We left our little inn in Accra and headed for Manso-Amenfi about 8 hours inland. In the crowded little bus with some seats made from wooden slats, we crowded in and ventured forth into parts unknown to us Brunies (broonies) (that’s what we were called because we are white)… so here we go, a bus full of Brunies along with our beloved host pastor and Mary, one of our interpreters. Since it was the rainy season, rain would come down suddenly and the steam would make the non-air conditioned bus like a sauna & we would all be dripping – what a ride we had with all the sweat & laughter. How could such an uncomfortable, close-quartered ride in a rainstorm be joyous? We were about to find out. We didn’t know the driver who never said a word to anyone – Pastor said he was a Muslim. As he drove cautiously in the rainstorm on a mud road, we passed by large log trucks stuck in ditches next to the hills along the way – even they couldn’t get back on the road. As we drove around one, our bus went headlong into the ditch. There we were stuck in the mud in the rainforest with a Muslim driver who didn’t like our laughter nor our gospel songs. The driver got out and looked at the wheels and told Pastor there was no way we could maneuver our way out, even with pushing. So what did we do? We prayed & everyone started moving back & forth in the seats and just prayed “Jesus” over & over.
I KNOW angels are NOT little, feminine, wimpy, fairy-like creatures because one of them had to have miraculously picked up the back end of the bus & slide us right back onto the road – that is the only explanation possible. We felt the bus move right back onto the road & no one was outside it. It was such an awe-inspiring testimony to the Muslim driver, he gave his heart to Jesus right there. Someone had a video camera & we have it on record – our first convert in Ghana was our Muslim driver who said he wanted to serve an awesome powerful God who listened and answered prayers. Sometimes all it takes is a Christian doing what comes naturally to a Christian & praying our way out of a muddy mess & letting others see the loving, powerful Savior who can & will do amazing miracles.
I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry. 2 Timothy 4:1-5 KJV
Have you ever had a sore that just itched? You tried so hard not to scratch it, but eventually, you give in and do. Sometimes you are so careful not to scratch while awake, but do so while sleeping and wake up to a bigger sore? What happened? Did you get an infection? We all know what happens with an infection if untreated… Sepsis can poison the blood and/or the infection can reach the heart. If continually untreated, it can eventually lead to death. This can happen quickly, or very slowly, but an infection can not be ignored. However, if we don’t scratch, we can prevent it from spreading.
Right now, all across the world, infection is quickly spreading through the church due to itching ears being scratched.
It begins with a little tingle. A little bit of falsehood that doesn’t even seem like it may matter. From there it grows into a doctrine that contradicts scripture but is presented in a way that seems right because it has been garnished with twisted out of context scripture.
BEWARE! Do not let this infection spread into your heart and soul! Clean those itching ears and stop the spread of infection with cleansing scriptures from the Word of God!
The Word of God is the medicine that can cleanse and cure this infection. Here are some scriptures to apply to your itching ears:
So and so wrote a book, it’s like an extension of the Bible…
Revelation 22: 18-19
18 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:
19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
First and foremost, everything that we allow ourselves to believe must align with the Word of God. If it is not in the Bible, then it is not scripture. God often gives authors knowledge, prophets a word to share, and whispers to the heart of the believer… However, if it does not align with scripture, it is not from God. Period. There are religions out there that believe they can add to the Bible, rewrite it, and call it irrelevant. While there are many scriptures that warn against this, this passage has a powerful punch and proves that there is no argument against God’s written Word. Also, with a warning like that, your temptation to even do so should be quenched.
Being a Christian is no longer politically correct, so we need to update some things…
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Many like to sugar coat the verses they have read and change them to fit what they need it to be. They will state that the Bible is outdated and no longer the case.
Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.
If He is the same yesterday, today, and forever… then His Word is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He does not change, nor does He lie. If the Father, Son, or even the Holy Spirit were to change something, which they don’t, it would change all throughout time. There is no wrapping your head around it because it just isn’t done. So no, the Bible and what we are expected to follow as Christians may not be politically correct, but it IS relevant and it does NOT change.
1Judge not, that ye be not judged. 2For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. 3And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? 4Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? 5Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.
Yeeeeaaaahhh… That’s not what He’s saying here. People like to quote that first verse and completely throw out the rest of the Bible…
15Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
16Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
17Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
18A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
19Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
20Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
Oh, look, in the SAME chapter! We are to check the fruit!
James Chapter 3
I am unable to post all of that here, so please read that on YouVersion or in your own Bible.
Now, I will say this… it is NOT our job to condemn or shun a person. It is our job to LOVE a person. While at times we are called to correct another Christian (NOT A SINNER), we are to do so in love. If you’re unsure about what that means, then simply don’t attempt it until you are able to receive better teaching on the subject. (By the way, God will not call you to do this very often…) However, yes, we are to judge their fruit. The warning at the beginning of Matthew chapter 7 is kind of a warning to you that people are going to be watching you as well, so clean up your own house and keep it that way… Especially if you are in a place of leadership.
I can live however I want as long as I believe in God. I’m a good person, so I will go to Heaven. God would never cast anyone to hell.
13Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: 14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
13He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
14And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;
15I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
16So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
17Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
18I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.
19As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.
20Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
21To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.
22He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.
14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
No. Nope. Not what the Bible says… and those are only a handful of many supporting scriptures.
Well, that is all I have for today. Use these scriptures generously and as often as needed to treat any symptoms that cause your soul discomfort. I will follow up with more as needed.
I should have stated this from the beginning… No one asked me to write this series. I actually had no intention of blogging about church camp at all. Last Thursday, I was working on homeschool planning for this upcoming school year and praying over our family’s direction when I felt that I needed to write this all out. It hit me out of nowhere, I walked in to my laptop, started typing, and what you see is the result. Hopefully I have not upset anyone with my doing this… But what you see is honest and from my heart. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s move on… shall we?
It’s a TON of work…
Alright, so you’ve heard all about what goes on at each camp. Now let me respond to some concerns you may be having… You know that it is very involved to pack everything necessary for one camper to be prepared while on the campground. The cost seems like just one more expense… And what about the fundraising? School is about to start back up when camp is going on and there are other things that you could be doing with your child’s time. So why bother with church camp?
Well, yeah, it is time consuming to pack for camp. You aren’t just packing a suitcase as though you are going to stay in a hotel. Other than food, you need to pack almost as though you are going full blown camping. But would you do it without complaint to send your child to another camp? Scouts camp, sports camp, science camp…
The cost, well, this depends… What campground are you going to? There are some really big camps out there, all frills and they still offer a spiritual experience for you kids and teens. SoCal Youth church camp is pretty basic in the way of amenities, bringing the costs down to be much lower than most others. Nothing fancy, but still nice. Do the campers complain? Not a peep!
The joys of fundraising…
Not everyone can afford to send their kids to camp… Fundraising, if done properly, does not have to be as daunting. My personal opinion? It should begin the week that camp ends for the following year. There are many creative ways to go about this and they don’t have to be boring. One idea would be a monthly sponsorship… If you have an idea of how much it will cost to send a kid or teen to camp you can break that down in to monthly increments that if a church member felt lead, they could contribute to. Need more ideas? A quick search on Pinterest will bring more than enough options.
One idea that we used at our church this last year was a Bible Read-A Thon. Just like a regular read-a-thon, but with the Bible. (Hmm, maybe I’ll post the forms I made up for this soon…) Another was that our kids had a “concert”. The music from this service was put on a CD with other recorded music of our kids singing and sold for a donation. We had bake sales, sold candy and soda, had penny marches… And we just barely made it. Of course, we didn’t start getting serious with fundraising until April. Imagine if we had started sooner!
But you’re busy. Your kids are busy. Your church is busy. EVERYONE is BUSY!
I know. I’m busy too. This is where you have to decide if it is a time investment that is as important to your child’s development as soccer, a trip to an amusement park, or a few days at home playing video games. Which brings us to the big question…
Is church camp worth it?
You probably knew by now that this was going to be my answer… Right?
There is something about getting this many kids together from different churches… (big emphasis on that last part, not just the kids from one church, but many…) Giving them a safe place to have fun, make new friends, and experience the outdoors… And then standing back and watching God bless them in a life changing way that will impact the rest of their lives. With no where to be the next day and no responsibilities to go home to each night, kids let all their worship out in chapel. Yes. Church camp is definitely worth it.
But… but… but you said that you had honest opinions on what would make church camp better.
How can that be? How can I have suggestions to make it better and still say it is worth it?
Well, sit down and take a deep breath before you read this… My opinions of what would make it better have a whole lot more to do with those of us sending our kids up there, not those running the camp.
I know. Ouch. It is our fault that our kids are not getting more out of camp…
Let me explain:
First and foremost: Camp is NOT a reward and churches need to stop treating it as such. Camp is a REVERSED MISSION FIELD! Instead of us sending out missionaries, we are sending our kids to the missionaries. They are meeting Jesus, learning about God’s love, and being filled with the Holy Spirit. The main focus of camp, even with all the fun stuff, is that these kids have a personal relationship with all 3 members of the God head. Would you say to someone, “If you do this, that, and the other, you can get to know Jesus. But you have to prove to us that you’ve earned it… and you just don’t seem like you deserve it.” No way! While sports and other activities make an impact on our kids, so does camp. If it seems to you that church camp would benefit your child, and for most it would, then it should be held to the same regard.
You need to follow up with the kids in your church that attended camp. Don’t just send them home and forget them. Check in with them and see how they are doing. If they don’t always attend your church, reach out and invite them to services and events. Ask those that are regular attendees about camp throughout the year. Don’t let that fire die!
More PASTORS need to attend camp with their churches! Not every pastor can physically handle it, and that I completely understand. But hey, what about associate pastors? Elders? Kids and teens need to have a connection with their church leadership before they graduate high school and this is a great way to build that! Another great reason would be so that the shepherd can tend to their flock… Just because you send grown ups to camp, it does not mean that they behave as grown ups or that they are able to reign in everyone they have been given charge over. (Remember that pranking issue?) If you were a kid or teen, would you want to embarrass your pastor and church right in front of them? Most wouldn’t. Can’t go? Give those that are going (kids, teens, and older volunteers) a good pep talk, encourage them to have a great time and draw closer to God, tell them you can’t wait to hear all about it when they return and maybe have a youth night where everyone tells Pastor what they liked best… and ask them nicely before they leave to remember that they are representatives of your church.
Each camper needs a leader from their church that they can relate to. This is a BIG deal! Boys need a Godly man to relate to and watch over them. Girls need a Godly woman. Someone that will pray with them in the altar… Some kids are okay praying with their parents. Some kids need someone else. Churches need to send more than 1 person per church. At least 2… if not more. Afraid you are sending too many workers? Remember that there will be small churches up there that will not be able to send as many and consider that leaders are always needed in the altar. (All workers are subject to a background check and vetted by their pastor.)
Another cry for volunteers… Are you a nurse? A short order cook? Are you trained as a lifeguard? Camps need these! Pray about volunteering! Even with a great pool area, our camp did not have swimming this year because we were unable to find a lifeguard that was available.
Parents: Please send enough money with your kids and teens! Some kids showed up with only $10. That’s enough to get through about 1 day of Junior High or Senior Camp. Send bottled water, as they need to remember to drink more than they do at home if the elevation is different than what is at home. Talk to them about keeping their money safe and not losing it. See if your camp offers a bank. SoCal Youth offered a bank for Kids Camp but not for the Teen Camps. (I heard plenty of complaints about there not being one for the older kids. I don’t know if this is something that will change or not.)
BRING THE SONGS HOME! When those from your church and family have returned, ask them about the songs that were sung. Which ones were their favorites? Download them and play them often. Worship leaders: Add them to your lineup. Sing them during altar calls. (Yes, altar calls. Bring them back. More on that in another post…) Keep those memories of what God did for them alive! We all know how a song can bring back a memory… Remind them of what God did for them at camp!
Pray over each and every camper and worker that you are sending to camp: over their hearts, for their safety… PRAY THAT THEY DO NOT GET SICK! Remember how I said in that first post that it seemed like the ones who needed to be there most got sick? They may not even have to go home, but they may miss a chapel service that they need to be in. The girl from our church that went to Senior Camp worked harder than any of the other campers from our church to get there. She LOVED chapel! She became sick on the last day and when I arrived at the campground I asked her if she wanted to go home. Nope, she wanted to stay for chapel because she knew that last service was going to be amazing. Poor thing became so sick right at the beginning of the service and had to spend the next several hours in the nurses station just to be well enough to handle the ride home. She would have greatly benefited from this service and it broke our hearts! Pray hedges of protection around those that are going, and keep praying until they come home!
Now, for some other thoughts:
I know, you’re sick of hearing what I have to say by now… But hear me out. Please.
And ordained visit…
Imagine my excitement when it worked out that Sherry, along with her Mom, daughter, and friend, would be visiting Southern California… I rarely get to see her and she is one of my rocks. I mentioned in the first post that Sherry and I have a history at camp. That her parents were our District Children’s Leaders for most of my childhood… That our Grandparents worked together as pastors in the same district for many years, forging a close friendship, and working hard to build up our campground and attend camp with their churches.
So imagine how much more excited I was when I told Sherry that I wouldn’t be home to see her because I would be at Junior High Camp and she basically said, “Even better! We’ll come up there!” And they did! At the time I didn’t think of the timing being more perfect other than the memories we all shared there. (And believe me, hugging Sherry’s neck in the quad, worshiping with her in morning chapel, and visiting over a Bethel Burger was all fabulous.)
But God had a plan… Their visit wasn’t a fluke. It probably sounds to you as though it worked out almost like a cheesy movie, but in reality it packed a punch! Sherry’s Mom, Debbie, poured in to some of us while there. She reminded me of some of the original vision for the camp and told me some things I did not know. For example: Did you know that 80% of missionaries receive their calling to the mission field while at church camps? That’s a HUGE number!
A Lifelong Impact
Many of us adults that were in attendance at camp then got to talking… Those of us that had attended camps had received part or all of our calling while at camp!
Some of us that had backslid later in our teens or as adults recalled times while away from God that we were in a dire place and remembered a moment from camp. Whether it was time in the altar, a conversation with a counselor, a song sung in chapel, or a sermon, those memories started flooding back and we began to reach out to God and make our way back to Him.
When I was a camper we had a phrase, “Take the mountain home with you.” Take it to school. Take it with you wherever you go. Don’t ever let it go. Never lose what God gave you on the mountain. I promise you, the kids that go to church camp take that mountain home with them.
A Special Calling
Between Sis. Debbie and a few other “camp veterans” in attendance, I realized how important return volunteers are. Many of these workers were people that had been working at camp when I was a camper. Sis. Ross had been there when I was a little girl. I remembered her praying with me in chapel and doing bed checks at lights out. This year, she was still there working hard along with others, showing us “newbies” the ropes. I gleaned so much from their knowledge and experience!
Some people are called to work at church camp every year. Are you one of them? You don’t know until you pray about it and try it one year. You may be hooked! I will say this, I get why my Grandpa loved it so much now. Whenever the Lord allows, I will be at camp working in one way or another.
So now, after all that, what do you think?
Is Church Camp worth it?
What songs did we sing at SoCal Youth 2016 Camps?
Stay in touch to find out!
And tomorrow… come back tomorrow for our 5 year Blogiversary GIVEAWAY!!!
Third… Last, but definitely not least, there was Teen Camp B.
I think you know me well enough by now to know that I’m just going to lay it out for you right here: We called it Senior Camp when I was growing up. By the way, I wasn’t the only one that couldn’t ditch the “old names”. So I’m not going to stress over it.
Senior Camp was for 9th-12th grades and teens that had graduated from High School but still attended Youth Group. Camp began on Sunday afternoon and ran through Friday morning with chapel, again, in morning and evenings. Though camp did not end until Friday morning, due to a conflict in schedule, I returned on Thursday night and brought our kids home at about the time of lights out. Since the “last day” of camp is actually just waking up, eating breakfast, packing up, cleaning your dorm/cabin, and leaving… I thought leaving 9 hours early wouldn’t hurt.
Our church only sent 2 kids to Senior Camp, my son Jeffrey (15) and another girl from our church the same age. This camp had the largest attendance of all, with 200+ kids!
Unfortunately, I began getting sick the last few days of Junior High Camp after a bad allergy attack. Only a few hours in to Senior Camp and I was laying in my bunk, curled up in a fetal position, and shivering. While everyone was at their first chapel service, I reluctantly went home with the intention to come back. However, my Doctor insisted that I not… something about early bronchitis, double ear and sinus infections, and my being crazy. I decided I should listen, for once.
So instead of giving you a full run down, I will tell you what I have gathered from my son, the girl from my church, posts on Facebook, things I heard when I returned to gather our kids (I did attend the last service), and so forth.
Many of the activities were the same or similar. Jeffrey says that the afternoons were mostly free time. There were more options of things to do. Basketball, throwing around a football, pool, ping pong, horseshoes, baseball, volleyball, etc.
Again, this is Jeffrey giving me the information… my 15 year old son… Chances are if it didn’t catch his eye, then he didn’t take note of it. It is entirely possible that there was much more.
Before the evening services there was a Lip Sync Battle. I caught the last night and it was hilarious!
The majority of what I heard about from the kids was about chapel. I feel that speaks volumes!
Chapel was much more intense! (That’s a good thing!)
Instead of little kids who are just learning how to worship or tweens and young teens that are concerned with who is standing next to them and watching… these kids are ALL in. Altar calls after evening services lasted HOURS. Chairs had to be pushed back to make more room so that everyone could fit in the front of the sanctuary. They wanted all of God that they could attain, and then more after that. The Holy Spirit poured down and there was a strong presence of the Lord in every service.
As it always has for as long as I can remember, Senior Camp involves quite a bit of horsing around. Similar to things that go on with kids at school, mostly done in good fun, one cabin pranks another and then that cabin tries to figure out who did it so they can retaliate, and so forth. More than a little annoying, but it seemed that the leaders did their best to keep it under control and have plans to reinforce rules and keep the pranking to a minimum in the future.
Really, if you get this many people together… there is going to be “schtuff”. Not everything is going to flow as smoothly as the smaller camps with the younger kids.
When you have this many kids crying out to God, the enemy is going to attack with confusion and division. You have to FIGHT IT and not become hateful or negative.
Considering everything, while it would have been nice for the kids and workers that did not want to be a part of it to be picked on, when looking at the big picture… We have to remember this: The enemy is angry and we need to not let him win… both by not acting like teenagers should be expected to act like angels and dwelling on what happened, and by taking measures to lower the incidences of drama next year. After all, not every person that attends church camp is a Christian. Can we expect those that are not saved to behave as we would? For the most part, everything went smoothly and a good majority behaved Christ like.
Continuation of great leadership
Our District Youth Directors from SoCal Youth went above and beyond this last week of church camp. Nancy had her baby the second morning of camp. Everyone seemed to step forward and do what they could to help Roque out as needed. Once again, youth pastors were taking part in the services.
When I returned the last night to pick up the kids, I was able to attend the last service. A memory that I will NEVER forget is that of Roque pacing as he prayed on the platform in front of all the kids. He seemed to be warring in the Spirit so that the full Glory of the Lord could fall upon each camper, declaring victory before it happened, and praising God for the victory when it did.
Who wouldn’t want a leader like that for their kids and teens?!
So was church camp worth it? More on that tomorrow… Come back for the 4th and final post in this series!
Seriously, because I’m going to talk about the food and other (much more) important stuff…
And then keep coming back, because Thursday we will finally celebrate the 5 year Blogiversary of RSHTH with a GIVEAWAY…
and then more posts and stuff… Some in reference to church camp… Some completely random…
Probably some at some point in time about cheesecake, KidMin, sewing, or homeschooling…
I mean, the options here are really endless…
P.S. My sincerest apologies to Mallorie for bailing! I’m sorry you had to eat/drink the gross stuff.
This blog post is the second installment of a series on church camp. You can find the first post about Kids Camp by clicking this link here.
Second, there was Teen Camp A.
And again, I have to just get it out and call it Junior High Camp. No, not middle school camp. Junior High Camp. With the proper letters capitalized and all. I’m just weird, I know. I know!
For this camp, we had an even smaller attendance from our church. My daughter Becca (13), another girl from our church, and myself. I was very excited to spend time with these 2 girls as one is my daughter and I love the other one dearly. This camp we had about 80 kids in attendance, again a big drop from the old days. But more on that in another post… Teen Camp A (JUNIOR HIGH CAMP, heh…) was for those in 6th-9th grades.
Junior High Camp Church Services
(Okay, I’m just going to refer to it as Junior High Camp for the remainder of this post. I’m sorry, I can’t help myself. I don’t mind the other name at all. But it just rolls off the tongue, er, flows on to the keyboard/reads easier. So follow: Junior High Camp (the old skool name) = Teen Camp A (the new official name). Both mean church camp for tweens and teens. Now moving right along… and pretending I didn’t just get all neurotic so early in a blog post…)
Camp ran from Wednesday afternoon until Sunday morning, with chapel in the morning and evening.
Morning chapel began in the with a “warm up” song… They were the same songs to get the wiggles out at Kids Camp, but it was still fun. Not that there wasn’t enough exercise walking up and down the mountain from dorm to chapel and back… But we could all use a little more, right? 😉 Especially with all the delicious food! It was also a great way to transition from being loud all morning to being on task in service.
Chapel still had games, but the focus changed from kids competing somewhat randomly to dorms competing against each other in “Dorm Wars”, which also carried over in to the rest of the day/night activities. Musical pies, who could drink the grossest concoction, guess the movie title by the emojis, stuff like that. We would then have worship, which was some of the same songs from Kids Camp minus the motions, (though some of us just couldn’t help ourselves and let motions pop out now and then) and a few more songs added in. Next would be the big reveal of who won/lost dorm inspections… which involved losers cleaning bathrooms and winners being the first in line for lunch. We would then be dismissed to go back to our dorms to have devotions and discuss our reflections from the sermon the night before.
Evening Chapel – Switching It Up (Pardon the pun, I couldn’t resist…)
Evening chapel began and flowed similarly. Worship lasted a little longer than morning service. With each service, the kids became more involved and hungrier for the presence of God. Towards the end of the worship portion, one of our SoCal Youth Directors, Roque or Nancy (who was still pregnant and still putting us all to shame), would give a statement to encourage the kids to draw closer or dig deeper. A few different nights, instead of one of the District Youth Directors, a Youth Pastor in attendance as a counselor would make the statement instead. Every time it was right on point and definitely God inspired, resonating with the kids.
Strong presence of great leadership
It was refreshing to not only have Directors and a speaker that were obedient to give the message given to them by the Holy Spirit in the tone that it should be delivered, but also obedient as to WHO should give the message… and then that these Youth Pastors were obedient to deliver the message they received in the way it was intended. Whether that be excitable, serious, emotional… because how it is delivered makes a huge impact on how it is received. Then the person hearing the message is much more likely to be obedient as well. It is a chain that just keeps going down, I know. But when you have seen ministries that are not always obedient, it was exactly as I said, refreshing.
For Junior High Camp, Mark McGaffin’s series was titled “Flip The Switch”. He actually built a giant make-shift switch and presented it in a way to really grab the kids attention on the very first night, having the sound/lights people do techy things to make it seem as if it was really plugged in and could function part of the time. (He’s still working on this invention after all.) I thought it was cute when the first night one kid I didn’t know turned around and said to me, “I can’t tell if it’s real or not.” Hey, maybe it is!
Bro. Mark’s sermons were mostly based on stories of Peter with titles such as “Flip The Switch: From Doubt to Faith”, “From Guilt To Grace”, “From Fear To Courage”, and I know there was one more but here is where my old age comes in… I can’t remember what it was right now. While the messages were geared towards tweens and young teens, they still challenged some of us adults and inspired us.
O Come To The Altar
The altar calls at Junior High Camp were REALLY good. Kids came down and gave their lives to Jesus. Tweens and teens were filled with the Holy Spirit. People were revived and renewed. There were different calls for prayer each night, for those with certain problems to come down and receive prayer. Calls were also made for if those that just needed prayer for something else. These altar calls usually began with Mark after his message and would also include another call after a few minutes from our leader, Roque, or another youth pastor in attendance that had made a statement at the end of worship. These kids were getting closer to Jesus and experiencing Father God and the Holy Spirit in ways they hadn’t before. Some of them, one being my daughter, matured a lot spiritually for having only been at camp 4 days.
Junior High Camp Activities
Similar to kids camp in that there was good food, friends made, lizards caught/released (Though less than kids camp… what is it with kids and lizards? Not just boys, girls too!), and dirt sticking to everyone, tweens and teens church camp was a lot of fun.
Lunch took a little longer since for Junior High Camp lunch was not provided by the dining hall (breakfast and dinner were still provided) and was bought by each camper from the Snack Shack… the camps well known grill and snack bar… where they could choose what they want and wait for it to be prepared. This is like a rite of passage for some of these kids. Same at Kids Camp, but there they are mostly buying candy, sno cones, and sometimes a small meal after evening service. For some it is the first time that they are on their own somewhere, without their parents, with money that they can choose how to spend. Money that they can order what they want to eat with no judgements from grown ups. They loved it! So while lunch didn’t take forever, it did dig in to a bit more of the afternoon time, which was fine because there was a LOT of time.
Not So Lazy Afternoon
Afternoons consisted of optional activities from softball, basketball, volleyball… (some other kind of ball I’m sure… Do I look athletic? 😉 There was sports. How’s that? Ha!) to making tie dye shirts, paint classes, and other options. Some of the activities required a small fee, but it was never more than a few dollars and always worth it.
I quickly regretted not making a tie dye shirt… So when another day they offered the paint class, I was glad that Becca, the other girl from our church, and a friend that they made while there all wanted to do it so I wouldn’t look ridiculous painting by myself a picture that looks like it was painted by a 3 or 4 year old instead of a 34 year old. I learned a lot about my daughter and the other girls I was sitting with just by painting a picture together. Funny how that works, huh? How we say stuff without actually saying it when we’re being creative? Another blog post for another day…
Afternoons also meant… DORM WARS! Now, dorm wars outside of chapel isn’t “Oh, let’s stand around and play a game where we guess/yell stuff or get messy and gross”. No. Dorm wars means actual war… Like, not guns and death, but war on old people’s bodies as the kids run so fast ahead of you that you begin singing that old song, “See the bright light shine! It’s just about home time! I can see my Father standin’ at the doooooor”! Basically, it is a group scavenger style race. Each dorm carries their flag and begins with a card stating what station to go to. You RUN to that station, do the required activity (usually something physical, but sometimes eating something gross or a puzzle kind of thing), get a card saying where to go next, repeat. For like 3 years… or maybe it was around 30 minutes. I’ve blocked some of the trauma out. What I have not blocked out is where every hidden bathroom is located because I was drinking a TON of water and running made it… well, you get it.
Now, this is where I have to give a shout out to another counselor in our dorm, Mallorie, because she showed up and showed out. See, each dorm is required to have at least 1 counselor participate… She did it almost every time and rocked it. She also drank the gross stuff in chapel and showed us all how to take a pie to the face without really taking it. Now, me having left my brain at the Carl’s Jr we stopped at to use the bathroom on the way to camp, forgot until I rolled my ankles that I’m not supposed to be doing things like running. Did that stop me? No. I kept trying. Until I finally realized I had lost my mind, I am not young anymore (sad face), and parked myself on a bench.
After Church Activities
Did I say afternoons meant dorm wars? Oh, that’s not right. Afternoons and nights after chapel also meant dorm wars. Even more fun in the dark and better because less people see you fall or spit dripping out of your mouth as you run! In all seriousness, it was fun. I wish I was in better shape. The kids loved it. Even though our dorm (GO PIIIIIIINK!!!!) lost, probably my fault, it was still worth it… now that I can’t remember the pain.
What about the whole boy/girl thing?
With adolescence comes… crushes. I was shocked to see how my daughter acts when she likes a boy, which wasn’t bad, just something new and I’m not sure I’m ready for her to be a teenager yet. Can we go back to Kids Camp? No? Anyways, the kids at this church camp did differ in one major way from the way it was at my Junior High Camp. Less boy craziness. Don’t get me wrong, it was there and more so in some girls than others, but most of these girls all seemed to have more confidence in themselves and less need for the attention of a boy.
So was it worth it?
Check back in and I’ll let you know in the upcoming two posts on Senior Camp, um, Teen Camp B, and then my wrap up!
Let me know what you’re thinking!
Whether or not you sent your kids and teens to church camp this Summer, the question at some point probably crossed your mind: Does church camp really make any difference other than just a giant sleep over and a bunch of junk food while playing games?
I spent some time at the youth camp our church attends last month. Here are my honest thoughts… but first, a little back story… I’ll try to keep it short…
My “little” backstory:
I was born in the early 80’s, back when everyone went to some kind of camp every year. Whether church camp, scout camp, or another activity camp, almost all the kids I knew went to camp. The majority of my childhood was spent counting down until I could go to junior camp when I turned 7. From there on, my friends and I spent every year counting down until the next Summer when we would go to camp again.
It was that big of a deal, people. Really. I’ll spare you the view of a gazillion photos that I cherish to this day. Mostly because they involve embarrassing clothes and hair styles…
We would start planning our outfits around Easter, as back then we still dressed up for both services each day. Dresses, heels, hair, the works. Packing of the bags began in July. It was a major process… and in August, it would quickly come and go.
We learned something new about the God we served, made new friends, sang new songs, swapped addresses, and went home (Took the mountain with us! More on that later..) and started it all again. When I was 9 I had a really awesome (and very young) counselor named Sherry. She prayed with me, endured my sleep walking/talking, taught me all the awesomeness that is DC Talk, told us bedtime stories about Cinderella and the New Kids On The Block by flash light. Sherry was, like, so rad… She still rocks! (I can’t leave that out… 😉 ) That alone tells you about the relationships I formed during those years, as Sherry is one of my dearest friends today.
This is my church camp. There are many like it, but this one is mine.
The camp I attended most as a kid and teen is the one I worked at this year. Formerly Bethel In The Hills (though many of us still call it by this name), now known as Mountain Pointe Campground, is a camp my family has attended for many years. As of this year, 4 generations of my family have now gone as either campers or workers. Founded in 1947 and owned by the SoCal District of the Pentecostal Church of God, this is the same camp that Sherry’s Grandpa along with my Grandpa and many others helped build to what it is today. It is where Sherry’s parents directed kids camp every summer for several years. So not only is church camp is one of my best childhood and teenage memories, without a doubt, it is also part of my legacy. Obviously church camp had a big impact on me and was definitely worth it.
But then I grew up… Right? Did anything come from what happened to me all those years at camp? Well, back to that later in this series. However, first let me tell you very honestly that for several years I began to wonder if church camp was worth it. Was it worth the time? The effort? The money? Are kids today still getting slammed by the presence of God and knowing just how real He is? Do they even get that they are there for God, or are they so stressed out without electronics that they can’t function without Wi-Fi to know how to have dive in to the presence of God and have fun when not in chapel? Well, in this series I will tell you how our camp went this year. Then I’ll let you decide for yourself…
First, there was Kid’s Camp.
Or as old people like me who can’t let go of the old labels call it: Junior Camp. (Whew, I feel better now… Okay, I’m not that bad. But I couldn’t get it through my head to stop using the old names.)
In attendance from our little church was my son, Tommy (8), 3 other boys, my pastor, and myself. No girls from our church so that meant I was bunking with a bunch of people I didn’t know… which a few years ago would have been enough to send me running home. Thanking God again for deliverance from anxiety! All together we had around 90 kids, I think. This is a big drop from the hundreds that were in attendance in my childhood, so I was a bit shocked when I first arrived. Kids camp was for those from 1st grade up to 5th grade.
Kid’s Camp Church Services
Camp ran from Sunday afternoon through Wednesday morning with chapel in the morning and evening.
Each service began with a game or two and a warm up “get your wiggles out” song. The kids would then all do worship, with all of the songs including motions. Sometimes even balloons were part of worship, which to the kids was just the best thing ever. The sermon/lesson portion of the service followed a popular VBS curriculum with the sanctuary being decorated according to the theme.
The end always had an altar call, with kids coming down for prayer. The remainder of the children sitting or that had returned to their seats were gently reminded sometimes that we needed to be reverent and quiet so that the ones at the front could talk to Jesus, but not one of them complained and some would even begin to pray for those at the front from where they were sitting. Quite a few kids gave their lives to Jesus. Heartaches were mended. Lives were changed.
My Pastor praying with Tommy during an altar call.
“Whoa whoa whoa!” Some of you are saying “Back up just a minute there!”
Let me clarify before we go any further… I want to make it clear that I DO believe that a child can give their life to Jesus, be filled with the Holy Spirit (and there isn’t a Junior Holy Spirit, either!), experience the gifts of God, etc… Jesus said, “Let the little children come unto me.” He didn’t say, “They have no idea what I’m talking about and they can’t know Me until they are either 18 or 21 depending upon their state of residence.”
So yes, we had kids at church camp that were saved and came to know Jesus while at camp this year, kids that were filled with the Spirit and felt His presence strongly in a way that they will always remember. I’m sure there were also kids who may have returned home unchanged, but there is no doubt that seeds were sown and they will never forget that time they went to camp in the mountains with those people that loved Jesus.
There were things that kids told me that broke my heart, reports that made me leap, and stories that encouraged me that God is still moving in the younger generations. Our leaders from SoCal Youth, Roque and Nancy, did a great job of explaining how to pray and listen for God to these young children and how they could talk to Jesus about anything and everything. Oh, and did I mention that Nancy was pregnant and her due date was the first day of camp? That’s commitment, y’all. She didn’t have her baby until Senior Camp a week later and was probably tougher than anyone else in attendance. She put us all to shame.
Kid’s Camp Activities
The kids had a ton of fun in between services: good food, friends made, lizards caught/released, and dirt sticking to everyone. It was a blast! Hiking, basketball, dodge ball, water wars… there was a little down time but the kids didn’t seem to notice. Naturally, the kids loved being able to play outside at night for a bit after evening chapel. What kid doesn’t love running around in the dark?
You know what else kids love? Hot Cheetos, worshiping in chapel with a giant T-Rex that also makes appearances on other parts of the campground, banging on the chapel doors while chanting “CHAPEL!” or “LET US IN!”, and seeing their leaders slimed… Yes, slimed! Sometimes it was for having the dirtiest dorm, other times the cleanest. It seemed there was no avoiding it… but Teal Dorm did, thank you Jesus! 😉
I’m in quite a few Facebook groups for Children’s Pastors and while I have read horror (and rather hilarious) stories of kids not showering and other hygiene issues while at church camps, I did not see or hear any of this going on at our camp, thank goodness! Now, cleaning toilets after little people who have consumed about 90% sugar for a few days? My gag reflex is still healing… but hey! All to the glory of God and lives being changed! Amen? Amen! 😉
While a few kids had to be sent home for various ailments, it always seemed that the ones that had to go were the children who needed a touch from God the most. If church camp isn’t worth it, would the enemy fight so hard? One has to wonder… back to that later…
One day last week a thought came to mind about how so many say they want Christ in their life, but they are just not ready. I was sitting at my sewing machine thinking about this and I remembered how Jesus asked God that if it was His will, to keep Him from having to be tortured and crucified. Two days later I made a graphic and posted it to a few of our social media pages.
What are you waiting for? Don’t wait until it is too late!
The night that I posted the graphic to our Facebook and Instagram profiles, I had a dream.
In my dream, a group of us were sitting in a front yard and I felt that we were at home. That we all lived there. I was surrounded by family, friends, and people I don’t know. But in my dream, we were all family.
The yard had a fence and a gate. A few of us looked out and noticed other friends and family that we knew wandering around the neighborhood. They were dazed and lost, almost like they were sleep walking. Eventually all of us in the yard started calling each of them by name and shouting:
“Come home! Come home! You’ll be safe!”
Many heard us, woke up, and came running in the gate for a happy reunion while some continued wandering.
I woke up excited, but concerned.
The church is on the verge of a revival. God wants His children, our brothers and sisters, home before it gets dark.
Remember being a kid and playing outside? When it began to get dark, the porch light would turn on and everyone knew it was time to go home. I still remember the sound of my Grandma’s voice when she would call out my name. “Angela! It’s time to come home! Come on, it’s getting dark out!”
The times are getting dark, we all know that. The “porch light” is going to light up any minute, and it will be time to go to our Heavenly home. (I CAN’T WAIT!)
How many of our loved ones are too busy to realize that it is getting dark and almost time to go home? We need to start getting their attention!
Why aren’t we trying harder? Are we too busy to care about the souls that need Christ?
I want to challenge every Christian to call or message someone they know that needs Jesus. Reach out to them. Ask them how they are doing, if they have given any thought to God lately. Remind them just how much He loves them. See if they want to meet up to talk or come to church with you. Don’t make a laundry list of their sins and tell them how wrong they are. Love the lost more than the enemy hates them. Just shine the light of Jesus in to their life.
Call them in the gate so that they will be ready to go inside when the light turns on.
Some people just need that little reminder and will come running right back in. Others may not be as eager to listen. Keep praying for them and being a friend to them, don’t just shut them out.
With everything going on in the world, it is too easy to just give up and say that no one wants to listen. We need to keep fighting the good fight and bring in the lost! Wake them up and ask them to come home!
Let’s do this! Are you with me? We need to let everyone know that it is time to COME HOME!
When I woke up from my dream, I had a song in my head that was sung during many altar calls in my childhood… Listen and enjoy!
“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.John 15:9-14 NKJV
While praying about my one word, song, and verse for the year, I asked God to take me on a journey. I figured it would be something I didn’t expect, because that’s what He does. But I had no idea it would be this. I had no clue as to what I would learn about Him, myself, and others. It has been painful, but necessary… and I still don’t have a word, song, or scripture. Instead He gave me a phrase, a playlist, and sent me flipping through my Bible looking up all kinds of scriptures (not claiming to be an expert or anything like that. I’m definitely a student here.) I feel led to share part of this journey for some reason, even though it is very personal to me. So I’m following the Holy Spirit on this. Please know that I do not mean to offend anyone, act like a know-it-all, boast pridefully, or anything else negative. I’m simply stating what I have learned recently, because maybe just 1 person out there needs to read it… and when God says write, I write. You may not like me after reading this, and that’s okay. Feel free to stop following and reading, etc. because I don’t care about numbers, that is not why I blog. I don’t make money doing this so you’re not hurting me by quietly slipping away… though I hope you don’t and instead see the honesty of my heart in what I am going to share. This journey is far from over… but here is where I have traveled and where I am now… (It was originally going to be a simple post with a few graphics, music videos, and barely any words. Next thing you know, it’s a really long post. Bear with me on this, please and thank you.)
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.John 3:16 NKJV
1 John 4:11 it says Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. - Raising Sticky Hands To Heaven" width="500" height="500" srcset="http://raisingstickyhands.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/LOVE-the-lost-MORE-than-the-enemy-HATES-them-1-John-411-scripture-reference-Raising-Sticky-Hands-To-Heaven.jpg 500w, http://raisingstickyhands.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/LOVE-the-lost-MORE-than-the-enemy-HATES-them-1-John-411-scripture-reference-Raising-Sticky-Hands-To-Heaven-150x150.jpg 150w, http://raisingstickyhands.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/LOVE-the-lost-MORE-than-the-enemy-HATES-them-1-John-411-scripture-reference-Raising-Sticky-Hands-To-Heaven-300x300.jpg 300w" sizes="(max-width: 500px) 100vw, 500px" />
Imagine for a moment that there is a woman who has only two options of places to live. Both potential roommates offer for her to live in their homes for free.
The first one says that he loves her and will take care of her every need, but actually hates her and is extremely jealous of everything about her. While he is very abusive, he has others in the home show her ways to dull the pain, lie to her, and cause her to feel an artificial love so that she is content and does not always feel the strain of the abuse. His intent is to strip her of everything with one hand while he pretends to care for her with the other. While the smiles are false, her roommate (slave driver would be more appropriate) steals everything he is jealous of and she is constantly watching her back. The words in her ears sound positive and her body momentarily feels good.
The second one offers to care for her with nothing asked in return but love… which comes easily the more she gets to know Him. He has many gifts for her, some of which she will attain over time, and while He is honest about the fact that there will be difficult times He makes sure that she knows that He will always be there for her. He asks the others in the home to help her get settled in, but instead some of them berate her, tell her that she is not good enough for Him, and become angry at her for not already knowing the rules of the house upon arrival. While the Homeowner is grieved and tries to let her know that He does not feel this way and that the others are wrong, she is so hurt and confused that she considers returning to the home of the one who had no love at all… If the others in the home feel that way and tell her that she is not good enough for Him, she assumes that He must feel that way as well.
LOVE the lost MORE than the enemy HATES them
Okay, I didn’t promise the best writing or illustrations here. HA! It may read out pretty lame, but you probably already get where I’m going with this… because you’re smart and saw the title and the story was obvious… but anyway, this is a big part of what has been going through my heart lately. It seems that we as Christians are so often misunderstood, and to be honest, sometimes we are just flat-out harsh when we should try a different approach. We are quick to judge, defend too fast, and try to dictate instead of love. To someone who didn’t grow up in a Christian home to know and understand what some of what we are conveying to them means, it comes out kind of hateful. How would you feel if you walked into a new friend’s house and their daughter started critiquing every bit of who you were? Not so good. But that’s how we come across sometimes to people who have been lied to their entire life by an enemy that hates them more than we love them.
Oh, he hates them alright. He hates all of us. 1 Peter 5:8 in the NKJV states “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” Satan is jealous of us because we are made in God’s image, we serve God, and we are loved by God. When someone is living in sin, satan is happy because if he can deceive the person enough their hearts will become hard and cold towards God. It’s the only way that satan can hurt God, by stealing those that Christ loves and dragging them into eternal punishment with him instead of them spending eternity with our Father.
“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.John 15:18-19 NKJV
Am I saying to not call sin what it is and help others see the way? Certainly not. What I am saying is that we need patience and compassion. We also need to realize that most people who are lost have never read a Bible and many that are lost are not likely reading one currently, so we are the only Bible that they are “reading.” Ouch, hurts, doesn’t it? We are so wrapped up in our doctrine and appearance of holiness that we have forgotten the great commission of going out into the world and preaching the gospel… and that none of it means anything without love. (See below.) We are not of the world, but we are in it. We should be going out and sharing the Word of God, not judging, condemning, and nitpicking. Although our intentions are well and we know where our hearts are, we don’t take the time to listen to ourselves and hear how we are coming across. While some are brought in with tough love, it does not work for all. Especially for those who have grown up in a world that has treated them brutally. We have to speak the truth, yes, but we have to consider how we are delivering it.
And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”Mark 16:15-18 NKJV
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:1-8
I’m also going to include 1 Corinthians 13:1-8 (I suggest reading the entire chapter, it’s not long.) translated in the Amplified version, because of the depth that it explains these scriptures:
IF I [can] speak in the tongues of men and [even] of angels, but have not love (that reasoning, intentional, spiritual devotion such as is inspired by God’s love for and in us), I am only a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers (the gift of interpreting the divine will and purpose), and understand all the secret truths and mysteries and possess all knowledge, and if I have [sufficient] faith so that I can remove mountains, but have not love (God’s love in me) I am nothing (a useless nobody). Even if I dole out all that I have [to the poor in providing] food, and if I surrender my body to be burned or in order that I may glory, but have not love (God’s love in me), I gain nothing. Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily. It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong]. It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail. Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening]. Love never fails [never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end]. 1 Corinthians 13:1-8 Amplified Bible
(Both translations, and many others, can be found at Bible.com and BibleGateway.com.)
My “AHA!” moment
We have all heard the phrase “you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar.” Why do we forget this simple metaphor when it comes to winning the lost? We need to be honest and let the Holy Spirit lead us so that He may bring the conviction on their heart to turn from the sin they are living in. You see, it was in my own life, recently, where I realized that I was putting out more vinegar than honey when it came to witnessing to a particular soul that I care a great deal about. Funny (actually, not so much) thing is, that is not how I was won back to Christ when I recommitted my life to Him about 8 years ago. Many had tried that approach, because they knew that I knew the truth, but they had also made me feel shunned and unworthy. It was actually Karen and Emily’s Mom and Step Dad, Momma Ann and Poppa C, that told me that they loved me, even in my sin, and that Jesus still loved me too. They didn’t judge, condemn, or preach. But they did tell me often how much Jesus loved me. Oh how I hated hearing that at first, but eventually it got through my tough skin and caused my heart to yearn for Jesus again. It wasn’t protesters or loved ones rolling their eyes at me. Not being told that I was becoming nothing and going to hell. It was love, and hearing that Jesus still loved me after all that I had done against Him. That was what drew me back in. So why would I think that the negative approach that I hated so much should be practiced by me? Ugh. Hypocritical, much?
Ephesians 6:12 states “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Yet here I was, fighting my loved one instead of the evil and wicked that is trying to steal their life. I kept reminding them of everything wrong they were doing and how disgusting it was in the eyes of God instead of declaring the love that God has for them when they are so hated by an enemy that wants to see them dead… And THAT is how this new favorite phrase of mine was born.
I want to LOVE the lost MORE than the enemy HATES them.
Not only those that I know and love deeply on a personal level, but anyone who is living without Jesus. Just because they don’t realize that satan is there, or maybe they do not even acknowledge him, it does not mean that he is not lurking, tempting, perched and posed, ready to devour them. The fact that God loves them with more love than anyone can ever comprehend is not changed by their blindness or denial of it.
How can we make them want this love that we have? How can we fight the enemy? With fierce unbridled love!
Getting angry at a sinner for being a sinner is 1: hypocritical (Not one of us is without sin, only Jesus.) 2: like getting mad at an apple for being an apple (They need a transformation, which can only be done through Christ.) 3: getting nowhere (Stating the obvious doesn’t fix a problem.)
Love overcomes all. Love, with faith, can move mountains and transform the world. Who wants to become like the angry person? No one. It is the kind and compassionate that cause others to say, “what has that person so happy? I want to be like that…” When you show the love of Jesus fiercely, unconditionally, and abundantly… THAT is when you will see the lost running to the cross, the world transformed, and hearts softened. Not with flashy shows, angry finger-pointing, and weak theology. Too many are running lost. It is time that we sound the alarm and flood the darkness in this hate filled world with the LOVE of JESUS!
Again, my point is not to stop calling sin what it is or to not stand up for what is right… we should do those things. But we need to carefully and prayerfully consider our approach.
This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.John 15:12 NKJV
By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.1 John 3:16 NKJV
(For those that may be curious, here are just a few of the songs on my long playlist for 2015… I’m tellin’ ya, it’s a LONG playlist!)
Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!’ Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Have you ever felt down and wondered if you mattered to anyone? Have you ever questioned if what you do to for God really matters to Him? What about considering if it really made a difference whether or not you served the Lord?
Many people have had those questions before. The enemy likes to put those thoughts in our heads, whether when we are contemplating salvation or during a struggle with our Christian walk. It’s a dark thought, and one many don’t want to admit they have weighed over in their head and hearts, but it’s true. Something that no one wants to talk about, but true.
However, Luke 15:10 brings something very important to light. The angels rejoice over each and every sinner that repents and gives their life to God. Every. Single. One.
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Life in this world is hard. Excruciating. It can become very lonely. But with Christ, not only do we have an almighty God who cherishes us. We have His son Jesus, all of the angels, and our constantly growing Christian family. Is that not amazing?
The next time that the enemy tries to sneak in and whisper lies into your ear, remember those angels that are in Heaven rejoicing over your soul. You are the lamb that the Shepherd left the 99 to find the 1. The coin that was found. The prodigal son… and every other parable that Jesus taught. He did it all for YOU! And if no one else ever wanted to follow Him, He would do it all again just for YOU! The angels rejoice over YOU!
While it doesn’t exactly follow the same lines of this scripture and post, I want to share with you the status that I posted on our Facebook page on Thanksgiving. Salvation is a wonderful thing, and if you have not asked God for forgiveness, I would like to invite you to right now.
I’ve gone through some pretty dark times in my life. Though the path to the darkest point began when my ex husband and I separated in 2004. I don’t know how to explain what happened to me. I grew up in church, living with my Mom and Grandparents who were Pastors. I knew all about salvation and the consequences of sin. Yet somehow how I found myself in the deepest pit of darkness without even knowing how I got there.
A few months before the separation I was sold out for Christ, but looking back I was allowing a lot of compromise to slowly come into my life. I began to make exceptions for circumstances and justify things that should have been recognized as sin. I became attached to people who were not following the Lord more than I should have. Just like the song by Casting Crowns, it was a slow fade.
Without even realizing it I had become one with the world. In the beginning I had guilt because I knew the way I was living was wrong, but it eventually was drown out with the overwhelming amount of new friends I had and the party life I was living. After residing in 2 different states for the prior 5 years where I had kept to myself, I was loving that I had a social life. While in the beginning I would hang out with these friends and not participate in the same things they did, over time I began to partake. In the beginning it was just flirting with sin, dabbling a little here and a little there. However, when I gave my ex husband custody over our 2 children due to my not being able to afford childcare so I could work to provide for them, I became emotionally broken. I did everything but turn to Jesus. I wanted to numb what I was feeling.
I turned into someone I didn’t even know. I dived in head first and was quickly spiraling downward. While I never did hard drugs, there were those that did around me. I became the ultimate party girl and if someone paid attention to me, I gave them anything they wanted. I spent money I didn’t have, drank every drink given to me (It was rare that I paid for my own drinks, no matter where I was), picked up a lot of bad habits, and avoided anyone that would tell me I was doing wrong. I knew what I was doing was breaking God’s heart, but I didn’t want to have to deal with what was really happening: My life long dreams being crushed.
It’s a long story that would probably take a book to write, but even when I hit rock bottom, it didn’t stop. I just kept going. I lived in my mini-van with a man that repeatedly beat me, emotionally abused me, stole from me, and cheated on me for nearly a year. Only a few people knew my living situation, as I would still show up at my job looking like everything was fine. I painted a pretty picture for everyone and was always focused on giving everyone what they wanted, no matter what the cost would be to me.
It was a few years before I turned back to the Lord. I had become agnostic and wanted nothing to do with any mention of Christ… That is until my Grandma died. A few days after she passed I had found out that the man I was in a serious relationship with that until then seemed like the most perfect soul mate for me had been lying to me about something that couldn’t be overlooked. I was now dealing with massive grief for 2 separate things. I had also recently been fired from a job that I loved and was barely making it as a temporary office assistant. I decided my only answer was to join the Army. I enlisted as quickly as I could and decided I was going to live it up until it was time to attend basic training. I barely ate as I had no money. I partied constantly. I gave almost everyone everything I could give them, no matter what it was. It was truly the darkest time of my entire life.
It wasn’t until a little over a month later when I met the man of my dreams, my true soul mate, and married him after just meeting him 3 days before that I turned back to Jesus and found salvation. What could have been the most impulsive and stupidest decision of my life was actually the best thing I could have done. I realized on our way home from eloping in Las Vegas that God’s hand was in my meeting my husband and that He still wanted me no matter what. For the first time in years I listened as God spoke to me as my groom laid sleeping in the passenger seat. It wasn’t an instant transformation though.
You see, I was so deep in darkness that it was quite a journey to find my way out. I had only a few Christians that had stayed in my life even though I had grown up in church surrounded by Christian family and friends. Everyone had written me off, and honestly, I don’t blame them. I felt shunned and not worthy to be in the presence of those that served the Lord.
Slowly, one by one, I became separated from people that were toxic to my relationship with the Lord. I began giving up things that were holding me back from growing in Christ. I kept pushing forward, even though some days I was certain that I would never be free from the chains that were holding me down, nor pure enough to be proven acceptable in the eyes of the Lord.
I am here to tell you that Jesus led me to find my way out. There was one scripture that I grew up hearing my Mom sing in church that would always come to mind as I was praying and became my anthem:
But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:
That’s right, folks. HE called ME out of darkness. He beaconed me constantly, begging me to come closer. I finally made it into His marvellous light, praying all the way that He would remove me from the darkness no matter what it took. I lost so many “friends” and things that at the time seemed so important to me. To say it wasn’t difficult or painful would be a lie, but now those wounds are healed. Having Jesus means more to me than anything else in this world or what it has to offer.
Do you feel like you’re in darkness? Maybe you’ve turned your face back to Jesus, but still feel something holding you back. I’m here to tell you that you will come out of that pit if you just keep praying. Read your Bible as often as you can. Allow God to show you things that need to be removed from your life. Stop doing the things that you know are wrong. KEEP PUSHING THROUGH! God will take your hand and pull you closer to Him. Forgive yourself for the things you’ve done, as God has already not only forgiven you but forgotten everything you have done if you have asked Him to come into your life and admitted your sin with a sincere prayer. It may take time, but you will get there. I’m living proof…