Today is a very special day for us as we welcome home our missionaries from the mission field. On a Monday morning, almost two week ago, these young people and their sponsors joined hands together with their parents and prayed for the Lord to use them to touch the lives of the kids they would be working with at Kamp Barnabas. God is so faithful! He has once again done exceedingly more than anything we could have imagined. This morning you have heard from some of these young people and I hope that you have been blessed.
There is much negative press coming to you and me about young people today, but over and over again we are seeing God’s mighty hand move upon the lives of our young people to refute the negative stereotypes that are being offered. Today, we are hearing from the Kamp Barnabas crew, but there has been much more going on this past week at Britton Christian Church to impact young lives with the Good News of Jesus Christ. Let me give you a sampling of what I am talking about.
This past week has been one of the most wonderful weeks of ministry that I can remember in a long time. On Monday morning Jahruba’s “Kamp Kuumba” swing into full gear and I’ve watched kid’s lives being impacted through the arts all week long. There were drum lessons, story telling, African mask making, keyboards, and much more as the camp ran from 9:00 am until 4:00 pm every day. Each day The Black Eyed Pea catered lunch for the camp at no charge and I will assure you that nobody ate better than our kids this week.
Monday afternoon fifteen kids from Kid’s Across America’s “Higher Ground” leadership camp arrived for a week of missions. Watching those high school kids walk through the neighborhood every morning knocking on doors, handing out flyers announcing an afternoon party at the North Highlands Park, and then preparing for the arrival of the kids was something to behold. In the afternoon I went to the park to watch these high school kids paint precious little faces, play all kinds of games, and share the Gospel with the children who came. On Wednesday Alonzo’s Tae Kwon Do class came to the park in the sweltering heat to put on a demonstration along with Jimmy Agnello’s “Lower Level” car club, and it was something else! We had 125 kids present in 102 degree heat! Along with the kids there were some adults who saw all of the activity and came to find out what was happening. I introduced myself to a couple of men and one of them, Eric Johnson, said to me, “Something like this is great for these kids. All we ever hear coming from this park is bad news, but today something good is going on.”
God is moving upon the hearts of the young as He is breaking their hearts for their generation. Each thousands of kids are going on mission trips like the trip our kids just came back from and these opportunities to use their gifts to bring glory to God are changing their lives forever, not to mention the countless people who are accepting Christ for the first time because of the boldness and faithfulness of young girls and boys. I was reading some thoughts from kids who have recently gone on mission trips and it blew me away. Let me share some of their testimonies with you.
A fourteen-year-old named Kristel Halcromb took a trip to Guatemala and when she arrived back home she wrote these words.
When I went on a mission trip, it was like an experience I had never witnessed before. I was completely changed in my attitude towards others and to my parents. I saw what teens will actually do just to tell others about God’s love. I told my friends about this exciting experience so this summer about 20 of my friends and I are going again to take God’s love to the world. — Kristel Halcromb 14 trip to Guatemala
Crystal is a nineteen year old college student who went to India to share the Gospel in a predominantly Hindu nation where Christianity is not accepted, but she felt God was leading her to go. Crystal says,
After the drama, my MAG went up to this one lady that had a bunch of little kids surrounding her. She was an older Hindu lady, yet meek and humble. We asked her if she understood the drama, and she said “Yes, I’ve heard of Jesus before, but did not know He did that for me.” We began telling her all what Christ is about. We asked her if she would like to have a relationship with Jesus Christ, and she said YES. As we were praying for her, she wiped the red dot off that represented that she was a Hindu. We didn’t even have to tell her to do so, she knew that she could no longer be a Hindu. This was the most humbling experience I have ever witnessed. God completely changed that woman’s heart. — Crystal Innerarity 19 India
Paul Ray went to Costa Rica, not to vacation, but to minister. When Paul got home he sat down and reflected on his experience. Let me share with you what God did in Paul’s life.
Our team got to the site where we were going to present our drama but it was raining (it was the rainy season). So we were praying for God to stop the rain. Then after about 10-15 minutes the rain started to taper off so we went to set up at our site. We were in front of a Catholic Church in a small northern Costa Rican town (we were on our village trip). So we went out to invite people to come out. It was not very hard since we were in, I guess, their down town. So we got set up with our sound box and were all ready to go, but our amp did not want to work. So we remembered that when in doubt, pray for it. We all laid hands on our sound box, prayed, and it worked for about a second. Then it died again. So we were wondering what to do. We prayed again and it really worked this time, but then it started to down pour. We did not do an intro – just the drama. As the drama went on in rained more and more. It was obvious the devil did not want us to evangelize that town. Even though it was raining, people still watched from underneath the overhanging of the stores across the street. The coolest thing was that the sound box stopped working just seconds before the end of the drama. Four people came to know the Lord and not only that but the pastor of the church we were working with heard people say things like, “what a love for God these teens have.” The Lord is good!!!!!!! — Paul Ray Costa Rica (All of the above testimonies were taken from the Teen Mania website and all of the kids went on summer missions with Teen Mania.)
I love the last sentence spoken by a pastor in Costa Rica, “what a love for God these teens have.” I’ve come today to tell you that these teens do indeed have such a love for God that it is overwhelming and humbling to me!
I can well remember when I was fourteen, fifteen, eighteen years old. I was doing my own thing, not serving God. I was working to get what I wanted, not taking time off from work to help others get what they needed. I am so proud of our young people and their heart for the Lord! You need to know that there is a movement around this country that is catching fire. Young people are rising up under the banner of their Savior and reaching out to their peers with the Good News of Jesus Christ.
I know this probably sounds odd to many of you because of the stories we hear of misguided youth today. Young folks are shooting each other, getting involved in gangs, running drugs, robbing, raping, and drinking their lives away. Studies show that cheating on tests is the norm, out of wedlock pregnancies continue to plague our community and state, and some tell us that kids just don’t care about much of anything anymore. The actor, Johnny Depp, spoke to Rolling Stone magazine about raising his daughter in America. He said,
Kids growing up now just don’t care. It’s an awful thing to say, but most kids today have found safety-and more than that, they’ve found personality-just by going to Urban Outfitters or wherever and dressing like one another. They’re playing this role of nonconformists, but more so than ever, kids are total conformists. And they don’t give a rip about getting into trouble. They don’t care if they go to jail. It’s a dark time, man. The idea of respect is gone. That word-respect-is smoke. It just doesn’t exist. I’m truly…frightened of America in terms of raising my daughter here. -Actor Johnny Depp, Rolling Stone, Jan. 6
I have to admit that if you get draw your conclusions about today’s young people solely from what you read and hear and you never spend time with some of today’s young people, then it is easy to come to the same conclusions as Johnny Depp. Each week it seems like we hear another story of misguided youth, we see video of another child who has no vision, no purpose, and no hope, and we read of another young life snuffed out by drugs, gangs, or suicide.
I read some quotes this past week from some of the young teenage killers who we have all heard from the past couple of years. Let me share their statements with you. Kip Kinkel grabbed headlines back in 1998 when he killed his parents in Oregon and then opened fire on his school. Kip wrote in his journal, “I am so consumed with hate all the time, how could I ever love anyone?” (Excerpt from the journal of Kip Kinkel, the 17-year-old who killed his parents and opened fire on students in Oregon’s Thurston High School in 1998, Newsweek, Nov. 15)
Hatred seems to be one of the defining characteristics of our young people that we hear about all of the time through the media. They are enraged that their families have fallen apart, they are mad that they don’t fit in at school, they are angry that they feel all alone in this world. They are willing to do about anything to fit in. This was the case with another young killer, Michael Carneal, the 15-year-old killer who was sentenced to 25 years in prison for shooting three students and wounding five others in Paducah, Kentucky. Michael said, “I just wanted the guys to think I was cool.” (15-year-old Michael Carneal, recently sentenced to 25 years-to-life in prison for shooting three students to death and wounding five others in Paducah, Ky., U.S. News & World Report, Oct. 12)
With all of the horror stories that we are hearing about our young people you have to stop and ask, “Where is all of this hatred, rage, and deviant behavior coming from?” Great question! I would encourage you to just look around. Go to the mall and watch which movies the kids are going to see and then you go watch the movie to see what they are being sold. Take a stroll through Abercrombie and Fitch and look at the images they have hanging on the wall and plastered on their catalog. Pay attention to the subtle messages they are selling our kids. Buy a top ten CD that the kids are listening to and read the lyrics that are being pumped into their heads and you will understand that adults are selling our kids down the river.
I remember a few years ago when The Simpsons caused such a rage in our society. The kids loved it and the adults were shocked at the irreverence, crudeness, and lack of respect exhibited by Bart and the other kids in the cartoon. The creator of The Simpsons, Matt Groening, now has children of his own. Matt now understands why parents were so upset, or at least you get the idea that he does when you read what he said in an interview in Newsweek. Matt said, “I now have a seven-year-old boy and a nine-year-old boy, so all I can say is ‘I apologize.'” -Matt Groening, creator of animated antihero Bart Simpson, frequently criticized as a bad role model for kids, Newsweek, Jan. 11
While society is selling our kids on the ideas of deviance, throwing condoms at them from every direction, and pushing them as hard as we can to get them to grow up way too fast, the Church is perfectly positioned by God to show our kids a different path, a godly alternative. Yet, the message being sent out by many of our churches is, “We love our kids, they are the leaders of tomorrow.” Let me tell you, these young people are not going to wait around until tomorrow, they desire to be involved today, to use their gifts to glorify God today!
For us to involve our kids in the mainstream of ministry is not setting a precedent. I want to take just a few minutes of your time today to share with you the precedent that was set long ago as shared in God’s Word. Turn with me to 1 Timothy where we find Paul encouraging a young friend of his named Timothy. Paul writes to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:9-14 and says,
9This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance 10(and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe. 11Command and teach these things. 12Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. 13Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. 14Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you. (1 Timothy 4:9-14 NIV)
Paul calls young Timothy to set an example for the other believers. He doesn’t specify for Timothy that he is to set an example for kids, but for all believers. I tell you that our young people are setting an example for you and for me today. If we can ever break out of seeing them as tomorrow’s leaders, then we will be able to see that God is using our kids today to set an example for us in godly service, in obedience, and in the way they are yielding their lives to the will of the Master.
There are scores of instruction in God’s Word aimed at showing us the potential of our young folks. God exhorts us to set an example for them, to give them opportunities to serve the Lord and impact those around them with the Gospel. Paul writes to Titus and says,
6Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. 7In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness 8and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us. (Titus 2:6 NIV)
Encourage the young men to be self-controlled. Young people do not have to give in the drives of the flesh, they need to know that they are not destined to follow the flesh, and our young men need to know that they are not “dogs” as they call themselves. Young people need the Body of Christ to rise together and with one voice proclaim that they can have the power of Almighty God to live lives of purity and holiness before their peers. They can proclaim the Gospel with boldness and confidence that God is using them to be leaders to a new generation. Luke wrote.
17 “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. (Acts 2:17 NIV)
Young people, you may be hearing messages that are contrary to what you are hearing this morning. You will continue to be told by society that you can’t control your drives, that it is natural to do what God’s Word calls immoral, and that teenage rebellion is normal for growing up, but I tell you that if you believe this then you are being sold down the river and destruction will be your end. God’s Word is written to you to instruct you in godly living. God’s Word is given to you to teach you wisdom rather than foolishness, discipline rather than chaos and rebellion. We read in Proverbs 1,
1The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: 2 for attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight; 3 for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair; 4 for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young- 5 let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance- 6 for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise. (Proverbs 1:1-6 NIV)
The Proverbs are given, according to Solomon, for attaining wisdom and discipline, for understanding words of insight, for doing what is right and just and fair, and they are given to the young. The impurity, sensuality, and immorality that you are having to deal with today is nothing new. Every young person who has ever lived has been faced with these obstacles. Every young man who has ever gone through puberty has had to deal with lust and if you wonder if this is true then listen to David’s words given more than 3,000 years ago.
9 How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. 10 I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. 11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. (Psalm 119:9-11 NIV)
How can a young man of David’s day or our day keep himself pure? By living according to God’s Word, by hiding God’s Word in his heart. Great advice. Heed it, live it, and crave God’s Word.
God’s Word is not simply addressed to young men. God desires to use young women as well to make an impact on their generation. We read of young women in God’s Word who were used by God in a day when popular society viewed young women as having no value at all. Yet, God has always valued His young princesses ordained by His sovereign hand to bless the lives of those around them. Such is the case with a young woman we studied last week in Bible study on Sunday night.
Esther was an orphaned Jewish girl growing up in foreign land. She was the lowest of the low in Babylon and yet God lifted her up and used her to preserve the lives of His people in this foreign country. Let me read to you an excerpt from Esther’s life so that you can see how God used this young girl.
2Then the king’s personal attendants proposed, “Let a search be made for beautiful young virgins for the king. 3Let the king appoint commissioners in every province of his realm to bring all these beautiful girls into the harem at the citadel of Susa. Let them be placed under the care of Hegai, the king’s eunuch, who is in charge of the women; and let beauty treatments be given to them. 4Then let the girl who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti.” This advice appealed to the king, and he followed it. 5 Now there was in the citadel of Susa a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, named Mordecai son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, 6who had been carried into exile from Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, among those taken captive with Jehoiachin king of Judah. 7Mordecai had a cousin named Hadassah, whom he had brought up because she had neither father nor mother. This girl, who was also known as Esther, was lovely in form and features, and Mordecai had taken her as his own daughter when her father and mother died. 8 When the king’s order and edict had been proclaimed, many girls were brought to the citadel of Susa and put under the care of Hegai. Esther also was taken to the king’s palace and entrusted to Hegai, who had charge of the harem. 9The girl pleased him and won his favor. Immediately he provided her with her beauty treatments and special food. He assigned to her seven maids selected from the king’s palace and moved her and her maids into the best place in the harem. (Esther 2:2-9 NIV)
Esther became Queen and as Queen she was used by God to preserve the lives of all Jewish people who had been targeted for death by Haman. Esther was in no way a candidate for leadership school. She didn’t have the pedigree. She was an orphan. She was Jewish in a Babylonian society. She was a young woman. Yet, she was used by God to be a new leader for a new generation!
Young people please hear me. God is calling you this very morning to turn your face towards Heaven, to receive your marching orders from God and not from society, and to reject what you are being told by others so that you can hear what God is speaking to you this very morning.
I want to invite you to join me this morning if you hear the voice of God calling you. As you prepare to begin your new school year I want to invite you to take the “Oath of the Unshamed” and to pledge your life to reaching your friends and neighbors for the Kingdom of God. If you know God is calling you then won’t you stand where you are and take the pledge with me.
THE OATH OF THE UNASHAMED
I pledge my life:
Recognizing I am no longer my own-
Belonging to God, who has called me to lead the world.
I pledge my character:
Understanding that it is the cornerstone of leadership-
I make God’s Word the final authority-
Directing my motives and actions.
I pledge my service:
Realizing I am chosen by God-not by men-
I will give my life away to serve others.
To this end:
I will stand for the hurting, the hopeless, and the unloved.
I will say what others refuse to say.
I will reach the world without losing sight of the individual.
I will walk upright, speak the truth, and live above reproach.
I will not be ashamed to fall on my knees-
To cry out to God-
To shed tears for the dying-
To live a life worthy of a leader.
To stand up and lead my generation, that all may know,
Jesus Christ is alive.
1 Timothy 4:9-14