The Adventure of Christian Youth Camp

July 4, 2014

A new generation of campers is beginning the adventure—the adventure of a Christian youth camp experience. What’s in store for them?

The surroundings of camp are an adventure. How many times do kids get to have six “overnighters” in a row with nine other friends in the same room. (By the way, that’s also quite an adventure for the counselors too!) But the adventure also includes hills to climb, a lake to swim in, a field to run on, canoes to paddle, and wonderful trees to sit under in the heat of the day.

The activities of camp are an adventure. How often in a kid’s life does the day’s activities revolve around kids? Camp is a busy place just for them. Games, arts and crafts, nature walks, archery, swimming, campfires, and the list goes on. In fact, the campers are so busy, you can begin to see the exhaustion by Wednesday, if not before. Somehow we all catch a second wind and make it through the rest of the week.

The spiritual emphasis of camp is an adventure. Bible classes, prayers, singing devotional songs around the campfire, and sometimes those heart to heart talks make for a wonderful spiritual experience. It can truly be life changing, because camp provides a unique opportunity for the Bible not only to be taught, but also lived and applied. No, camp isn’t heaven. People still make mistakes and have problems, but it is about the closest thing to it that I’ve ever experienced. Sometimes you witness a child blossoming from the simple things of time, attention, and loving Christian fellowship.

For some reason, being in nature and away from the TV, iPods, and other noises of modern life makes it easier to think about God and life. The retreat from the day to day can make it easier to reflect on what is really important. This reflection can be a wonderful adventure whether you are 8 or 80. It’s the chance to notice the green of the trees, the blue of the sky, and the beauty of a butterfly. Simple pleasures that sometimes we are in too big of a hurry to notice. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” (Psalm 19:1, NIV)

I visited another congregation for a gospel meeting, where a young man introduced himself to me and said, “You had me as a camper.” I was touched that he remembered and introduced himself. (I have to admit I struggle with the fact that someone I had the first year I managed camp could be 42 now, but that is another issue.) It reminds me that a Christian youth camp puts an imprint on the life of the campers and staff that last a lifetime. Campers make friends that they will always remember. It’s a wonderful adventure!


“Pass It On”

June 27, 2014

The British and Foreign Bible Society has launched an initiative called “Pass It On” for 2014. The idea is to encourage adults to read the Bible to children or to tell them the stories of the Bible. This major push arose from a survey that was done of children between the ages of 8 to 15 and parents of children age 3 to 16 in the United Kingdom. Here is what they found.

In the Survey of 8 to 15 year olds in the U.K.

  • 23% had never read, seen or heard Noah’s Ark.
  • 25% had never read, seen or heard the Nativity.
  • 54% had never read, seen or heard Joseph and his coat of many colors.
  • 60% had never read, seen or heard the Feeding of the 5,000
  • 61% had never read, seen or heard the Good Samaritan
  • 63% had never read, seen or heard the Creation account.
  • 72% had never read, seen or heard Daniel and the lion’s den.
  • 85 % had never read, seen or heard the story of Solomon.

In the Survey of Parents of Children 3 to 16 in the U.K.

  • 30% did not recognize the story of Adam and Eve
  • 31% did not recognize the story of David and Goliath
  • 27% did not recognize the story of the Good Samaritan

Besides being tested on the plot lines of Bible stories, they were also given the plot lines of various stories outside the Bible to see if they thought they were in the Bible. Would the recognize that these stories are not found in the Bible? Here’s how it went with the parents.

  • 34% thought the plot line of Harry Potter was or might be in the Bible
  • 54% for the plot of the Hunger Games
  • 27% for the plot line of Superman
  • 46% for the plot line of The Da Vinci Code

Yes, this is a survey for Great Britain and not the United States. There is an obvious difference between the two countries. Currently, the U.K. has a church attendance rate at about 12% while the rate in the U.S. is at 43%. But it is a cautionary tale. What happens when one generation fails to pass on the Bible?

“We will not hide them from their children,
but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might,
and the wonders that he has done. Psalms 78:4,ESV

Sources: “Church Attendance Statistics by Country
http://www.biblesociety.org.uk/about-bible-society/our-work/pass-it-on/


A Well-Worn Bible

June 20, 2014

A Well-Worn Bible

Our church met in a park last Sunday night, and I snapped the above photo of one our elder’s Bible before he spoke. You notice his Bible is marked and falling apart. It reminds me of the Charles Spurgeon quote: “A Bible that’s falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn’t.” A well-worn Bible is what you want to see in a church leader.

I still think he needs a new one, but he is going through the trauma that I have also experienced. I had a wide margin Bible that was beginning to fall apart after a decade of use. I knew the bookstore manager and asked him about the lifetime guarantee. He would gladly give me a new Bible if I turned in my old one. I couldn’t part with it, although I did move to a new one. You spend years with a Bible making notes in it. You have treasures in your margins that you don’t want to loose. Notes and underlining are a way of making the book your own.

I read a publishing statistic somewhere. A paperback Bible is expected to last one year of daily use. A hardback Bible is expected to last five years, and a leather bound Bible is expected to last 10 years of daily use. Leather is not to make the Bible into a religious relic. It is used because it makes for a durable binding. In fact, if you scan through any old libraries, you will find many leather bound books for that reason.

I have also seen pristine Bibles that shouldn’t have been. I once made a visit to home. The person had a Bible they wanted to show me. It was brought to me with obvious pride. It was still in the box with the white paper wrapped around it. It was like new. Inwardly, I was a bit horrified. I think I mumbled something about Bibles are to be used.

My Bible is now on my iPad. It is what I use on a daily basis. It won’t have the signs of a binding’s wear. But it still has signs of daily use: checked off Bible reading guides, highlighting, and notes.

Which is it for you? Does your Bible look new even thought it isn’t or do you too have a well-worn Bible?


Being There

June 13, 2014

Fatherhood! It is the most challenging and rewarding role that a man can have. I suspect that none of us ever feel adequate to the task. After all, it is on the job training, and we carry our own relationship with our fathers around with us with all of its help and its own set of inadequacies.

The story is told of a young preacher who had a sermon entitled “The Ten Commandments of Parenthood.” Of course, it was written before he became a father. As his children became older, the sermon was re-titled, “The Ten Principles of Parenthood.” The reality of rearing children made him a little less sure of himself. By the time his children became teenagers, the sermon was entitled “The Ten Suggestions That May or May Not Work.” The feeling of inadequacy may just be part of the territory.

Despite such feelings, I’m now the proud father of adult children. It is hard for me to believe. It is trite to say that time flies. When your kids are squabbling with one another in the backseat of the car, it’s hard to believe that this will ever pass by quickly. But it does. So what wisdom have I learned?

The world needs fathers – not just perfect fathers, if such a species exists. And one of the most important job qualifications is being there. Children need a lap to climb into for a story to be read. They need Dad to wrestle with them on the floor. They need to be tucked into bed. Someone needs to go to school conferences and programs, ball games and concerts. They need someone to take them to Bible class and worship. They need someone who is active in the life of the church, so that they will be too.

That is the rub, isn’t it? We must somehow balance job and activities with family time. I’ve had lots of evening meetings through the years, so I know how it can be. None of us are perfectly available. But we must communicate to our children that they are important by our presence. Our participation in their lives matters!

Being with our children is a vital part of communicating our values. Discipline and instruction occur with interaction from parents. One researcher found that feelings of closeness and high levels of time spent together are vital to sharing our values. They are three times more likely to reproduce our values in our children than parental emphasis on those values alone. We have to walk the walk with our children, and that takes being there.

That shouldn’t surprise us. It is the picture of parenthood in Deuteronomy 6.

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. Deuteronomy 6:6-7, ESV

Christian, spiritual children do not happen by accident. Our participation is vital. One of the most important things you can do as a Dad is being there.


The Fear of God

June 6, 2014

I was once caught in a dreadful thunderstorm. The storm was powerful. I saw so many lightning strikes around me that it felt like being caught in an artillery barrage. I felt fear, but it was more the fear that tends towards awe, because I felt safe. I was sheltered from the storm, but I also wasn’t going to run out into the storm with lightening rod in hand to challenge it. In some small way, it teaches me about the fear of God.

For many, the fear of God is a difficult subject to grasp, and yet it is inescapable in the Bible. God is even called “the Fear of Isaac” (Genesis 31:42). Fear is obviously a word with a range of meanings. On one end of the range are meanings like awe and reverence. At the other end of the range is terror and dread. Terror and dread are appropriate responses if our relationship with God is not right. But if our relationship with God is good, reverence and awe are still fitting. God even speaks of desiring people who “tremble at my words” (Isaiah 66:2).

My reverence and awe are fitting because God’s power, glory and majesty are so much beyond me. God is other, and I am his creation. Love for God can co-exist with such feelings, because God is good. He loves and keeps covenants. He is not capricious. God is not only an almighty creator, but a wondrous redeemer. But there are some lessons that the fear of God teaches that we must learn.

  • It leads to wisdom and understanding. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7 ESV) See also Proverbs 9:10.
  • It teaches us to avoid evil. “By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the LORD one turns away from evil.” (Proverbs 16:6 ESV)
  • It prolongs life and brings blessings. “The reward for humility and fear of the LORD is riches and honor and life.” (Proverbs 22:4 ESV) See also Proverbs 10:27, 14:27, 19:23.
  • It encourages growth in holiness. “Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.” (2 Corinthians 7:1 ESV)
  • It is a motive for evangelism. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others.” (2 Corinthians 5:10–11a ESV)
  • It leads to acceptable worship. “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:28–29 ESV)
  • It is one of the conditions in which the church grows. “So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.” (Acts 9:31 ESV)

Not a Tame Lion

May 30, 2014

Aslan is the lion in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – the central figure of the Narnia Chronicles. The name comes from the Turkish word meaning “lion.” C.S. Lewis was straightforward in claiming that this character is “a divine figure.” Aslan is a symbol of Jesus Christ.

Why choose a lion? In the great heavenly throne vision of Revelation 5, Jesus is identified as “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David” (Revelation 5:5). The lion was the symbol of the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:9). Strength and conquest are in the imagery of the lion.

One instructive scene in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is the conversation of Susan, Lucy, and Mrs. Beaver about Aslan. When Susan finds out that Aslan is the great Lion, she asks, “Is he – quite safe?” She’s afraid of being nervous when meeting him. Mrs. Beaver is not reassuring:

That you will, dearie, and no mistake … if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or just silly.

Lucy then asks a follow-up question: “Then he isn’t safe?” Mrs. Beaver has a great reply:

’Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King I tell you.1

Lewis is illustrating the awe we should feel towards God and Christ. It’s a healthy reminder that they are in charge not us. God is the One who wields omnipotence and carries out His purposes. It’s a reminder that those who have had visions of the unseen were awestruck. Isaiah was keenly aware of his sinfulness and cried out “Woe is me.” The Apostle John “fell at his feet as though dead” when he saw the vision of Christ (Revelation 1:17).

Yet, the goodness is also present with the awesomeness. Isaiah received forgiveness, but he also received a new mission in life. John received the reassurance that Christ had conquered death. Great is God’s mercy. But the goodness is not necessarily safe, if we are thinking in terms of our own comfort. God is demanding. There is a cost to discipleship. An encounter with God should change us.

Underlying both passages is the great battle between good and evil. Isaiah’s message was repent or judgment would come. John must reassure Christians to “be faithful unto death” as they lived in a hostile environment. God is merciful, but to be outside that mercy is anything but safe.

Lewis was right. Trust in His goodness but approach with awe. He’s not a tame lion.

____________________

1C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, p 86.


Spread Your Wings and Fly!

May 23, 2014

A bird built a nest near our house. We often disturbed the mother bird, and she would squawk and fly away. But we knew that this would be fleeting. In a matter of weeks, the baby birds would spread their wings and fly away. Children take longer to leave the nest, yet eighteen years fly by us so quickly. There are times when years seem like weeks.

I don’t know whether birds have fears, hopes, pride, regrets as baby birds take wing, but humans do. Time marches by relentlessly. The pressures of work and paying the bills take their toll on every parent, even when we value family. Regrets of things you didn’t do occur even when there is a storehouse of good memories, because you know things will never be the way they were when they spread their wings and fly.

Parents are like the scaffolding around a building during construction. The scaffolding is the external brace during the instability of the construction phase. But it’s not intended as a permanent part of the plans.

When the external brace is removed, what will happen? Your parents won’t necessarily be around to get you up for class, work or church. You will decide your level of involvement in the church. You will decide more than ever before who your friends will be and who you will date. Faith is not inherited (Matthew 3:7-10). You will not spiritually survive on your parents’ faith. This will be a critical time for you. You must move beyond “what you believe” to “why you believe.” Your decisions will decide your direction. We must “commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32, NIV).

Graduation is also an exciting time in your life—a time of transition. The end of Ecclesiastes has words for the young.

Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment. (Ecclesiastes 11:9b, NIV)

Certainly, Ecclesiastes is not encouraging an unrestrained following of the heart. The admonition occurs within the context of following God’s morality because of His judgment. But this piece of wisdom recognizes it is when we are young that all of life is before you. Within the context of following God, the encouragement is to follow your heart—to follow your dreams. Congratulations on your graduation. Spread your wings and fly!


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 26 other followers