Tacklecamp is over. A lot has happened, and the Tacklebox will not be the same again.
It is hard to tell others who weren’t there about the camp. There was just too much that was intangible and inexpressible that happened. Things that were felt and sensed rather than perceived. Nevertheless, I feel compelled to put my experience into words, if not for others than at least for myself.
Before speaking on my own personal experience, perhaps it is fitting to first talk about the camp as a whole. From a planning, logistical, organisational point of view, it was a decent success. Sure, there were hiccups. Issues about bookings and food and utensils. But as a whole I don’t think it came to a point of disorder. Everything went rather smoothly.
But of course that’s just the icing on the cake. More importantly, God really really moved. And this is one of the inexplicable, intangible things I mentioned. There’s no way to encapsulate this in words. At least not fully. But suffice to say that He met with the campers, the leaders, and the committee, each at our own unique point of need. There was an immense sense of hope that pervaded the entire camp, undergirded by His love and precipitated by His Spirit, praise be to God.
So that was the camp. Now what did it all mean for me as camp commandant? A bit of background is perhaps needful. Prior to the camp, I was plagued by a nagging sense of inadequacy. Now, “plagued” is a strong word, so I need to say that I was not crippled by it. It was just that there was a general notion in my head that I needed to reach or maintain a certain level of spirituality or righteousness in order to be worthy to lead this camp. There was a particularly strong instance of this feeling of inadequacy a few months ago, where I truly questioned if I was the right person to lead this camp, but that was the only time it manifested so strongly. Nevertheless, it made me strive. At the time, I was probably not very conscious of such an inclination, but now I see it clearly. I strove to attain holiness, not because He is holy, but because I felt I had to be in order to be camp commandant. Perhaps at a certain level I even thought that if I wasn’t right with God, this camp would fail.
But God tells us to cease all striving, and know that He is God. On the first day’s worship at praisehaven in the afternoon, I was sitting in the front row. The presence of God was really thick in the place; it was amazing. And as it went on, I heard the 90 youths behind me singing fervently. It sounded like a chorus of angels. And this was on the first day. And I felt like God was saying to me, “You asked me to prepare their hearts? Here are your prepared hearts. Because I am God.” I was overwhelmed. This was beyond my imagination. Writing this out, I realise that it doesn’t capture the scene accurately, and does not do what I felt justice. But as I said, some things are inexpressible.
That night Ps Shaun preached on our status as chosen sons of God, precious in His sight. Nothing can remove His love for us. Of course these are standard textbook foundational truths of our faith, but for some reason it was revelatory. Perhaps I had forgotten. One point which stuck with me was that not even our spiritual performance is taken into account in His loving of us. Perhaps you see the links forming. Good for you. It didn’t happen for me yet.
The second night’s message didn’t really strike any chord in me, although the message of freedom and putting on the new self did reinforce what was impressed upon me the day before. Rather the highlight was the altar ministry. It was to be my first time being an altar minister. Before and after the altar call I must say I was constantly second-guessing myself. It was a struggle between faith and doubt. What if I pray from my own wisdom instead of that of the Spirit? That would be terrible. But strangely during the altar call itself there was no doubt – I felt like the words came freely. It was only the next day that I was affirmed right before the last sermon by Jaron when he told me that my prayer had lifted a huge load off his shoulders. For that day though I suppose it was a microcosm of my larger issues of feeling not good enough.
The last night, everything came to a head. I felt like all my issues were cleared in the opening worship when we sang The Stand.
You stood before my failure
And carried the cross for my shame
My sin weighed upon your shoulders
My soul now to stand
So what could I say?
And what could I do?
But offer this heart, Oh God
Completely to you
So I’ll walk upon salvation
Your spirit alive in me
This life to declare your promise
My soul now to stand
Indeed what could I say or do? Not only in response to His salvation, but to earn it? Nothing! Nothing except surrender wholly everything, and live upon salvation.
During the altar call that night, I felt like it wasn’t for me. While I did feel the presence of God, and the joy of the Lord, I felt no urging to be ministered to, no groaning of the Spirit. I was slightly confused and disappointed then, because everyone else was in a different state. But I think looking back, especially after certain discussions back in our room, there was nothing wrong with it. There shouldn’t be a need to feel that desire to be ministered to. If we keep needing these altar calls, there must be a problem. I realised then that perhaps God was telling me that I had to step past this defeatist mindset: that I am always in a place of need, that I always need to look inward and settle my own issues. Don’t get me wrong, I do not mean that we do not need God. Rather, there is a difference between the thinking, Oh I am so pitiful. But God enables me, and I have been enabled by God. I am strong and can do great things for His kingdom, and we ought to be living in the latter. An illustration that might be beneficial is that during the altar calls, when I focused on myself and what I was going to do, I kept feeling my knees shake. But when I focused outwards on the youths that needed God, I felt calm and my knees held firm. And as I reflected on various occasions upon what God had been doing in those three days, I was just amazed. It was beyond our wildest imagination, and it was definitely through no power of our own. God did not need me, or my sub-par righteousness. He is God, this is what He does, and I should be thankful that He has allowed me to be a co-labourer of His.
The point I got then was that, we are chosen before the foundations of the world, and we have been set free (and are free indeed). How sinful we have been and our spiritual performance has no bearing on this. It is not the latter which has caused the former, but it is the former which comes first and remedies the latter. And that is freedom. Isaiah was purified in a single instance of a coal touching his lips. We too, have been purified in a single instance in Jesus’ death. This is not to say that God doesn’t continually refine us, but that we have been justified, sanctified, and glorified, and so need not strive any longer. We can live in Christ’s victory. Sin has no hold on me; indeed, where O Death is your sting? As such, we ought to stop reflecting on how much we need Christ in our depravity (although in our natural state we do) but rather we should focus on how much we have now that Christ is in us and we in Him. We ought to look outwards, and concentrate on how to show God’s love, how to bless as we have been blessed. And our spiritual “state” does not matter because it is He who works in us, and His power is made perfect in weaknesses. The disciples, upon receiving the Spirit, did not spend years seeking the Lord and confessing their sins before entering ministry. They immediately began preaching, and 3000 were saved. (I must thank Paulo and Claire for our discussion which allowed me to reach this conclusion.) And this is certainly in line with what Ps Shaun shared about walking in love such that there is no space for the evil deeds of darkness. Now I understand what “faith without actions is dead” means. Not only does true faith necessarily breed actions, but if we do not act, whatever faith we have deposited in us by grace will slowly wither away. Such living of course, has to be empowered by the Spirit, which we have all received, regardless of whether you can speak in tongues or not. And inevitably, we will mess up. But that means nothing, because we are still children of God, and we are still loved, so we confess and we press on from glory to glory.
It has also made me realise why I have an inclination to pick Project Serve over Trackers. Everyone knows the former is more outward-looking, with a greater emphasis on ministry and service, while the latter is more on feeding, on enriching the soul. I had felt that it was the right season for ministry, that I had “enough of feeding”. But that sounded blasphemous so I was really doubtful. But now I understand, and I think I do not need to explain how my realisation from Tacklecamp is directly related to this. So this is God’s answer then! Amazing how everything ties in.
So this was my Tacklecamp experience. I am greatly interested in hearing other testimonies. God truly is a God of wonders.