I Will Not Be Afraid

July 26, 2014

If I am honest with myself, I have to confess that my life has been lived in relative safety. What fears I’ve experienced have been in the big scheme of things little fears. So how do you learn courage when you’ve experienced safety? You look to the lives of those who truly have experienced danger. You attempt to analyze their courage and learn from it.

King David was a man of action. He was a warrior. He knew battles. He had learned how not to be afraid. Psalm 3 makes for interesting reflection. The psalm heading says that the context of the psalm was Absalom’s rebellion. David found himself fleeing. David found himself with many rising up against him. But notice his response.

But you, O LORD, are a shield about me,

my glory, and the lifter of my head.

I cried aloud to the LORD,

and he answered me from his holy hill.

I lay down and slept;

I woke again, for the LORD sustained me.

I will not be afraid of many thousands of people

who have set themselves against me all around.

(Psalms 3:3–6 ESV)

His relationship with God gave him courage to face his circumstances. God was his protection (shield) and victory. The reference to glory and lifter of my head convey the idea of God as the source (my glory) and giver of victory (the lifter of my head).

Because he has this confidence in God he could go to sleep. Have you ever had worries that kept you up at night? Fears can give us insomnia. David had the confidence that he could sleep. David is also not concerned with the odds. The ESV’s “many thousands” is the same word as in the little ditty: “Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” (1 Samuel 18:7, ESV) David could confidently be in the minority because he was on God’s side.

As a modern reader, I stumble a bit with “breaking the teeth of the wicked.” But this is likely a wild animal image (see Psalm 58:6). Breaking the teeth is to render powerless the enemies of God. The people of God have the assurance of God’s victory.

Like David we can learn to be courageous in our faith. We can be courageous even if the odds are ten thousands to one, because salvation belongs to the Lord. Walking with God, I will not be afraid.

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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!