Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Meeting God on the Mountain

    This summer I had the unique and awesome privilege to minister at Red Cliff Bible Camp in the gorgeous mountains of Wyoming. I grew a lot in my faith over the summer as I saw God working in awesome ways, saving the lost, healing hurting hearts, answering impossible prayers, and the list goes on. There is nothing my God cannot do. We sang a song this summer that had the lyrics "God can do anything but fail," and I really saw the reality of that in my time as a counselor. I'm a flawed tool, but because of God's grace, he chose to use me in ways I would have never thought possible. So here are, in no particular order, 16 things I learned as I participated in God's harvest at Red Cliff this summer.

1. Edify, don't tear down - Ephesians 4:29 reads, "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers." No where in the bible do we read that it is ok to make fun of each other and make sarcastic comments as long as the other person won't get offended. I learned this lesson twice in the same weekend. I said something to two different people that offended them that I just said in jest. Hurting people's feelings is not ok. It's good to joke around and have fun, but limit your humor at others' expense. In fact if you can eliminate it all together - that's even better!

2. Look forward, not backward. - We all have regrets from the past, we all have things we wish we would have done differently. Sometimes those are situations in which we messed up, sometimes they are situations in which others hurt us and we are bitter and unforgiving. The past can teach us many lessons, but dwelling on it can hurt us spiritually. Don't waste time dwelling on things you cannot change. Instead, "press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (Phil 3:14)"

3. Guard the way you use technology. It can be a threat or a tool. - This is something I actually picked up during a sermon one evening. In the back of my head I know this truth, but I often don't think about it. Social media, television, phones, all technology can get out of control if we don't watch the way we use it. Re-evaluate how you are using your technology. Do you control it or does it control you? I just spent an entire summer in the mountains. The only available technology I had was a phone and internet usage - both of which I can only access Sun - Monday, and ya know, I did just fine without it the rest of the time. 

4. Don't let sewage into your house. - So I'm guessing most of you would just love to have that sewage from the waste company fill your house am I right?  No of course you don't want to fill your house with garbage, but some of us do this all the time with our technology. Music, television, video games, all of these things will influence the way we think and what we spend our time thinking about. My mom said something casually to me that hit me a lot harder than she intended. We were talking about something from scripture though I don't remember exactly what it was, but it probably had something to do with all the lost souls that need Jesus. She simply said "So why are you sitting here watching this movie?" Could I give an honest answer that was biblical? Could I have said "This uplifts me?" No I could not. I clearly need to have a purpose for watching what I watch - if I just say "this is entertaining," how low will I drop my standards before my head is filled with filth? So what is it that you fill your mind with? Is it wholesome, or is it damaging? Seriously evaluate the shows you watch and the music you listen too. You may just realize your house is actually a garbage dump and it's about time you clean it up. 

5. Don't just discover your weaknesses; use the tools God gave you to fix them. - It would be pretty silly if I had a loose board in my home, and I had a hammer and nail to fix it and decided just to let it go. Some of us know our weaknesses and we utterly fail to use what God gives us to fix them. When God shows you a weakness, don't just shove it to the side and say "I'll fix it later." Fix it now. Pray about your weaknesses and do what's necessary to make those weaknesses strengths .

6. Don't be a respecter of persons - I was reading in the book of Acts one morning in my devotions and read a passage that talked about the reach of the Gospel. The Bible describes it as open to the "Jew" and the "Greek." There is a lot of theological detail behind that description that you can read in my post, "The Power of the Gospel," but for my purposes here it suffices to say that the Gospel is open to everyone. God favors no person over another when it comes to the gift of the Gospel. Often times when I think about witnessing to someone I think, "they look busy," or "they are probably a Christian" or even "I don't think that person would care about the Gospel." So I don't bother trying. Now I don't have mind reading powers, so the way I see it, trying to figure out how open a person will be to listening to me is not my job. The Bible gives me my command in Matthew 28:19-20, the Great Commission. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen. My calling is to boldly share the Gospel and let God water the seeds that I'm planting as he feels best. (I Corinthians 3:6)

7. God answers prayer - Go ask your king - As a staff we memorized Psalm 5 together and I would recommend memorizing it - its not as hared as it seems. We took our summer theme (Go ask your King) from verse 2, "
Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my God: for unto thee will I pray.
The way David prays here gives me the chills because it's a truly awesome idea. David says that he is praying to a King!! The God we are praying to is the King of the universe, how awesome is that! And the Bible contains promises about God answering prayers. Luke 11:9-10 says, "And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened." I'm praying to the creator King of the universe and he wants to answer me. Once again, I cannot express in words what an amazing privilege and blessing that is. As a staff we saw God answer prayers specifically again and again. I lost of count of how many answers to prayer we had. We had campers who were not saved, and we would pray they would hear the Gospel and accept Christ as their Lord and Savior. We had God answer prayer for certain weather, and so many other requests! A simple two word statement to remember my friends: Prayer Works.

8. God uses words and circumstances that you don' t even realize he is using. - I found that God was working behind the scenes a lot. God was working 24/7 even if we didn't always see it right away, and he used things I was doing that I never thought twice about. Simple example. During staff training we were talking about the definition of wisdom. The definition I stated was "Wisdom is resisting fleshly lusts." I didn't say that definition intending to change anyone else's opinion and I never thought about how God might use it. Two or three weeks later I was having a conversation with a fellow staff member and great friend, and he mentioned that statement to me and told me he had written it down and it had changed his perspective in some ways. My friends, stay faithful and keep praying because God IS working, even if you don't see the fruits of your labor right away, and in some cases you won't see how God is working on this side of heaven, but trust Him, he is always active.

9.God protects his children - God is always watching over us as his children and he protects us not only from spiritual danger but also physical dangers as well. God protected our camp this year from wildfires, wildlife and other potential dangers but aside from the general he protected us specifically in multiple situations. Just to give a simple example, the last week of camp we had a really bad storm that knocked down a few trees. All the trees that snapped fell in the same direction except for one specific tree that fell in a different direction. Maybe that doesn't sound all that important but here's why it shows God's protection - had that specific tree fell in the same direction all the others did, it would have damaged camp property - completely destroying a tent used for some old fashioned cooking. The tent would have been gone and a lot of the equipment damaged. As it is, God pushed it the other way to protect us. What's more is we had campers running around outside trying to get in buildings, and none of them got hurt either. In that situation and others, God showed that his eyes are always on his children, watching over and protecting them.

10. God's grace is sufficient - II Corinthians 12:9, undoubtedly a familiar verse to most Christians, says, "And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me". This verse has been shown to be true in my life over and over again. As a counselor, mental and physical strength, and at times, patience, can be drained quickly and you're left with much more work to do and you just think "how am I going to get through this day, let alone the rest of the week." That's where this verse comes in. I found myself often praying to God for grace and strength and you know what? He always gave it. He never failed, not once. He never does. A specific example; I had to get a tetanus which left me drained the day I had it and weak the next day too. I don't take shots well. The next day I had to lead a hike up to the cliffs which is not a horrible hike, but it's challenging if you're not used to it. I had some serious doubts that I would make it. I prayed for strength and grace from God and he provided! I gave you a two word statement to remember, so here is another short statement, this time three words. God never fails. Live your life as if that's true (it is) and watch God work.

11. The greatest joy in following Jesus is seeing others come to him. - Being used by God is an honor, and when he uses you to lead someone to himself, its an experience and joy like nothing else in this life I've ever felt. I had the joy of talking to three kids about salvation, and seeing another one of my campers come to Christ through another counselor there. The first time, I was praying and crying tears of joy with my camper as he prayed and asked Christ to come into his heart. The second time I had unspeakable joy inside and didn't even know what to say other than praise God. To be used twice left me speechless. The third camper that talked to the other counselor came to me and told me his decision, and he was crying tears of joy. I just hugged him and said I was thrilled to have him in my family. The fourth time, the kid who accepted Christ was literally jumping up and down for joy and dancing and I was walking beside him thinking "God you are amazing and I'm thrilled you can use me." The more people you see saved, the more your burden will increase. Another three word statement for you. Share the Gospel. 

12. We need to be careful with "the sinner's prayer." The bible says that we should not fear, but I have a legitimate concern here. I am concerned there are many "saved" Christians in the world - those that repeated a prayer they didn't believe or understand and they never felt the joy of Christ in their lives. These are people that could still be going to hell. Three of my campers, and at least one speaker shared they had repeated a prayer that they didn't understand or had said a prayer just because they felt people wanted them too. Praise God those campers got saved at Red Cliff. We seriously need to watch how much we emphasize the prayer. It is way overemphasized. It's not the words that save you but a genuine belief in Christ. Romans 10:10 says, "For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." In no circumstance should you have someone read a piece of paper or repeat a prayer after you that you say. Always always always have someone explain the Gospel in their own words, and let them pray in their own words. In a true conversion, the Holy Spirit will guide the person what to say and believe. But we need to stop giving people false hope and telling them "just repeat these words and you'll be saved," because that it is not the way it works. 

13. Ministry never stops. - We tend to think of ministry in terms of camps, churches, nursing home visits and other similar activities. Ministry isn't a just a church thing, or just a Sunday thing, it's a never ending way of life. During the week I served God by counseling campers and in general, focusing my attention on the work God had assigned me too. The campers went home on Saturday morning and we didn't have more until Monday afternoon. Does that mean ministry paused for the weekend? Nope. As a staff we recounted God's goodness - that's ministry, we had fun and laughed together - that's ministry, we had Bible studies - that's ministry. If you live your life with a constant focus on God, you will always be ministering to other people just by your testimony. The truth is in Matthew 18:20 - "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."

14. "The camper you're east attracted to is the camper who needs you the most." (Phil Tubbs, founder of RCBC) - Let's face it. In life there will always be people that are not fun to be around. They frustrate you, they say unkind words, they are disrespectful, whatever the case may be. Camp ministry is no different. During any given week there was always a camper or two that arrived and I immediately wanted to send them back home. OK, not really, but there was always a camper or two that was quiet, or disrespectful and disobedient. These are the types of campers, that when you have other cooperative campers, tend to be ignored. I found however that the camper I was least attracted to was the one I invested in the most, was the one that changed most, and the one that I grew attached to, and was harder to say goodbye to. Why is this? It's because God brought every camper to me that he wanted me to reach, even the tough ones. And when you are loving the campers Biblically, investing everything you have in discipling and mentoring them, you tend to grow attached.  I also found that the camper I was least attracted too, got saved or made a major decision in their life by the end of the week. Next time you are around someone who is unpleasant to be around, show God's love. Even a kind word could go a long way. 

 15. God uses flawed tools. - No one is perfect, that's simple to see. Yet even so we compare ourselves and think God cant use us because we have too many problems or we have sinned too badly. God uses flawed tools because that's all that he has. My friend shared this in a devotional one evening. Moses was a murderer - God forgave him and used him to lead his people out of Egypt. David was an adulterer - he was called a man after God's own heart. Paul killed Christians before he was converted - he was used by God to bring thousands to Christ. Rahab was a prostitute - she was instrumental in Israel's taking the promised land. Read through the Bible  you will find many more examples. God uses flawed tools. He doesn't call the qualified, he qualifies the called. You're without excuse. Open you're heart to God and he will use you in great ways. 

16. If a camper does not make a decision durng the week, don't worry. - God promises his word will not return void (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 whereto I sent it."). Sometimes campers finish the week not having made any decisions, and sometimes you know they have problems in their life that need to change. This is not a huge concern if we rest in Christ and his promise that his Word planted will grow. I had a camper that went home with a serious sin problem that he had not repented of at camp. Admittedly I was disappointed. I continued to pray for him however and received word that he had gotten his sin right with God and his parents. Praise God his Word was working! Again we may never see the results, but I trust in God's promise that no work we do for him is in vain. 

This summer was amazing, and God really made me grow in my walk with him a lot. My life has not been the same since camp. Now that I'm home I feel restless. I want to continue to be involved in a full time ministry, however for now I must finish my senior year of college, and then Lord willing, head back to Wyoming and continue to do his work. My friends, ministry is a joy. We are not created for this world, but we are created to bring others to Christ, and that is what we must do.