Share in His Suffering; Share in His Glory

Last night my gamecocks got thrashed, demolished, humiliated. There are not even enough words to describe what took place. And in me there was some suffering. There was some surprise. But in the end it was just a college football game. What I really remembered through that was that even though at times we deal with suffering in our lives with Christ, we hold out hope that one day we will share with him in His glory.

Why do we stay with sports teams after they disappoint us over and over and over again. Is it because we hold out hope that good seasons will be just around the corner?

I grew up in Savannah, Ga, a hub of University of Georgia fans. And here was me and my dad, Carolina fans. And we stunk. We were so terrible. My dad would always say not to get my hopes up when we were winning because in the end, something would happen, something would go wrong and we would lose. And sure enough, things happened. Fumbles into the endzone at the end of games, blocked kicks, missed kicks, blown leads. It was crazy. But still I held out hope that one day all this suffering would be worth it. I had no assurance of this but I had hope.

Fast forward to 2005. Steve Spurrier comes to town. Everyone is excited. The hope is back. But still for the first few years, we weren’t much better. But then in 2011, we had our first 11 win season. And then another one in 2012 and then another one last year, even finishing fourth in the country.

So why did I give that silly little illustration? Well because here on earth we go through A LOT of suffering. As believers we are shut down constantly by this culture, warring against our very flesh and very minds that are trying to once again take over our lives. But I don’t have to hope against hope that this is really what’s going to take place. I can firmly put my hope in these next few verses.

“The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:16-18). 

Why is this encouraging?
1. The Spirit testifies with our spirit that WE are God’s children. (vs. 16)
2. If we are God’s children, WE are heirs: heirs of God, and co-heirs with Christ. (vs. 17a)
3. We are heirs if, we share in Christ’s sufferings in order that WE may also share in His glory. (vs. 17b)
4. We understand that the sufferings that we experience in the present are not even worth comparing to the glory that one day we will receive as co-heirs of Christ. (vs. 18).

As a follower of Christ we have hope that one day not only us, but creation will be restored. In the following verses of Romans 8, Paul talks about even the creation is groaning and waiting to be redeemed.

Matt Chandler, in his book The Explicit Gospel, puts it this way:

“We will receive new bodies like Christ’s resurrection body, and where we once lived as broken images of God, we will at that time bear the image of Jesus who is the perfect image of the invisible God.”

There is hope! There is a beautiful, restorative, amazing, glorious hope. We as believers understand that all these trials and temptations and struggles that we face on earth are coming to an end, sooner rather than later. One day we will stand before God completely restored, completely healed, complete. 
But what do we do in the meantime? How do we share in these sufferings, so that we may share in His glory?
“But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently” (Romans 8:25). 

Patience is definitely not my strong suit. But when we can understand the hope of the glory of the gospel of Jesus Christ, then we wait. We wait patiently by preparing ourselves for the coming of Jesus Christ. And we do this preaching, teaching, evangelizing, discipling. 
So even when you wake up after a hard last day, you can wake up fully assured that His mercies are new every day (Lamentations 3:23) and that His hope is everlasting and trustworthy. 
One day we will be completely redeemed. How are you waiting patiently and preparing you and others for His second coming and sharing in of His glory?
Blessings,
Joseph

What Camp Ridgecrest Means to Me: Final Part and Pictures

This is the final blog post of recapping my summer at Camp Ridgecrest. I hope if you have a young son that you would seriously consider sending them to this camp. I wasn’t able to have this camp experience as a kid and just getting to see the difference it is making in these kids lives to be surrounded by men of God that love them and want to see them succeed was amazing and I hope I get to experience it again.

6. Camp Ridgecrest means to me joy:

Whether it be morning assembly or breakfast or afternoon activities or church, there is so much joy everywhere. The kids genuinely love camp and so do the counselors. The counselors got just as much into the songs and activities as the kids did. And it was awesome. I loved every minute of it. Camp is truly a joy filled place because the people there are filled with the joy of Christ and they truly enjoy their jobs and don’t even really see it as a job, as they put as much fun as they can into everything.

7. Camp Ridgecrest means to me restoration:

I kind of came into camp drained and defeated after a long and difficult semester at school. What I needed most of all was restoration, but I didn’t understand how that was going to occur in a summer where I was supposed to be responsible for a lot of kids and where chaos would be constant. But the Lord surprised me. He gave me time for rest in the midst of the chaos. He allowed me to rest in His presence. He allowed me to be surrounded by people that loved Him and were focused on Him. It was such a blessing to my life personally.

8. And last but not least, Camp Ridgecrest means to me A One of a Kind Family:

Going to a new place you never know what you will experience. You don’t even know if you’re going to like the experience. But Camp Ridgecrest is an experience you want your kids to experience. I was blessed far more this summer by my fellow staff and my camp kids than I ever could have blessed them. I was super selfish for a while, comparing my gifts to other staff members and it didn’t allow me to do effective ministry for the first two sessions. But guys walked alongside me through that. They loved me, better than I was loving myself. They saw the fire of Christ in my eyes when I couldn’t see that passion anymore. They reminded me of the gifts the Lord had given me.

Camp Ridgecrest taught me what it meant to be a servant. Willing servants are on display all throughout camp that go unnoticed. Staff are constantly bending over backwards for one another and not asking anything in return. I knew that I had people praying for me. I knew that I had people displaying the love of Christ daily that I could look to for encouragement. My TL displayed what a godly man looks like, even though he was a couple years younger than me. He showed every guy on our staff what it means to patiently and in a godly way, pursue a godly woman. He was a great encouragement to me.

Here are some miscellaneous pictures from the summer so you can get a full grasp of camp.

At the end of the summer, I really realized what Camp Ridgecrest meant to me. It was all these things I’ve listed and more. It was an amazing, Spirit filled summer. One summer that I will continue to look back on for years and say, “I was blessed to be apart of the Camp Ridgecrest Family.”
Blessings, 
Joseph

What Camp Ridgecrest Means to Me: Part Two

2. Camp Ridgecrest means to me Intentional Discipleship:

One of my favorite things about camp is the opportunity that we as counselors have to speak truth into the lives of young guys. These guys are dealing with all sort of things. They need guidance. They are desiring guidance. Camp gives them that opportunity. An opportunity to be blunt. An opportunity to be completely honest about things that are going on at home. And we as their “older brothers” are free to speak truth into their lives from scripture, pray for them, answer questions, and just be there. Sometimes all these kids really need is people that will be there for them. To show that they truly care about them and that this isn’t just some job, but a joy and a friendship.

How are the counselors able to intentionally disciple these kids? Because we are being intentionally discipled and poured into ourselves from the central staff. Camp is a real picture of the body of Christ. We are loving on these kids as we are being loved on by the central staff as the central staff and us counselors are being loved on with the all powerful and unconditional love of Jesus Christ. Its one of the places where I feel blessed to be at because as I am teaching these kids, I am being taught and I’m learning too.

3. Camp Ridgecrest means to me Brotherhood:

When you find community, you know it. You are at peace about it. You know those people will love you sacrificially and that you will love them too. Its hard to go into new community once you get comfortable in one place, but the Lord will give you the strength to reach out and enjoy what He has placed before you. And that’s what he allowed me to do this summer. I got to do life with 12 strangers. We struggled through misbehaving kids and homesickness. We battled together. And when you battle with the same people for an extended period of time, they become your brothers. We prayed alongside one another. And I grew to love those guys. We were all so uniquely different, but God had placed each one of us there. We each served a purpose and at the end, we were all one cohesive unit. We were all focused on the furthering of the gospel and loving on these kids and serving them. I was blessed to serve alongside each one of my brothers this summer, not only in my tribe, but also in the other tribes. I felt welcomed and genuinely loved by my brothers.

But brotherhood doesn’t stop with the staff. Its displayed in the campers. Its a normal clique-ish camp. Some campers have been there for 9 years and others are coming for the first time. But the new ones are welcomed into the bunch. They are treated like they have been there for years and welcomed in as such. I love to see the genuine love and caring of each younger brother of mine at camp. Its a blessing to me.

4. Camp Ridgecrest means to me Safety:

Some of these kids coming into camp are not blessed with the best home situations. Some of them are mighty rough and the kids are closed off because of it. But as my co-counselor said this summer early on: “This place is a place for kids to forget about home for a little while. Camp gives kids a chance to be kids.” Its incredible when you see kids that are so closed off when they come into camp, leaving completely different. Its because camp is a safe place. A place to open up about struggles, for either counselors or campers. A place for a kid to be a kid.

5. Camp Ridgecrest means to me Gospel Centered:

From the moment you enter the gates at Camp Ridgecrest, you can tell there is something different about Camp Ridgecrest than any other camp. Its unity. Its brotherhood. Its exciting atmosphere. All of these things are possible because their focus is on Christ Jesus. Everything and I mean everything is focused on the gospel. Why? Because the gospel and the gospel alone changes people. And you see it every camp fire, every final fire, kids giving their lives to Christ. Christ is changing lives through Camp Ridgecrest.

Blessings,
Joseph

What Camp Ridgecrest Means to Me: Part One

The best times are the times that you remember. Times that you are able to look back on with tears in your eyes and joy in your heart. Times that are spent enjoying God, His creation, and His body. This summer I had a chance to do all of those things at Camp Ridgecrest for Boys in Ridgecrest, NC.

I wanted to start this blog out with an illustration. One of the greatest opportunities that a camper has is to get tapped out for the “Little Chief” test. This test is not only a test of physical strength, but also mental endurance. Each candidate must past each section of the test: the fire, the mountain, the essay, the physical labor, all the while not being able to speak a word for eighteen hours. Its intense and few pass every section.

But in the middle of the test, after passing the fire and mountain portion of the test, each candidate must write an essay. An essay that consists of 1500 words about what Camp Ridgecrest means to them. And I have to say this is kind of what writing this blog feels like.

Let me explain.

I walked up the same hill, ate at the same table, slept in the same bed, showered in the same showers and walked around the same camp everyday for 10 weeks. Camp felt like running a marathon, but it was never monotonous nor boring. Every day the Lord was showing me new things, encouraging things, whether it be from my fellow staff members or from my camp kids. Being in the middle of the marathon it was hard to understand what camp meant to me, what camp brought to me, but now that I have had some time to think, to slow down and reflect, I understand and am ready to express what Camp Ridgecrest means to me.

1. Camp Ridgecrest means to me Growth:

A. Coming in as a first year counselor, you have a lot of questions and worries. Will I be good at this job? Will I be able to answer these kids hard questions? Will I have the endurance to do this all summer? And you realize quickly the answer to all these questions is no. Outside the strength of Christ, I would fail to be what these kids needed. I realized very quickly that if I did not stay in the Word and pray for the all-encompassing strength of Christ that I would get burnt out quickly.

B. Another lesson I was taught was that every interaction and activity done with kids needed to be focused through the lense of Christ. I was constantly reminded of the purpose of every conversation and of every interaction, to love these kids the way that Christ loved them. And second session this really started becoming a constant thought of mine.

When these kids were all over me and I needed a break from them, I was reminded that Jesus would always welcome these kids to Him, over and over again. And not that I could ever love perfectly like Jesus does, but I started to have this thought whenever I was around these kids and it changed the way I looked at them.

I started loving the conversations and taking joy in the fact that they were still young enough to be “innocent” in a sense from all the garbage in the world. And I started to really invest myself into their lives both at camp and listen to their lives back home. It really made me think about the verse when the disciples were shooing the kids away and Jesus rebukes them and says, “Let the little children come to me. For the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14).

I can just picture the scene. Kids yelling and screaming and all over the place. But they were no bother to Jesus. He welcomed them. He wanted the disciples to learn from them, from their joy and eagerness. He wants our attitudes as believers to be like that of children: adventurous, joyous, trusting, eager to follow after Him wholeheartedly.

Blessings,
Joseph. 
(Part two coming soon)