Words of Encouragementfrom last year's speakers

Never Alone (Isaiah 43)

The summer camp experience may seem far away with snow and cold weather the current normal. However, the Never Alone theme of BCBC’s 2016 season remains significant (And maybe even more so during these wintery days).

The Never Alone theme had attached to it, Isaiah 43:1-2, which points all people to God’s overall rule as the Creator of absolutely everything and King who rules His creation perfectly and fully. It says, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze (43:1b-2—NIV).”

Two things come to mind as I consider how this passage once again applies to our lives even today. (1) Well after camp is completed for 2016 and 2017 is still anticipated, the reminder to all of us continues that we belong. We belong to God as part of His overall creation (the world). God cares for His creation greatly. Still, we need to be more specific. Not only do we belong to God’s grand everything but when we take hold of Jesus Christ (God’s Son) who is part of the wholeness of God (The Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), we are invited into His inner circle of perfect and complete community—we are invited into relationship with God Himself.

“I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine.” These are amazing phrases. God, through Jesus has redeemed all people of all time. No person ever to exist until now or into tomorrow’s future is outside of Jesus’ work of sin payment. This is an amazing work of God alone. Our response however, must include our acceptance of His gift. God’s call to all of us is to live holy lives (Lev 11:44-45; 19:2; Matt 5:43-48), which means obediently allowing Christ to change our lives into His image in every way. We belong! In fact, the phrase ‘be holy’ or in Matthew 5:48, ‘be perfect’ truly means to ‘be set apart for God.’ Being set apart is what God does as He transforms us away from the desires of the world and brings us closer to Him (Ps 86: 11, 12; Rom 12:2).

(2) When we consider how we belong to God in this intimate manner, we are given purpose for living. With God’s ownership intact over our lives, God’s purposes for our existence, focus begins to reveal how He can use us in His kingdom work (Prov 19:21; 1 Cor 6:19-20).

I do not believe it is a coincidence that Isaiah reminds God’s people of passing through waters, rivers, or walking through fires. Each of these reminders connects God’s people to His past provisions, proving His hope for the future. Israel passed through the waters of the Red Sea (Exodus 13:17-14:31). They left slavery in Egypt to find new life under God’s care (1 Corinthians 10:2; Hebrews 11:29). The people passed through the waters of the River Jordan at high water levels (Joshua 3-4; special note on 3:15-16). Moreover, during the days of Daniel, God demonstrated His power and authority over fire as He allowed What is our purpose for living?

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to be thrown in a blazing furnace which should have been their doom. Yet, they were not burnt. In fact, they did not even smell like the fire and their clothing was not burnt. Even more amazing was that although three men were thrown into the furnace, four men walked freely in the heat of the fire not being burned.

What purpose does God have in store for you and me today or this year? Whatever the purpose might be, I am certain that it includes belonging and opportunities to share Jesus Christ with those around you in both words and actions of purity. May I encourage every one of us to be engaged in belonging to God’s family (the church)? Our belonging to the local church is important in maturing in God’s work through Jesus, and the power of the Holy Spirit brings each of us closer in relationship with God because we witness His presence in His people within His church family.

As we continue through winter and look forward to the new camp season, may God bless you with hope and belonging as we have witnessed in Scripture. May we see Him alive within the pages of our Bible and gain greater purpose as we pray to Him, read His Word, and participate in His family, the church.

Blessings!
Vern