Just when you think things couldn’t get any better, a day like yesterday comes along and just blows you away.
Despite the fact that the kids who come here every summer seem to have the time of their lives, we are first and foremost a Bible camp here at Red Rock. Our mission is to provide Christ centered discipleship to every single kid who calls this place home for a week every summer. As a staff, that’s what we’re here to do. That’s the reason we give up our summers to be here. That’s why we put our jobs on hold, take out student loans, or work two jobs throughout the year to be able to pay for school and still come out here.
Some weeks it’s difficult. Some weeks it feels like no matter how hard you try, how late you stay up, how long you read your Bible, how much prayer you put into these campers, they just aren’t really realizing the truths of God and what living by these truths can do for your life. In those weeks, we pray that God is planting seeds in the hearts of those kids, and we have faith in that being the case. We may never see what comes out of planting those seeds, but we try to surrender to the power of God, and recognize that He has a plan that we aren’t always going to be able to see. But unlike God, we tend to be small picture people. We want to see results. We want to see miracles happen right in front of our faces, and if we don’t, we wonder if God is doing anything at all.
I am not at all saying that we haven’t seen God at work this summer, but I think I can speak for everyone when I say that every summer there are always moments in our service here where we wonder at some point or another if all of this is worth it. But then God brings to us a very special group of people like the teens who are here this week, and they make you realize that, yes, this is worth it. Jesus is worth it.
Yesterday’s “Surrender” started in our morning Chapel service, which traditionally proves to be a difficult time slot to really impact the campers in. The campers just finished eating breakfast, and it’s hard enough for them to even walk up to the Chapel, never mind listening during the service. But ever since God used Fresh IE to break down the walls that we were holding these kids back, there’s been something undeniably special about this group. And on Thursday morning’s Chapel service, not only did the kids stay awake, but they put to death the struggles in their lives that were pushing them away from God, and nailed them on to the cross. What powerful imagery to see the cross overflowing with a desire for change, and to hear each nail being hammered onto the cross, just as Jesus’ body was nailed to a cross for us. And what a powerful truth it is to know that we don’t need to feel guilt or condemnation for what we’ve done, but instead we have victory! What a joy it was to watch these campers realize that the love of Jesus Christ conquers all as they sang, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.”
Chapel went almost an hour overtime, as the Spirit led everyone in a chorus of praise that was far more important than being on time for Skill 1. Instead of shooting archery, or making arts and crafts, or whatever skill they were in, campers went back to their cabins, or stayed back in the Chapel to share how God has been challenging them, and what has been put on their hearts. During this time, many campers rededicated their lives to Christ, and some even made commitments for the first time. As a staff, we were reminded once again why we’re here, and we were reminded once again why we’ve chosen to let Christ lead our lives. Praise the Lord!
Later that day, the campers listened to God’s command of, “Be still, and know that I am God” as they scattered across different areas to camp in a Retreat of Silence. These teens have been challenged in so many ways while they’ve been at camp, and it was important for them to take time alone in God’s presence to process everything that the Holy Spirit has been placing on their hearts.
After the Retreat of Silence, it was time for our Worship Night. The Worship Night has a reputation to be a pivotal point in some of these campers lives. There’s almost this myth about the Worship Night that you’re going to finish it with tears in your eyes, and a commitment to turn your whole life around. There are some good things that can come out of that formula, however having those expectations can often lead us away from the true purpose of worship. Which is why it was so important that our worship leader Jamie, began the night with the instruments and microphones turned off, simply explaining to us about why we worship, and what worship really is.
“Worship is a response to God’s revelation in our lives,” said Jamie. Wow. What a great definition of worship. This definition challenges us to not make worship something selfish, but instead to dwell on the times in our lives where God has revealed himself to us – and praise Him for it. It’s not about what we get out of it, it’s about what we pour into it. We can’t wait for our favorite song, or the melody we really like, because that’s not the point of worship. We can’t wait for ourselves to get “warmed up” before we truly praise God. It’s not about getting that feeling in the pit of our stomach, and then realizing that God is here. God is already here. God is ready to meet us at any time, and any place. If we wait for the perfect song, the perfect melody, the perfect moment to worship God, then it becomes a response to the worship band, and not the God who the band is actually worshipping! Jamie reminded everyone that the God of the Universe wants to reveal Himself to us. And if that’s not enough reason to praise Him, I don’t know what is.
Jamie’s words were exactly what we needed to hear, and we can thank the Holy Spirit for that. And what came after was the most powerful two hours of worship I’ve ever witnessed in my life. With lines like “We welcome you with praise, we welcome you with praise, almighty God of love, be welcomed in this place,” the Holy Spirit was invited to meet with us, and our hearts were opened to leave room for Him. We sang, “Nothing is going to hold me back,” and nothing did, as we all worshipped in whatever way we seemed fit. But I can tell you that the place was very loud, and the angels were certainly rejoicing along with us.
At one point in the night, we were called to lift up our hands in surrender. As we began to get tired of holding them up, Jamie challenged us to keep them up anyways, as it’s not always going to be easy to surrender in our lives. As a congregation of believers we all then held each others hands up in the air for support, symbolizing our need for community to truly shine God’s light to the world.
As the night came to a close, a funny thing happened – there weren’t any tears. Instead, there were shouts of joy and praise coming from the mouths of all who were there. There were cheers of victory, as we praised Jesus for conquering death. There was jumping, and clapping, and dancing at the love we have for God, and the love He has for us. Not a single person left the Chapel without a smile on their face, and many people experienced for the very first time, the true joy of the Lord.
These campers and our staff will probably remember last night for the rest of our lives. And it’s so encouraging to think that these campers have a true representation of God’s presence to look back on. At the beginning of the night, Jamie reminded us that God wants to reveal himself to us. But we never thought it would be something like this. I just thought I would share this night with you all. I know it is a lot to read, but it was such an amazing night that it certainly deserved the word count. Thank you so much for your prayers, God is certainly answering them.
We have one day left and then these campers will be going home. For some of these kids, leaving this camp bubble will be a struggle, so I think they need prayer now more than ever. But no matter how hard things get, many of these campers have made the commitment to surrender. And as we were reminded many times throughout last night, nothing, neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Thanks again, and God bless.