Day 24-Competition (Devotions for my High Schoolers)

football

Philippians 2:3-4 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

During Homecoming week, the football game is nearly as big a deal to many kids as the homecoming dance.  There are a variety emotions that surface when you compete.  Competing in sports or in school or in band can be fun and challenging and rewarding.  I think that there is something satisfying to training and then being able to see the results of your hard work show during competition.  Competition, however, is not for everyone.  Laird Hamilton, a legendary surfer whom some consider to one of the world’s greatest athletes, never competed in judged surfing competitions.  In his mind, surfing is an art and not something to be judged.  He was also, by his own admission, so competitive that he didn’t think he could handle losing.  There is an old saying that says the the creative person is fulfilled by accomplishment, but the competitive person is fulfilled by beating others. Which one are you?  Do you find satisfaction in doing your very best? Or do you find satisfaction in delivering a loss to someone else?    

The Apostle Paul reminds the people living in Philippi that they should, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.” Instead, they should see the value of others even above themselves.  I am not sure what exactly that looks like in completion, but I am pretty sure it would show itself in respect of the game, the rules, your opponents and your teammates.  On the one hand, I am sure your school wants to win the big game. On the other hand, God reminds us that Christians bring value to this earth when we build each other up rather than squash them to the ground for our own gain.  So, go compete, but do it in a way that lets your light shine as a child of God.

Prayer

Heavenly Father, we are so thankful that you have given us healthy competition. Help us to be true sportsman as we seek to do our best and find joy in accomplishment rather than relishing the defeat of others.  In Jesus’ name, who accomplished our salvation through his perfect performance.  Amen

Day 23-Dressed Up (Devotions for my High Schoolers)

dressing up

Isaiah 61:10 “I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

One of the best things about Homecoming week is dressing up…at least for the girls.  Yet, I think if they are honest, even boys would admit it is pretty fun to wear something special.  You can probably remember a time when you were younger and how you looked for a chance to wear something special.  Little girls wear dresses and plastic high heals.  Boys imagine that they are superheroes as they put on the costumes of Iron Man or Batman.

Over 30 years ago a salesman named Larry Weiss first invented Underoos.  If you have never owned them, they are underwear and a top that are themed as superheroes or other popular characters. They started out with Wonder Woman, but now they have just about every popular character you can think of.  In a sense, Larry Weiss gave kids that first opportunity to feel like superheroes…even if it was only in their underwear.  Underoos were a big hit and still are today.  

Even as we grow up, I don’t think we have outgrow this desire to feel special because of our clothing. High Schoolers still make special trips to the store to buy homecoming outfits. Brides spends weeks or even months trying to find the perfect dress. I am guessing that you have a favorite outfit that you like to wear that makes you feel just a little better.  

As believers, there are plenty of times when we do or say things that don’t make us feel very good. This is the very opposite of feeling special, we feel guilty because of our sin not matter what outfit we are wearing.  In Isaiah 61 verse 10, the prophet Isaiah, who lived about 700 years before Jesus, reminds us that in God’s eyes we are no longer covered by sin. Because of what Jesus has done on the cross, we are covered in “a robe of his righteousness.” This means that Jesus’ perfect life is the outfit that we wear instead of a jacket of guilt.  This means we are forgiven. This is not some gimmick like Underoos, this is the real deal. In Christ you are forgiven, free to live for him and, well special.   

Prayer

Heavenly Father, we are so thankful that you have covered us up with your perfection.  Help us now live as your forgiven children, wrapped in a robe of your perfection.   In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Day 22-Filled with the Spirit (Devotions for My High Schoolers)

spirit week

Ephesians 5:18, “…be filled with the Spirit.” 

Homecoming is a big week in high school.  Many schools around the country have what the call “Spirit Week.” The gist of it is this: students play games, sing, compete and generally try to show their school spirit while trying not to appear too dorky.  Of course, it is dorky. However,  attending a school that has great school pride and spirit is way more fun than attending one that does not. The same is for most events. Have you ever gone to an event where no one seemed to care, like a wedding where you were the only one who seemed to want to dance? Not that fun. Now, can you remember going to a concert of your favorite band or attending a game where everyone was a fan, where everyone knew the words, sang along and yelled at the all the right times?  Way more fun, right? 

When the Bible talks about being “filled with the Spirit” is not talking about the feeling of pride that you get when they score points or when your favorite song comes comes on the radio and you want sing along?  The Spirit the Bible is talking about here is the Holy Spirit.  In other words, Paul is telling the people who lived in Ephesus, “Let your day be filled with the Holy Spirit.”  What does that look like?  While you might yell or scream or shout at the big game or at a concert, when the Bible tells us to be filled with the Spirit, it gives us some examples… “speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:19-20)  In other words, let the words you use to talk and encourage this day be from your heart…a heart filled with the Spirit, and not with the selfishness that the Devil so wants us to have.  

Prayer

Heavenly Father, we are so thankful that you have filled our hearts with your Holy Spirit.  We pray that the faith we have in our heart can show itself in our words and actions this day.  While we celebrate our school this week, cheer and play dorky games, we pray that still are a light in a dark world for the people that do not yet know you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Day 7-Remember (Devotions for my high school students)

photo-1520013573795-38516d2661e4Deuteronomy 6:12  be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

So we are now entering your second full week of school. Sorry I can’t be here this morning, I’m out of town. I hope you had a good breakfast and that you are ready to start your day. Wait, are you ready? Did you remember your lunch? Your backpack? Your instrument? Do you have the right stuff for PE? Do you have what you need for practice after school? Do you have a ride? 

I bring these up not to make you worry, but to help you see, even at your age, just how many different things you need to remember to have a successful day of school. That doesn’t even get into combing your hair, taking a shower, getting dressed. What about drinking enough water and brushing your teeth? The point is, you have hundreds of decisions to make every morning to make sure you have a great day. If you forget just one thing, let’s say brushing your teeth, your whole day could be difficult. That could make you not want to talk to your friends, you could be self-conscience in lab instead of thinking about what you are trying to learn. You could think more about bumming gum off of a friend rather than learning a new song. 

You wouldn’t be the first person to forget something important. The Israelites (remember these are the Jews were called when they were lead by Moses around 1500) were getting ready to enter a new land and God wanted them to remember something important. He said, 12 be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. Deuteronomy 6:12. What he was saying is that in all the bustle of the move, don’t forget God.  Now, you might not be moving, but there are plenty of things going on in your life.  Plenty of things that can keep you from remembering Jesus.  God is telling you, just like he told the Israelites, don’t forget your Savior. 

Prayer

Heavenly Father, thank you for your mercy and all you have done for us. It is so easy in our busy lives to forget you, or even push you to the back burner. Help us today to keep you present in our mind as we face the joys and challenges of today. In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Day 4 “Original” (Devotions for my high school students).

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Dick Proenneke “Alone in Alaska” on PBS

Genesis 1:25  God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.”

What does it take to be original?  What does it take to make your own stuff?  I mean really, can you imagine producing all your own stuff? I once watched a show about a guy who was in Alaska living off the land.  He made his own tools, chopped down his own trees, grew his own vegetables and hunted with weapons he made. In one episode he catches a fish with a hook and line he made and then he made a door with working hinges out of wood. Seriously.  I was exhausted just watching this guy.  But it you think about it, he didn’t really make all his own stuff. He didn’t design the trees or the salmon. He didn’t actually create vegetables. He just took something that was already there and used it for his own purposes. 

To me, one of the most amazing things about our God is his creativity.  Literally out of nothing, he created everything beautiful that you know and see. He created blueberries and salmon and beef and sunsets and mountains. Everything.  I guess you could say that the only thing original with humans is sin. Sin that separates us from God.  I am not so proud of that, but even in our whoas we see God’s glory. Who but God could come up with such an original plan to save us? He sent a son, born of a woman, who was true God and true man in one person. That one man, lives perfectly in our place, then dies in our place, then rises from the dead to prove that we are truly forgiven. All that to save us for  the single truly original thing we came up with.

Prayer

Heavenly Father, I am not sure I can even get my brain around what it would take to truly original.  Help us today to really think about that idea, and what it takes to be the one and only creator of the world and the one and only Savior from our sins. Amen.

Day 2-It is Good to Work (Devotions for my high school kids)

green-chameleon-21532-unsplash.jpgGenesis 2:15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

I pray you had a great first day of school.  I don’t know how you feel about this, but I always thought the first day of school was one of the best.  You get to see your friends. You get to wear new outfits or shoes. There is absolutely no pressure to have homework done. Maybe times have changed, but back in my day (Did I just seriously use that phrase?), even class was easy.  You get seating assignments, hear expectations and scan ahead while your teacher reads a boring syllabus to see if any big assignments are required at the end of the year. In a word, the first day of school was “cake.”

Day two? Now that’s a different story.  Day two is when you actually have to work. You have to take notes. You have to pay attention. You have to listen with intentionality. No more ice breaker games, or going around in a circle to remember everyone’s spirit animal. No more “What was best thing you did this summer” time-filler stories until the bell rings. Nope, just school. Just work.

I don’t know if you noticed, but tucked in Moses’ inspired account of creation, we have this verse in Genesis chapter 2. “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”  Now this may not seem like a big of a deal, but if you remember, the Garden of Eden was a perfect place and at this time, (before Genesis 3 and the fall into sin) there was no shame or guilt or anything bad.  In other words, even in paradise, Adam had a job to do.  I am guessing that if you think about it, it is not such a big surprise.  I would also guess that some of your most rewarding days in school came after working through a tough problem, completing a project that you never thought possible, or simply hearing the approval of a teacher who recognizes your work. So, as you get ready for second day of school, my encouragement is pretty simple: Enjoy the hard work, because in hard work you will find joy.

Prayer

Heavenly Father, we can’t imagine what it would take to create billions of unique human beings. You truly are awesome. Also, thank you for giving us challenges and work in which we can find joy. Of course, school can be hard, but we know that you are there with us. We also know that because Christ worked out our salvation on the cross and we don’t have to work to pay for our own sins, we have a freedom to serve you in all we do, especially our work. Give us today the energy do our best and the satisfaction of experiences a job well done. Amen.

Day 1 In the Beginning-(Devotions for my High School Kids)

inthebeginningGenesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  Now the earth was formless and void.

Today is the first day of school. That is super-awesome and of course, super-scary.  What will this year bring? Will it be a good year or a bad year. Will this be the year you ace your exams or the year you experience failure?

The most famous of all beginnings was the beginning our planet. There was God, arranging things just how they should be. But if you listen closely, you probably noticed that the earth was not quite right, it was not finished. The verse said, “Now the earth was formless and void.”  That means literally it was Tovoo va vohoo. It was empty, it wasn’t put together just yet.  So what did God do? He did the the thing that only he can do, he started to create something beautiful out of the nothingness. 

In a way, that is how you start this year. Sure, you have friends and classes and schedules. But this year is, in a sense, empty. Today, you start a brand new year. You can do just about anything you want with it. You can decide to slack off, dork around, skip workouts or even punt assignments. You can choose to make this the year that you try alcohol. This can be the year you smoke pot or even gossip about your friends OR you can make something beautiful. You can build something worthwhile.  

No doubt, to make something great takes work. You will be tired, you may, at times, feel alone, you may even feel overwhelmed as assignments deadlines hit the same day you have sports. But know this, that same God who fashioned the planet together with the power of his Word, the same God who took something empty and dark and made it something extraordinarily beautiful, is the same God who took the darkness of your sin, and made it pure and holy though his Son—yes, that God is the one who stands by you, who loves you and gives you the power to make this year beautiful. 

Prayer

Heavenly Father, thank you for making our planet, our bodies and our minds. We pray that this is year is something beautiful. We know it will take work, but we also know the work you put in through Jesus to give us this opportunity to serve you. We ask that we have a chance to grow this year in our minds, with our friends and even physically as we compete.  Finally, when we do feel overwhelmed, help us to focus on you, the creator of all things beautiful.  Amen.