devozine

For Youth Workers Post

ALL STAR TEENS

Will Penner

“In the Habit” session for use with devozine meditations for December 29–31, 2014.

MAKING THE CONNECTION

“The merchant of death is dead,” stated the newspaper. “Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday.”

“Dr. Nobel had, indeed, become quite wealthy due to his inventions, especially dynamite. It was his brother, however, who had died; and the newspaper published Alfred’s obituary by mistake.

“Not many people get the opportunity to read their own obituary before they die, but perhaps they should. Concerned about the legacy he was going to leave behind, Alfred Nobel dedicated the remainder of his life to recognizing individuals and societies who make life better. Among the five Nobel prizes awarded annually is the Nobel Peace Prize, which is now Alfred’s most notable legacy.” —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. Most important, he is the husband of his amazing wife, Christine, and the father of five fantastic children, ranging in age from 5 to 24.

STUFF YOU WILL NEED

PLUGGED IN

  • The video clip “Malala a frontrunner for Nobel Peace Prize” captures a portion of what makes Malala Yousafzai an inspiration to so many people. After being shot by the Taliban, she was still willing to stand up for the right to an education. While she was not awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014, she was the youngest nominee in the history of the award.

CHECKING IN

Explain that the obituary section of a newspaper announces the names of people who have recently died. Generally, the short articles contain information about family members still alive, the date and time of the funeral, and a note about where donations can be made in memory of the deceased. Sometimes, a few lines will also talk about significant contributions the person has made to society.

Ask group members to imagine that they have died and that others are reading their obituary. Beyond the lists of people and dates, what would they want those few lines to say about their contribution to the world? Distribute paper and pens. Ask group members to take a few moments to write out their obituaries. They should write in the past tense as if their death had already occurred, though they may choose to write from the perspective of one week or one hundred years from now. Encourage them to take it seriously; what kind of legacy do they hope to have left behind?

EXPLORING THE WORD

Scripture: Daniel 1:1–7, 17–20

The story told in Daniel 1:1–20 took place during the period of time many refer to as the Babylonian exile. What typically happened during this era was that a conquering nation took the best and brightest from the conquered land and brought them back to serve in the capital. Then people from the conquering nation settled in the new lands. This is precisely what happened under the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. Four of the young men, most likely teenagers, brought from Judah into Babylon were Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and Daniel.

Some biblical scholars believe the book of Daniel to be a collection of stories that were told to Hebrew children to give them hope and encouragement during difficult times. This certainly makes sense, as many of us learned the stories when we were children, especially the stories of the lion’s den (Chapter 6) and the fiery furnace (Chapter 3). (It might not be a bad idea to see if one or two members of the group could help quickly recount those stories.)

What is noteworthy in Chapter 1 is the amount of time Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and Daniel spent preparing themselves. They learned the literature, language, and customs of their captors; and they spent several years being educated before they received their first royal orders.

We often only see pivotal moments in other people’s lives: the game-winning point, college acceptance letter, Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, or split-second heroic decision. What we don’t see are the hours of physical conditioning and practice; the late-nights of studying; the saying no to social distractions; the frustrations, failures, hardships, and sacrifices; or the small, daily decisions that mold a person’s character so that he or she will be the kind of person who makes the right choice at the right time and becomes a hero.

In Daniel 1:8–16, the verses we don’t read, Daniel asks to stick with a diet that is consistent with his faith practices rather than the diet the governing authority recommends. He is willing to submit to authority, but he respectfully requests the opportunity to demonstrate that his diet is equally helpful—or maybe even superior—to the royal diet. This begs the question for us: If God is grooming us for extraordinary work, what are we willing to give up in order to develop extraordinary character?
       What in your life seems mundane?
       What daily tasks do you perform that you wouldn’t do if you didn’t have to?
       Which of those mundane tasks are actually working within you to mold you into a better person?
       How would your outlook on life be different if you embraced the opportunities for preparation that are right in front of you instead of resenting them?
       What can you do today that will mold you into the right person to be used by God at the right time?

SHARING IN PRAYER

Invite the group to pray with you the following prayer:

“God, we believe we were created in your image, yet we often fail to act as if we were. Please forgive us when we take your perfect image and skew it to fit our own selfish desires. Reshape us again and again so that we are less about ourselves and more about your will. You started a good work in us, and we trust that you will be faithful to complete it within us; help us to work with you in that process. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.”

TAKING IT FURTHER

Spend time this week creatively imagining pivotal moments that you may encounter in life: serving as a missionary in an impoverished region, saving someone despite danger to yourself, suffering persecution for the sake of the gospel. Consider how your character needs to be molded before you will be ready, and begin the process of forming your character now.

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