Responding to Growth

Christian thinkers often point out where God displays His sense of humor in the Scriptures and in our lives. They are wise people. God consistently has me doing things that I never planned to do, and even said I would never do. The sum of my experiences this past summer serve as a perfect example of how God continually shows His characteristic humor in my life.

I grew up in a small, single traffic light, one chain restaurant town in South Georgia. I am someone who dreams big, and living in Buena Vista, Georgia never fit the idea I had for myself. When I was 18 I left small town life for college life, and when I did I told myself that nothing could drag me back (aside from visiting family and friends, of course).

Four years later, God had a different plan.

The plans I had for the summer fell through, and I was looking for a summer job. I was on a SWAT weekend at a church in low and behold, South Georgia. I was a host home leader for a precious group of girls. The weekend ended and one of the youth leaders gave me his contact information and told me to email him if I was interested in working with their youth for the summer.  I had enjoyed my time with them immensely, but that was one weekend and not an entire summer in South Georgia.

Summertime runs the gamut of inescapable heat, unbearable humidity, and copious flying insects. Was this really where God wanted me to be from May to July? The environment was not my only hesitation though, I also had never been in charge of a youth group for an extended period of time. Yes, I have worked with youth during my time as a SWAT leader, but could I spend 2.5 months in a church, planning all summer activities, teaching and helping students along in their faith journey? I admire those who love to do these things, but it was slightly out of my comfort zone.

After much prayer and counsel from others I eventually decided to go to where the Lord had called me. It probably wouldn’t be that bad, after all God was placing me there...right?

The truth is, as I have come to find out, God puts you in certain places for many reasons. Sometimes it is because you may have certain gifs that allow you to perfectly fill a role, or possibly He chose you as the best influence for a certain person. God’s reason for me? I believe it was growth.

My summer was not bad, but there were some times of difficulty. There were many times where I questioned why God put me there. There were times I wanted to quit. Yet, in spite of the difficulty, I knew quitting and leaving would be a big mistake. God assured me that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. He made me realize I was there to grow, and growth does not come easily.

This truth in my heart made it easier to endure the hard times, and made me cherish the good times more. I look back on that summer now, and I know the growth I went through was beneficial for me. I was challenged, I was tested, and I endured. I learned so many things. I connected with God more than I had been. I experienced just how difficult leadership can be. My growth wasn’t limited to ministry, for instance, I even learned that I enjoy yoga. God always has the best plan, even if it seems difficult. I learned to trust His will for my life above all else.

In Christ

-Shealy Smith

Hope, Promise, and New Beginnings

Most people have likely heard this as a cliche at some point in their life, “there’s a reason and a season for everything.” It has become a common expression often used by well meaning people attempting to help us through obstacles and failures. When we hear it, seldom is it a welcome piece of advice. Usually we find it quite natural to roll our eyes, shake our head, and brush off this old saying. I want us to reclaim the meaning of this phrase and receive the blessing of its wisdom because there is hope, promise, and a sense of new beginnings in those words.

 

 

This past weekend, SWAT held interviews for new leaders.  After I had finished with my duties, one of the other leaders told me I was needed immediately, and soon I found myself in a dark room being told to sit down on the chair in front of me. Two leaders, who had previously been hidden in the room, told me I had one minute to share what the Lord was currently teaching me,  then I must state  my favorite Bible verse and explain why. It was totally intended to be a joke, but I have not been able to stop thinking about my answer since then.

 

Right now, the Lord is leading me through a season of growth and change. He is showing me the beauty of pushing the limits of my comfort zone and being in a state of uncomfortability. But it is definitely a challenging season to be in. I have found myself looking for every way possible to exit this season of life… It was my second answer that the Lord used to reshape my perspective—my favorite Bible verse.

 

Romans 8:28 ~ “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

 

This season is for my good, but most importantly it is also to further glorify the Lord. That is where the hope and promise of “there’s a reason and a season for everything” comes from. Growth is good. Change is good. Being uncomfortable is good. It just means that the Lord is doing something GOOD! He does nothing by accident and does everything with love, mercy, and grace. So, no matter what season you are in; even when you don’t see or understand the reason for it, know that it is good. Live in the moment. Have joy every second. If you find yourself to be in a hard season, remember there is hope, promise, and sense of new beginnings. God is SO GOOD, and He does everything for our good.  

 

-Kaysi Raborn

 

Fall 2017 Update

SWAT has been quite busy over the course of  this summer. The work of The Lord has no off-season. If you have been blessed enough to see pictures, videos, and other posts from SWAT leaders at home and abroad, then it is evident how each day and season belongs to the Lord. Look forward to more writings from past and current SWAT leaders as Fall kicks into high gear. We are excited for all possibilities to claim the promises of God this coming this semester. Join with us daily in prayer for what is to come and in praise for what has already been accomplished.

The twenty-four years preceding this one have been a tremendous period, a testament to the power and faithfulness of God. He began a mighty work when He called Jon Messarra, his family, his students, and his friends to the ministry we now call SWAT; what a perfect moniker for those whose mission is discipleship. The goal and the means of reaching it are both within the meaning of our name, Students With a Testimony. Through the witness we have born steadfastly for the past twenty-four years, the testimony of middle school, high school and college students has multiplied through the Spirit of God and the labor of His people. Today countless numbers of students have encountered our Savior, Jesus Christ, and now pass on a testimony of their own.

What an incredible God we serve. If this were to be our twenty-fifth and final year, then we would likely spend our farewell tour thanking God as well as those of you who have partnered with us in so many ways. God is not done with us, however, so we gladly plan to spend our twenty-fifth anniversary giving thanks and serving God with equal fervor and joy.

This weekend we have a special Fall Enrichment. It will be held this Saturday, August 19th at the First Baptist Church of Watkinsville. It is not only a training day for our current leaders, but also a time where people outside of the ministry can come to fellowship and be refreshed by God’s Word. Our wonderful intern, Kaysi Raborn, has put so much time into planning this event, please be in prayer for her and for those traveling to fellowship with us. We cannot wait to see the Lord move during this time!

Be sure to go and check out our website swatministries.com for information and updates, in particular we ask that you would read about our #Grateful25Initiative.

Thank you for all that you do to make our labors possible. It is an honor to be the recipient of so much blessing from so many different members of the Body of Christ. May the Lord bless you and keep you, as only He can.

~ Rebel Lord

Humble Thoughts

One of our core ideas in SWAT is Integrity. We talk about it every training and every meeting. But it seems we often can only define it with other similarly abstract traits--honesty, honor, valor--to which we perpetually ask: well what do those mean? And because of these half-definitions, we don't necessarily strike the depth of the word 'integrity.'

Now, I'm no scholar but I'm starting to see where this word is more complex and more exciting than we may realize. I like to imagine that 'integrity' shares roots with the word 'integral.' However, it may not make sense at first; it's probably not intuitive to think a math concept gets its name from the word for 'honesty.' But rather, consider the opposite: what if 'honesty' receives its name from mathematics?

Think about it: in calculus, an integral is a sum of parts. Essentially, every point or output value of a function is totaled to find the area under a curve. In other words, every value makes a contribution and the goal is to understand the collection of those contributions. The crux of the concept of the integral is that every part matters--the reason you account for every single part and work with tiny differentials--but the focus is finding the larger sum or the collective effort.

Now step away from math for a moment; use 'integral' in a sentence. Go ahead.

Seriously.

Perhaps you say something like, "So and so has an "integral-role" in the so and so..."

In this sentence, swapping integral with a synonym like 'important' or 'significant' doesn't quite do the phrase justice, does it? Integral doesn't just suggest importance, it implies the object of the verb is part of a group. An integral role is an important role 'among' many other roles.

You're probably starting to understand my point, so let me put it ALL together: life isn't about you. (I'm not sorry.) You're far too small. There is a much larger work going on in the world. God is being glorified among the nations and the entire universe testifies to his power just with its existence. Not for a second can we think that a king with a glory as infinite and incalculable as his can be equaled by our futile problems and selfish ambitions. His dream is so much bigger. But......this doesn't mean your dreams are over; it just means you get to be a part of His--in which YOU have an integral role.

In SWAT, specifically, one leader enters one host home: one-for-one. If that one leaders does not act with honor and intention in that home, those students won't be reached. There's no one else to occupy that space. No other person to speak or act. In other words, that leader holds the opportunity to make a unique contribution to a larger purpose.

So whoever you are and wherever you are, I humbly ask:

Today, will you live a life of integrity?

Will you be faithful in whatever space you've been given--whether it be Kenya, Alabama, or Dunwoody?

Will you serve even if no one's watching?

Friend, you're not at the center of this equation. You can't compete. But, you do get to play an integral role in the plan. However big or small, we have the privilege of playing a part in the global purpose of an astoundingly good God.

Seriously, how awesome is that?

 

~ Kyle Wade

History ~ Hosea

Blog-Journal-Devotion.jpg

    Hey, fam! I am so excited we are doing something new and it's our first blog series (yay!!!) We will be going through the book of Hosea for the next few weeks, but I wanted to take this week to give some historical background and context for this book.

    Hosea's name means salvation and he was the first prophet to foretell of Israel's downfall (tough break, huh?). His prophetic ministry spanned from circa 753 B.C. - 715 B.C. which means he also prophesies through Israel's downfall in 722 B.C. A historical note, the promised land was split into two kingdoms at the time with Israel/ Northern Israel being the north region and Judah being the kingdom of the south. The split happened after the death of King Solomon, son of King David, when his son Rehoboam took over, the northern tribes seceded due to his arrogance and called themselves Israel. Though the immediate reason of Israel's succession is the bad judgments on Rehoboam's part, the root cause in found in the idolatry of Solomon's wives.

    If having to be the first to be the first bearer of bad news was not hard enough, God then commands Hosea to marry a woman named, Gomer. To quote David Platt, "There were two problems her name was Gomer and she was a prostitute." The first and foremost thing you need to keep in mind before we start is this book is not just about the sin of a woman being adulterous towards her husband, but a divinely orchestrated, tangible allegory to illustrate the pain and suffering caused by spiritual adultery coupled with the grace, mercy and justice of God.

    I am so excited to be going through this book on the blog with you guys for the next few weeks and can't wait to see what God will teach me and you through His amazing Word!

 

~ Kristen Lewers