devozine

For Youth Workers Post

JESUS CALLS ME FRIEND

Will Penner

“In the Habit” session for devozine meditations for April 21–27, 2014.

MAKING THE CONNECTION

“I’ll never forget the dream I had when I was in high school. I was walking through the countryside of central Texas when I heard the all-too-familiar sound of a Diamondback rattlesnake, shaking its rattlers. In a panic, I reached behind me, grabbed the friend walking with me, and threw him in between the snake and me. The snake lunged and bit him as I turned away and ran. The dream rocked my self-image a bit, causing me to question what kind of friend I was. Would I throw others under the bus to serve my own needs? To this day, whenever I begin to get too focused on myself, I remember the dream.” —Will

 

MEET THE WRITER

Will PennerWill Penner has been in ministry with young people for more than two decades in Methodist, Baptist, and Presbyterian churches, public and private schools, and as a popular speaker at youth retreats, camps, and conferences. He has served as the editor of both leading professional journals of youth ministry and has authored or edited numerous youth ministry curricula and books, the latest of which is It Happens: True Tales from the Trenches of Youth Ministry. But most important, he is the husband of his amazing wife, Christine, and father of five children, ranging in age from four to twenty-two.

 

STUFF YOU WILL NEED

 

PLUGGED IN

  • As a discussion opener, show one of the many clips of Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown to kick.

 

CHECKING IN

When group members arrive, invite discussion:
       An old adage says, Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. What is the adage trying to say?
      Are there people you’ve been burned by again and again?
       How have you put up your guard to protect yourself from being hurt yet again?

 

EXPLORING THE WORD

Scripture: Luke 23:33–37

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34, NRSV). Can you imagine having the kind of compassion Jesus had as he was being mocked, ridiculed, beaten, and led to his death? Few of us have met anyone else who comes even remotely close to having this quality of character.

Most of us develop friendships based on convenience, proximity, or interest. We have people in our lives with whom we share activities we like or accomplish tasks that are mutually beneficial. Our grandparents’ generation referred to them as “fair weather friends.”

Nothing is wrong with having some fair weather friends; no one can be best friends with everyone. But if all of the people we typically hang out with drop their friendship with us when something or someone else is more interesting, that’s a shame. Some people suddenly become too busy when we are hurting. They don’t mind us as activity companions, but they’re not true friends.

All too often, we are Jesus’ fair weather friends. Some of us go to church, Sunday school, youth group, Bible study, and so on because of the fun activities or the good-looking girls or guys, or because our parents make us; and we sort of tolerate Jesus—as if he were the third or fifth wheel, the kid who’s there only because no one wants to be rude and tell him or her to go away.

Others of us go to church or youth group because we do want a relationship with Jesus. We have no problem praising Jesus when life is good. But when it’s bad, then thankfulness is difficult to muster. During times of doubt or difficulty, our church attendance and our desire to deepen our friendship with Christ begins to wane.

We sometimes gratefully sing songs like “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” rightly reminding ourselves of his faithfulness and unconditional love for us. But if we assess ourselves, most of us have a low FQ (Friendship Quotient) when it comes to being a friend to Jesus.

Distribute paper and pens, and invite group members to spend some time in silent reflection on the questions below. Or choose to invite the group to brainstorm, encouraging them to come up with a list of responses to these questions:
       What are some ways we can demonstrate our friendship to Jesus in the upcoming week?
       How can we hold ourselves accountable for being better friends for him?

If individuals worked alone, bring group members together to discuss their responses.

 

SHARING IN PRAYER

Conclude the session with prayer:

“Lord Jesus, we are grateful for your love that continues even when we mock you, ridicule you, ignore you, or push you to the sidelines of our lives. Help us to let go of distractions that keep us from being good friends for you and to stand up for you with boldness and assurance. Give us the will to keep trying to be better, and continue to forgive us when we fail. In your precious, holy name, we pray. Amen.”

 

TAKING IT FURTHER

  • Encourage group members to make a commitment to at least one action proposed as a way to be better friends with Jesus and to one way of maintaining accountability.
  • Ask group members to reflect further on the “Checking In” exercise. What are the parallels between the way they feel about being burned over and over again and the way Jesus feels when we continually let him down? What can we learn from Jesus’ response?
  • Consider asking some of the more mature youth to read the book of Hosea. What lessons was God trying to teach us through the book of Hosea? (The references to whoring may require some debriefing; many feel that the book is about God’s love for God’s people despite their unfaithfulness.)

—from devozine In the Habit (March/April 2014). Copyright © 2014 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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