Many different youth leaders, adult leaders, and youth have been a part of Holland’s Youth Ministry over the years, but one place has always stood the test of time. The picture (taken atop Shackford Hall) for today’s devotional is more than just a picture to some of you. If you’re like me, this picture can be filled with countless memories and leaves you wanting to make more memories. Lake Junaluska is a special place to us for a variety of different reasons. In middle school, it was here that I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. In high school, it was here that I finally helped Holland’s win the volleyball tournament (we beat the staff 21-0 and made other churches argue with each other). As an adult leader, it was here that my life came full circle, and it was here that I watched my sister get married. If it weren’t for COVID-19, Holland’s would be here today playing volleyball, eating Waffle House, and praising God (for order of importance…reverse the order!)
Lake J gives us a literal spiritual mountaintop experience. In Exodus, we can read about Moses coming down from Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments to share the covenant laws with the Israelites. Moses did not realize that his face was actually glowing while walking down the mountain because he had been on top of the mountain talking with God. Exodus 34:30 says, “When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him.” When we come home from Lake J we are just like Moses. Our faces are glowing with the Holy Spirit inside of us and people probably look at us a little funny. However, as time goes on, this feeling starts to wear off.
It’s a tradition at Lake J to sing the song “Pass It On” and shout “PRAISE GOD” into the mountain range as we hear it echo back to us. My favorite part of the song says, “It only takes a spark to get a fire going. And soon all those around will warm up to its glowing. That’s how it is with God’s love once you experience it. You spread His love to everyone. You want to pass it on.” We may not be at Lake J today, but we don’t have to be glowing on top of the mountain to spread God’s love. PASS IT ON.
Do you hear that sound? I’m talking about the sound that you can’t really describe. It’s the sound of SILENCE. You know, like at youth group when Mrs. Susan asks, “Is there anyone who feels led to pray?” The best kept secret (until now) for adult youth leaders to get youth to be quiet is to simply ask, “Who wants to pray?” Saying a prayer out loud (or even to yourself) can feel like a very scary and difficult thing to do, but I’m here to tell you otherwise. If you follow these two steps, you’ll always pray the best prayer you ever prayed.
Step 1 – Before praying, make sure you understand that you have no idea what to say. If you’re still reading, you’re probably thinking; “You’re crazy, Jacob!” That may be true but hear me out. Romans 8:26 tells us, “The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” Whenever I start to pray; I tell God that I have no idea what to say, but that’s when the Holy Spirit takes over. I trust in the Holy Spirit and I’m willing to let it provide all of the right words (or groans) to perfectly articulate what I’m feeling at that very moment.
Step 2 – Pray like a cricket. When you’re outside around sunset in the summertime, you’ll hear crickets chirping in the background. It doesn’t matter what’s going on outside, those crickets will chirp all night long. Then, they will get up the next day and chirp some more. Praying is a lot like this! We don’t need to worry about what is going on around us. Life can be hard, but we need to be willing to pray…and find the time to do it every day.
Remember that a prayer is just a simple conversation between you and God. God doesn’t want us to be afraid to talk to Him. He is always there and always listening. Embrace the inevitable moment of silence and chirp…I mean pray!
When I was learning to swim, one of the coolest parts about being in the pool was when I would go underwater and open my eyes. There is something really fascinating about being able to see what’s going on underneath the surface of the pool. I was the kid who loved to go diving to the bottom of the pool searching for pool toys or picking up items that people had lost, which had sank to the bottom. Some kids were always too scared to swim down to the bottom, but not me! Now, I don’t know about you, but I have never been able to open my eyes underwater without my goggles on. I am amazed at people who can do that! The chlorine burns my eyes, so I think people who can do that are actually fish and not human!
One of my all-time favorite Christian songs is, “Open The Eyes of My Heart.” The main line of the song says, “Open the eyes of my heart, Lord; I want to see you.” When I think about how different things look underwater, it reminds me of how different our world appears when we view it through the eyes of our heart. The Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 1:18, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you.”
God desires for us to view the world with our “heart eyes” rather than our regular judgmental eyes, and as the song says, keep ourselves “Holy, Holy, Holy.” Since we are all sinners, this isn’t easy! Half the battle is acknowledging you need help and actively asking God for that help. So, just as you would put on your goggles to see clearly underwater, go listen to “Open The Eyes of My Heart” and let God help you. God loves to look underneath the surface and wants to see you too!
What’s one thing most siblings have in common? They love making up things about each other to their parents to see if they can get each other in trouble. If you’re an older sibling, you must be the “favorite child.” If you’re a younger sibling, you must be “always innocent.” How blessed must our parents feel to know that all of their children are perfect and that their kids can never do anything wrong! Of course I’m joking, because we know that our parents love us equally and nobody is perfect…except for the one person who was literally chosen and created to be perfect….Jesus Christ!
I’m reminded of a man named Stephen in the Bible who was chosen to proclaim the teaching of Jesus Christ after His resurrection and ascension into heaven. We are introduced to Stephen in the book of Acts (Chapters 6-8), where we are told that the 12 disciples needed some help in spreading the word about Jesus Christ, so they recruited Stephen, “a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit.” Stephen was very bold and brave when he taught others about Jesus, so much so that people begin to make up things he was saying because they were secretly jealous and amazed at how passionate he was about Christ. The Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria tried to tell the high priests that Stephen was “speaking words of blasphemy against Moses and against God.” In response to this, Stephen proceeds to basically retell the entire Old Testament from memory to try to prove to people accusing him that they are the ones ignoring God’s word, not him! In response to this, the Jews stoned Stephen to death and his last words were, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”
Stephen knew he wasn’t Jesus, but he did everything he could, right up to death, to ensure others got the chance to know all about Jesus. We can all learn from Stephen because God chooses each of us to reflect Christ and teach others about Christ in our own way. We don’t need to make anything up because the Bible provides us with everything we need (even when dealing with our siblings). Stephen’s last words remind me of WWJD (What Would Jesus Do). LOVE and FORGIVE.
Do you remember trying to go to sleep the first night in your big boy/girl bed? You probably felt like a grown-up, especially if you had your own room! Nothing beats proving to your parents that you can sleep peacefully through the night…until you heard a loud BOOM of thunder or saw a big FLASH of lightning out your window. If you were like me, you probably went running into your parents bedroom shouting something along the lines of: “Mommy, Daddy; I’m scared!”
Luke 8:22-25 tells us that even the disciples (grown men) were scared when a storm was brewing! One day, Jesus and his disciples decided to get on a boat and travel across a lake. While they were sailing, Jesus fell asleep (probably like Dad or Grandpa does in their favorite chair). As the wind and the waves began to intensify, the disciples became concerned that their lives were in danger and they immediately went over to the end of the boat to wake Jesus. Then, the disciples cried out: “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” As soon as Jesus heard their plea for help, He calmed the wind and the raging waters and the storm subsided. Jesus proceeded to ask his disciples one simple question: “Where is your faith?”
Mommy and Daddy were always good at giving us comfort on those nights when we couldn’t fall asleep in our big boy/girl beds because we were afraid of the storm. As we get older, we don’t depend on Mom and Dad to help us fall asleep at night because we develop a little faith that the storm will blow over and we are safe in our beds. Unfortunately, life brings other “storms” that weigh us down, create sleepless nights, and regularly leave us wondering where to turn. As Christians, we know in whom we are supposed to trust, but we’re human and need a reminder.
The next time a storm of any kind rolls into your life, remember that Jesus is nearby and there’s no reason to be afraid. If the fear of the unknown is a weight that’s too big to carry, feel free to go and wake Jesus.
Just don’t be surprised when He asks you the same question He asked His disciples: “Where is your faith?”