Hey Church and friends of Living Hope!
I wanted to take a moment to thank you as our team completes my newest book, God Distorted. It has been such a blessing to be both believed in, and feel supported by many of you. One of the biggest values in my heart and in the life of our church, is to believe in, equip, and empower people to do ministry. Pastor Kris, our middle school pastor, has been so instrumental in speaking into the lives of students. I am so proud of both him and Mandie, and blessed that they are part of our leadership team. I hope his devotional blesses your heart this week!

Please pray that we can finish this book strong. With just four days to go and a couple chapters still to write we can see the finish line. I hope you don't miss church this weekend, and can join us next weekend as we begin a new series "We are Living Hope".
Pastor John.

This last weekend as I sat and heard God speak through Pastor Gary, I was reminded that as adults we have the tendency to look at ourselves as failures for the life we couldn’t and didn’t live up to. Whether this image of what and who we should be was created by the distorted image of ourselves, our parent’s expectations, or even the influence of mass media, we have the tendency to look back and think, “I failed, therefore I’m a failure.” This thought couldn’t be further from the truth. And yet, so many of our students today are following the same pattern as they make one mistake after the other and begin to think, “How could God love a mess up like me?”

I’ll return to this thought in a moment, but first, do you remember what everyone was doing just a few weeks ago? That’s right, watching the Olympics. The Olympics are officially over and we have returned to our regularly scheduled programs. But did you notice the similarities between all the athletes? I’m not talking about their rock hard muscles or their go-for-gold attitude. I’m talking about their age. From all over the globe, countries have chosen teenagers and young adults to represent their country in the biggest, most important event in the history of sports. The average age competing across the globe is 27 years old. As a youth pastor, I was excited as a light bulb went off one night as I realized this fact. Once I shared this thought with an old friend of mine, she humorously replied, “Well duh; old people can’t run as fast.” My amazing thought was immediately crushed as this very obvious truth was made known to me. I continued to watch, however, with amazement with every twist and turn and every jump and dive. These students are up against tremendous pressure and the world is watching.

Are you aware that the world is also watching you? As believers in and followers of Jesus Christ, we are to be the light of the world. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:16, “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Just as these athletes are performing in order to bring gold back to their country, we are to live in a manner that brings glory to our heavenly Father. With all the technology surrounding us today, our thoughts and actions are quickly known and viewed in a way that either agrees with the world or that agrees with God.

During a specific event this last Olympics, a former gold medalist diver was eliminated from the competition and in his exit interview, he explained that his performance was a product of his preparation. Throughout the year, this young man was plagued with injuries and his training was cut short in comparison to the other athletes. He knew that because of his lack of preparation, his performance would be affected, and it was. When I heard these words, I was immediately jotting this phrase down because it holds true for us as believers as well.

Every day we have a choice to train our minds, our hearts, our souls, our bodies, and our relationships for the glory of God. When we walk into a situation that God allows, will we be ready to be that light He’s called us to be, or will we come up short and pass on an opportunity to build His kingdom? “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” 1 Peter 3:15. Our students are prepared and ready, and have amazing potential. I’ve already witnessed countless events of God working through their words and actions. If they are trained by the Truth of God and by the people of God, we will witness these students begin a revolution within our schools, our neighborhoods, and our city. People will come to know this God that has changed our lives and it will be so because of the labor our students have put forth day-by-day for the kingdom of God.

If we are to authentically grow in relationship with God, we must begin every morning hungry and desperate for God. In the business of our world, we must remind ourselves of the Truth and His Word. Steve Saccone, author of Protégé, Developing Your Next Generation of Church Leaders, says, “We all face the daunting challenge to develop ourselves and to develop the next generation of leaders who will shape the future of the church.” Just as former athletes help train current athletes, we, too, are to help our young students through encouragement, prayer, and physical support by lifting their arms together as God molds them into what He has perfectly designed.

Do not be discouraged, my friends, as life throws curve balls and interruptions, but rejoice in the Lord daily for He has “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11. These words hold true regardless of our age. Please pray with me as we remind our students that they, too, are the light of the world and God has great plans for them.

Preparing daily,

Your friend,