Well, last Sunday I pretty much had my last real devotional-setting time with the youth group at Emmanuel.  It was kinda hard to determine what it was that I wanted to say to them.  I wanted to leave them with a message that showed them my heart for them and my heart for ministry.  How do you do that?  How do you sum up where God is leading you in 10-15 minutes?  How do you encourage a group of teens who may or may not care that these are the last words that they will really hear from you.

The time started off about like every other time – people goofing off and not paying attention.  I’m used to it, as sad as that might seem.  There have been nights when I have had to raise my voice to talk over people so much that I could barely talk by the end of the night… 

*Sidebar* I found a great little invention a while back.  Perhaps you’ve heard of it, it’s called a “whistle.”  Fascinating contraption, really.  I blow into it and it makes a loud, piercing screech that gets people’s attention.  Of course, it is not without its drawbacks either.  Occasionally, one of my goatee hairs will get caught in this “whistle,” and it will dangle from my lip.  That hurts.  I don’t like it when that happens.  I’ve fallen in like with this “whistle” for the last few weeks.  It helps keep them quiet on occasion because they do not want to hear this loud, piercing screech… but I digress… *End Sidebar*

 …but on this night they seemed to have quieted down on their own.  They were actually listening to me.  I could see in their faces that they were hearing what I had to say.  Our key verse for the year, and thus, the verse that I used as a jumping off point for this devotion, has been Romans 12:2 – “Do not conform any longer to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…”  I talked to them about there being two parts to this message.  First, we have to make the choice to not conform to the patterns of this world, and then we have to allow God to work in us through our decision to follow Christ, so that we can be transformed.  We can choose to not follow the patterns of the world, but if all we surround ourselves with is the world, then we will fall back into those patterns.  I gave them an analogy to help them understand this point.

If you go to a garbage dump and spend a period of time there, you will come out smelling like garbage.  There’s no way around it.  The odor hangs in the air, and somehow attaches itself to you.  It then proceeds to follow you around until you do something about it.  That’s why you should never go to the dump and then go on a date.  It will likely be the last one you go on with that particular person.  Unless that is your plan in the first place, but I would think it would just be easier to not go on a date in the first place…but I digress…  You can go home and take a shower to get rid of the smell, but if you go back to the dump, you are going to smell once again.  It’s just a simple fact of life. 

I see a lot of great things for these teens, and I’m sad that I can’t be around to help develop them, but I know that God has already thought of these issues, and is way ahead of me on them.  What do you leave behind for a group like this?  I wanted to let them know three things, and I’ll reiterate them here.

1) Only you can decide to follow Jesus

2) Life won’t get any easier, but it will get better.

3) It is a daily decision that has to be made.  Becoming a Christian is not the goal, it is only the beginning of a fantastic journey.