This week I will be at West Virginia Christian Youth Camp (WVCYC) helping direct All-Age Week. For me, camp is always a special time but maybe camp isn’t for everyone. Here are some letters that moms and dads received while their children were at camp:
· “Dear mom and dad, they’re making us write home. Love, Thomas.”
· “Dear mommy, the doctor said the rash should go away by the time camp is over.”
· “Dear daddy and mommy, having a fun time. We swim, hike, and play games. After lights out we cry ourselves to sleep. Love, Julie.”
· Dear mom, this place is so neat. I’ve seen some of the biggest snakes ever! How many can I bring home?”
· “Dear mother, I’m hungry all the time! Please send me more food. All they serve here is meals.” (Taken from the Bulletin Digest).
If you have ever been to church camp, what kind of letter would you have written home? I confess I cannot remember ever writing a letter home from camp, one it was only a week, and I would have more than likely beat the letter home. Second, I was having too much fun, I loved camp and didn’t have time to write letters.
For over 30 years I have been going to church camp. Church Camp offers an escape from the ordinary. It gives a person a chance to look and listen to the sights and sounds of God’s creation. One can see the stars, clouds, blue skies, and trees. Sometimes we feel the rain and cool nights too. We can listen to the wind blow, frogs chirp, water flow through the stream, and birds sing.
Camp gives us a break from all the man-made devices, the going here and there, the busyness, and running from day to day. Here we can stop and do something different for a moment, it is an escape from the ordinary. At this moment we have an opportunity to wonder, meditate, think about God, grow in faith, and build relationships with other Christians, as well as teach non-Christians the gospel.
Jesus would often get away from the crowds and go into the mountains or desolate places to pray as we see in Matthew 14:23, which reads, “And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone.”
When was the last time you took a day off from the ordinary and spent time with God in the great outdoors? We take time off from school and work to go on vacations, but when was the last time you spent the day in God’s creation praying, reading the Bible, singing, and thinking about God?
God Bless you and have a great week! Mark T. Tonkery
By Tom Smith
Recently while talking to someone on the internet, I ask them to visit the church of Christ. Their reply, "I've been before. Don' t care for it. It really didn' t impress me at all." This got me to thinking. This aptly illustrates how man's folly has ascribed "deity" to those things which are a mere reflection of himself. Such is the truth of idolatry. That which is ascribed to "God" is actually a mirrored reflection of self. The folly of idolatry is that many never see this Truth.
At the beginning of the 10 Commandments is the sin of idolatry. This is the "sin of sins" for once begun man's understanding is forever befuddled; the Truth of God is polluted; all is lost! Idolatry remains man's greatest threat! Modern man will not become an idolater in the sense of the pagan mythologies of the Greeks and Romans. These bowed down to a material image crafted with hands from precious metals or sacred wood/rocks. Modern man is too far "advanced" for this.
Modern man's lure into idolatry is much more subtle and this is where it is much more deadly. "The essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him. It begins in the mind. The idolater simply imagines things about God and acts as if they were true". Satan's evil scheme is not to get us to say there is no God but to say there is a different God than what the Bible teaches. The success of this evil scheme is repeatedly found in Scripture and has subtly invaded our modern society. In fact, it is alarming to see just how successful Satan's scheme has been.
The idolater today is one who has mentally modified the God of the Scriptures so that He is now more attractive, more tolerant, more permissive, more loving, less denouncing, less damning, and less restrictive. Modern idolatry accepts religion and God, but first modifies each to suit personal tastes. The result, a religion of convenience but no conviction; a god who is personal and up close but not the sovereign Lord; adherents who follow feelings rather than faith.
Many today say there is no absolute truth. Therefore what may be "true" to one is false to others. One's concept of God is thus built upon an ever-changing foundation. Because they are not following Truth, they will constantly change beliefs. This will lead them to be confronted with the inconsistencies in their belief system. They will not be able to "prove" all things; they are unable to "test" teachings in an objective manner. When asked to give answers to religious beliefs, they will be confused. When asked about beliefs they either get upset for being asked or try to explain with irrational feelings instead of confident facts. Their departure from the biblical God brings them to shame. Ultimately they become upset because they are asked to give a reason. They prefer to be left alone with their idolatry, never confronted.
The only reason one rejects the biblical concept of God is to follow self. When we refuse to crucify self (Lk 9:23) we will submit to our selfish desires. This selfishness soon re-designs God so that one feels he has divine approval. The selfish person looks at the biblical teaching regarding God but he does not like what he sees. He then whittles upon the biblical concept until a more appealing "god" is found. This stubbornness fuels the individualism that feeds idolatry. Modern man seeks to find God in "his own way; by his own experience; with his personal meaning."
How do you view God? Is it crafted to personal tastes? Is it according to the Truth of the Scriptures? We may not like certain aspects of God presented in the Scriptures. We may not like the emphasis upon God's rules, laws, and commands. We may not like the fact that the God of Scripture is Sovereign and thus has a right to demand that we do some things and not do other things.
The reality is that modern man has not accepted the simple description of God in the Scriptures. Modern minds have crafted a pantheon of gods. The members of this group are popular in the lives of modern men. Sadly, some Believers have re-designed the biblical God. It does not matter what you/I like or dislike about God. God is and He will not change. He is the "great I AM." All we can do is accept Him as He is and obey His will (1 Jn 5:21).
By Tom Smith
God knows when we need encouragement along our journey. When our flesh is weak and we need to be challenged to press on. I am no different than you or any other person. I have my times of weakness, those days when the battles are simply too fierce. Satan is only too happy to seize those moments, as he did when Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days and nights. He comes to tempt us, acting as our friend who is concerned about our well being, giving us all the justification we need to take our eyes off the prize. That is some of the many ways satan will come to all of us.
I want to share some excerpt from the writings of Charles Spurgeon a preacher and theologian from the 1800's. I hope they will inspire and encourage you. There is perhaps no greater challenge we have as followers of Christ than to remain true to the faith. So many over the years have been like Demas who we read about in the Book of Acts. Demas was a man serving God, but decided to turn back to the world. In those moments of temptation I often think back to the words of Peter. When asked by Jesus if he would turn away from the Lord Peter boldly responded in John 6:68, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life!" That is why the child of God presses on, remains true to the faith. To whom shall we go?
Spurgeon writes: "Perseverance is the badge of true saints. The Christian life is not a beginning only in the ways of God, but also a continuance in the same as long as life lasts. It is with a Christian as it was with the great Napoleon: he said, "Conquest has made me what I am, and conquest must maintain me." So, under God, dear brother in the Lord, conquest has made you what you are, and conquest must sustain you. Your motto must be, "Excelsior." He only is a true conqueror, and shall be crowned at the last, who continueth till war's trumpet is blown no more. Perseverance is, therefore, the target of all our spiritual enemies. The world does not object to your being a Christian for a time, if she can but tempt you to cease your pilgrimage, and settle down to buy and sell with her in Vanity Fair. The flesh will seek to ensnare you, and to prevent your pressing on to glory. "It is weary work being a pilgrim; come, give it up. Am I always to be mortified? Am I never to be indulged? Give me at least a furlough from this constant warfare." Satan will make many a fierce attack on your perseverance; it will be the mark for all his arrows. He will strive to hinder you in service: he will insinuate that you are doing no good; and that you want rest. He will endeavour to make you weary of suffering, he will whisper, "Curse God, and die." Or he will attack your steadfastness: "What is the good of being so zealous? Be quiet like the rest; sleep as do others, and let your lamp go out as the other virgins do." Or he will assail your doctrinal sentiments: "Why do you hold to these denominational creeds? Sensible men are getting more liberal; they are removing the old landmarks: fall in with the times." Wear your shield, Christian, therefore, close upon your armour, and cry mightily unto God, that by His Spirit you may endure to the end."
That sums up the challenge of remaining true to the faith. The challenge to not turn away from serving the Lord to go back into the world. The temptation to indulge the flesh. The lies that the work you do for the Lord is all in vain and makes no difference. The physical battle of fighting weariness and fatigue. Taking the easy road of compromise. These are all very real issues those who serve the Lord must face along their journey through life as they strive to remain true to the faith.
I hope these words will challenge and encourage you in your personal journey. It is our steadfastness and perseverance that satan will assail. A Christian does not scare satan, however, a Christian who is steadfast and perseveres no matter what life throws his way is the enemy's worst nightmare!
Be encouraged by the fact no matter what challenges come our way we keep pressing forward, faithfully serving the Lord and trusting Him each step of the way, and then see the incredible fruit from that steadfastness and perseverance. Jesus has already won the victory, our responsibility is to remain true to the faith!
Daily Devotional for Sunday
By Tom Smith
The 90/10 Principle By Stephen Covey
Discover the 90/10 Principle. It will change your life (at least the way you react to situations). What is this principle? 10% of life is made up of what happens to you. 90% of life is decided by how you react. What does this mean?
We really have no control over 10% of what happens to us. We cannot stop the car from breaking down. The plane will be late arriving, which throws our whole schedule off. A driver may cut us off in traffic. We have no control over this 10%. The other 90% is different. You determine the other 90%.
How? By your reaction. You cannot control a red light., but you can control your reaction. Don't let people fool you; YOU can control how you react.
Let's use an example. You are eating breakfast with your family. Your daughter knocks over a cup of coffee onto your business shirt. You have no control over what just what happened. What happens when the next will be determined by how you react. You curse. You harshly scold your daughter for knocking the cup over.
She breaks down in tears. After scolding her, you turn to your spouse and criticize her for placing the cup too close to the edge of the table. A short verbal battle follows. You storm upstairs and change your shirt. Back downstairs, you find your daughter has been too busy crying to finish breakfast and get ready for school. She misses the bus. Your spouse must leave immediately for work.
You rush to the car and drive your daughter to school. Because you are late, you drive 40 miles an hour in a 30 mph speed limit. After a 15-minute delay and throwing $60 traffic fine away, you arrive at school. Your daughter runs into the building without saying goodbye. After arriving at the office 20 minutes late, you find you forgot your briefcase. Your day has started terrible. As it continues, it seems to get worse and worse. You look forward to coming home, When you arrive home, you find small wedge in your relationship with your spouse and daughter.
Why? Because of how you reacted in the morning. Why did you have a bad day?
A) Did the coffee cause it?
B) Did your daughter cause it?
C) Did the policeman cause it?
D) Did you cause it?
The answer is " D".
You had no control over what happened with the coffee. How you reacted in those 5 seconds is what caused your bad day. Here is what could have and should have happened. Coffee splashes over you. Your daughter is about to cry. You gently say, "It's ok honey, you just need, to be more careful next time". Grabbing a towel you rush upstairs. After grabbing a new shirt and your briefcase, you come back down in time to look through the window and see your child getting on the bus. She turns and waves. You arrive 5 minutes early and cheerfully greet the staff. Your boss comments on how good the day you are having. Notice the difference? Two different scenarios. Both started the same. Both ended differently. Why? Because of how you REACTED. You really do not have any control over 10% of what happens. The other 90% was determined by your reaction.
Here are some ways to apply the 90/10 principle. If someone says something negative about you, don't be a sponge. Let the attack roll off like water on glass. You don't have to let the negative comment affect you! React properly and it will not ruin your day. A wrong reaction could result in losing a friend, being fired, getting stressed out etc.
How do you react if someone cuts you off in traffic? Do you lose your temper? Pound on the steering wheel? A friend of mine had the steering wheel fall off)
Do you curse? Does your blood pressure skyrocket? Do you try and bump them? WHO CARES if you arrive ten seconds later at work? Why let the cars ruin your drive? Remember the 90/10 principle, and do not worry about it.
You are told you lost your job. Why lose sleep and get irritated? It will work out. Use your worrying energy and time into finding another job. The plane is late; it is going to mangle your schedule for the day. Why take out your frustration on the flight attendant? She has no control over what is going on. Use your time to study, get to know the other passenger. Why get stressed out? It will just make things worse. Now you know the 90-10 principle. Apply it and you will be amazed at the results. You will lose nothing if you try it.
The 90-10 principle is incredible. Very few know and apply this principle.
By: J. Raymond Pecoraro
Some people suffer from deaf of hearing; others suffer from partial hearing; yet others suffer from selective hearing when it comes to hearing God and His Word. God speaks to us through His Word daily and we must take the time to listen. This is definitely in our best interest!
Jimmy, a precious three-year-old, watched his mother making chocolate chip cookies. He asked his mother if he could have one of her delicious cookies. His mother told him that he could not because it was near his suppertime and she didn't want his meal spoiled. Little Jimmy ran to his room in tears only to reappear a short time later to let his mother know that it was okay for her to give him a cookie. He proceeded by saying that Jesus told him it was okay. His mother replied telling him that he must not have been listening!
Jimmy's motivation was wrong, but he was absolutely right about two things: God longs to speak to us, and we need to listen.
In I Samuel 3:9, another little boy learned those same ageless principles. When Samuel followed Eli's counsel and prayed, "Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears," he was open to receiving God's powerful message. Like Samuel, we long to hear God speaking to us but often fail to discern His voice.
God spoke audibly to Samuel back in those days. Today, He speaks to us through the Bible given by Inspiration of the Holy Spirit. (II Timothy 3:16, 17). But as a result of neglect and nonstop activity, some people have become "hard of hearing." Some folks require "spiritual hearing aids" like the one in Samuel's prayer. Are you the servant of God who says, "Speak, Lord, for your servant hears?" This humble attitude will cause you to receive blessings from above because you heard God!
Adjust your spiritual hearing aid and set a special time each day to read and meditate upon God's Word. Also make prayer your priority throughout the day!