MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

August 12, 2013

End of summer turns up heat on Christian values

By Barrett Vanlandingham
Fort Faith

—  Summertime always provides great opportunities for spiritual revival among Christian teens. Kids return home from church camps and mission trips every year fired up for God. And every year I hear the same kinds of things from kids and many adults, “I wish camp didn’t have to end!” Or, “I wish the mission trip could last all year!” The only problem is that they are hit in the face with reality as soon as summer ends, sometimes sooner.

The fact is, not all of their friends, family, and neighbors were fortunate enough to go on such trips and come back a changed person. Plus, the devil has been patiently waiting his turn to take another crack at knocking them off their spiritual high.

So with the start of next summer over eight months away, how can these fired-up, energetic Christians continue to make progress? After all, the day in and day out routine of school and extracurricular activities is often a stark contrast to the warm fuzzies and promotion of spiritual values found on summer youth trips.

One young man I spoke with had these very concerns. He was worried about how those closest to him would react when they found out he had re-committed his life to God. I told him this is where faith and obedience comes in, and that he needed to repent (turn back to God). After that, he needs to pick friends who actually care whether he goes to heaven or hell, and then make better choices in where he spends his time. Then, and only then, God blesses us with joy only found in a proper relationship with Jesus Christ.

Opportunities for teens to grow spiritually and make a difference in others’ lives do NOT end when the first school bell rings, or even when they go off to college or to work. I would argue that most spiritual growth opportunities actually begin and increase under these circumstances. Summertime service projects, mission trips, and church camp Bible classes are extremely important in providing hands-on training in spiritual warfare. But obviously, the majority of our time (no matter what our age) takes place outside of these kinds of carefully planned and mostly controlled parameters.

Just imagine what a difference we could make at our jobs, our schools, and among our friends and families if we were to raise our levels of expectation and commitment to that of a summer mission trip. After all, time is ticking, and God really does want our help in bringing the good news of Jesus Christ to lost souls, far away and here at home. Pray that God will open your eyes to opportunities right under your nose to make a difference for Him.

“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere (2 Corinthians 2:14, ESV).” Have a great week!

Reach Barrett Vanlandingham at the Fort Gibson Church of Christ at (918) 478-2222 or barrett@ftgcc.org.