Christian youth speaker
This past Wednesday night, I traveled to Gun Barrel City, TX (awesome name for a city, BTW), to speak at the Spiritual Boot Camp at the Cedar Creek Church of God. While the evening took a turn we didn’t expect so that I didn’t get to present my story (I am returning on August 8 to present), I witnessed one of the most amazing displays of faith I’ve ever seen. At the front of the sanctuary a trash can had been placed on the stage, and that trash can had a label on it marked “Sin and Distractions.” Now, having been to many youth events, I’ve seen this kind of thing before. Usually, teens are asked to write some sin on a slip of paper and walk up to the front to throw it away. It’s a great symbolic gesture, but a gesture was not enough for the teens at Cedar Creek as I soon found out.
Before the event began, I walked up to the trash can and was blown away to see joints, bags of illegal drugs, porn magazines and videos, condoms, and other sinful pleasures. These weren’t words written on pieces of paper, but the actual devices of sin. Throughout the evening during the praise, teen after teen came forward to add to the trash can. With tears streaming down their faces, they would throw in their drugs, magazines, etc, and would immediately be greeted by the other teenagers in the room with hugs, applause, and excitement. The responses were amazing, and they reminded me of a part of the story of the prodigal son. I got a chance to share with the teens for a few minutes at the end and we focused on this statement in the story from Luke 15: 20:
So he got up and went to his father.
But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
In this story, a son has squandered all his inheritance in a distant country, and he decides to return to his father to work as a servant as his actions surely would mean he could no longer be called his father’s son. However, Jesus (who is telling the story) throws a surprise twist and has God (represented by the father in the story) run out and welcome his son home. I absolutely love this particular statement: But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him. Where does the father (God) have to be in order to see his son returning home?
He had to be on the porch…waiting each and every moment of the day for his son to return.
God awaits for his children to come to Him…and there isn’t a hint of condemnation… His father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
Those teens who were repenting and bringing their sins forward to throw away were not being met by a disdain from Heaven, but rather by a God and a Heaven waiting with open arms and throwing the biggest party ever! I praise God for His amazing grace!
Last week, we got to spend some time in Johnson City, KS. I know…I had to look it up, too! Johnson City is in the far southwestern corner of the state and is only a few miles from the Colorado and Texas borders. It was quite literally the “middle of nowhere.” While a remote destination, the people of Johnson City, KS, couldn’t have been a nicer bunch!
Our trip began at a Wednesday night service at Fields Memorial Wesleyan Church to a group of teenagers and adults. We had a wonderful evening of pizza, worship, and a message to get those in attendance to ponder what it means to be a positive Christian. I believe that’s the only way Christians can serve and carry out God’s will in the world…we must be a happy people!
On Thursday, I began the morning at Stanton County High School, speaking to the students there about truly living life for all it’s worth, and about not letting any obstacle get in your way. We had a blast during the question and answer time that I always try to incorporate in my school presentations. The students asked questions for a good thirty-five minutes and we had a great discussion on how to approach others with disabilities…along with some fun stuff like answering how I play Rockband 2!
Thursday night, I spoke at the Life Support Crisis Pregnancy Center’s Annual Banquet. This event was the main reason for being in Johnson City, KS, and the banquet was wonderful. So many people showed up that the hosts had to put out more tables! We met so many people with their own stories of hope and inspiration, and I loved being able to encourage and support Life Support in their efforts. We had a fabulous time with Lisa (the Exec. Director of Life Support) and her wonderful family! We felt right at home in Johnson City!
Two weeks ago, I got the opportunity to speak at the 2009 Akastasia youth rally at the Southwest Church of Christ in Omaha, NE. The theme for the weekend was “Be Contagious.” We focused on basic elements of being contagious with the message of Jesus.
Saturday morning, I talked about “how” to be contagious. So often, we allow our ourselves to put up road blocks and obstacles when we should be celebrating what we have been given. We focus so often on what we don’t have, when God asks for our best with what we have been given.
Saturday night, I gave a reason for us to be contagious. Simply put, God’s unfailing love compells us to live happy, joy-filled lives. That love gives us all the reason we need to be contagious.
Sunday morning, I finished with the “who.” While I believe everyone deserves God’s love and salvation, I am concerned that we not put our own limitations on it by deciding who is worthy of love. So often, people that look like us are easy to accept, but someone who looks different (whether it be race, age, sex, disability, etc) is oftened shunned. Or, worse, the church has flat out rejected them as unworthy. I told the youth and the rest of the church that morning that Jesus shows us time and time again that each and every human being is important to God. We ought to follow his example and leave our prejudices aside when it comes to the Kingdom of God.
The weekend was awesome, and I loved getting to know some of the amazing teens that weekend.
We continued our Nebraska tour by heading to the University of Nebraska at Kearney, which I’ll tell you all about next time. I’ll leave you with a picture from Akastasia 2009.
Last night, I had the pleasure of speaking to the 24/7 High School Youth Group at my home congregation, Richland Hills Church of Christ. Not only was I asked to speak, but I got to have my dad with me for our “All He Needs for Heaven” presentation, and I was given the opportunity to lead worship as well. The evening was a blast, and the students were so encouraging to worship with and to get to talk to. With their hands in the air, they praised at the top of their lungs, and I could tell that their joy was coming from deep within their souls. It was a wonderfully relaxing atmosphere, and the group’s passion for living a God-filled life was evident all around us.
It felt great to “be at home.” Joni, Hannah, and I attend Richland Hills, and speaking there always feels so right since we’re very literally talking to our family. Last night had a first for me, too, as I got to lead instrumental worship. I had a blast, and the band was wonderful to work with. I love that we can celebrate and worship our God in so many different ways, and I look forward to a lifetime of praising God in whatever way I can.