"If you continue in my Word," said Jesus, "you are truly my disciples, and you shall know the truth, and the truth will make you free." (John 8:31)The truth is that God loves us no matter what. He has proved this by coming to live as a human being, coming at one moment in our world's history, and by giving his own life like lost sinners like me. This truth sets us free from our sins, free from our fears, free from any past of broken promises or broken lives.
"The days are surely coming, says the LORD... I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts." (Jeremiah 31:31a,33b)
But, in this world, for the meantime, that truth needs to be written, and re-written, over and over again on our very human and very broken hearts. The days are coming when God's love will be written on our hearts in a way that can't fade. That will happen in God's Kingdom, in heaven when the woes but because our lives are so up and down, the promise needs to be written on our hearts over and over again.
As we work with youth and families, our goal is to have God's promise be written until it makes a significant difference in our lives and in the lives of those around us. We come alongside young people and their families in prayer and worship and reading the Bible, through serving others, building relationships and giving--through this Christian lifestyle the promise of God gets written on our hearts over and over again until it can stand up under the stresses and pains of life.
One of the best things that happens in our Youth Discipleship Program is when young people come to the point of sharing their personal statements of faith. I'm going to read parts of them tomorrow morning in my sermon. Here are some words from each of them now. Read them as examples of how God's promise is written on our hearts.
- When I was in the fifth grade, I started going to church youth group. I had a lot of fun hanging out with my friends and playing games there. But when it came to the Bible study, I was lost. I never really understood who this "God" person was. When I finally did, I immediately asked myself, "now what?" I had an idea of who God was but I still hesitated. How could God be so great if he lets so many bad things happen in the world? That question troubled me for two years. Then, at a retreat, we were listening to a pastor speak. I wasn't really paying much attention until I heard him say that the world is our fault. It really is--God gave us free will and we just abused it... So now I had my answer. I had to decide what to do. Later that night, we were praying for someone with an inoperable tumor. As I stood in the circle, hearing someone pray, I felt God's presence. That was the moment I decided to let God into my heart.
- When I was eight years old I first heard about Jesus from my grandparents. Later I started to attend church regularly with people who cared about me too. My life is different now. I have come to know the Lord better. The verse I have chosen is Isaiah 26:3-4 "You keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever for the Lord is the Rock eternal." I chose this verse because I know I can trust in the Lord and that the Lord trusts in me.
- With all the events that I took part in at church I found that God is always there for me and he is my one and only Savior. Without the Lord I would not be the person I am today. In middle and high school years my faith grew and grew as I begin to possess things and understand things in much more depth. None of that would have been done if I didn't go to confirmation, youth group, youth trips and have the support from people... We have so much and I love coming together and just having fun and growing in faith together. Nate your amazing!!! I also plan on attending church like I do now with my family. Right now I believe that God is calling me to help children and work with children and help people in need. I plan on sticking with the calling and becoming a teacher.
- Even though I know God has always been in my life, he has become more than a Bible story. The Bible camps I got to experience such as Green Lake and Ingham helped me build my faith. Through confirmation, and the homework that came along with it, my knowledge of Christ started to expand drastically. Yet my life wasn’t committed to him... Last year was a year that I think changed my life... I had to do somethings that were the most difficult my 15 year old self had ever done. My friends and family knew that something was wrong. I just wasn’t myself but I couldn't talk about it. Somehow, someone somewhat knew what was going on. He encouraged me with God’s words and reminded me of what I had told others when they went through hard times, but never really listened myself. It eventually clicked that it was out of my power. I slowly let go of all the worry and handed it to God. I felt relief. I prayed almost constantly while my life turned back around. I started to smile and laugh again. Christ cleaned up the mess that had previously been created in my life. My Savior now really feels like a savior.
- Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and tomorrow (Hebrews 13:8). I've come to realize that Jesus is the one constant in my life. While so many things around me are changing Jesus will always stay the same, and will always be right beside me... I've heard Nate say “don't let your confirmation be a graduation, but just another step in your life as a Christian”. As it says in the catechism “remember the sabbath day by keeping it holy”. I use this to remind myself that I need to work on attending Sunday church services and praising the Lord. As is stated in Exodus 23:21 “Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong” I think this verse affects everyone somehow. To me it is saying don't do the wrong thing just because everyone else is... In Mrs. Schultz's communications class we read a story about a cross country runner that gave up his place as state champion to help an injured runner he didn't even know. When I finished reading this story I realized that this runner, and the good deed that he did, is very similar to what Jesus did to save us. Jesus has saved me and will give me eternal life. This thought makes me so happy to know...
- God is a big part of my life. He has helped me through some extremely hard times. God has shown me the correct path to take. When I was going through those hard times, I had some people help me out. I might have been really mad at them then but now I know they wanted to help me out and to have a good life. These days, they are really close to me, and I do not want to ever lose them. Some people may think that people who believe in God think they are all that and know everything, that we are pretty much perfect, but we are just the same as everyone else. We make just as many stupid mistakes and choices. I think that there was a really big reason why these hard times have happened in my life: to show me how big and strong god is. I still have hard times, but I know that I can look to God to guide me though it all. He is the one that is the most helpful in my life.
- Since I’ve started confirmation my relationship with God has been closer than it has ever been before. I have started praying and reading the Bible more. Before confirmation I didn’t put my trust in Christ and I didn’t really know much about Christ, the bible, the church, or really anything about Christianity. I just went to church because my parents made me I never wanted to go, and never really paid attention while I was there. Now I believe... I can put my trust in Jesus Christ because of what I have learned during confirmation, going to church and paying attention, and all the people that surround me. God blessed me with a wonderful community to grow up in, a wonderful family that loves me and trust in Christ, and a great group of friends. I can put my trust in Christ because of all the things he has done for me, he has answered most of my prayers and helped me with the troubles I have had in my life.
- On June 26, 1994 I would imagine it was a cool day. I was getting baptized. I didn’t know exactly what happened on that day, but I think it was a great experience. I believe that my parents taught me in a way that Jesus would want me to go. Like it says in Proverbs 22:6 "Train a child in a way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." I believe that this verse is very true. Many bible verses and discussion have helped me trust in Jesus. When I feel nothing is going right, I can pray or talk with God. Prayer plays a big role in my life. I feel that prayers can be answered even if it’s not answered right away. ...The other week all of us 10th graders went to a retreat. We learned about Luther and the way he changed the Catholic Church. In our small group we talked about God's grace, and how its given to you. Ephesians 2:8 says "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God." In the future I plan to get involved in Church on Sundays. During the rest of High school I will attend to youth group on Sunday nights. We have great discussions there.
- I have learned something that changed my life. All I need to do to receive eternal life is, believe in God and put my trust in him. The verse John 3:16 – for God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, so that who ever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life – confirms that all I need is to trust in Him. Before 8th and 9th grade I went to Ingham Bible camp in Iowa. Yes, I was going to camp to have a good time and build relationships, but the main reason was to strengthen my faith. It was the little things like daily devotions, and quiet time, that really showed me who God was. And it was there, my first year at Ingham, that I knew I needed to do more with my faith, and it was then that I built a friendship that I will have forever. Later I went to the Dare 2 Share conference in Lincoln, Nebraska. At the conference Greg Steir spoke, he said the best thing that you can share with anyone, is God’s unconditional love. The first night he asked the crowd, “If you were to die right now, do you know where you are going?” That question has stuck with me, and driven me to make sure that if other people were to be asked that same question, they would be able to answer “yes, I am going to heaven." Jesus Christ is my Lord and savior; he is the friend that I made at Ingham Bible Camp several summers ago. My faith continues to grow because of what I have learned from the bible, my parents, pastors, youth directors and friends. I chose 1st Timothy 4:12 as my confirmation verse, this verse states – Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young but be an example for believers in speech, life, love, faith and in purity. I like this verse because it tells you that even though you are young your decisions and actions make a difference in the life of others.
- This whole summer I was with a friend. Instead of just hanging out at his house we would mostly go to church at the Word of Life in Hutch. Normally I don’t really want to come to church, since I always believed that it was boring, but when I went with him to Hutch. I actually got into the sermon and listened to it word for word. Normally I trail off and start daydreaming, or start to fall asleep since its in the morning. Sorry Pastor Steve. I still listen to your sermon though, but what I’m trying to get is that people that start at a young age does believe in God. Then they get to an age where they start to doubt. Maybe until they are adults. This is where others come in. They help you lead you back to God. This is what my friend did. I mentioned to him that I was starting to have my doubts. And he started to help me get back on track with believing in God. And I am still good friends with him, and I hope that I can still go to church here and at The Word of Life.
God is patient and will never cast you aside. He is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. When our feelings are up and down, we can always trust the promises of our Lord.
See you in church.