2021’s Western Youth Institute goes ‘Lite,’ tune into week 1 virtually

Part one of four.

The first week of August marked the first week of the 2021 Western Youth Institute Lite (WYI Lite). Usually, this annual territorial retreat for young adults takes place in-person, but this year as COVID-19 uncertainties persist, the Territorial Youth Department opted for a “lite” offering with a virtual, four-week event. Although activities are now online, small groups are encouraged to meet together safely across the West to cultivate community.

Services will take place each Friday in August via the Saynetwork Facebook page and YouTube and will be made available for groups to download. Each service will feature a message, worship, small group questions, and activities for group members to do together.  

Special guest speakers will include: Chief Secretary Colonel Kelly Igleheart, Territorial Program Secretary Lt. Colonel Lisa Smith, and Territorial Youth & Candidates Secretaries Captains Emmanuel and Jennifer Masango.

“We’re so sad that we can’t all be hanging out in person this year but don’t you worry we will be back at it next year,” Jennifer Masango said during the 2021 virtual kickoff Aug. 6. 

Here, we are sharing the message delivered by Emmanuel Masango during the first week of WYI Lite along with follow-up study questions and a prayer exercise. 

WYI Lite Week 1: Message

Hey everyone, this is Captain Emmanuel and it’s my privilege to bring the Word of God. As many of you may know, my wife and I recently moved from Sacramento to take up new appointments here in Southern California at Territorial Headquarters. 

You should have seen our house those first few days the movers came in and put off our boxes and containers in the different rooms and some in the garage. It was pure chaos for a while. However, after a few days of hard work putting things away and throwing boxes out, our house began to really have some order. 

There’s something about unpacking and arranging things the way you want them to be that is really satisfying. We even have pictures on the wall, which is something that usually takes us months to do. 

When it was all said and done, we stepped back and we could say, “This looks good.” 

I’m excited to share with you tonight from the Word of God. It is the story that starts right at the beginning of the Bible. The Creator, God, who looks around the chaos and the darkness of the world. Then he calls light to expel the darkness and creates order where there was chaos. 

You see, as we get started in Genesis 1:1 the first thing that you see in this verse is that the human authors of the Scriptures were not confused about how the world came to be. They took as a given that the world was created by God. We live in a world with many different ideas of how life and the universe came to be. 

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1).

Let me help you, in the beginning God started it all. As Christians we believe that the world is not the result of some cosmic accident or a big bang. It is the work of an intelligent designer that we know and call God. As we will see in this passage, in this story, and really through the whole book of Genesis, is a God who creates his calling. He’s acting from start to finish. The Creator, God, is the one who was alive at the beginning, one who existed all by himself before the beginning of time. He has no beginning and he has no ending. 

The second thing you’ll see in this passage is that there was chaos everywhere. 

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters (Gen. 1:2).

Like I said during the middle of our move, my house looked like we had boxes and containers everywhere. It was chaos and we knew that we had to do something about it. We had to put things away and when you go to this Genesis passage, you see that the Creator God was not unaware of all the chaos all around. He was not oblivious to the darkness all around. He could see it all. 

Have you ever wondered if God can see the chaos in our world today? Have you ever wondered if God hears the cries of the hurting? Or does he see the pain of those who are suffering? 

Sometimes chaos shows up in our lives, in our community in the form of addictions or family dysfunction. At other times, darkness shows up as a bitterness or anger that results in violence or sometimes our lives feel empty because of shame and maybe low self-esteem. Maybe over the last year or so your own life has felt like it is formless and empty and covered with darkness. 

I know that during the pandemic many of us have struggled with loneliness and depression and even self-harm. Our lives may feel like darkness. However, just because our lives are in chaos does not mean that God is not present. Just because our lives are filled with darkness does not mean that the Spirit of God cannot see us. He’s a God who sees, he’s a God who hears. Most of all, he is a God who wants to speak into our lives to bring order where there’s chaos, to bring form where there’s void, and to bring light into the darkness. 

As my wife and I worked in our garage, putting things away and putting our house together, I sometimes would stand in the middle of the piles and just wish I could just get it done faster. In Genesis, the Creator God surveys the chaos, the emptiness and the darkness and he doesn’t just leave it just like that he is going to do something about it all. See what he says in the next few verses: 

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day (Gen. 1:3-5).

So, just like that when God said, “Let there be light,” light obeyed God and showed up. 

You see, when my house was full of boxes and things were everywhere, I just wished I could just say something to bring everything into order but my wife and I had to do the hard work of carrying the boxes around. Our kids helped, our friend Larry came over and he helped us to put things away. 

But when God needed light to appear, he did not have to do anything except say something. He just said let light appear and it did. 

So, in Sacramento I have a friend who loves to bake. In fact, every Monday at work I would enjoy some of his baking. I don’t really know a lot about baking but I know you need some ingredients. In order to bake a cake, you’re going to need some flour and sugar and all of those other things. If you’re a builder, if you want to build something you have to have materials. If you’re an engineer, you have to have some parts to build a machine. 

But God, the Creator, simply needs his voice to speak things into existence. Listen to what the psalmist says in Psalm 33: 6-9: By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth. He gathers the waters of the sea into jars; he puts the deep into storehouses. Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the people of the world revere him. For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.

So we believe and worship a God who speaks things into existence. 

In the New Testament, the writer of Hebrews says this:

By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible” (Heb. 11:3).

What the writer is saying is God was able to create something out of nothing. The apostle Paul puts it this way:

The God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not (Rom. 4:17).

Again, it’s the God who’s able to create something out of nothing. So what am I saying tonight? In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. He looked into a world that was formless, empty and full of darkness and he decided to bring order out of the chaos. He spoke light into the darkness. He gave form to the formless earth and filled the earth with his creation. The question is what area of your life feels like chaos today? In what way is your life formless, empty or filled with darkness? Are you held as a slave to a secret addiction or bad habit? Does your life feel empty of meaning and purpose or are you filled with the darkness of hopelessness and despair? God the creator wants to speak light into the darkness of your life. 

Today, he’s speaking order into the chaos. He is filling the emptiness in your life with meaning and purpose and when it is all said and done, it is going to be good. It is going to be beautiful. He will step back and say he is good, she is good because his light and his life will fill your life today. 

Acknowledge the areas in your life where you feel formless or empty or filled with darkness, ask God to come in to speak form to fill you with meaning and with his light. 

Join me in a word of prayer: Heavenly Father, we thank you for these moments that we can hear from your Word and gather in this manner. I ask that you may shine your light into all the areas of all of our lives that are filled with darkness. Give us meaning. Give us purpose. We love you God. For we pray for all these things in the name of Jesus. Amen.

WYI Lite Week 1: Study questions

  • Why is the truth that God is the creator of everything so fundamental to the Christian faith?
  • What are some of the things that you notice about the way Genesis 1 is written?
  • What does it mean for us as people to bear the image of God? What responsibilities come with being made in God’s image?
  • Captain Emmanuel talks about God bringing order to chaos. Have you witnessed this in your own life? How so? What does “and it was good” mean and why is that so important? 
  • We believe and worship a God that speaks things into existence. He brought order out of chaos. What area of your life feels like chaos today? What can we do as a group to help each other through these times? How can we be a light to each other?

WYI Lite Week 1: Prayer exercise

Write and pray over these phrases:

  • I love you Lord because…
  • I need you Lord because…
  • I praise you Lord because…
  • I obey you Lord because…
  • I thank you Lord because…
  • I hope in you Lord because…
  • I trust in you Lord because…
  • I find joy in you Lord because…
  • I find peace in you Lord because…

Father God, these are the reasons you are our God. You have promised us that no matter how deep the stain of our sins, you can remove it. You can make us as clean as freshly fallen snow. Even if we are stained as red as crimson, you can make us as white as wool. We know that our obedience counts, and so we obey. We trust that you will help us and that there will always be enough to sustain us. Lord, many are the reasons we serve you, love you, thank you, need you and find our joy in you. We praise you and give you thanks. Amen.

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Lou Buhl

Lou Buhl is a writer based in West Bloomfield, Michigan.