Friday, November 9, 2012

Holding Hands

You know about carrying worries and burdens. Your mom is sick with a stomach disorder that keeps her in bed most nights and weekends. She’s already missed a lot of work, and the doctor bills are piling up. You help with your little sisters, cook meals, and keep the house clean so your dad can care for your mom. Sometimes, after you wash dishes and put your sisters to bed, you’re too tired to tackle your homework. You definitely need the Lord to hold you up and carry your burdens for you.

Worries come in all shapes and sizes, and they can be heavy. Your burden might be divorced parents, hating the way you look, a crabby grandparent who lives with you, money worries, or living in a dangerous neighborhood. Whatever the problem that causes you to stumble, the solution is the same. “The steps of the godly are directed by the LORD. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will not fall, for the LORD holds them by the hand.” (Psalm 37:23-24 NLT) Think of a small child holding onto her daddy’s hand. She trips over a rock, but Daddy’s hand grips hers tight so she doesn’t fall. That’s how your heavenly Father holds you. Hold onto God, and let him carry your worries.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Have Courage!

Rosa knew about frightening things. Her mom remarried three years after Rosa’s dad left them. Rosa grew to love her step-dad and stepsister. Just when they seemed like a real family, crisis struck again. Rosa’s mom was diagnosed with a disease that would eventually confine her to a wheelchair. Rosa’s own faith wavered, but in the coming weeks she learned about courage and trust from watching her parents. They stood true to what they believed: that God was good ALL the time, that he’d allowed this for a purpose, that he had everything under control, and they could trust him. No matter what.

God wouldn’t command you to do something unless he was willing to help you do it. During a crisis or difficult time, simply “standing firm” doesn’t sound like much to accomplish, but it is. Satan will try to knock you down, but keep on standing. Say over and over—out loud—“God loves me, and I can trust him.” Do it as long as it takes to build your faith up. God will move when he knows the time is right, when he’s accomplished his purpose in the situation. “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” (Psalm 27:14 TNIV) When life is hard, lean even harder on the Lord. He’ll never let you down.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Living in Peace--and Quiet!

You hate it when a new family moves into the apartment above yours. They slam doors going in and out, no matter how late it is. You guess they each weigh two hundred pounds—your bedroom window actually rattles when they stomp around. They yell over their booming stereo, and you now need earplugs to sleep. You complain to everyone in the building and urge two of your friends’ moms to call the police. Eventually your complaints get back to the new neighbors, and the wife visits you. “I heard what you said about us,” she says. “I wish you’d come to us directly. We’ll turn down the music and be quieter. I didn’t know we were disturbing you.” Embarrassed, you mutter, “Thank you,” and close the door.

Try to live at peace with others. For one thing, not everyone will react as pleasantly as your upstairs neighbors. You could start a fight that lasts for months—or years. Gossip just stirs up trouble. “Don’t talk too much, for it fosters sin. Be sensible and turn off the flow!” (Proverbs 10:19 NLT) If there’s a problem, go peacefully to the person and express your concern. See if you can work out a solution together. You may avoid making an enemy—and gain a friend instead.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Miss Know-It-All

Makayla tried to like the girl who moved in next door, but she just couldn’t. Very soon she grew tired of hearing about the girl’s former (better) school, former (cuter) teacher, and former (cooler) friends. To Makayla, it seemed the new girl looked down on everything and everyone—including Makayla. When Makayla or her friends talked, the new girl tilted her head sideways and arched one eyebrow. She sniffed a lot and rolled her eyes. She was called Snooty Sara behind her back.

Before long, Makayla and her friends avoided the new girl. They were tired of the putdowns, her swaggering, the disdainful looks whenever they spoke. One day Sara bragged to the wrong person—their volleyball coach—about how great her former team was and how talented she was in particular. The coach just smiled, then she told Sara that she used to live near Sara’s hometown. She’d coached in a neighboring town before taking her current job. Her old college roommate had actually coached Sara’s former team—through one losing streak after another. Sara wilted in embarrassment as her lies crumbled. “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18 TNIV)

Don’t look down on others. Think of people as equal—or even better—than yourself. Then pride won’t creep in. Give snoot the boot!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Are You Prejudiced?

You learn about prejudice when your family moves. You never felt out of place while living in Texas, but when your family relocates to a small town in Minnesota, you’re the only Hispanic student in your school. Most kids ignored you. Some treat you like you have a contagious disease. A few call you names. Being the target of discrimination and bigotry is more hurtful than you would have ever guessed. Two years later, your family moves back to Texas. You absolutely love being “home,” but you’ve changed. From now on, you’re careful to never make another prejudiced comment. You learned first-hand the pain it can cause.

Certain people believe they are worth more than others. God’s Word, however, has strong words for such people. “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” (Romans 12:3 TNIV) God’s Word clearly says that your worth isn’t in your nationality or the color of your skin. Instead, judge yourself by the strength of your faith in God. That’s what really matters.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Anger Management?

What do you do with anger? You’re angry about things happening at home: a divorce, needing to move, having much less money. You hold in the anger at home, but it “leaks” out at school. First it’s in little ways with your friends. But when it increases and you snap at your teachers, you land in detention. In the end, the principal and guidance counselor decide you should attend “anger management” classes. The classes will teach you how to control your anger, how to keep it from making you blow up at people. At the class, you’re taught to explode in safe places, such as by hitting a pillow and screaming alone in your bedroom. The instructor wants you to transfer your anger energy into some other object.

Is that how the Bible says to deal with our anger? No. It doesn’t say manage it. The Bible is very clear. It says get rid of it. “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” Ephesians 4:31 (TNIV) Noisy disagreements and fighting only lead to further trouble. Avoid them too. “Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.” (2 Timothy 2:23 TNIV) You can’t do this alone. Give your anger to God. Ask him for help (many times a day, if necessary) until the anger is gone.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

True Value

When Jessica moved to a new town and started middle school, she studied the various groups of girls. Who would be her new friends? Only a couple people from her new Sunday school class attended her middle school. She liked both Teri and Elizabeth—they were fun and kind and friendly—but they definitely weren’t “cool.” On the other hand, Brit and Kayla were obviously the most popular girls. Boys swarmed around them. They invited Jessica to sit at their lunch table, and at first, Jessica was thrilled to be singled out. But the filthy language she heard there—and the nasty backbiting of other students—made her feel dirty. Jessica had a choice to make. Would she choose friends of excellent moral value with high standards? Or would she settle for friends with glitz but no character?

How can you learn to prize what God values? Read God’s Word and let it change your thinking. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2 TNIV) Choosing what God values will place you in the center of his will—and there’s no better place on earth to be!