Hello Ringgold United Methodist youth, youth leaders, and youth families!
Is this a week to say TGIF, or has everyone forgotten that it is Friday? It is kind of difficult to keep up with the days, huh? I am writing this just one (short? long?) week after it was decided to cancel services and ministry in-person events, but time has been hard to measure lately. Some of you may be wondering why it has taken me a week to send something to you, but others of you may understand waiting on the Lord, seeking His face, and being intentional about moving forward. For me, it has taken this long to hear from God and discern some clarity on the near future. Nobody is really in a place to do too much projecting into the future, so I am sure you will understand!
First and foremost, I want to give praise to the Lord for remaining on the throne, being there 24/7, and answering me when I have cried out to Him for direction!
“For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, But My lovingkindness will not be removed from you, And My covenant of peace will not be shaken,” says the LORD who has compassion on you.(Isaiah 54:10 NASB) HALLELUJAH!
Secondly, I want to share with you the “plan” that I have discerned from the Lord about which I have peace and confidence. This was shared with the Youth Leadership Team in an online meeting held last night.
As you would agree, a doctor’s role is to care for your physical well-being and to show concern for your body. A teacher’s role is to care for your mind in terms of growing you in that area of life, though most teachers love greatly and care for other areas as well. I see a youth pastor’s role as being to care for your soul. Yes, most ministers care for people in many ways, and they often minister to an individual’s mind, body, and soul/spirit. However, in my calling, the role that I am to play is to direct you toward caring for your soul. Notice that I say “to direct you” because ultimately soul care is up to you! Just as a doctor can’t make you take your medicine, I can’t make you pay attention to the needs of your soul and spirit! As Reggie said at Resurrection, “Put down the phone and look me in the eye!” In this case, put down your devices, listen to me say “Go to God!”, and then know that I am here for you to process whatever it is that God is doing in your soul and spirit!
As Christians, we often think to ourselves, “what would Jesus do?”. We don’t know exactly what Jesus would do in this modern digital age with videos and devices. What we do know is that Jesus healed many because He knew they were outcasts due to their physical ailments, and He knew that people are made to be in relationship with others. In other words, Jesus knows that we need human interaction because He made us that way. The other thing that we do know is that Jesus’ most painful moment in His life was on the cross, and from there He gives us great evidence about what He did in those painful moments. The evidence is clear in Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34 when Jesus cried to His Father, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”
I don’t know if you feel forsaken, but I do know that if Jesus’ response was to go to His Father in His darkest hour, then we can know what Jesus would do and model the same for ourselves. Even before we run to each other or run to care for ourselves or other loved ones, we should be running to our Father and talking to Him, learning from Him, and snuggling up close to hear what He wants to say.
For the near future, I want to encourage each and every youth to run to the Father first! Afterwards, we can get together and talk about what God is teaching you, revealing to you, and speaking to you. We can talk about ways to deepen your faith, perhaps in ways that you have never quite experienced before. Because your personal relationship with Christ is just that, personal, you will need to have your own personal plan of action. That is my role! I am here to direct you to the Lord and help you know exactly how to do that in a way that suits you individually and personally.
If you feel confident to charge ahead, then stop reading and go get busy. If this “plan” seems a little uncertain to you, then here is a little list of some ideas and steps that you can take.
ASK GOD! Pause, ask God to help you, and consider if there is something that you have been wanting to learn or study. You need to pick something in the Bible to read/study.
- Here is a great place to find specific Bible verses by various topics https://www.biblestudytools.com/topical-verses/
- Not yet reading the book of Mark with the rest of the church? Start there! Just read a chapter a day. In 16 days, you will have completed the book.
- Never read through the Bible in order? Start at the beginning, either the Old Testament in Genesis or the New Testament in Matthew. Just read a chapter a day.
- Have a favorite Bible verse? Memorize it!
- Have a favorite Bible verse? Start in the book where your favorite verse is found.
- Don’t have a favorite Bible verse? Choose one based on your birthday at this link: https://www.storkie.com/birthverse.aspx Now study the verses around that verse and/or memorize that verse.
- Prefer to follow someone else’s reading plan for you? Download Youversion on your phone or go to bible.com on a computer and you can find youth reading plans like this: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans-collection/1433
- Don’t want to read a chapter each day? Try the S.O.A.P. method for any passage. You can google it and find information, or here is a quick summary:
- WHAT DOES S.O.A.P. MEAN?
- S– The S stands for Scripture- you physically write out the scripture……you’ll be amazed that what God will reveal to you just by taking the time to slow down and actually write out what you are reading!
- O– The O stands for observation- what do you see in the verses that you’re reading? Who is the audience? Is there a repetition of words? What words stand out to you?
- A– The A stands for Application- this is when God’s Word becomes personal. What is God saying to me today? How can I apply what I just read to my own personal life? What changes do I need to make? Is there an action that I need to take?
- P– And finally P stands for Prayer. Pray God’s Word back to Him. If He has revealed something to you during this time in His Word, pray about it. Confess if He has revealed some sin that is in your life.
- Studying God’s Word like this can take as little or as long as you have time to give. Some days it can take just 10 or 15 minutes, other days longer.
MAKE A PLAN FOR ACCOUNTABILITY! If you really want to hear from God, you should remind yourself that Satan would be really happy for that NOT to happen. If you think you will get discouraged, quit, forget, or be frustrated, then make a plan to keep that from happening.
- Find a friend to go the journey with you.
- Call, text, or message me, and I will check on you! (I might do this anyway, but feel free to reach out first!)
- Set a reminder on your phone to do this each day.
- Ask a family member (wow…maybe even a parent?) to do this with you.
INCLUDE PRAYER AND/OR JOURNALING! Step number 1 was to find something in the Bible to read. Step number 2 is to put a plan in place to make sure you can be successful. Step three is to go beyond reading.
- Pray! You can do it…just talk to God. Start with just a few minutes a day.
- Here is a site with links to various prayer methods. Check them out, and any will work if they seem good to you: https://insight.typepad.co.uk/insight/2008/07/helping-young-people-to-pray.html
- Afraid you might fall asleep if you start praying? (Hey–it happens to all of us!) If you prefer, journal your prayer to God. You can write it out on paper, the good old-fashioned way. Or, you can start your own online journal for free here: https://penzu.com/ Maybe it is easier to write God a nice little “Dear God” prayer letter.
SHARE WITH ME! I want to be on this independent study with you. I want to hear from you! I believe that God wants to speak, and I believe that He will speak to you! Please share with me what He is doing. I will reach out to you, a few at a time, and I will check in to see how I can walk the journey with you. We can connect online in a video call, or we can text each other, or we can talk by phone. We can talk in groups of 2 or 3, or we can talk one-on-one. Whatever it is, once God starts speaking, you are going to be excited and want to share. I will be excited to listen!
I know you have enough reading for school, and I know you need to spend time with your families, and I know you need to get some physical exercise too. I hope this doesn’t sound like one more assignment on a list of things to do. Rather, think of it as a hunt to discover just what it is that God might be holding on to and saving just for YOU! He loves you more than anybody, He knows you better than anyone else, and He is waiting for you to come knocking on His door. I can’t wait to hear how He speaks and how that gives lots to talk about when we can all come together again.
Serving Him (and cheering you on!),