Tag Archives: Teen Devotions

The Nightclub

26 Jun

Read: 1 Peter 5:6-11

“No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.”

2 Corinthians 11:14 NASB

While I love to tell stories about my political experiences, the story of my first (and last) experience in a nightclub is one of my favorites.  It was the night of the Governor’s inaugural ball and the rotunda at the State Capitol had begun to clear.  Everyone was moving on to another party planned to last late into the night and I found myself sitting alone, staring up at the majestic dome.

It was at this point that the Senate Majority Leader, the Senator from my own district, noticed my solitude and asked me if I had a ticket to the next event.  When I responded that I didn’t, he suggested that I come along anyway – promising to take care of the problem when we arrived.

I carefully considered the offer, realizing that I didn’t know where the event was to take place or when I should ask my ride to pick me up.  “Where is it?” I asked, gathering up my coat and purse.

His wife quickly pulled out their tickets which read “Big Easy Conference Center.”  The two looked at each other for a moment as though they had not noticed the name of the venue previously.  After a moment of silence, the Senator turned to me and explained that the last one had been in a hotel conference center, a very nice place, and that he imagined “Big Easy Conference Center” would be quite similar.

Having no other plans for the rest of the evening, I agreed and we all hopped a trolley which had been hired to transport attendees from the ball to the party.  The streets were relatively dark and only seemed to get darker the closer we came to “Big Easy.”  Something told us all that this was not right when we stepped off the trolley and began to walk down the alleyway into which we had been directed, passing an inordinate number of bars on the way.

We finally found the “Conference Center” and when the Senator was asked for his tickets, he simply flipped through the stack which he had purchased for his wife and children and we were allowed to pass.  (I decided it would be best to forgo partaking of any of the food being offered at the event, since I was, essentially, being snuck into the venue.)

Inside, we discovered that the “Conference Center” was actually not a conference center at all, but a night club offering a buffet and karaoke.  The awkwardness we felt was intensified by the fact that most of the people there were in Hawaiian shirts and we were all still in our formals.  We stayed long enough to put in an appearance, then left with a good story that I will still be telling even after I have children and grandchildren of my own.

 The truth is, all of us should have known that something was wrong with the scenario long before we took that walk down the alley.  Despite the good name under which the party was booked, there were plenty of hints that the event would be less than appropriate.

As Christians, we often fall prey to similar traps laid for us by the Devil.  Presenting himself as an angel of light, he lures us into situations that appear to be acceptable, but in the end turn out to be otherwise.  Perhaps this is why Peter cautions believers to be alert.  Only when we’re paying attention to what is happening around us can we be certain to avoid the Devil’s snares!

Challenge:  This week, practice alertness.  Before doing anything (even seemingly good things), take the time to pray and examine the situation carefully.  You may be surprised at the number of traps you avoid!

 

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Did Anyone Follow That?

19 Jun

Read: Galatians 5:1-26

 

“Test everything.  Hold on to the good.”

1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV

 

 Incoherent customers are not an uncommon occurrence in retail.  More than once, I have found myself at the end of a conversation which, due to some misunderstanding at the beginning, has left me wondering what exactly just took place.

For example: on one particular afternoon, I was approached by a customer with a question about wrapping a tree that she had just purchased.  I responded by asking where she was going to place it.  (The assumption on my part being that she meant to wrap the trunk in order to protect it from the elements.)  “It’s going in my pickup bed,” she responded rather hotly, her irritation at my failure to comprehend her meaning quite evident.

I quickly realized that her concern was for the tree’s safety in transport and assured her that the gentleman who would load her tree for her would take a moment to look over the situation and provide appropriate advice.  I quickly radioed for an employee to retrieve the tree from the lot, but as I did so, the customer glanced out the window and, with a tone of exasperation announced, “Never mind, it’s already loaded. But that wasn’t the man helping me!”  She then proceeded to storm out of the store leaving me in a bit of a quandary as to what had just happened.

On another occasion, I encountered a gentleman seeking to purchase a bag of Diazinon (an incredibly effective insecticide).  It was with regret that I informed him that we had just sold our last bag earlier that morning.

“When I called a week ago, you said that you had it,” he replied, sounding a bit disgruntled.

“We did, a week ago, but we don’t anymore,” I apologized.

“You shouldn’t say you have things when you don’t.”

It was clear that my message was not getting across, but not wanting to lose a customer I replied, “We might be getting some more in this next week, I can check for you.”

“You can’t because it’s illegal.”

“No, Sir… not yet at least.”  (Everyone locally was aware of the pending EPA ban on the product – part of the reason we were selling through so much of it so quickly.)

“Yes it is or you wouldn’t be telling everyone that you have it!”  And with that, he turned around and left, leaving me, once again, wondering what exactly had just taken place.

Since good things always come in threes (at least so they say), I can’t resist sharing just one more tale of incoherence: this one aided by a telephone.

“I need to know how much a truckload of bark will cost,” my customer explained.  (So far, so good.  This is a common question and fairly easy to answer.)

“How much bark do you need?” I enquired, reaching for a calculator.

“I don’t know.  How much fits in a pickup?”

“It depends upon the size of the pickup,” I replied, fully expecting the customer to respond with something reasonably precise like, “It’s a half-ton, Chevy, short-bed.”

No such luck.  “It’s a small one,” she explained.

“Perhaps you can tell me how much ground are you trying to cover,” I suggested.

“I don’t know how much ground I’m trying to cover.  I just need to know how much bark I will need.”

“It depends on what size space you’re covering and how thickly you want to lay the bark down,” I explained, reasonably certain that this conversation was going nowhere fast.

“About two inches,” she replied.

The truth is that a little incoherence at the beginning of a conversation can lead to a lot of incoherence by the end.  Like shooting an arrow or throwing a ball, what seems to be an insignificant ambiguity in the aiming process can result in an end that is far removed from the intended course.

That the same sort of misdirection can occur when it comes to our Christian walk should come as no surprise.  What starts as a minor misunderstanding of Scripture can lead to a life which misses the mark – leaving others to wonder why there is such inconsistency between what we say we believe (God’s Word) and the way we live.  Perhaps this is why the apostles took such care to emphasize the importance of our studying (and following) God’s Word for ourselves.  Only when we do, can we be assured that our lives will be coherent enough for their message – that God loves mankind – to be clearly understood.

Challenge:  Take some time to carefully consider what you believe.  Does the way you live naturally follow?  Ask God to reveal how you can live a more consistent life!

Fit for the Task

12 Jun

Read: Ephesians 4:4-16

“All are not apostles, are they?  All are not prophets, are they?  All are not teachers, are they?  All are not workers of miracles, are they?  All do not have gifts of healings, do they?  All do not speak with tongues, do they?  All do not interpret, do they?”

1 Corinthians 12:29-30 NASB

 

“The bathroom is too small,” I announced, rubbing my head as I approached my boss’ desk.

“I’ve never really noticed the size of the bathroom before,” she replied, looking up from her stack of paperwork.

“Well, I did today and it’s too small.”

Her brow furrowed and I could tell she was debating whether it was wise to ask the question, “Why?”

I quickly explained that, on my last encounter with the room, I had managed the unusual feat of smacking my head on the porcelain sink behind the door.  That this was due to the limited maneuvering space was (from my point of view) obvious.  If we gave customers and staff members more than two feet between solid objects, such encounters would be fewer and farther between.

It seemed that from her perspective, the solution was equally obvious.  Laughing, she pointed to me, “The problem isn’t the bathroom, it’s your legs: they’re too long!”  It wasn’t the bathroom’s size that was the problem; it was my size.  I was a bad fit.

Unfortunately, many times in churches we find ourselves in similar situations – badly fit for a specific area of service.  Asked to perform a certain task for the body (helping in the nursery, teaching in a Sunday School class, working as a counselor, or helping in the kitchen), we meet only with failure at every turn.  While we may be tempted to blame elements of the task, i.e., a finicky Christian education board, a poor kitchen layout, or the high demands from the congregation, the reason for our lack of success may not be the job itself, but our own fitness for the task.

As Christians, we must make certain that, while encouraging the exercise of the individual gifts which God has given us, we don’t at the same time box ourselves (or each other) into exercising gifts which we do not possess.  Only when each of us performs our proper function in its proper place will the Church find success!

Challenge:  Prayerfully consider your gifts.  Then, commit to putting them to use in their proper place!

Can You Hear Me Now

5 Jun

 Read: Galatians 6:1-5

 

“We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.  Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification.  For even Christ pleased not himself: but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me.”

Romans 15:1-3

 

During the height of the season, a good nursery resembles a forest.  Packed from one end to the other with needles and foliage, it’s a good place to find some shade as well as a new tree for the front yard.  Unfortunately, this woodland effect can occasionally lead to difficulties.

We had spent the afternoon tagging, watering, and shifting a fresh shipment of trees and shrubs.  The task had required frequent walks through the masses of plant material during one of which, our assistant manager had managed to lose her radio.  In order to find it, three of us spread out around the perimeter of the receiving area where we listened for her to call my name from another staff member’s walkie-talkie.  Each time she called for me, we’d move closer to the sound emanating from the missing device.

It wasn’t long before we discovered that our manager hadn’t told anyone else that we had lost a radio or what we planned to do in order to find it.

After hearing my name called an inordinate number of times, one of the stock boys answered for me – doing a poor imitation of my voice in the process.  His reply was followed by an irritated announcement from one of the cashiers that the radio our manager was calling from was working just fine and could be heard quite clearly by everyone on shift.

We all smiled at each other as the final reply helped us zero in on the missing radio, which had caught on a branch at the bottom of a potted potentilla.

Just as our staff grew frustrated with the continual calls from the nursery, many times Christians grow tired of listening to (or watching) each other’s oft repeated struggles with sin.  We recognize the problem, but without any background information, are in a poor position to judge whether our brothers and sisters are winning the victory or failing miserably.  The result is that the success of our attempts to help resolve the problem are often hit and miss, sometimes prolonging and exacerbating the struggle rather than helping to relieve the burden.

 Only when we take time to understand the struggles of others will we be assured of providing the type of loving support to which the Bible calls us.  Instead of growing irritated with the repeated frustrations of our brothers, we ought to bear with them, supporting them through prayer and a listening ear!

Challenge:  This week, take the time to intentionally listen to others as they share their struggles and frustrations with you.  You may be surprised at how much difference can be made when you’re willing to lend a sympathetic ear!

Evergreens

29 May

Read: 1 Peter 4:12-19

“How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season…”

Psalm 1:1-3a NASB

Watering plants is innately relaxing.  Now imagine that you’re blessed enough to have the job I found myself with: four hours a day watering all the plants for a local nursery.

Of course, not every plant needed to be watered every day.  Some of them (particularly the trees) could go a couple of days without any trouble.  There were, however, a few which would readily have taken water twice a day.  These were the evergreens.

If you’ve ever tried to raise an evergreen, you know that it is an exceptionally needy plant.  If they don’t get enough nutrients, their waxy green needles turn a brittle brown.  If they don’t get enough sunlight, their waxy green needles turn a brittle brown.  If they don’t get enough water, their waxy green needles turn a brittle brown.

If, however, you provide your evergreen with all of these ingredients, it will stay a vibrant green or blue even through the hardest winter freeze, the strongest winds, or the deepest floods.

What’s my point?  As Christians, we often encounter difficulties and find ourselves asking why we aren’t weathering them any better than our unsaved friends.  We know that in Christ we are “ever green”, but we just aren’t capable of demonstrating that level of resilience… and wonder what went wrong. 

The truth is that, much like evergreens, if we get the proper care and nourishment through Bible reading, prayer, and fellowship with other believers, we show forth God’s glory even in the toughest circumstances.  But if we don’t… watch out!  If you want to withstand the storm, you have to take time to prepare for it.

Challenge:  Are you spending enough time with God?  Your willingness to do so now can make a big difference in your ability to face life’s challenges in the future.  Take the time, this week, to carefully examine your spiritual practices and make adjustments where necessary!

The Rummage Sale

22 May

Read: Matthew 25:14-30

“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”

James 1:17 NASB

A quick look around the nursery was sufficient to see that we had too much plant material on hand.  The season was nearing an end and, without enough room to plant the remaining trees and shrubs on our own lot or to successfully over winter them in the greenhouse, we had no choice but to begin marking down the product.

We placed each discounted plant in an area of the nursery marked with red tape, their new prices or the percentage discount prominently displayed on each one.  Many of the plants saw discounts far beyond half off (you’ve heard that saying: “If it ain’t half off, it ain’t on sale”).  It was not ideal, but we felt that we had little choice… and our customers did enjoy the newfound treasures!

I saw plenty of these healthy, but dilapidated-looking pieces of greenery come through the check stands with their $40 price tags crossed out and $5 scrawled in its place.  Anyone who knew what the nursery had originally paid for these plants would have been impressed by such discounts… but even this was insufficient to please a few rare customers.

I was working this “rummage sale” area one afternoon when a lady approached me.  “I want to speak to a manager about getting a discount on these.  They look a bit ragged.”

I quickly explained that it was for this very reason that they had already been marked down, but to no avail.  After failing to reach the manager about the possibility of an even deeper discount, I suggested that we speak with the assistant manager.

“I already talked to her,” my customer replied.  “She said no, so I want to talk with the manager.”

Sadly, when this could not be arranged, she left the store… without the plant in question.  It was an amazing price, but apparently, not amazing enough.

Unfortunately, oft times we as Christians behave in a similar manner.  Seeing the good gifts that God has already given us, the great deal offered at His expense, we seek even more.  While there is nothing wrong with doing so, we must keep in mind that what God has already offered is of phenomenal quality… even when it doesn’t come in the type of packages we expect!

To reject His gifts on the grounds that they aren’t exactly what we would have chosen for ourselves is foolish.  Instead, we must seek to take advantage of all that He offers us… and turn it again to His service!

Challenge:  Don’t let what you wish you had keep you from accepting God’s best for you.  Remember that all good things are a demonstration of His love and can be used in His service… even if they aren’t exactly what we’d hoped for!

Ask the Mechanic

15 May

Read: Hebrews 4:13-16

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin.”

Hebrews 4:15 NIV

 

Working retail affords you the opportunity to meet all sorts of people.  Some of them are entertaining, encouraging, and just plain fun to be around.  Others, however, have a unique ability to talk down to nearly everyone.  And for some reason, our service center mechanic seemed to attract more than her fair share of these.

While the “you’re-a-woman-and-can’t-possibly-know-enough-to-fix-my-lawnmower” attitude offended her, there was very little she could do about it.  Instead, each time she found herself confronted by such a customer, she would refer them to her manager.

After attentively listening to the customer’s description of their problem, he would explain that he didn’t know how to mend the merchandise in question… but if they wanted to talk to someone who did, they could ask his mechanic.  One way or another, they always ended up back at the service center, looking her in the eye.

 The truth was that though these customers felt that it was impossible for a female mechanic to have any real mechanical knowledge, she was a good deal more qualified than she may have at first appeared.  She had been working on engines since childhood, had taken each vendor’s repair course, and had been certified and recertified to work on the merchandise which we sold.  Our customers could not have been in better hands.

Unfortunately, as Christians, our attitudes aren’t often that far removed from those of these customers.  While we teach that God is all-knowing, we sometimes behave as though His position beyond the borders of our universe prevents Him from truly understanding and sympathizing with our human struggles.  How wonderful it is to be reminded that He cares so much for us that He took on our flesh and experienced these trials and tribulations just as we do!  Being the Creator of all things as well as having experienced life in human skin, He is duly qualified to deal with all of our problems!

Challenge:  Commit to reading the entire book of John.  As you do, think carefully about the human aspects of Christ’s life: the labor of a carpenter, the sore muscles He must have experienced after a long day on the road, His feelings upon being abandoned by His friends.  Make a list of all the ways in which the Master’s life and yours are similar.  You may be surprised at just how much He can sympathize with your situation!

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