Throughout your life, you are constantly going to be making plans, whether it’s for what you’re going to eat for breakfast, what you’re going to do this weekend, or what you are going to do with the rest of your life! Most of these decisions are trivial and easy to make, what do I want to eat right now? I’ll just open the fridge and grab the first thing I see that looks good, easy choice made. But some decisions become much harder, which of my friends should I be spending my time with? What should I do once I graduate high school? What should I dedicate my life to?
In the midst of all these decisions and plans we make in our lives, it can be so easy to forget about the presence of a God who sees it all, who knows you so well He already knows what you are going to decide long before you choose, and who loves you so much He wants the best for you. I don’t know about you, but I find myself time and time again making decisions about my life or trying to follow through on plans I’ve made without consulting God at all or inviting Him in on the plan. Often it’s not until those plans fall apart that I find myself falling back down before God and realizing my mistakes and my feeble attempts to make something of this life through my own strength and wit. Sometimes I find a plan that I thought God had led me to fall apart, and I find myself frustrated with God, wondering why He would sweep the rug out from under me like that.
The amazing thing is that God has been there the whole time, His love for me has not changed, and His wisdom has not failed. He has been weaving these plans I have made on my own into His grander plan the whole time, setting things in motion that I never considered, some I will come to see the fruit of later in life, and some I may never get to see, but all will work for His will and the good of His people.
Reflecting on the mysteries of God’s plans always has me thinking about the life of Paul. Back when Paul was still called Saul he had what he thought was a great plan, he was going to rid Jerusalem and the surrounding areas of this new group who claimed their leader had returned from the dead. God had other plans though! Not only did He speak directly to Saul and turn him into a disciple of Jesus (Acts 9), He used the persecution that Saul had put on the early Christians to further his work. Later in Acts 11 we find out that some of the people who ran away from Jerusalem because of Saul ended up starting a church in Antioch, and that church ends up sending missionaries to all parts of the ancient world. One of those missionaries was Paul himself!
For the rest of Paul’s life, we see him continue to have faith in God’s plans even as he sometimes ends up in terrible situations that he never would have envisioned for himself. I find myself asking, how can I have that kind of faith myself? There are a lot of practical ways to work toward that. Read stories from the Bible about disciples like Paul trusting God throughout their lives. Talk to and learn from faithful disciples in your community who have gone before you. Pray constantly for God to increase your faith. But the number one thing that I would say you must do is to fix your eyes on Jesus.
Different translations of Hebrews 12:2 use different terms to describe Jesus’ relationship to our faith. He is the pioneer, the founder, the champion, the author, and the perfecter of our faith. Only by looking to him can we run with endurance the race that is set before us’ (Hebrews 12:1). So I beg of you today, whatever state your plans are in right now, take some time to fix your eyes on Jesus today, and ask him for faith like Paul, to trust that the Lord will work things out better than you could ever imagine, and be with you in every decision, whether big or small.
In Christ’s Love,
I don’t know what your past two years have looked like, but if I could summarize mine in one word, it would be unpredictable. With school going online, I have lived in four different states since March 2020. Pretty much each semester, I have been somewhere new: quarantine in my native Alabama, a semester interning at Ridgecrest, five months when I was a cowboy in Wyoming, and finally my return to college at Georgetown in Washington, DC. Each semester I had no idea what the future would hold. Would school go back in person? If not, where would I live next? Even now, I am starting my last semester of senior year, and I still don’t know what the future holds. I have no clue what I’ll be doing and where I will be living next year.
I have always been someone who fears uncertainty. Transitions and changes unfailingly freak me out. Just yesterday, I started my eighth semester at Georgetown. I didn’t sleep the night before, lying awake thinking about everything that could go wrong. Given this propensity, you would think that my past two years would have been anxiety-inducing. However, that hasn’t been the case because God has taught me to view change as an opportunity. Here are some things that God has taught me about uncertainty, change, and transitions:
- God wants you to be uncomfortable because He wants a relationship with you.
He wants to push you out of your comfort zone, to present you with new challenges, and yes, even to walk with you through tragedy and hardships when they arise. These can be difficult to handle in the moment, but the Bible tells us that they are good. James 1:2-4 says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” Here James, the brother of Jesus, is telling us that God uses trials – those hard times in life whatever they may be – to make us more complete, to make us better. James says that trials produce “steadfastness.” Steadfastness is defined as “the quality of being resolutely or dutifully firm and unwavering.” So, what James is saying is that being uncomfortable makes us better because it strengthens our faith and our relationship with God. God wants to have a relationship with you, and he uses trials to bring you closer to him.
- God uses the unpredictability of life to humble us and to teach us to rely on Him.
I don’t like change because I want to feel like I have everything under control – like I have all the answers. Change puts me in new positions and reminds me that I don’t know everything. Change forces us to recognize our failings and shortcomings. Later, James talks about this experience. He says, “Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits” (James 1:9-11). James is telling us that circumstances will change, that our success is fleeting. As much as we want to imagine that life will always be good or easy, that is simply not true. The world is broken. Because of their sin, Adam and Eve had to leave the Garden and the only perfect and predictable life that humans have ever experienced. Recognizing our brokenness is a very humbling experience. It makes us value our own merits and successes less; instead, we start to rely on God more because we understand that we are not good enough. God uses the unpredictability of life to highlight humanity’s sinfulness.
- The world is constantly changing, but God’s character is not.
Facing your sinful nature is difficult. It can be very overwhelming, especially with how fast life can move. Luckily, James understood this as well when he wrote, “do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures” (James 1:16-18). Life is unpredictable and impetuous, and it seems like the world is constantly changing, but God’s love is constant, and his character never changes. The most perfect gift that came from above was Jesus. God loved us so much, despite our sinfulness, that he sent his Son, Jesus, to earth to live as a human. While on earth, Jesus experienced all the things that life throws at us – sickness, stress, sadness, and even death. Jesus handled all these things perfectly and sinlessly because He is God and shares God’s perfect character. Yet, He died a gruesome death on a cross in our place. Jesus took the punishment that we deserve so that our sins could be forgiven – so that we can have a relationship with God and one day live forever in heaven, a place far removed from all the pain and uncertainty of life. The world is messy, but God is so much bigger, and His grace is so much greater.
So, whenever you are out of your comfort zone, whenever you are feeling anxious or stressed, or even whenever you are faced with your toughest circumstances yet, I hope that you will view it as an opportunity: an opportunity to recognize your sin, to strengthen your relationship with God, and to be reminded of the perfect and immutable love of Jesus Christ.
Wilson Bullington – Sagacious Solstice
If you’ve ever been to a youth service or been around any Christian circle for more than five minutes, you’ve probably heard something about identity. Who am I? What am I here for? Who does God say I am? While these are good questions, I couldn’t help but be frustrated when I heard them. Jesus tells us to deny ourselves, and yet we spend so much time contemplating and trying to understand ourselves in religious circles. Were the pastors wrong to be talking about this so much? No. But our hearts have a profound ability to take the truth and warp it to our own sinful desires when Christ is not the center of our lives. Our identity can so easily become misplaced, as our heart is constantly trying to look for our own significance instead of being in awe of Jesus. This can play out in a number of ways.
Sharing the gospel with people is a great thing, and instruction from Jesus: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19), but our heart behind it can become about proving our worth to God as a Christian. We are told to work hard and give our best as believers “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:23-24) and yet our work can quickly become about impressing those around us or proving that we are talented. If we aren’t careful, our flesh will make everything about ourselves. Being a child of grace, saved by the blood of Jesus suddenly isn’t enough. We need to have a great relationship with a significant other, a steady job or calling, a great community around us, and people to thank us for our hard work. Because can’t they tell? I deserve this. I’ve done the right things. I read my bible daily, I work with kids, I have led people to faith in Christ, I’m talented, I’m smart, etc. When our faith and identity is rooted in the love of Jesus AND our own desires for our life, we are lost. It may work for days, months, even years, but eventually, it will crumble when suffering comes, when our lives don’t go exactly as we planned.
Look at some of our heroes from scripture. Did their lives get easier when they devoted themselves to Christ? No. Paul, Peter, and John the Baptist all ended up dead for their faith in Christ. Job was stricken with illness and had his family ripped from him. How did their faith withstand persecution, loss, suffering, and heartbreak? Because their identity was found in Jesus alone. They were people who realized just how sinful their hearts were and denied the voice from Satan that says you are special because of you. We are only special because of Jesus in us, and when we remind ourselves of this daily, it allows us to “rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:13) . We as Christians are promised suffering and the only way to endure it is with Jesus. What does a life with Christ look like? For some, it may be traveling the world and leading thousands to faith in Christ. For others, it may look like forgiving people that have done unimaginable things to you. But we are not promised easy. We are actually promised hard. Very very hard. I urge you to look at Jesus and see all the sin he has saved you from. Recognize that even our identity is not about us, but Jesus and his powerful work in saving us. Only then will we be able to withstand suffering and resist the urge to make our lives about us.
We aren’t significant, at least in the view of the world, but that is ok. Jesus has made us a child of his, and when we rejoice in his gift of grace over and over… we lose our quest to be enough. We realize Jesus is more than enough.
The law of averages is the theory that the result of any given situation will be the average of all outcomes. Why is this important to understand? Motivational speaker Jim Rohn famously gave the phrase, “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with,” based on the law of averages.
Boom, mic drop.
I want each of you to digest this statement and tell me if it’s not true. Think of all of your friends, family members, artists you listen to, coaches, and teammates; see if you can’t pick out little pieces of them you see in your life. When it comes to relationships, all of those people I mentioned, affect our lives whether we see it or not. While we want to surround ourselves with like-minded, Christ-centered men who push us to grow closer to God, that is not always the case. Throughout life, I’ve found myself with the wrong crowd of negative influences and people who do not share the same values as me. You most likely will too, but I want you to always remember that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. There is nothing like the brotherhood and relationships that Christ gives to us.
Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”
This is why camp is such an amazing place. I cannot stress enough the importance of surrounding yourself with like-minded boys and men who are striving for adventure, discipleship, good memories and fellowship. The Lord provides this at Camp Ridgecrest whether you are worshiping with the lights off in chapel during staff week, gaining wisdom and advice from counselors at final fire, or sitting at the top of TBI at the Pisgah Chapel worshipping with your brothers. The Lord works through that brotherhood and those relationships. Getting lost on the trails, having to endure through a rainy campout, playing doubles on the two-square courts and protecting a Turtleback when he has the flag in Sock War are just a few of the many ways that the brotherhood of camp can help mold us into the men we are striving to become.
So I want to encourage you to recognize these relationships, bring them back home, surround yourself with boys and men like you see at camp. Seek wisdom, adventure, and discipleship and I promise, you will notice little changes in your life through the brotherhood that God intended us to have!
Your Brother in Christ,
Noble Nemean Lion
My first campout ever was an experience that I will never forget. I can see myself now; little 10-year-old Squid, on my second day of camp, shoving a sleeping bag into a backpack, preparing for something I’ve never experienced before. I had no idea what to expect. To be honest, I was scared.
I remember my counselors telling me that we’re going to a place called “Royal Gorge.” Mind you, I’ve never hiked before, and even better: the clouds were getting darker by the second. If you’ve been to Camp Ridgecrest, you know the feeling of embarking on a campout with the fear that it’s going to rain. It’s something else.
So here it is, It’s time to leave. We’ve already packed up, gotten in cabin formation, and got our apples, pop tarts, and chips. It’s time to get going!
We march out of the gates and onto the side of the highway, over the bridge, through the conference center, and finally to the trail. I get pretty tired as we go along. I moved slowly, and I was always in the back of the hiking group. But we kept going. As time passes, and maybe 30 “are we there yet’s” later, we finally get to the campsite.
It was pretty sweet! Most of the other guys had all of their sleeping bags out (this was before everyone had hammocks) and were getting wood for the fire. Since I just got there, I just had to take a second and go up to the lookout.
So here’s the thing: Back then, Royal Gorge looked pretty different. There wasn’t a firepit there like there is now. There also wasn’t anything on top of the lookout. No roof, no overhang, no hammock hooks, no nothing. Just the patio and some railing so no one fell over.
The lookout was phenomenal. Royal Gorge is one of my all-time favorite views to this day. And it being my first time ever seeing it, I was in awe. I sat there for a while just taking it in. It was one of the first times I was truly amazed by the beauty of God’s creation.
Some time goes by; dinner’s over, it’s getting dark, the fire’s getting smaller, and everyone’s getting settled in and ready for bed.
Boom. It starts raining. And when it rains at camp, it pours.
Everyone’s getting wet, but there’s still time to figure something out. Luckily, we brought some tarps. The counselors tied the tarps all together on the lookout railing, where all of the campers could squeeze under and be protected from the rain.
Then something weird happens: We start singing Morning Watch songs, telling stories, laughing together, and even snacking on some canteen that we saved for the night. From what seemed like absolute misery, became simply one of the most memorable and warming nights of my life.
We fall asleep to the rain, wake up in the morning, and we’re ready for a new day at camp.
Here’s what I learned from looking back at this campout:
- Find the joy in the hike. Whether you’re the leader of the pack, in the middle, or hanging in the back, look around. You may miss something that you’re never going to see again. It could be a cool view, a new thought, or just something beautiful that you never would have experienced if you weren’t looking for the joy. Quit asking “Are we there yet” and begin appreciating what you’ve got around you on the way. This applies to everything in life, not just the trail. There are going to be tough times throughout your life. If you lean on the Lord in your tough journeys and dark times, you’ll witness his love for you and learn to love Him even more.
- Adore Creation. Every now and then, just stop. Take a deep breath. Realize how beautiful and how good it feels to take that breath. Look up in the trees, down at the grass, and into the horizon. God created every leaf on every tree, every blade of grass on the ground, and everything in between. And God knows it all so well. In fact, God did the same with us. There are billions of people in this world, and God knows every hair on our heads, every thought in our minds, and every moment of our lives. God created us and loves unconditionally for who we are, because he sees the beauty in us and knows us well.
- Sing in the rain. Okay, you don’t have to actually go out and sing in the rain. But in those times of misery that seem inescapable, make what you can of it. I look back on that tough night, and I remember the stories and jokes told, the songs we sang, and the lifelong friends I made in a night that we could’ve just given up on. Don’t ever give up, just start singing in the rain.
Find the joy in the hike, adore creation, and sing in the rain. In times like these, have faith in the Lord, and try to find joy in the world, the same way He finds joy in us.
Gregarious Greater Kudu
Imagine having the winning lottery ticket. The jackpot is worth over $100 million. Most of us would be beyond excited; we would be filled with joy.
Imagine this: instead of immediately cashing in your prize, you are gripped by fear. You think to yourself, “This is going to change my life. This is too great of a responsibility for me. Everyone in my life will treat me differently from now on.” You are cannot decide what to do. You go on living life and forget about your winning ticket. Eventually, the time to cash in your prize has passed.
Jesus tells a similar story in Matthew 13:44, but with a different outcome: One day a laborer is working in a field. As he is plowing through the field, he discovers a hidden treasure. A treasure that would change the direction of his life. He is so overcome by joy, that he can barely finish working; he cannot keep his mind off his discovery. He then goes and sells everything that he has so that he can buy that field and lay claim to this treasure.
Jesus reemphasizes this in the following verses:
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.
What is this Pearl of Great Price that Jesus is talking about? What is this treasure that causes someone to sell everything in order to obtain it? What causes the apostle Paul, who wrote much of the New Testament and had plenty of reason to be proud of his accomplishments, to say “I consider everything a loss… I consider them garbage”?
Paul says this “because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Philippians 3:8) This is the Pearl of Great Price that Jesus is speaking of. Not just knowing about Him like you may know about Tom Brady or Lebron James. Paul knew plenty about God before he followed Christ. He now considers that all garbage in comparison to knowing the love that Jesus has for him. A love that he described as being beyond knowledge. In fact, Paul does not pray that we have the power to be better people, but instead prays that we have power to “grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ… that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:18-19).
Jesus says to you and me: You are my friend (John 15:14). You do not just know about your friends. You live life with them. You go through seasons of life with them, through the good times and the bad times. You learn more about them as you live life with them. Friendships grow overtime.
This is the invitation Jesus has for all of us. I love that way Preston Morris describes living life with Jesus as an adventure ( Adventure at Home, by Preston Morris ). It is new and exciting every day.
One of my favorite authors, Brennan Manning, describes the longing of Jesus to be your friend as “a furious love affair.” I believe we all have a desire deep within us that we try to satisfy. Instead of focusing our eyes on the Pearl of Great Price, we trade it for broken glass. We go through our life looking to fulfill this desire. Many things may give us temporary satisfaction and may even be good things, such as friends and sports. But Jesus did not come just so we can have a good life, but that we “may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).
Even pop culture resonates with this. In the movie The Greatest Showman, one of the songs echoes that the broken glass of this world cannot fulfill us: “Towers of gold are still too little, these hands could hold the world, but it’ll never be enough.”
Entering into the adventure of life with Jesus brings the good things of life to the fullness and can even transform the broken glass of our lives into silver and gold. Even with this knowledge, I know that I still so often trade the Pearl of Great Price for broken glass. One of my favorite parts about camp is when Phil Berry gives the charge to those who have achieved the rank of “Brave Pathfinder.” He explains that everyday we have the choice of two paths: to follow Jesus or to not.
This is not a just a charge to those who have reached this rank, but rather a reminder to both you and me that we make the choice each and every day to either sell everything for Jesus or to leave the treasure buried in the field.
Phil also reminds us about the gift that Jesus has given us. Even on the days when we decide to not live life with Jesus, there is Forgiveness and Grace. CS Lewis says it this way, “Relying on God has to begin all over again every day as if nothing had yet been done.”
I challenge both you and I everyday to chase after the Pearl of Great Price. And what about when we are gripped by fear, experience hardship or failure, or chase after broken glass? What do we do? I challenge us to run back to Jesus. He awaits us with open, loving arms (Luke 15:11-24).
The Pearl of Great Price or Broken Glass,
What does Camp Ridgecrest mean to you? What has it taught you about pursuing a life with Jesus?
I want you to think about the story of the good Samaritan. A Jewish man is robbed, beaten, and left to die on the road. He is ignored by two respectable people of the community – the equivalent of a pastor and a lawyer. Who ends up helping this man? A Samaritan! What’s significant about that? Samaritans and Jews didn’t interact. Jews normally looked down on Samaritans. It’d be like Darth Vader and a Jedi hanging out – it doesn’t happen! So why would the Samaritan help him before a preacher or a lawyer? Because it had nothing to do with his place in society, but everything to do with the focus of his heart.
Is your heart focused on seeing the world through mirrors or windows?
When we look at mirrors, all we see is ourselves. We make all of our decisions based on how good it makes us look. How do I get more Instagram followers? Do I seem smart to others at school? Can everyone see how good I am at sports? How does my hair look? Looking through mirror to make decisions focuses us on what is beneficial for us and nothing else. We tend to focus on building ourselves up and putting others down. Maybe that shows through how we talk about them. Maybe it’s through our inability to make sacrifices of our time, money, efforts, or comfortability. All of this is a result of us looking through a mirror to see what is best for us.
What if each of us focused on looking through windows as we went throughout our day? Imagine a world that daily lived in a way that mimicked Philippians 2:3 – “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” What is it like to live through window-looking decision making? THAT! That’s what it looks like. Counting others more significant than ourselves.
C.S. Lewis writes, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less… A real humble man will not be thinking about humility, he will not be thinking about himself at all.”
This is the goal. When we are able to get to a point in our lives where we are thinking of ourselves less, that’s when we begin to experience real life. When we are able to see the world through a window, not a mirror, we begin to count others more significant than ourselves. And when we can focus our hearts in this way, that’s when we really begin to live a life that mimics the example of a sacrifice that Jesus outlined while he was here on earth.
That’s what Camp Ridgecrest has taught me. I see sacrifice, I see people counting others more significant than themselves. I see people mimicking the life of Jesus. I see people focusing on windows, not mirrors.
Your brother in Christ,