High-Risk Faith

Right now I’m currently reading a book titled “Seizing Your Divine Moment”” by Erwin McManus. This truly is one of those books that changes how you view certain things. It’s a book that has really challenged me to not only be a better follower of Christ, but to assess the kind of walk I’m walking with Christ.

One of the earlier chapters in the book talks about uncertainty. Right now, our culture, our country, our world, faces some of the most uncertain times in recent history. Things have happened over the last few years that have led to lifestyles that are calculated, slightly more conservative, and overall a little more conscious of what is going on around them. With that, we’ve shifted from being people who are willing to take risks, to people who play it safe. In many ways, the challenging times we’ve faced have made us better. They’ve taught us how to live frugally. They’ve forced us to get better at what we do. They’ve pushed us to value the important things in life. However, I believe the difficult times we’ve faced have also influenced our faith in God.

Our lifestyles, our culture, whatever you want to call it, influence just about everything around us. Unfortunately, our success and achievements as Americans have infiltrated our faith in Christ. We’ve reached a place where many people now believe that provision precedes vision. We’ve come to believe if God wants us to do something, everything will be provided in order for it to happen. These things are due to the success (primarily financially) and abundance of resources we’ve had over time. Because of this, we have struggled to grasp High-Risk Faith.

Don’t get me wrong, I fully understand the need for us to be responsible and conscientious of financial stability. We need to make sure our families are taken care of. I absolutely believe that there is a level of responsibility that is being taken by many that wasn’t before we faced the economic changes in our country. The danger in all of this is that we can reach a point where our mindset can change from God-driven, to Me-driven. We can rely on our own abilities to0 heavily and discount the power of God.

It’s becoming clear to me during the last month or so that there are some amazing things that God wants to do, especially when our backs are against the wall in the ways they are now. It’s almost like He waits for the most uncharacteristic time, a time when we have no option and things don’t make sense. Sometimes I think God tells us, “If there’s no risk involved, how do you depend on me?”, because when it comes down to it, we need to depend on God for everything.  That means there’s risk involved in following His direction for our lives.

Erwin McManus states it best when he says:

When you move with God, He always shows up. It’s just difficult to predict what He will do or how He will do it. If you wait for guarantees, the only thing that will be guaranteed is that you will miss endless divine opportunities–that you can know for certain.”

High-Risk faith flies in the face of many things we’ve been trained to believe. It’s not always planned out. It’s not always the safe bet. There isn’t always an end we can see. However, God wants us to trust Him. He wants us to rely on Him. I don’t know what’s in store for each of us as we pursue Christ’s direction for our lives with high-risk faith, but I can tell you that divine opportunities are available for each of us, and when we agree to walk in the “danger zone” with Christ, amazing things can happen.

So my question for you is, will you join me in a place that is scary, uncertain, dangerous, and yet possibly more rewarding than anything else?

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School Begins

2 days ago the school year started here in Poulsbo/Kingston. I know this for multiple reasons (1. I’m a youth pastor 2. I live within a block of North Kitsap’s Football Field 3. I have the privilege of hearing the band practice on the field until wee hours in the night). It’s always an interesting thing to me to see how students start to prepare (both mentally and physically) for the new school year. There’s the students that aren’t ready for the year to start and try to squeeze out every last moment of summer as if it’s the last time they’ll have any kind of freedom (that was me). Then there are the kind of students who are tired of summer and can’t wait to take on the challenge of Pre-Calc or Chemistry (that was definitely not me).  A great way to get a barometer of whether or not a student is excited for the school year is to ask them after the first day, “how was it?”…if they look like they just finished finals week or they have a countdown to summer than they probably don’t want to start school. The other wonderful “new school year tradition” is getting your new threads (that’s right, I just said threads). For many, this is the best part of starting school again. I believe The Super Mall was created for Back to School shopping. It’s almost like an American Pastime now! I think “Back to School” shopping was created to lure students back to school…

For me, the beginning of a school year was a bitter sweet moment. I still wanted summer but wanted to see my friends again, wanted to try and impress some girls, was ready to get back in the social scene. I was (and am) a fan of getting new clothes…and finding a new pair of shoes 🙂 In a way, I didn’t want summer to end, but was ready for the school year to start.

One of the things that made junior high/high school/college an experience for me was my determination to come out of the Awkward Phase. Like almost every young student, I didn’t realize I was in an Awkward Phase until much later (mid-college). To give you an idea of what I mean, here’s a picture time line from 6th grade – Junior Yr. of college.

The start of the school can be a real exciting time…sadly though, it can also be a time when students dread the next 9 1/2 months. Unfortunately, it’s easy to try to just “get through” a school year. We can find ourselves settling for ordinary, but from a spiritual standpoint, God does not want us to settle for normal. God wants us to be EXTRAORDINARY.

Look at the story of Noah. Yes, he was 600 years old. Yes, he was blameless in the eyes of God. But to everyone else, he was probably just a normal guy (or as normal as you can be for 600 years old). God used this “ordinary” man to do something amazing, something we’ll never see again. Noah built an enormous ship (an ark) and put 2 of every animal in it, including his family and supplies. They then spent 40 days and nights on it as the earth was flooded with water.Talk about incredible!

Noah was used in a profound way, and he could not have done that unless he allowed God to take him from an ordinary place to an extraordinary place. In our own lives, we can face similar situations. All of us can be used in incredible ways if we allow God to take us from the ordinary to the extraordinary!

Will this school year be just another year, or will it be more than that?

The Top 5 Reasons to go to Coram Deo – #1

Reason #1

Encountering God

It really wasn’t all that difficult coming up with the #1 reason to attend Coram Deo. We can say what we want about why we got to Coram but the purpose of the camp every year is that you would have a genuine encounter with God and be “face to face” with Him.

Encountering God is evident every time we worship at camp. It’s seen every time we offer a chance for students to pray at the altar. During the services and prayer times it’s obvious that students are encountering Christ. There’s often times a lot of passion and desire involved in it. But it’s during the other times of camp that it can be especially exciting. Seeing students ask questions and decide to go a little deeper than normal in a RAP group, hearing students talk about how they got caught up in God’s glory when they were river rafting, or learning that when students went back to their tents at night they had long and real conversations about God…those are the things that happen that we don’t always notice as encounters with God.

Camp is beautiful like that. It takes us out of our element. It provides us with an outlet from the world around us. And in doing so, it gives us a chance to be with God, often times in ways we don’t expect. I’ve encountered God in many different ways at camp. I’ve found the God who gives me peace, who inspires me, who gives me hope for the future, who provides me with wisdom. God does so many different things for us when we allow Him to work in our lives at camp. For many, they think they know what they need going into camp, as if they have put God in this box and expect him to help them in the one way they feel they need. But for so many that go to Coram, God will often show you something else and speak to you in a way you weren’t expecting.

Camp is great for so many reasons. We have great events. We spend time with friends and make new ones. We get to be a part of great services and RAP groups. We make memories that can last forever. But most importantly, we encounter God at Coram Deo. This year will be no different. Are you ready?

Top 5 Reasons to go to Coram Deo – #2

Reason #2

Services/RAP Groups

With only the top 2 reasons to go to Coram Deo left, we’ve reached what I believe to be the two most important reasons to attend Coram Deo. Everything that I’ve mentioned up to this point is important and can be influential in your life, however, reason #2 is most commonly the thing that sets the table for the #1 reason (which will be listed tonight).

One of the constants of Coram Deo is having great RAP sessions, great worship, great messages, and great dramas. Every year we have a camp theme (see above graphic).  Throughout camp, the RAP sessions, the messages and the drama are designed to work with that theme. It’s been great to see how everything works within that when we get to camp. I mentioned earlier the four main things that make this reason #2 (RAP groups, worship, messages, drama).

Without a doubt, RAP groups are one of my favorite things to lead every year at Coram. There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing and hearing middle school students start to dig in and answer and ask questions that make them really think. I love seeing the gears start to turn and seeing students figure out how they can either go deeper in their relationship with Christ or start one all together. I’m also a fan of the relationships and ownership that is developed within each RAP group. It’s pretty cool seeing all the creativity that goes into each rap group’s ID…bandannas, bracelets, sweatbands, pirate hats, whatever else you can think of. RAP groups are definitely one of the best parts of Coram Deo and play a huge part in not only the effectiveness of Coram, but the fun factor as well!

It goes without saying that anytime you have a large crowd of students, worship is going to be a blast. I’m pretty sure I could play the tambourine and try to lead in worship at Coram and students would still enjoy it…OK that might be a stretch. The point is that worship at Coram is incredibly passionate. It’s contagious at camp. It’s easily one of the things that students look forward to most when it comes to camp, and why not? Bring a great worship team together with students that are excited to worship and you’re going to have an incredible worship experience with God. In my previous entry I mentioned how one of my favorite memories was when we had to turn off the amplified noise and everyone worshiped without being able to hear the worship leader…just talking about this gets me excited for worship!

The messages that are given at Coram are always challenging, practical, engaging, and real. It’s very easy to lose the attention of students at a camp…there’s plenty of distractions around them but this doesn’t seem to happen at camp. The messages always draw students closer to God and further bring the camp theme into focus. I don’t think there needs to be much explaining about this…If you’re not challenged/excited/fired up/ready to rock and roll with God, after a camp message, you either didn’t pay attention or you didn’t care.

The final thing that makes up reason #2 to go to Coram Deo is the dramas. Every year at camp we do dramas that tell a story that has to do with the camp theme (it’s a safe bet that this year’s drama will be based around Engaging the enemy). I would be lying to you if I said that the students possibly didn’t pay attention most during this time. I remember being a student and seeing my friends in dramas. There’s something about seeing people you know perform in front of you, that draws you in, more than seeing people you don’t know. From a spectators standpoint its great to see students step out of a comfort zone and allow God to use them to portray a story that expresses God in someway or fashion. There’s hilarious moments, serious moments and emotional moments. They’ve put car shells on the stage. They’ve fought each other before. And this year, they will do something we’ve never seen before at Coram in a drama…but you’ll have to wait and see it 😉

I personally love the RAP groups and services. I may be biased because I’m a pastor, but I believe these are some of the most important ways we help lead students to time with Christ at camp. Maybe the services have impacted your life as well. If so, I hope you make it to Coram this year so that God can meet you “Face to Face” once again.

The Top 5 Reasons to go to Coram Deo – #3

Reason #3

Time with Friends

All of us have friends. Some have more than others, but the amount doesn’t really matter, it’s the depth of the relationships. As everyone knows, you have to spend time with another person and invest in that relationship in order for it to become a strong friendship. Quite possibly the best time to spend time with your friends is during the summer. You don’t have to worry about homework (unless your homeschooled, than you never have to worry about homework 😉. You don’t have to get up at ridiculous times in the morning in order to get to school. I mean seriously, how do they expect students to focus when they get up at a time that would even make Jesus sleepy…OK, He probably wouldn’t be tired, but you get the point. Anyways, back to the subject. The summer is  a great time to spend with friends, however, there’s always distractions in the way. Family trips, chores, Facebook, other friends, summer boredom. Well you know what? Coram Deo removes all those things and provides you a chance to be with ALL YOUR FRIENDS AT ONE TIME!!!

I love pulling up to camp for the first time and seeing students jump off of buses like their bodies are on fire and sprint towards their friends and smash into them with a force strong enough to move a small car. There’s something special when you combine camp and friends together. I mean, think about it. You’re far away from any kind of parental supervision (lets face it, that’s all students want), they don’t have to make their beds, unless they have a crazy tent leader who demands they straighten their sleeping bag, they get to hang out in the sun and play games, ride jet ski’s, do whatever else they want to on the water, take rides down the river, go to a water park, hear awesome messages and see great dramas, eat incredible food, spend time in RAP packets where they get to learn about God and eat candy/food….the list goes on forever!!

Personally, camp was “Friend Mecca” for me. We were all together for a whole week plus we got to learn about Jesus. Does it get better than that?

Every year, we have students who are afraid to go because they aren’t sure if their friends will be there, or they feel like they’re too shy to be with people they don’t know very well…and at the end of Coram, every year, those same people are smiling, laughing, and bonding with other students that they didn’t know before they went there. With my best Men’s Wearhouse impression, “Regardless of how many friends you have at Coram, you’ll make new ones as well. I Guarantee It.”

So if you’re friends aren’t sure about going to Coram, Until we leave Kingston/Poulsbo there’s still time to sign up. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.

The Top 5 Reasons to go to Coram Deo – #4

Reason #4

The Memories

Two weeks ago at 6seventy8 I spoke about how important memories of camp can be. The best part about that message was hearing stories from other students and leaders about their favorite memories of Coram Deo. Hearing their memories almost brought those situations to life right in front of us. For many, the great memories we have of the past are the very things that keep the past alive. Camp can be one of the most spiritually (and non-spiritually) exciting times of your life. There are so many things that you can hold on to from camp that can help you throughout your relationship with Christ. Hopefully you have memories from Coram (or a different camp) that you can look back on and realize that was a mile marker, either in your life in general, or in your relationship with God. It was during a summer camp in elementary school that I decided to “stand in the gap” for the first time. It was during a summer camp that I realized that God’s peace was available to me whenever I needed it. It was during a summer camp that I realized that God wanted me to become a pastor. It was at Coram Deo that I saw my students spend intimate, life changing time, with God, amidst a crowd of others. These are the great memories that I have to hold onto from summer camps.

You see, for me, memories from Coram Deo are broken down into two groups: non-spiritual memories and spiritual memories (pretty deep huh?)

There are so many crazy memories that I can think of from Coram Deo. In my last post I listed a few. One that will always stand out is when our bus broke down on the way home a few years ago. The best part about that was that we were in the middle of nowhere in crazy-hot-heat. Somehow we were able to get all our students to a SMALL town (it was straight out of a Frank Peretti book). All the students and leaders were dropped off at a local restaurant and the owner was kind enough to allow us to hang out in the basement (that sounds worse than it was…it was a nice basement). After everyone was situated and fed (thank you church credit card), Brandon (our high school pastor) left with our bus driver to attend to the broken down bus and figure out how to get the new one to us. Now, one of the things I haven’t mentioned yet is the fact that I was not on staff at the time, I was a junior in college, and was the oldest male person in our group that stayed. After awhile, a local man (very local looking) somehow realized we were there and came down to offer us ice cream. Imagine what’s going through my mind at this time…”I may have to physically defend our youth group…this is not what I volunteered for!” Needless to say, nothing bad happened, aside from a few panicking students who desperately wanted to call their parents to come get them. I remember when Brandon got back, he asked me the question, “What can we learn from this? What did we do right and what could we do better if we were in this situation again?”…I don’t remember my exact words but I do remember thinking, “How about we get a bus that can handle going up a hill!”

I can picture in my mind a panorama of our students and leaders in the room as if it were yesterday. There were students sitting at a table playing card games, laughing. Brandon was giving Isabella a bath in the sink. Some students had decided to sing songs and Kyle was playing the drums on an upside down bucket. Adult leaders were sitting in chairs trying to relax for a moment. In the moment, no one liked it, but looking back, it is one of my favorite memories of Coram Deo.

From a spiritual standpoint, there are so many different things that I could list off as great memories from camp. I remember the first Coram I was ever at. I remember watching as life group leaders were prayed over. I remember watching students pray over leaders who had been influential in their lives. The last two years I remember how we couldn’t have amplified sound after a certain time each night, and experiencing how awesome it was when everyone was singing and worshiping without instruments leading them. I remember joining Allison’s group for Communion two years ago and being with her and a group of middle school girls as she led us. It was powerful to see how a group of middle schoolers could take something so seriously and and pray passionately for each other as well.

These are just a few of my favorite memories from Coram Deo. I’m sure there are many different memories you have, either from Coram Deo or a different camp, that you can look back on as well and remember how great those times were. If you don’t, than maybe this is your year to make some memories at Coram Deo.

Check back later for Reason #3.

The Top 5 Reason’s to go to Coram Deo – #5

REASON #5

The Events/Games/Ridiculous Things We Do

In making this list, I came up with many different things that could fit in the Top 5. I thought long and hard and put it before the expert panel (my whiteboard) and eventually after much delegation (10 minutes) I came to a conclusion for the Top 5. If there was a Top 10, I’d have have a much easier time (it would have only taken 8 minutes), however, that did not happen, as there are not enough days before we leave for Coram. I will be providing a reason each day leading up to the glorious time that we leave for beautiful Daroga State Park…yes, you may have done the math, and you could be asking yourself, “Dustin, there’s only 4 days till we leave”…lucky for you, Sunday night, in a day of epic proportion, I will be providing not only the #2 reason, but the #1 REASON AS WELL!!! Yes!! So without further adieu, I give you Reason #5: The Events/Games/Ridiculous Things We Do

If you’ve ever been to Coram Deo you know that there are many different things that make the camp special. One of the best things that Coram offers is a chance for you to do things that you can’t do in your local neighborhood. Could I see a raise of hands for how many people have had a cul-de-sac oatmeal war? Not many. But at Coram we get the chance to shove ridiculous amounts of refreshing oatmeal in others faces, hair, and mouth’s. To the common person, this probably sounds ridiculous…and the truth is, it is…but that’s part of Coram! And the best part of the Oatmeal War is the fact that you’ll be picking crusty oatmeal out of your ears, hair, eye lashes and wherever else, for the rest of the day!

Last year I got to drive Sara around a couple times on a jet ski. Before we went out she told me, “Don’t throw me off”. So the first time out I took it pretty easy, not doing anything that might cause her to magically fly off the jet ski. When we returned to shore, I was very proud of my ability to not launch her off the jet ski. As we got off the jet ski, one of the leaders who was pulling us in asked how it went. I still remember the first few words out of Sara’s mouth…“He drove like a grandma!”. Now, you can understand my disbelief when I heard these words. “A grandma?!?! Doesn’t she remember telling me not to throw her off?? Plus, I’m pretty sure the kind of GRANDMA she’s talking about wouldn’t even be able to get on a jet ski, let alone drive one!!” To bring a  long story to a close, it’s safe to say the next day we went out, she was not telling people I drove like a grandma. That’s one of the many great things we get to do at the waterfront. You wanna tube? We got it. Wanna wake board or water ski? we got it. Wanna cruise along the lake? you can do that too. The waterfront is our little oasis away from the crazy heat that Wenatchee offers us.

Every year,  going down the river is a highlight for students. We’ve done it in rafts. We’ve done it in tubes. I hear we’re doing it on the back of dolphins this year. Regardless, it’s an event that gives us exactly what we need. WATER. A couple years ago I got to steer a raft for a group of girls from our church. Now, being the avid river rafting guide that I am, I knew there wouldn’t be any problems with it. The only problem was that I had never guided a raft down a river before. The trip started off great…we hit a tree within the first 50 yards. I still remember thinking, “I hope these girls said goodbye to their loved ones before they left for camp”. Needless to say, it was a great trip down and I’ll never forget the time I got to “lead” the girls down the river…and they were all accounted for (I think).

We’ve gone rock climbing. We go to a water slide park. We do different challenges throughout camp. There are so many different games/events/ridiculous things that we do. One thing I can guarantee you is that you won’t get bored at Coram. I love hearing stories from students about what happened on the river, or how high someone flew off the inner tube while on the lake, or how they still have oatmeal stuck in their ears. These events are as much a part of Coram Deo as anything and that’s why it’s #5 on the list. Check back tomorrow for #4!