Thursday, April 22, 2010

Familiarity on the Ropes Course

It’s been said that familiarity breeds contempt. While that may be true from a worldly perspective, it’s not something to which believers in Christ are bound. The phrase means that when you really get to know someone, you no longer have respect for them because you see all of their faults. Paul, however, explained a different way of viewing people in 2 Corinthians 5:16 when he said, “So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now!” (NLT) As believers, we can look beyond one another’s faults to see that the same Spirit abides within each one of us, and that Spirit gives us a common bond.

I saw this beautifully demonstrated last month when a group from a church in Tennessee came for a weekend retreat. They spent all day Saturday on both our High and Low Ropes Courses. These activities are designed to put groups in challenging situations so that they can learn to work through their differences and function together as a team. After watching them manage their way through our difficult arrangement of cables, ropes and platforms, I was amazed to see that they functioned with more cooperation, patience, and respect than any group I can remember. After getting to know them a little better, I found that they came from a small church and that they all have a very close relationship. I believe it was that closeness that enabled them to function together so beautifully. They didn’t evaluate each other from a human perspective, but looked beyond that to the Spirit within. In their case, familiarity enabled them to trust one another more, which translated to more success on the ropes course.

The same can be said of our relationship with God. In this week’s Bible study, Camp Founder O.A. Fish said, “The more familiar we are with God, the more faith we will have in Him.” It is so true that as we get to know our Heavenly Father more, we will find ourselves trusting Him more. That’s how we know that He will provide for our needs here at the Camp, even in a difficult economy. He is always faithful, both to me and to you, and He will never let us down. Get to know your Father a little better today.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

21st Century Ministry

You can’t put South Mountain Christian Camp in a box. I learned that much in the first few months after I came here 12 years ago. That was when O.A. invited me to be his guest as he hosted Niteline, a nationally-syndicated Christian television talk show. What does camping have to do with TV? I wondered. But in the TV studio that night, I saw how God could use South Mountain to minister to the needs of hurting people, not just on this property, but through various forms of media as well.

For years God has enabled O.A. and Charlotte to reach “outside the box” of typical camp ministry through radio and television programs. Now the reach of South Mountain Christian Camp is extended into the newest media of the 21st century—social networking on the internet.

We’ve had a camp website for about 10 years now, and it has served its purpose well as a tool to let people know about the various ministries of South Mountain Christian Camp. More recently however, we’ve established a web presence on various social media platforms including Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube, Picasa, and, of course, right here on Blogger.

I know some of you might think that sounds like overkill, but stay with me for a moment. The difference between having an informative website and having a presence on these other sites is the human factor. We’re not just putting information out there about Camp, we’re connecting with people. And, in doing so, we are able to minister to their needs in a whole new way.

Here are some examples of what I mean: Every day we can share an inspiring Bible verse or thought from O.A.’s Bible study with over 600 people through Facebook and Twitter. Every month, I share an true story on Blogger and Facebook about how God is working through the ministry here. And you can go to our YouTube channel and watch a video of one of O.A.’s encouraging Friday morning talks with the campers.

It’s a whole new way of connecting with people beyond the border of our 260 acres. Some may feel that it is impersonal. But the same thing may have been said about ministering over TV, radio, or even the telephone. (Some may have even thought that about Paul writing epistles to the churches rather than visiting them.) The truth is, 80% of all Americans are involved in some form of social media. With every new generation comes new opportunities for ministry, and we want to seize the opportunity to reach out to these people right where they are.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


This article is the introduction chapter for the new book, Soaring to Lofty Heights—Spiritually, which O.A. is currently in the process of writing.

It’s a clear crisp, wintry day in February. Sitting on my golf cart next to our Rose Sisk Lookout Deck, I let my eyes feast on the skyline of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. I grew up in the shadow of these mountains. Snow-capped Mt. Mitchell glistens like a diamond in the blue haze for which the mountains are named. This favorite spot, located on side of what I’ve come to call “Prayer Mountain” is dedicated to the memory of Rose Sisk, our program director Steve Collins’ grandmother.

Chloe, my black Lab, races across the gravel road that circles the deck to explore the wooded hillside, and occasionally I hear a delighted bark. The two of us visit here regularly, she to chase squirrels and me to un-clutter my mind of leftover daily problems. A resulting peace comes, God’s presence is awakened within me, and I find myself softly praying in the spirit.

Some may think this platform on the side of a mountain can’t compare with the left seat of a jetliner where I spent much of my adult life as an Eastern Airlines captain. And I must admit that soaring in the stratosphere at 39,000 feet, pulling white contrails across deep blue skies, and streaking over the earth at 600 miles per hour was exhilarating. But what you have to realize is, in order to command such a position, your mind must constantly race ahead just to stay in front of the airplane. There is very little time to sit back and reflect on the beauty of the moment. So when people ask me if I miss flying, I admit I do. And yet when I’m sitting here on the side of the mountain, my soul soars higher than I’ve ever soared before.

As the peaks and valleys accented by the still bright evening sun stretch westward, my thoughts are pulled with them. It was back in 1972 that my wife, Charlotte, and I responded to God’s call to move to these foothills of North Carolina. Within two years we had built the home we live in today and established the South Mountain Christian Camp which ministers to underprivileged children. Of course, in the beginning our first campers slept in tents on the side of the mountain, and we ourselves were still in the learning stages of what it meant to truly have a close, trusting relationship with our heavenly Father. But God has brought the camp, as well as Charlotte and me, a long way since those early days of development.

One of the main reasons I like to come to this overlook is that I can see most of my native Rutherford County, a place and a people I love. From here I can lift them and others up in prayer. As I’ve grown in spiritual wisdom, knowledge, and the understanding of God’s kingdom and the glorious inheritance we have in Christ Jesus, I ache for the Church. So many Christians seem to be stuck in what I call “spiritual poverty.” The prophet Hosea spoke to this when he said that God’s People are destroyed for a lack of knowledge. And in John’s letter to the Laodicean church, Jesus agreed that the people were wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked (spiritually speaking) and they didn’t even know it.

In my previous book, Fingerprints of God, I shared stories of miracles which occurred during our growing years in hopes of encouraging people and inspiring them to have more faith. Thousands of readers have told me how the book blessed them and how excited they were to seek after miracles such as those revealed in the book. Of course, that was good, but how much better it would be if we all were as excited about exploring more fully that place of trust in God where miracles happen routinely in everyday life. We call this place, this realm, the Kingdom of God. It is a heavenly realm, so the bible also refers to it as the Kingdom of Heaven. In describing this kingdom, Paul called it a place of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom 14:17). In Matthew 6:33, Jesus said that we should seek this kingdom and His righteousness above everything else. So in this book, I hope to use God’s Word and personal testimonies to help others discover their own flight plan to this kingdom where their souls may Soar to Lofty Heights - Spiritually.