At every age
Being with junior high these days has been a stretch as it was a number of years ago for me when I was that age. As I look around at what they face, they see so much more so much sooner at such an intense level that in many ways it is a different world then when I was their age. Yet, some things in life are universal no matter what age.
I was introduced to Jesus and Christianity when I was a junior high student. The notion that God loved me sounded so good because as a shy nerd kid I didn't have a lot of acceptance and affirmation.
Thus, God loves me? Wow, that is good!
I can imagine some of our student's level of faith is right there.
I believed that God honors any and all small steps of faith. God worked with me when I was that age and I'm sure God is doing so now with the bundles of energy in our junior high group.
For me, it was in high school with more consistent church attendance that I found myself thinking about what Christ did on the Cross dying on Good Friday as payment for all I (and the world of fallen humanity) have done wrong on and then rising from the dead as proof of victory over sin, death and evil on Easter Sunday. And so I took that step of faith and prayed a prayer to say: God, thank you for all you have done. I accept what you have done for me. I ask that you enter my life to be my Lord and Savior. Forgive me my sins and help me to follow Jesus each day.
Since then, the journey of faith has been an amazing journey with moments of happiness and sadness but through it all, I have sensed that God is there.
I am thinking about our junior high students today. I see them at different places in their journey of faith. Everyone is unique and will progress at different rates. Some show more overt obvious interest in God. Others are there and we hope they are soaking it in and maybe down the road it will sprout. Some are asking honest questions about what they believe and whether it makes sense.
I think that is the neat thing about the junior high age: they are beginning to ask questions and we need to nurture that. We want them to believe but we don't want a belief that is obligatory i.e. the "my parents drag me to church or everyone I know believes" kind of faith.
We want them to have a personal knowledge of God and daily relationship with God and that only comes by wrestling with what it means, experiencing joys, facing up to doubts, sensing peace in troubles, voicing fears and expressing gratitude to a God who is there.
I hope that as we spend time with them talking about some of the ordinary things there will be moments when we will be able to talk about the extra-ordinary things of God. I hope as we try to live out our faith sharing the joy and confessing the mistakes that they will see that devotion to God is real and that if we can be honest about it they can be too.
One Sunday talk was by a college student. He shared that as he reads his Bible, he writes notes in the margins. Sometimes it is something that hits him about how he is living his life and needing to face up to changing the way he lives. Other times there is encouragement. And other times there are questions: what the HECK does that mean?
He challenged the students to be honest about faith and looking at what the Bible has to say. He says it has been around a long time and it has a lot of good wisdom there, in fact, it points to God and that is where LIFE is found.
Amen, yes, sir, preach it!