her plate as a judge
ii.She trusted others to accomplish a task when God told her to
B. As leaders it is easy to want everything to be our responsibility because of pride or a desire to do things “right”, but a great leader listens for God to tell you when to delegate
A. Seeks God’s guidance and leading – Judges 6:36-7:1
i.He wanted to confirm his calling
ii.Listened for God’s response and obeyed it
B. Sometimes we feel like God is asking too much of us, and it causes us to doubt our calling as a leader. God usually asks to much of us so that through our success we realize it was His guidance that brought the success not our skills or talents
A. Example of God being our source or power – 1 Samuel 17:45-47
i.He was not afraid because he knew God was on his side
ii.His faith in the power of God was well placed
B. This makes me think about the saying “God does not call the equipped, He equips the called”. If you are called by God to be a leader, He will equip you for all the battles that are ahead
A. The Spirit at work – Acts 2:14-41
i.He becomes active when he realizes what has just happened
ii.He immediately capitalizes on the opportunity to share the story of Christ with all who could understand him
B. There will be questions asked of us when we are leaders that we do not know the answer to. Make sure you leave every door open for the Spirit to speak through you during these times. Just because we do not have an answer doesn’t mean that the Spirit within us doesn’t have an answer
A. Reality of a lifestyle change – Galatians 1:11-17
i.He did not hide from his dark past
ii.Pointed to God saving him from his sinful flesh
B. In Romans 12:1-2 Paul teaches us as believers, and especially as leaders, that we have to change our mindset. The reality of a changed mindset is that it quickly changes our lifestyle too
A. All of these leaders and more – Luke 22:42
i.Being 100% man meant Jesus became broken while bearing the weight of our sins (sweat like drops of blood; verse 44), He wanted another way
ii.Knew the importance of God’s will being fulfilled rather than ours
B. Running from a problem is easy even for a leader, but that does not fix the problem. Christ showed us in his darkest moment that perusing the will of God is what truly what makes a leader great
I hope that you can learn and grow from the examples set by these leaders. Anyone can be a leader, but it takes someone special to be a God centered leader. You can be that someone special!!
We have been having an incredible summer so far! It has been week after week of seeing God move in the lives of our campers. Here is a breakdown of what our weeks have looked like so far:
We serve a God that is so good! We cannot wait to see what He has in store for us the rest of the summer!!
God Moment update:
I received an email from a young lady that had two God moments that happened in her life recently. The first happened while she was at Fuge camp and one of her friends was not open to the idea of active praise and worship or even to the concept of who Christ is and what He has done for us. Through the Spirit working in his life during the week he had a huge transformation. He went from not wanting anything to do with Christ, to being curious and asking questions as well as opening up during their bible studies. By the end of the week he was also joining in on their active praise and worship. It is awesome how God transforms people! The second happened while she was here serving at camp with her church. Their group was asked to help with a lot of behind the scenes stuff and she felt as though what she was being asked to do was not helping the campers at all. Throughout the week she slowly realized how important everything was in the grand scheme of things. God worked in her life in such a powerful way that she is now interested in coming back next year as a counselor!
If you have a God moment that you would like to share with us please send it to email@example.com. If I get enough feedback I would like to start a God Moment Monday or something similar to that where we can all stay connected to each other and be able to praise our God together!!