My wife and I moved here to Lufkin 4 years ago to serve the Central and the youth. It feels like a REALLY long time ago! So much has happened! More trips than I can count with more teens than I can count; fortunately, my wife was with on almost every single one of these trips (she’s much better at counting). I’ve taught more lessons than I can remember and been taught even more lessons. I’ve learned a significant amount concerning grace as it was given to me on a consistent basis. I discovered the power of patience as I witnessed our adult leaders work tirelessly beside me through constant trial and error. I’ve been shown the power of youth as I’ve seen some of the most selfless acts of love and service coming from teens who showed me they are concerned for more than just themselves. I’ve watched kids and adults suffer and grow and falter and fight all while being developed into a greater image of Christ Jesus Himself. It’s been a wild ride, one we chose knowing we would be stepping out of our comfort zone, knowing we were inviting God to move through us because we were incapable of doing anything substantive on our own. We have been thoroughly blessed by our time here at Central and we pray the same blessings over you. We don’t know what the future looks like but we know God has way bigger plans that any of us could dream. As a parting word I’d like to share our Youth Ministry's theme verse, you can find it all in Ephesians 3:14-21. “I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."
We’ve been exploring the Bible, and our every day reactions to this challenging season in light of Proverbs 3:5-6. A devotional stood out to me this week that I wanted to share as it has some great encouragement and truth within. You can find this devo and others at utmost.org <http://utmost.org> this one is entitled: Don’t Plan Without God. It is based on the verse in Psalm 37:5 “Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.”
Don’t plan without God. God seems to have a delightful way of upsetting the plans we have made, when we have not taken Him into account. We get ourselves into circumstances that were not chosen by God, and suddenly we realize that we have been making our plans without Him— that we have not even considered Him to be a vital, living factor in the planning of our lives. And yet the only thing that will keep us from even the possibility of worrying is to bring God in as the greatest factor in all of our planning.
In spiritual issues it is customary for us to put God first, but we tend to think that it is inappropriate and unnecessary to put Him first in the practical, everyday issues of our lives. If we have the idea that we have to put on our “spiritual face” before we can come near to God, then we will never come near to Him. We must come as we are.
The devo continues, check it out for yourself and grow to place God first in every aspect of your life. Then, come before God just as you are!
We use the Bible, and even the name of God, to determine and promote fairness and equality. I believe this is important and valuable in considering what is worth fighting for or standing up for. But too often, we use it as an authority in order to demand things of others that they’re not willing to give. This leads us to using the Word of God as a weapon against each other rather than against the real enemy. Luke tells a story of someone attempting to use Jesus in this manner and what Jesus’ response is. Read Luke 12:13-21. A man begins asking Jesus to speak as an authority figure in a dispute over inheritance. Jesus immediately responds, not to the question, but to the underlying problem. He tells a story of planning for the future and setting aside wealth in order to live an easier life. But then the story takes an immediate left turn as God declares “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” Jesus finishes with the statement that “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” This man was seeking fairness and equality. But was it on behalf of another? Was it for the sake of the Kingdom of God? Was it for the glory of God? No, it was very clearly a self-serving request. Jesus redirects the question to show that the only important thing we can do with our lives is to be rich toward God. If you’re not sure what this looks like in your life take a look at Proverbs 3:5-6 again. Trust in the Lord. Lean not on your own understanding. Submit your ways to Him. And remember the promise at the end. He will make your paths straight!
Just about every story of Jesus knocks me over. No matter how many times I read a story I end up reading it in a new way or with fresh eyes or maybe I notice something unique or just realize I had forgotten how powerful it was and I am newly amazed by the way Jesus loved people and led them to straight paths to the throne of God. The story of the 10 lepers in Luke 17 is one of these stories. Reading it in light of what’s happening right now as well as reading it right after studying Proverbs 3:5-6 for a month was very enlightening. These lepers are all totally without hope. Unable to make plans for the future. Their dreams consist purely of healing. This debilitating and ostracizing disease has dashed their dreams and hopes down to the basest of desires. Health, security, and relationships. So, when they receive word from Jesus to simply go and show themselves, all 10, in faith, begin the trek to show themselves before the Elders. As they find themselves healed and cleansed during this walk of faith they race back home! I’m imagining hearing word of a miraculous cure to COVID that is available to ALL of us and how great the rejoicing would be as our dreams and hopes for the future were renewed and we quickly go back to our normal lives. However, one leper returns to Jesus and bows at His feet in thankful worship and praise. Jesus led all 10 lepers to the straight path but only 1 of them had clarity to see the value of following Christ over returning to normal. Let partnering with Jesus and the Kingdom of God be our dream. This is a dream that doesn’t change and isn’t postponed in any circumstance!