Letter to Journey

Dust settled from the chalk lines that outlined the game square, pins from the local bowling alley were strategically placed to separate team zones and reaching others with the Gospel and training them to serve Him was the passionate heartbeat of the selfless adults that had carved out time to begin a new ministry. While I don’t have many memories of that first Arapaho Road Awana meeting, there are two recollections that are still vivid in my mind; having an absolute blast and hearing John 3:16. I’m sure it wasn’t the first time I heard that Bible verse, and certainly not my first opportunity to laugh and play with friends. But, for some reason, it began to click that warm September night. I was hooked. Even intrigued. I began to ask questions. And, the following Spring, I made Jesus the Lord of my life.

Fast forward about twenty-five years. I sat down in the auditorium of Crossway Baptist Church in Springfield, Missouri. Jessica leaned over and whispered, “you know we’re supposed to be the youth directors, don’t you?” I smiled. Then I realized she was serious. My smile went away. No, that’s not the plan. I had asked her to attend this Summit trip with me because it was my last year to serve in Awana. I hadn’t told anyone this was the end, but we were about to get married, and wouldn’t have time to make the hour-long trip from where we would be living in Denton. She was patient at first, she understood my concerns. But patience began to shift toward restlessness as she realized this was not just an emotional attachment to the Awana families, but a calling God had placed on each of our hearts. I knew it was coming from God, but I was hesitant. I had logical reasons, after all. Finally, Jessica said, with conviction, one Sunday morning, “either pray about it or just say yes.” She knew the yes would come eventually and was ready to make the transition. We prayed, then told my parents we were willing to serve as leaders, no mention of director from me. They responded with “well, you know we really need directors.” Jessica’s eyes lit up and I knew it was a done deal. We officially accepted the role of Journey directors a couple weeks later.

I was hesitant to continue serving in Awana because I was feeling the burden of transitioning to married life, being a “bonus dad,” living an hour from work, and the countless other responsibilities and stresses that come with a blended family. However, God began to show me through Scripture that this was indeed His will. With that realization, the excitement began to increase.

As we were praying about becoming directors and the upcoming transition, I was studying the book of Colossians. Being a Pastor’s son, I had learned to neatly summarize scripture and was pleased with my categorization of Colossians. The supremacy of Christ meant viewing everything in life through the eyes and purpose of Christ. The sufficiency of Christ reminded me that I didn’t need to worry about how to accomplish His will, just listen and obey Him. My security in Christ is that I am holy, blameless, and above reproach before Him because of His atoning sacrifice on the cross. And, the standard from Christ, while not as easy, gave me instructions on how to live out my gratitude toward Him each day. Neat and tidy. My Baptist preaching Father and mentor would be proud.

Then it hit me. Reading the last several verses of Colossians opened my eyes to the supplication of Christ in Colossians. THIS is where the 2018 Journey theme lines up with exactly the same place God has been taking me in my personal time with Him.

In Colossians 4, I came across a man named Tychicus. Who is Tychicus? Paul tells us he is “a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord.” Quite remarkable. In the past I would just stop there. That’s impressive and all, but let’s move on. But, I’m learning to read the Bible through the lens of curiosity, so I found myself doing more research on Tychicus. He was part of Paul’s inner circle. A preacher with a gift of helping others in many different circumstances. He was devoted and dependable. Loyal and loving. Faithful and firm. Certainly he was far more useful than the supplication that was about to be presented to him. I imagine it seemed like the simplest of requests. Surely anyone could do it.

Or, maybe Paul considered his most trusted friends. Timothy was there. Many others nearby. But, he asked Tychicus to take Onesimus with him and carry a letter to the church in Colossae. Onesimus has an amazing testimony of God’s grace and redemption. Had he known what Tychicus was carrying, he might have fought him for the chance to carry it for the entire trip. Tychicus might have thought he was carrying a simple, short letter to a church in Colossae. But, he was carrying the holy, inspired, infallible, life-altering, Word of Almighty God. Tychicus was doing what Journey students are being challenged with this year. He was being a witness.

It might seem insignificant. But, God can and will use your life which is your ministry, to reach the lost, change lives, and make disciples.

Or, maybe what you’ve been asked to carry seems impossible. Maybe you can’t see how God could, or even would want to use your life for His purpose. Don’t miss the last part of Colossians. Paul was intentional with each word in Colossians, but I have to imagine he became a little more fierce toward the end. Timothy wrote while Paul dictated this letter. Why? Because of the last phrase. “I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.”  Paul was shackled in chains for his faith, and, probably because it was difficult to write, was only able to sign off on this letter. It may seem like you’re chained by fear, doubt, stress, your past, or a myriad of other burdens.

But you can trust the God who used Paul to write Colossians, the God who transformed Paul from persecutor to preacher, from murderer to man of God – that very same God can and will use your life to accomplish all that He has assigned you to carry. 

So, don’t worry or fret about what God has asked you to carry. Carry it as if you are carrying it with Holy Spirit power. Because you are.

May we make a place for both those who are serious about their walk with God and those who are simply in attendance, understanding the need to lead both into a deeper relationship with Jesus. And, prayerfully, introduce the lost to their Savior. May we extend grace regardless of circumstance. Accepting them as they are, and loving them enough to cultivate spiritual growth. May we train them to chase after God’s heart and will for their lives.

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