His Daughters and Sons – The Other 51

The following is an excerpt from the student’s devotions in our 2015 theme material at Live It and Serve this summer.

A few years ago, I was wandering through a mall in the city in which I work. I had finished a meeting with one of my friends from the street and was off to another meeting. This way through the mall was a short cut between streets. I was reflecting on the meeting I had just finished when I saw her at the other end of the hallway. To this day, I can’t describe her. I just know that I looked at her and shuddered, feeling like she was disgusting and unpleasant. I don’t even remember why. I didn’t know her. I knew nothing about her. Just her appearance disgusted me. Being a person who wants to follow God, I also knew my first reaction was wrong. I stopped walking, closed my eyes and whispered a quick prayer to God. “Help me see this woman the way you see this woman.” When I opened my eyes, for the briefest of seconds, in place of the woman, I saw my oldest son, and then I saw this woman again. God had answered my prayer. It was as if God had said this:

“You want to see how I see this woman? Look at her the way you look at your son. I love her that much and more! She is my daughter, not an object of disgust. She is my daughter and I love her very much. Treat her that way.”

Humbled, I sat and broke down. I no longer saw the woman. She was gone, but I have changed in my approach to others. I try (and this is hard sometimes) to see people as God sees them. They are his children. He loves them all very much. He wants the very best for each one, and my calling is to come so close to my God in worship, that I begin to see with God’s eyes, hurt with God’s heart and listen with God’s love.

I wonder if the disciples had a similar experience when the woman with 12 years of bleeding reached out to touch Jesus. The story is recounted in Mark 5:25-34. This woman would have felt quite disgusting. Her bleeding made her ceremonially unclean. In other words, she was not allowed to touch another person. If she had children, she could not hold them. If she had a husband, she could not kiss him. If she had parents, she could not receive a hug from them. Imagine that for a second. In desperation, that woman reached out to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment. She felt the bleeding stop. Jesus called her out of the crowd to share God’s love with her. “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” He called her daughter.

That’s what worship does. We become like the one we worship and respond like they do. We see with their eyes. We hurt with their heart. We love with their love.

From Amazing to Ordinary

Many of our students and those of us in the youth ministry field spent time this summer on a service trip. These weeks are almost always amazing. After experiencing a week of living, serving, eating and worshiping together in Christian community, in true unity with God and others, we often discover that we want to live that way every day. When we get home, panic sets in, and we begin asking ourselves, “What now?” If you are asking that question, here are three things you can do…

Remember What God Has Done                 

When Moses would have encounters with God, he would come down from the mountain and his face would literally shine with the Glory of God. (Exodus 34:29-35). When we return from trips, camps, retreats, etc., our faces shine too, but eventually the shine fades. Here’s the challenge; don’t forget about what God has done. Don’t settle back into your old life before the shine. In the Old Testament there are many examples of people building an altar, not for worship, but to preserve a memory. These altars were usually just a pile of uncarved rocks, but they served as a reminder that God had been present in their lives, working for their good. (Exodus 17:15, Joshua 4, 1 Samuel 7:12). While random piles of rocks aren’t so practical today, you too can set out a reminder of what God has done in your life. Hang a picture on your wall, post a key scripture verse on your mirror or in your locker or keep a journal of gratitude or daily god-sightings.

Continue Building Relationships

Often what makes our service weeks so amazing is that all our focus is on maintaining a right relationship with God and a right relationships with others. After you return home from your mountain-top experience with God, continue to turn off your cell phone, fast from Social Media, read scripture and pray. Continue to talk to your friends and neighbors not just about sports, music and movies, but about the ways God is showing up in your life, teaching, shaping and encouraging you. Continue to step out of your comfort zone and say hello to a stranger! Continue the hard work of taking risks when you are home again.

Find Satisfaction in the Ordinary

We often look for God in the big moments of our lives, but God is involved in every moment of our lives, especially our ordinary moments. Scripture is filled with stories of people who daily focused on a personal commitment to God. Noah built an ark 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high. (That’s one and a half football fields long and four stories high). That’s not a weekend project. That took faithfulness and obedience. Jeremiah, the prophet, ministered under five kings faithfully speaking warnings to the people of Judah for 40 years. Daniel and Esther, quietly and humbly served in king’s courts for years before their faithful commitment to God thrusted them into the spotlight.

Your students and you will quickly learn that living for God at home is messy. It’s hard and transformation doesn’t happen overnight. But remember, God is faithful: what he has done in the past, he can do in the present. God can make even your ordinary weeks amazing!

Go Do Something

I was almost 20 years old when it came to me. I was not in church, youth group or doing any “holy” activity. I was sitting in my Jeep Cherokee outside of the garage where I worked, looking at a tall brick building with chipped paint and a flock of noisy seagulls arguing on the roof. I was terribly unhappy, but I didn’t have a clear picture of what to do. So I did nothing. For years. Until that summer morning where it came to me as clear as crystal: “Go do something.” That was it.

I thought maybe God wanted me to go do something in “ministry” but I didn’t know what that meant or where to begin. Here is the process I used to help guide my decision. Maybe it will help you too.

  1. I spoke with people who were wise and knew me well to help me identify what I was good at.
    I heard a lot of different things, but the common theme was that I should be doing something helping people. It seemed that perhaps a career in the ministry was for me. As you listen to what the wise people in your life are telling you, make sure you are asking the question, “How will I bring God’s grace into this area of the world?” If you do this, you will always be doing God’s will.
  2. I used my common sense and began looking for colleges that could prepare me for ministry and fit my other needs as well. Your preparation may or may not include college, but it will certainly include learning. Whether it is an apprenticeship, an entry-level job or an internship, you will be learning. When looking for your place to prepare, be intentional about ensuring you have a network of Christians to help you integrate what you are learning with a Christian worldview. A church, a small group or a Christian college are all great ways to develop that network.
  3. I began to make my plans for how to go about preparing, and I prayed this prayer (and meant it with my whole heart):

God, I want to please you more than anything. I think these steps make sense for me. If you have different plans, I will follow them willingly. If this is the wrong step, make it plain to me in a way I will understand.

Your heavenly father will not reject your earnest prayer to follow his will. He loves you too much.

  1. I took the steps to begin my training and trusted God.

I can’t guarantee that the first draft of your plan is an inflexible roadmap going to where you will end up. It certainly wasn’t for me. Please remember that God is faithful and will not, under any circumstances, by any means, ever abandon you. He loves you too much. But don’t just wait. Go do something.

If you would like to have a conversation with Luke, feel free to email him at lmorgan@kuyper.edu and the two of you can chat about life, calling and different ways to prepare.

The Questions God Asks

If you could ask God a question, what would it be?

Go ahead; write it in the comments of this blog below. Take time to ponder and wordsmith if you want, type it in and then press enter or just scribble it down on a piece of scrap paper, crumple it up and throw it away. Either way, you can’t really “send it” or “throw it”. The question lingers and hopefully the answer will eventually linger as well.

If there’s no answer right now, my prayer is that wondering or even doubting will lead to leaning further into God’s wisdom and not into discouragement or disillusion. (Proverbs 3:5-6) There’s a tension that God lets linger when questions are on the table. Why does he do that?

Sometimes when we express those deeper questions it reflects a longing for the world to be reconciled or made right. The world groans for that day according to Romans 8. It seems God would move us from groaning for our own “personal world” to be made right into a groaning for the world, his world, to be made right.

At times it’s as if God has said to me, “Go ahead and question; long for answers in your personal life and for your family and the things that matter to you. Then, let me show you how I long for the people that matter to me. Then, let’s make a difference together.”

Ask your questions. Plead, cry, grieve, doubt and deliberate. Ancients of the faith did. Then, in the aftermath of our own questions, listen for his.

It’s when we turn our attention to God’s questions that we find peace in the tension. It’s when we turn our desire for the answers into the desire for his perspective that we become hungry and thirsty for the right things.

If that sounds trite or churchy, it might be necessary to return to the first paragraph and continue working through your own questions and struggle. There is a deep work God wants to do in and through our struggles and questions.

I remember reading a book that urged me to make the most of suffering and I just wasn’t ready to. I put my bookmark in the page, shut the book hard and threw it across the room. Eventually, there is grace to work on our own struggles and co-labor with Christ in the world. Don’t rush your own process if you’re struggling today.

What are the questions God asks?

Going through the Gospels and making a note of everything Jesus asked in conversations would be a great study.

There is also an “at-a-glance” outline in Isaiah 58. God’s people are asking why it seems he is not listening to them and blessing them and moving heaven and earth to help them. He moves them into his questions which will lead to the deeper answers for which they long.

For a seven part youth group curriculum that guides students through dealing with their own troubles, celebrating God’s work through Christ, true worship, a true fast and “kingdom living in the middle of normal”, please download the Youth Unlimited Student Curriculum at www.thereforego.com/downloads.

Isaiah 58:5-9


“Is it a fast like this which I choose, a day for a man to humble himself?
Is it for bowing [b]one’s head like a reed
And for spreading out sackcloth and ashes as a bed?
Will you call this a fast, even an acceptable day to the Lord?
“Is this not the fast which I choose,
To loosen the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the bands of the yoke,
And to let the oppressed go free
And break every yoke?
“Is it not to divide your bread [c]with the hungry
And bring the homeless poor into the house;
When you see the naked, to cover him;
And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
“Then your light will break out like the dawn,
And your recovery will speedily spring forth;
And your righteousness will go before you;
The glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
“Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
You will cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’

What questions are you asking God today?

What questions is God asking you?

True Religion – More than Justice

[Adapted from Session 3 of the 2014 Theme Material]


We all love a story in which the dark and ugly turns glorious and good. A story where a creature so hideous no one dared look on it turns into a handsome prince, the cowardly lion takes courage and protects others, Cinderella rises from the mop bucket to become queen and rule kindly, Pinocchio turns into a real boy, Scrooge becomes generous . . . they become everything they never thought they could be – transformed.


As humans we love stories of transformation where a person is not just improved but made new. The story of mankind that God is writing does not end with justice but with transformation.


Micah 6:8 was written to people in need of transformation. Though the book’s tone is one of judgment, the theme of restoration cannot be missed. The God of all creation sees and cares about the most vulnerable and weak. He cares enough to warn his own people that they are also vulnerable and weak. He urges them and we are urged to be humble, to love mercy and to be just. That is, in fact, required by God.


Maybe the simplest way to increase humility and mercy is to intentionally grow in justice. While only God can transform he has clearly stated what he requires from us. Justice is:

  • Straight Forward: In Isaiah 1 and Micah 5 there are basic commands: stop doing bad and selfish things and do good. Take care of the weak, lift up the poor, free the oppressed and feed the hungry.
  • A Way of Life: God wants justice – not in fits and starts or here and there. God wants justice to permeate, penetrate and restore people. He wants justice to refresh the weary, to ease the thirst of the downtrodden. God wants justice to wash away injustice. He wants it to soak in and nourish our relationship with one another. Like a never-ending river, God wants justice to flow day and night
  • Us, Not “Us and Them”: Unfortunately, we often take on a rescuers mentality, but the people we serve are able to teach us much about life and they bear the image of Almighty God. They are to be valued and their skills, gifts and abilities understood to better the community. See https://vimeo.com/25101770.
  • Using the chainsaw first and then, maybe, the tweezers: We have to confront the beam in our own eye (Luke 6:42). Jesus’ admonition has an almost instant humbling effect reminding us we are in need of transformation.


Our culture of consumerism and greed set us up as “haves and have-nots”. This attitude must not be transferred into our pursuit of a just life. In fact, justice in not what we eagerly await but transformation by God’s grace and Christ’s work. The gospel brings us the opportunity, desire and power to adhere to God’s requirements of humility, mercy and just living.


As mortals we are, by God’s grace and through the work of Christ, being moved from darkness into his light. He is causing us to take courage and teaching us to rule kindly in his kingdom. Part of us must love those stories of transformation and truly find fulfillment in helping others because we long to see God’s complete work in our own lives and world.


For real life stories of how the Gospel is transforming lives around the world be sure to check out World Renew’s website at worldrenew.net.


Dependence on God

Sold. Our house had sold! My family and I were looking forward to moving closer to church and school, but there was a problem. We were struggling to find a house that fit our needs (and wants). We walked out the door of our home for the last time knowing we had three months to find something before we had to be out of our short-term rental. My wife and I were both well aware of how little time that was. God had plans however, and two weeks later he made available the home we had been praying for, and two months later we moved in. It was answered prayer and we knew this was where we were supposed to be, but God did it on his timeline and his message was clear. Trust me!


Have you had those times in youth ministry of being totally dependent on God? That place where you ask yourself, do I really believe God will come through? For some, that time is leading small group discussions. For others, it could be getting up in front of a large group to share a testimony, or taking students on a Serve teen summer mission experience or working through unmet expectations with parents or a pastor. Whatever brings you there, most of us might agree, it is often a place filled with fear and anxiety, and if we’re really honest, we might even admit it causes us to question how much can we really depend on him.


It is human nature to want to be in control, but listen to the words of Psalm 146: 3-6, “Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, the maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them – the Lord, who remains faithful forever.”


Do you remember having a parent or friend tell you to fall backwards into their arms? It was scary, exciting and nerve wrecking all at the same time. If it was a parent, you knew they would catch you, but the fear was still there. When I play this game with my daughters there are times they can’t bring themselves to fall, even though I’m 100% confident I’ll catch them. When they don’t want to, I don’t get angry, but when they do, it makes me feel oh so good. I want to believe God feels something similar when we depend on him. He is probably not angry when we don’t fully trust him, but I’m sure he’s filled with joy when we do!


As the church calendar year comes to a close and transitions toward summer ministry and youth mission experiences begin, it is my prayer you have experienced the joy found in serving him through serving students and that you put all trust in him as your summer experiences begin.


As the childhood song goes . . . trust and obey, for there is no other way, to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.


The Story Behind the Service

God’s story of redemption is the most powerful love story that we can share with one another. As youth leaders, we desire to share God’s story, and engaging students in experiences like Serve is a way for them to connect with God personally. It is an honor to serve alongside students and share with them in witnessing God’s redemptive work in new communities across the country. Those stories are what kept me involved with Serve for seven years and eventually led me to my career in youth ministry.

Serve is known for setting up great worksites like building houses, or working in fields, stocking the local area food bank, perhaps even folding clothes at a local pawn shop. Although all of these sites are good and in need of help from willing and able youth, how often are we sharing the story behind the service that our youth are engaging in?

One summer, I took a group of youth to Holland, MI on Serve. We were assigned to paint a house belonging to an elderly couple who attended the Host Church. After two days of scraping off peeling paint, my group of six was running out of steam. The work was difficult, the sun was beating on us and my students were growing weary of the project.

The elderly couple invited us inside, and we joined them for lunch with our brown sack lunches. We noticed that the man of the house was in a wheelchair, hardly able to speak or to move on his own. His lovely wife offered us lemonade and cookies. We decided to initiate a conversation with our new friends by asking questions in order to learn more about them. After our lunchtime interview, we learned that he had had a horrible stroke and that she was now his primary caregiver. This woman was in her late 70s and was completely devoted to the care of her husband every day: bathing him, clothing him, feeding him. She didn’t complain once. She described to us the blessing of their marriage and how she was happy to care for him in all these ways.

We finished the house-painting project for our new friends that week. It took forever, but we completed the project! On the Friday evening before Serve was over, I asked my group what their favorite part of the week was. I was blown away when they all agreed that it was spending time with the elderly couple; learning about their life and their unconditional love for one another.

The testimony of those being served can impact the life of a young person. As leaders, let us encourage our students to discover the story that lies behind the service. You will never know the story unless you ask. Make the service personal and engage with people’s stories; let them affect your group. In the end, Serve is not so much about the work we do for people as it is about witnessing God’s glory through the people that we serve.