Youth Week 4

John 4:13-14

Our area, northwest Ohio, is suffering through quite a drought. It has been more than four weeks since we had less than ¾ inch of rain, and almost two months since we had a good rain that saturated the ground. The crops are suffering. The lawns are brown. The streambeds and ditches are drying up.

The need for refreshing, life-giving water is apparent. The thought of clear, flowing streams of water is a desperate longing many of us have. Life cannot exist without water. We cannot make it through even part of a day without drinking some liquid refreshment to keep us going.

Today’s passage is part of Jesus’ encounter with a Samaritan woman at a well. What is the comparison he makes? What is the water he offers?

He had asked for a drink of water. She was there gathering the water she would need to make it through the day. A nice, cool cup of water on a hot and dusty day would be a welcome relief, but it would only be temporary.

So it is even with us. We can drink our fill until we are comfortable, but the need will quickly return.

But Jesus is talking about a different kind of water. Jesus is talking about the spiritual refreshment that life in the Holy Spirit offers.

Just as our daily activities and efforts will make us physically thirsty, so living in the world can make us spiritually thirsty. We may find ourselves longing for the comfort and strength, the new life, which only God can give. Dealing with daily temptations, struggling with problems and fears can wear us out. Our souls can be thirsty for some type of respite, some type of comfort, some type of energy.

We can find that by living a life that follows the teaching of Christ and is obedient to the will of God. We can be refreshed when we accept that Jesus is our Savior. And that refreshment is not a temporary respite from our struggles, but it is a constant refreshment for us, a constant wellspring of living water that fills us again and again. The presence of Jesus in our life, in our thoughts and our attitudes can keep our souls refreshed and welling up with living water that is the love of God.

Our youth offered water to strangers during their SOS experience. With that encounter they had the opportunity to invite spiritually thirsty people into a new life with Christ, into a relationship that involves the living water of Jesus.

Their ability to be compassionate and caring, their ability to be willing to share the good news with strangers, should be a refreshment to our souls. It should cause us to have that living water of God – the love of the Holy Spirit – well up in us that we might also be willing to spread the message of Christ.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Can you share the living water of Christ with anyone?

Youth Week 3

Colossians 4:2-3

Several years ago I was out at local businesses trying to gather contributions of door prizes for a special dinner. After talking with a manager at one restaurant, and preparing to leave, one of the employees came up to me and asked if I was a pastor. She had been part of the transaction and knew I was connected to a church.

She was in need. She had problems in her life and was worried about her family and relationships. I offered what guidance I could and then we prayed together.

I have never forgotten that encounter simply because it has always served as a reminder that God opened a door for that connection to take place. A person in need of some spiritual assurance encountered someone who could help, however small that help was.

That is part of my daily prayer – that I can somehow serve God in what I do and say.

Paul was aware of the incredible power of prayer, and so encouraged the believers in Colosse to commit time and energy to the matter. And why does Paul ask for prayers for himself and fellow evangelists?

If we can pray for ourselves and others to have the opportunity to spread the good news of Christ, God will open those doors for that encounter. Not only will God present the opportunities, He will also make it easier to have those encounters, and He will make those times effective.

Our youth were presented many opportunities to pray for a wide variety of needs while at Summer of Service. They prayed for families in need. They prayed for those who were working to help. They prayed that the hearts of those with influence will be swayed to do their part in helping people in need.

They also prayed for themselves, that they might be an instrument of God’s good work.

These young people are an example to us all. We should each take the time and energy to devote to prayer, praying for others and praying for ourselves, that God might open a door for His message to be shared.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Pray that God will use you to share His message.

Youth Week 2

James 3:13

When I first began the ministry years ago, each Sunday someone placed a glass of ice-water on the pulpit. I never saw who did it and no one ever came forward to accept thanks or praise. Even when I tried to watch for the person, something would come up that distracted me and when I went up into the pulpit the glass was there.

A simple glass of cold water can easily be overlooked or dismissed as unimportant, but I soon discovered I needed that water when I spoke. I counted it as a wonderful help to me.

It’s also important to remember that I never asked for the water and there were times when I didn’t drink any of it. Still, every week there was a glass of water in case I did need it.

Why all the fuss about a glass of water? Because it seems to fit with today’s passage. Who is wise among you? Let him show it by good deeds done in humility.

Wisdom is more than intelligence. Wisdom involves an understanding, intuitiveness, a comprehension of life. The truly wise person will understand the needs of others. The truly wise person will understand that good deeds are necessary to help others in Christian love.

And when the wise person sees a need, the wise person will do good deeds, but those deeds will be done in humility. The deeds will not be done to earn acclaim and praise – they will be done simply to help those in need.

Whoever delivered the weekly glass of water was wise enough to understand such a gift was helpful – not every time, but often enough that the water was there week after week. Whoever delivered the water acted in humility, a humility (I am certain) which came through wisdom. Whoever brought the water did so to help another person and not to earn thanks.

In their Summer of Service experience the youth in our church learned to serve others in the humility of wisdom. The work they did was not done to garner praise, but was done to help those in need. And much of the work was labor most people would not do even if they were paid.

Our youth experienced service done in humility. And now they will share this Christian attitude and experience with others. Hearing their stories, or simply knowing that these young people have lived out the Christian calling, should cause each of us to examine our own deeds and attitudes.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Is there a kind deed that you can do in the humility of wisdom?

Youth Sunday 1

1 Timothy 4:12-14

It always amazes me that I can read a Bible passage one day and get a certain meaning from it. It applies to my life in this way or that. Then, on another day, I can read the same passage and get a different, yet equally important message. I have read this passage on several occasions, but when I read through it last week in preparation for today it was so profound it brought me to tears.

This week’s message will be presented by the youth group of our church. Early this summer they took part in “Summer of Service” at the Cincinnati Vineyard Church in southwest Ohio. “Summer of Service” is a week-long mission and outreach experience for teen-agers. On the Sunday before they left the congregation gathered around them, laid hands on them, and we prayed for them – that God might be with them to guide and protect, that they might be empowered to serve God and others.

Since all three of our children were part of this group, I know that they had an incredible time and we anticipate a great time of sharing this coming Sunday. Thinking of what they have done and what they will do brings new meaning to this passage from 1 Timothy.

Timothy is instructed to be an example to other believers in spite of his youth. He is not to let his young age be a distraction to others or an inroad for criticism and detraction. He is to continue reading the Scripture and continue teaching and preaching. Timothy was given a gift from God, a gift to teach and lead. And this gift came through the gathering of leading believers who literally laid hands on him and offered prayer.

And all of this passage was lived out and will be lived out in my presence and the presence of our congregation. We laid hands on our youth and God gifted them with abilities and an experience opportunity. In spite of their age, these young people are examples to all of us on how to work for God. And they will teach us on Sunday – using Scripture as a base. They will preach to us through their sharing.

We are seeing the Bible come to life. We are seeing Christian faith being lived out. We are being presented with actions that imitate the life of Jesus, examples that we can all follow. Regardless of age or experience, regardless of appearance and differences we may have, those who serve the Lord with a willing and devout heart are examples to all of us, examples we need to follow in our own lives.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Who do you know who can teach you what it means to serve God?