God Uses the Wilderness

God has used the wilderness throughout all of history to tune up and shape leadership skills for his grand purposes in the world.

One of the most straightforward texts in the Bible that illustrates the type of development a person can experience by spending regular time in the wilderness is 1 Samuel 17:34-37. We often talk about what shapes and forms leaders. We attend workshops, read books, find mentors to coach us in leadership skills. Those are all good, but there is also a free leadership skills tune up awaiting all of us… in the outdoors.

The Bible gives dozens of examples how God has used the wilderness as a special place for transforming and developing leaders for his purposes. One of the plainest examples is when young David, a shepherd boy who had been living in the wilderness tending sheep, finds himself in King Saul’s tent sharing his resume of wilderness leadership formation to get permission to represent and defend Israel by facing Goliath:

But David said to Saul, “Your servant was tending his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and took a lamb from the flock, I went out after him and attacked him, and rescued it from his mouth; and when he rose up against me, I seized him by his beard and struck him and killed him. “Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, since he has taunted the armies of the living God.” And David said, “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and may the LORD be with you.”
-1 Samuel 17: 34-37



One leadership characteristic that requires practice and discipline is to “pay attention” to others. Tending to others is unselfish. David learned how to take care of sheep from his father Jesse. As a young boy he was given a few sheep, and then as he took care of them and earned the trust of his father, he was given more sheep to take care of. The “Shepherd” metaphor in the Bible is rich throughout the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament. A passage from the prophet Isaiah gives one of the clearest definitions of “shepherd leadership” that I know of:

He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. -Isaiah 40:11

God is a shepherd to our souls, and he leads us in such a way that meets all of our needs and sets a pace for us that is doable. Leading a flock of sheep that has a bunch of baby lambs (as illustrated in this passage) takes patience and wisdom. David learned this leadership maxim by spending so much time in the wilderness tending sheep. Spending time with people in the outdoors where they are vulnerable will force (in a good way) those with leadership potential to set aside their own desires and pay attention to the needs of others. You may have to turn back from a peak attempt to tend to the needs of the whole group. You may have to carry someone’s weight to get up the last thousand feet of elevation to your camp, etc. Opportunities to tend to others naturally present themselves in the wilderness because it is a place of vulnerability and group interdependence.



In this passage David tells Saul that he is qualified to take on Goliath because he has experience defending sheep against bears and lions. All of that time out in the wilderness gave him ample opportunity to learn the ways of his sheep’s enemies. He gained a watchful eye for their sneaky tactics. And when they pounced, he carried a big stick and gave it to them. President Teddy Roosevelt described his foreign policy by this phrase: “speak softly, and carry a big stick.” The wilderness teaches us these types of leadership skills, both in a physical sense as well as through the spiritual battles we learn to prayerfully fight. No bear or lion was going to steal one of David’s sheep. Are we that kind of leaders? Does our attitude and posture of defending others qualify you to lead?



As this passage continues, David makes it clear that yes, he is prepared to fight because he learned to fight during his experiences in the wilderness. Yet now he was facing a much more profound foe. He recognized the difference between his preparation and the small battles he had fought up to this point and the epic one he now faced. He was ready to step up to the plate to take on the true enemy of his people, Israel. Yes he was a giant, but David was not intimidated. He was raised up for such a time as this. And he, as a leader, was not going to back down. You and those you are leading have a very real enemy, the Devil.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. -1 Peter 5:8

You and I need to be ready to fight him through our prayer lives and the way we use Scripture to defend and lead others.



Probably the most profound statement in this passage is what David then says to Saul next: “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” He recognized that yes, he had lots of skills from his time being developed as a leader in the wilderness, but ultimately this battle was the Lord’s battle. In God’s sovereignty, David was confident that he would win this battle because God was leading him to it. He trusted in God’s sovereignty, not his own ingenuity or skill.That is a crucial lesson for all of us.



Set aside some time in the wilderness in the next couple of weeks. Ask the Lord to scrape beneath the surface of your soul to reveal these three areas of your life:

1) Where have I come from to this place? What is going on in my life right now, and what has been the state of my soul in the past few days and weeks?

2) Where am I right now in my orientation to God? Am being open, honest, vulnerable, and humbly receptive to Him? Or am I closed off, ashamed, feeling distant, or hanging on stubbornly to something that He would like for me to give up?

3) Where am I headed? As I look at the valleys below I can see the path that will take me back to my starting place. When I go back home to the city, what is the spiritual path I am going to take? What kinds of disciplines and habits can I practice to help me enjoy the Lord more fully back down in the valley?


Fellowship FREE BBQ!!

When: Postponed due to weather, new date TBA
Where: 4265 13th Ave N, St. Pete, FL 33713
We will need to know how many in your party to make sure there is enough BBQ meats. If you can bring a side dish to share, please do.
You are welcome to bring anything from a Mac & Cheese type dish to a yummy dessert or a nice salad. And of course, there will be a waterslide.  Don’t forget swim wear and towels!
For planning purposes, please text or email your RSVP by Sunday, Aug 5th, 2019 to Ministry contact information below 
Name: ___________________________# in Party: _________  
Contact Info: __________________________________________
 I am bringing: ____________________________________
  Please let us know if you are able to help:
Set Up: _____   Serve Food: _____   Clean Up: _____                     Hang with the kids at the Waterslide: _____                                      
We are so looking forward to spending this time with our Back2Basics outdoor adventure ministry family.

Importance of Contact

When Jesus ministered to people, it was often on a personal level and sometimes with a physical touch (Matt. 8:3, Matt. 8:15). Much has changed since the first century, and there are many more avenues for evangelism and discipleship. However, in an age of impersonal texts, emails, and social media, we must not forget the value of personal contact. It’s impossible to read expressions, body language, or attitudes unless we are face to face with another person. Honored to serve together in Christ.

Waiting for God

The Bible is clear that we go through seasons in life, and one of the seasons that God talks about again and again is the season of waiting.

While you’re waiting, God is working. Don’t think that a season of waiting means that God has stopped working. He’s just taking you through that season because he’s using the time to work in your circumstances for your good.

You’re going to spend a lot of life waiting. If you don’t figure out how to trust God while you’re waiting, you’ll spend a lot of your life not trusting God.

God is never in a hurry. He’s eternal! He is watching. He is working. He is seeing how and when you will trust him as you’re waiting. You’re saying, “When, Lord? When is it going to happen?” And God’s saying, “You can trust me with this.”

The problem with waiting is that our human nature and our society say, “Don’t wait! Get things as quickly as you can.”

That’s the way our culture is wired, but it goes against God’s blessing in our lives, because God’s blessing comes through these times of waiting. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says God “has set the right time for everything” (GNT).

Are you in a time of waiting? Maybe it’s for school to end. Maybe it’s for the “right person” to come into your life. Maybe it’s for a marriage to happen or a baby to come or a new job opportunity to arrive. And you may be frustrated with how slowly things are happening. We’ve all been there.

There’s a promise in the Bible that tells you not only that God is working but also how God is working, and you need to claim it while you’re in your time of waiting: “I am the Lord, and when it is time, I will make these things happen quickly” (Isaiah 60:22 NCV).

That’s how God worked when he sent Jesus into this world. The world waited thousands of years for Jesus to come the first time. And he came at just the right moment.

We’ve been waiting 2,000 years now for Jesus to come again. When will that happen? At just the right time—God’s time. That’s when he’s going to return.

You can apply this to your time of waiting and remember that a delay is not a denial. When you think God is saying no, he may just be saying, “Not yet. Will you keep trusting me through this?”

Micah 7:7 says, “I trust the Lord God to save me, and I will wait for him to answer my prayer” (CEV).

That is the kind of faith that God blesses.

God is Gracious

Because God is so gracious and abounding in love, you and I don’t ever need to be afraid to hit the restart button in our spiritual life. The book of Hosea is a story of God’s unrelenting love toward a people who had ignored him for a long time.  They had become a people who believed they didn’t need him. So what did God do? He wooed his people out into a desert so that he could remind them that they were His sons and daughters, and that …
Like a four-numbered combination to a lock that opens up your gym locker, we learn four freeing truths in this passage that open up our spiritual locker so we can strap on our running shoes again and run the hills with God.


One of the biggest wet blankets that smolders my spiritual life is when I start believing that I need to go and meet with God versus God is pursuing me and wants to meet with me. Learn to listen to God’s voice waking you up in the morning to invite you to go walk and pray with him. If that hasn’t been your experience, then try praying now that God will wake you up early with his alluring voice to go Walk and Talk outside and see how he answers your prayer to allure you from the moment you wake up.


“I will lead her into the wilderness…” God knows we are distracted by many things, so he’s calling you out into wilderness solitude so that he can free you from the many things so you can find the one thing that you need, Himself. Wilderness time will free you from distractions like nothing else.


“… and speak tenderly to her…” Hosea reminds God’s people that we have a communication problem. Communication is one of the top shelf needs for all people, and when we can’t communicate we implode. You and I constantly need fresh experiences with God to improve our communication with Him through prayer and time in His Word. God calls his people out into the wilderness to restore clear communication with his children. We too can experience that through times with him “Walking and Talking” in the wilderness.


The Valley of Achor is the place where Achan sinned against God because he hid some forbidden war plunder in his tent (See Joshua 7). He not only brought trouble on himself but he marked his community with tragedy as his sin caused Joshua’s troops to fail in their battle to take over the Promised Land. In this passage in Hosea, God is saying that he doesn’t want his people to hide in their sin like Achan and live a troubled life as a result. Instead, as a compassionate Father, he calls his children to repent and cry out in need for His grace, and he will grant it. The day of hope dawns as we rend open our hearts and cry out loudly for restoration.
One of the reasons I enjoy routinely going on a “Walk and Talk” with Jesus early in the morning while it’s still dark is because there is no one around… I don’t have to feel inhibited to keep my voice quiet, but I can talk out loud or even cry out if I want… and that experience reminds me that I’m not alone… that God hears me and cleanses me so I can walk in a new day of hope. One of the great ironies of “solitude” is that being alone with God in the darkness and solitude of the outdoors is the very thing that reminds me that I’m not alone.


BE ALLURED: Ask God in prayer to begin waking you up early to Walk and Talk with him outdoors.
RUN FROM DISTRACTION: Routinely look for opportunities in your week or month to be allured to the wilderness to allow God to remove distractions and refresh your communication with him.
OPEN LINES OF COMMUNICATION: Let the privacy of the wilderness create space to throw caution to the wind in your relationship with Christ and cry out to Him with raw realness.
OPEN THE BLINDS TO A DAY OF HOPE: Share your stories by responding below of how this passage in Hosea has ministered to you in your relationship with Christ…

Build Genuine Fellowship By Creating Community

We help build genuine fellowship by creating community which includes:

Sharing true feelings = Authenticity

Encouraging one another = Mutual respect

Supporting each other = Sympathy

Forgiving each other = Mercy

Speaking the truth = Honesty

Admitting weakness = Humility

Respecting each other‘s differences = Courtesy

Never gossiping = Confidentiality

Making meeting a priority = Frequency


Wilderness is a Trustworthy Counselor

Wilderness is a trustworthy counselor. If you visit her office, you’ll consistently get truth and grace. Some counselors err on the side of offering too much support and too little challenge. Other counselors go the other extreme. The wilderness has been a type of counselor throughout all of history that somehow knows how to strike the balance.

For sure, the elements and exposure seem too much to handle and we want to panic. Other times, the beauty and serenity almost whisk us away from worldly worries and concerns in a type of heaven-on-earth experience; resting in a meadow on a warm day or fishing in a cascading brook with clouds entertaining us above. But for those who will spend some consistent time in the wilderness they will find her to be a good and trustworthy counselor.


Often people ask, when I spend time in the wilderness how do I make it more intentional? What do I do to make it more of a spiritual experience. Of course the answers will vary but one simple suggestion is just to immerse yourself in a passage of Scripture and see how your surroundings, attitudes, emotions, connect with what God is teaching you in Scripture.

For example, let’s take Matthew 6:19-21 where Jesus taught on laying up treasures in heaven. This is a great passage for wilderness reflection:Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. – Matthew 6:19-21

As you spend a day in the wild, you might want to consider two contrasting angles on this perspective. First, what are those things in your life that moth and rust will destroy? Second, what are those things in your life that are eternal that will last forever?

1 One of the almost guaranteed blessings of wilderness travel, even for just a day trip is that we realize how little we need to be happy.

This passage helped me grasp from these two categories, five basic areas to consider. What won’t last is the physical and the familiar. What will last for eternity are souls, service, and sacrifices. Lets consider each of these briefly:


Ultimately the world will pass and we cannot take anything with us to the grave. “For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.”

1 Timothy 6:7. One of the almost guaranteed blessings of wilderness travel, even for just a day trip is that we realize how little we need to be happy. A day pack with a rain jacket, some food and water, and our Bible, and we are unbelievably happy. Entertained by frolicking squirrels hopping from tree to tree, surprised by a deer grazing near a stream… these good distractions show us that the Lord has provided a world full of beauty for us to enjoy, and we don’t need to accumulate things to insure happiness. In fact, just the opposite.


Because humans are a bit like hobbits, we tend to get used to our routine, our place, our roles. We become familiar with our surroundings and that allows us to function from a position of peace. This is all good, unless we make familiarity an idol. When God asks us to step out and go a different direction or take on a new responsibility, our fascination with familiarity can easily drown out that still small voice which is calling us onward and outward.


1. SOULS. SOULS ARE ETERNAL.There is an interesting verse in the book of Hebrews that highlights this truth: “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment…” (Hebrews 9:27) This means that after each of us dies we don’t have a second chance. We die once, and then face judgement. This is actually common sense but its a bit sobering when taken plainly as the Scripture reads. This is why evangelism matters. Because souls and their eternal destination matter. The final book of the Bible is called Revelation. In many ways it provides some of the clearest trumpet calls for people to repent of their self-sufficiency and turn humbly to God for salvation:

Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every nation, tribe, language and people. He said in a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.’ – Revelation 14:6-7

C.S. Lewis reflects on this reality in his book The Great Divorce:There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened.

2. SACRIFICES: AS I THINK OF WHAT GOD HAS INTENDED FOR SACRIFICIAL LIVING, CERTAIN PEOPLE COME TO MIND AS EXAMPLES. MAYBE ON OF THE BEST IS JOHN THE BAPTIST.There was a man sent from God whose name was John.  He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe.  He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. John 1:6-8Let’s think about this metaphor of “light” for a moment. When camping one evening by the Sea. There was a full moon so I took a quiet walk on the beach to pray and think. When I came back to the crackling fire I looked up at the full moon and the light that it cast on the sea. It was so bright you didn’t even need a headlamp to walk around. I thought, “How profound that the moon does not have any light in itself. It only reflects the light of the sun.” The moon teaches us a lesson from Creation that explains perfectly what it means for us to live sacrificially as witnesses of Christ to others. Here’s what I mean…We are not in and of ourselves a source of light for the world. We merely reflect the light of Jesus Christ by believing in him and walking in his Spirit. As witnesses, we are reflectors of Christ’s light to others just like the moon reflects the light of the sun. The same is true of sacrificial living, and this is why sacrifices last. When we lay our lives down, die to ourselves, and offer ourselves as a living sacrifice we become like the moon to our dark world. It is not our work that saves anyone, we just reflect the true light. (See Romans 12:1-2) Our humble and willing sacrifices simply reflect the Good News of Christ, like the moon offering gleams of light for a ship lost at sea.


My friend who used to be the director of a Wilderness Ranch tells an amazing story of an unnamed servant who did something that changed the culture of their summer camp staff. This story illustrates exactly why Jesus said, “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing…” (Matthew 6:3) When we serve quietly, without a desire to receive anything in return, then we are creating something that moth and rust cannot destroy.

1 REFLECTION QUESTIONS1 The wilderness is a trustworthy counselor. Spend some time in a remote place hiking or sitting taking in a view and consider: a. Physical comforts and familiar routines won’t last. Are there any ways that God may be challenging me that will require letting go of some physical comfort or familiar routine? How is the wilderness teaching me to let go so that I can more fully enjoy the adventure?

2 In what ways is the wilderness environment teaching you about the eternal value of Souls, Sacrifice, and Service? Pray that Jesus will awake in you the desire to want your life to be about souls, sacrifice, and service. Apart from Him we can do nothing, so pray that He might use this experience in the wilderness to solidify a new trajectory to your life to invest where moth and rust will not destroy


Ten Common Themes Used To Organize Our Adventures

Follow the acronym, W.I.L.D.E.R.N.E.S.S. for easy memory while in the field:


The four basic questions imbedded in one’s worldview are: 1) Where did I come from? 2) What is the meaning of life?  3) How do I determine right from wrong? 4) What happens to me after I die? (Titus 2:11-14)


Jesus retreated to the wilderness often for blessing and preparation for spiritual conflict.  Luke shows how the wilderness was a place of preparation for conflict with Satan.  Jesus also retreated to the wilderness before handling the spiritual burden of healing the multitudes.


The sky is the limit:  We could use the week to demonstrate a Biblical understanding of how to form and carry out a vision or we could emphasize how to lead, motivate and empower others to get involved and participate in what God is doing in their midst.


You may want to focus on the fruit of the Spirit, or how we are called to show mercy and pursue justice for vulnerable people in our world.  Whichever angle we take, focusing on discipleship as a learning objective is to funnel our trail talks and discussions around how we are engaging our world for the glory of God.


As followers of Jesus we want to bring the rain of the Gospel to dry and thirsty souls.  There are a myriad of ways to share the Gospel effectively with young people in the context of a wilderness journey.  For starters, write in a Gospel path through your Bible for easy reference.


Our lives are connected to a network of relationships.  What should healthy family relationships look like?  What do healthy relationships look like with friends, with your church, in your local community, across cultures?  The wilderness is a laboratory for discovering God’s design for relationships.


Wilderness therapy in the psychological sense is largely about identity formation and trust. In orienting our lives to Christ our True North, we find that He is the Great Physician and the Rock of our salvation.  Focus on helping others sever old ties to behaviors or thinking patterns that have greatly damaged their relationship with God or others


Many heroes of missions got their vision from reading stories and biographies of other missionaries who had gone out before them.  William Carey, is famous for saying, “Expect great things, attempt great things!”  This learning objective focuses on how to infect others with the missionary spirit.


There are four main elements to our ongoing conversation with God:  1) We speak to Him,  2) We believe that He listens to us, 3) He speaks back to us, and 4) We exercise discipline to listen to Him.  Conversational prayer often helps us reboot from the spiritual paralysis that comes from habitual disobedience or disbelief.


This learning objective focuses on critical thinking, decision-making and discerning the will of God.  Sensible decision-making involves handling three types of knowledge: 1) Knowing what to do, 2) Knowing how to do it, and 3) Knowing when and why to do it.


Why Wilderness Adventure Camping Ministry Works?

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature.” – Anne Frank

Young people are yearning for a meaningful vision for their future. The world of video games, and reality TV has only deepened their starvation for experiences that cause true transformation and cast compelling vision for their ultimate purpose. Thankfully, first century Palestine was absent of Grand Theft Auto IV and Boom Blox, but in reality, it did not lack distractions and burdens that were equally concerning. There were distractions of wealth, poverty, and religions. There were weighty burdens of Pharisaical laws and bitter Roman occupation. As Jesus looked into the culture of His day He settled on a surprising strategy to engage it: He chose a group of young people to turn the world upside down, He used the wilderness as His primary classroom, and He employed adventure to produce radical commitment toward His mission.


Young people need time away from distractions so they can rest their soul and learn to think clearly. Experiential learning accomplishes this through natural decision- making scenarios, and it teaches them how to avoid trivial emotional distractions while alone or within a group (Rose, 33). Simon Beames, interviewed several British kids during an adventure experience in Ghana who affirmed this reality:

Rufus felt that ‘living in a tight community where there’s no escape’ was an important aspect of the experience. He explained… ‘in the UK if you don’t like someone you can just walk away or not phone them again or stay out of their way’ …. [But in wilderness, another participant Gordo commented], ‘It’s not just about speaking to people you get on with best. Its about learning to speak with people that you want to avoid!’ …. (150)

Wilderness journeys draw out the best in young people by confronting their fears and exposing the traps of entitlement. Young people want to pursue a radical mission, and the wilderness can sever the entanglements that strangle away God’s epoch vision for their lives.


Jesus preferred to illustrate Kingdom truth in the context of Creation. He taught along roads, atop mountains, in fields, in boats, while resting in gardens. He used adventure to produce faith. For example, after a long and tiring day of ministry Jesus instructed His Disciples to go over to the other side of the lake for some rest:

And there arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up. Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him and said to Him, ‘Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?’ And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Hush, be still.’ And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm. And He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? How is it that you have no faith?’ They became very much afraid and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?’ (Mark 4:37-41)

Their strength was tested by the treachery of a furious squall to the point they thought they were going to die. Waking up in the stern of the boat, Jesus talked to the wind commanding it to halt its fury. The waves calmed. What an eerie experience that must have been to witness a conversation between Christ and His Creation! Jesus intentionally crafted this wilderness experience to show them that although they had every reason to trust Him, they still lacked faith. Could they have learned the same lesson from a lecture hall in the Temple? Or in this case, were the classroom of the sea and the timing of a raging tempest necessary to transform their hearts? The Scriptures seem to indicate the latter to be true.

Why is wilderness adventure camping so effective? Jesus shows us that the wilderness is a place where God gets our attention. If this was the way He chose to apprentice young people, then is it not equally critical now in our increasingly urban world for young people to encounter Him through wilderness adventure? Today we must re-discover this ancient apprenticing method, which produced leaders such as Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Jacob, David, Peter, James, John, and Paul. Each of them were profoundly called and shaped by God in the wilderness.


Marriage Night