Today was a glorious day. I know yesterday I talked about how Nate talked about our over-use of the word awesome. I’m guilty. I’m also guilty of over-using the word glorious. But I mean that in every sense of it today. Today was glorious. The weather was delightful. The
breeze ok wind… was really nice because for the most part it was a warm wind. The fellowship was lovely. I got to see old friends from back in my Wainfleet days! My heart was warmed to no end. And, to finish it off, we got to witness two kids declare their allegiance with Christ, two of our staff boys, when they entered the waters of baptism in the lake behind this stunning, exquisite backdrop of a sky, followed by a well-timed rainbow after it rained for a whole 37.5 seconds (I didn’t time it, it was just REALLY short, and just enough to give us a rainbow). It all ended with a dazzling, radiant, resplendent sunset where I couldn’t help but whisper “thank You Lord” as I stood and watched the sun drop into the trees.
Also – fair warning – as with last Friday night, I don’t have to publish a newsletter which means this doesn’t have to fit on one page – you’ve been warned.
This morning, Nate talked about leaving mountain-top experiences and coming back to real life. He talked about Jesus and His Disciples at the Mount of Transfiguration and how they just wanted to stay there because they were in such close communication and relationship with God, and they knew that when they left, there would be things to deal with that would distract them and split their focus, taking away that surge of energy we get when we’ve really tapped into God’s Power Source. In fact, they were right to be concerned with what would happen as they came down, because they came down from the Mount of Transfiguration to face a man who was possessed by demons. Crazy, right?
So it begs the question… how do we take the experiences we’ve gleaned here at Camp back home with us, no matter when it is that we’re leaving? Some are leaving tomorrow morning because week 2 of Fam Camp is near its end. Some are leaving in the middle of the week because they could only get a certain amount of time off. Some of our staff are done next Saturday at the end of Fam Camp 3, and then there are some of us who are in it for the long haul and are barreling right through to the end of Zenith. But whenever it is that you’re leaving, and however long it is that you’ve been up here, the reality doesn’t change. What you’ll face when you get home is different from what you’ve faced at Camp. Even if you were on staff for ten weeks, the regular (and mandatory) devos, the daily chapels, the constant worship music, and the regular invitations to just draw near to Jesus were keeping you accountable, and drawing you intentionally closer. When we go home though, there are stresses, struggles, hurts, challenges… all of which threaten to drag us away from God’s best for our lives.
In Nehemiah Chapter 6, we look and see that the work of rebuilding this wall that we’ve been talking about all week is nearly complete. I don’t know if you’ve found this in your life, but I know in mine, whenever I get close to finishing something that I know God wants me to do, my enemies regroup, and they try tactics that hadn’t previously worked. This was true for Nehemiah. His antagonists, Sandlot and Tobiah, ask to meet with him in an open field. Nehemiah had recently been appointed Governor, others watching his reactions could very easily have gone back to following Sandlot and Tobiah if Nehemiah made a wrong step in their eyes. Nehemiah sends a messenger back to tell them that he’s doing a great work, and he can’t come down. Essentially — he’s doing what he knows he’s supposed to be doing, sees them as an unnecessary distraction, and refuses to be distracted. To onlookers, it would appear that Sandlot and Tobiah just wanted to make peace, so Nehemiah would have ended up looking to many like that wasn’t what he wanted, even though he was saying it was.
It’s important for us to focus on the BEST things that God has for us so that we can avoid being distracted, even by good things. Nate used the example of a mother who’d known in searching God’s will for her life that it was her purpose at that moment to stay at home and raise her children. This isn’t always best for everyone, but it was best for her. One day, she was offered an excellent position and a great salary to go along with it, but ultimately she refused the job because she sincerely felt that what was best was for her to be home with her family. When her daughter asked her why she didn’t take the job, she told her daughter that she was doing a very important work, and she couldn’t come down… along with the story of Nehemiah. On Mother’s Day, this woman was drawn a card by her daughter with two hands almost holding on the front, saying “I’m doing an important work” … and on the inside, the hands were holding each other, and it read “and I cannot come down.” What incredible confirmation that what she was doing was best. The job wouldn’t have been a bad thing. In fact, it probably would have been good, but it wasn’t what was best at that time and she knew it. (I believe this example came from a book called “Visioneering.”
So how do we keep the best things in focus when we’re not having a mountain-top experience?
Back to Nehemiah to find out.
Sandlot and Tobiah repeat their request four more times, each time to be met with the same response from Nehemiah: I’m doing an important work, and I cannot come down. After that, they send an unsealed letter (basically conveying that it’s public knowledge because anyone could read it) that says from Nehemiah’s actions, it looks like Nehemiah plans to overthrow the government. Nehemiah trusts God, and answers “This is not true, you’re making it up in your heads.”
Here’s the key:
Nehemiah prays. He doesn’t just pray a simple blanket statement that doesn’t hold meaning in his heart, though. He earnestly seeks God’s favour when he calls to the Lord, “Now strengthen my hands.”
Keep me going.
Help me press on.
Keep me on the right track.
We all reflect God’s glory — This is applicable to EVERYTHING that we face, because if we’re doing God’s best for us, He WILL give us the strength to persevere, no matter what challenges we face along the way.
I want to send out a challenge to our staff who read this (and this is as true for myself as it is a challenge to all of you), because I think it’s really important, especially for those of you in high school. When we get back to our regular, every day lives, it’s really hard to see sometimes what God’s best is. That’s why it’s so so important to be in constant communication with our God, to be in the Word, to know it, and to know how to apply it to our lives. It’s also really important, in my own experience, to have other Christian friends that you can rely on to help you stay focused, but most importantly… it’s fundamental to keep Christ at the centre, and to regularly pray “Now strengthen my hands so that I can keep going.” Whether you’re finishing a project up, deciding who to date and what your standards might be, applying for jobs, whatever… when we ask for the Lord’s strength, He hears us. He will give us what we need.
I want to share the lyrics to a song that Andrew’s been doing this week. This song has really touched me at my core, because the lyrics are so simple, but they’re so profound all at the very same time. It’s called “Here’s My Heart” by Passion featuring David Crowder. (It’s not in the correct order because it’s a fairly repetitive song, but the simplicity is what kills me.
Here’s my heart Lord,
Here’s my heart Lord
Here’s my heart Lord,
Speak what is true
‘Cause I am found, I am Yours
I am loved, I’m made pure
I have life, I can breathe
I am healed, I am free
‘Cause You are strong, You are sure
You are life, You endure
You are good, always true
You are light breaking through
Here’s my life Lord,
Here’s my life Lord
Here’s my life Lord,
Speak what is true
Speak what is true
Speak what is true
You are more than enough
You are here, You are love
You are hope, You are grace
You’re all I have, You’re everything
For the whole song, go to the lyrics and/or the YouTube Video.
The last thing that I have to talk about to finish up Family Camp 2 is the baptism. I want to extend an immense congratulations to both Kenny and Noah for making a public declaration in front of people they love and who love them that they are in. They see the work that God is doing in their lives, they can’t ignore it, and they refuse to try. They want to live for Him, with Him, alongside Him. Their Youth Pastor, Matt Lockhart, drove up from Port Colborne for the evening to be with them in this really special occasion. They shared their reasons for being baptized, and then Matt dunked them in the lake in the name of the Father, in the name of the Son, and in the name of the Holy Spirit. It was beautiful. There were tears, there were smiles, there were prayers, there was laying of hands, and there was singing. But most importantly, there was rejoicing. Every believer there rejoiced with Kenny and Noah in their decision, and every angel in Heaven rejoiced with God over their commitment, I’m sure.
This is going to sound incredibly cheesy…. but years ago, I watched a movie called Evelyn (with Pierce Brosnan), which is the true story of an Irish tradesman whose wife abandons him and his three children just after Christmas one year. He ends up getting to know his kids in a very new way through a custody battle (I barely remember any of the details), but his daughter Evelyn looks at the sky one day and exclaims “Look, Angel Rays!” as rays of sunlight stream through a cloudy sky. When her Dad asks her what they are, she says it’s her Grandpa watching over them, like a Guardian Angel. I realize that’s not the case here, but every time I see that in the sky, it feels like God is watching. Kind of like the promise in a rainbow. He’s there. You’ll see what I mean in the pictures.
I know that in the Youth Program this morning, Jesse and Josiah jumped on this opportunity to talk about baptism with the youth, so it’s my prayer tonight that in the coming weeks and months, those of you who’ve had youth here to see this would be impacted by the model that Noah and Kenny have provided for them, along with the information given to them by Jesse and Josiah about the true meaning and purpose of what this commitment really means.
I’m not going to give much explanation over these photos, other than to say how proud I am of Noah and Kenny both. Noah, being like a little brother to me, has grown up so so much in the last almost a decade since I’ve known him, and I can’t wait to see what God has in store for both he and Kenny. They are great influences for the boys in the cabins they lead, and as others watch them work with wonderful attitudes around Camp in service at a place that they love.
Oh, and the sunset… my iPhone didn’t do it justice, but I knew that in the time it took to run upstairs and get a real camera, I’d miss it entirely. So it didn’t truly look like the sky was exploding, but I’m sure you get the idea. It was breath-taking.
And tonight, as I lay on my bed with my window open, the wind whipping the curtains around, and the sound of the lake lapping against the shore, reflecting on the day we’ve had today, I can’t help but wonder how anyone can deny God’s existence when they see all of this.