The Flames Will Not Set You Ablaze


Campfire Devotional at Gulf Coast Bible Camp

Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned 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. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior… (Isaiah 43:2b-4a)

This past weekend I was asked to come and speak to the teenagers gathered at the annual Spring Teen Retreat at Gulf Coast Bible Camp. About 70 souls gathered to enjoy the weekend outside of many of the influences of the world. Having a long history with Bible camp I know that the memories that are created here are formative to spiritual decisions made throughout life.

Many of those serving on staff for the weekend were old friends. Bill and Sabrina Collins have been as active in Gulf Coast Bible Camp as anyone. Bill is an elder of the Orange Grove Church of Christ in Gulfport and has recently been placed on full time staff there. His outstanding leadership makes every retreat a special experience. The crew he has pulled together have decades of camping experience. There was a clear indication that I’m getting a bit older – I didn’t know very many of the kids.


Mike Bennett Teaching a Class at GCBC

But there’s something else about GCBC. It is a place that John Robert loved. From the time he was 5 years old he never missed a camp session. In fact last year at this time John Robert attended this very retreat. I was already preaching for Forsythe and did not attend. As I walked up the hill toward the pavilion, passing each cabin on the boy’s side of the camp, portraits of John’s years at camp flashed in my mind. There was the year when he was very young that he got up in the middle of the night and walked across the campus to get in bed with me. I’m not sure he was ever awake. His years in cabin 6 were special to him because he loved his counselor, Brian, so much. In fact he never stopped thinking Brian was sooo cool. Cabin 7 were years of anticipation until he could ascend into cabin 8 – the oldest boys. During some of these years he was voted ‘best boy camper’ during the week. The camp memories could be become quite long, but as I walked up the hill these were the images in my mind. Once in the pavilion I could see him standing in front leading worship.


John Robert leads worship at Gulf Coast Bible Camp

This was not so much a matter of sadness for me as it was a sense of being close to John Robert. I asked God to allow John Robert to be a part of our retreat. That might be an odd request to you … perhaps inappropriate to ask … but God understands as we try to grasp the spiritual nature of our loss.  The flood of memories continued throughout the entire weekend. Maybe it would be something that I knew he would think was funny or our singing a song that he used to lead. One of his best friends came up to the camp and we spent a special hour together just catching up.

My three messages were to come from Isaiah 43. I enjoyed presenting my three messages. This chapter presents much hope to the follower of God. The work of God in our hearts is expressed … as well as the challenge to serve Him with our whole hearts.

But as for our pain and the struggle of living without John Robert, the rivers will not sweep over us, the flames will not set us ablaze. I’m so grateful for the time spent on the campus of this great camp. As many of you know, when John Robert died we asked that gifts be made to GCBC in his memory. Thank you to everyone who has done so, and continues to do so.


Thanks for reading,


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