Monday, May 30, 2011

Put Out the Fire

Brianna knew about anger. She loaned her new bike to her best friend who promised to take extra good care of it. It was returned bent and crumpled. Her best friend had left the bike in her driveway, where her dad backed his truck over it. The frame was bent, and the red paint was scratched. Even though her friend offered to get it fixed, Brianna was furious. She wanted to call her friend names and scream at her. Instead she bit her tongue. For an hour, Brianna ranted and raved to herself about her irresponsible friend. When she calmed down, she knew she had a decision to make. Would she punish her friend by venting her anger or giving her the silent treatment? Or would she forgive her and drop it? Brianna called her friend, made arrangements to get the bike fixed, talked about school for a few minutes, then hung up. She still hated that her bike was damaged, but she was glad she’d kept her friend.

Christians don’t lose their emotions when they get saved, but you don’t have to continue giving in to a bad temper. “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” (Ephesians 4:31 TNIV) Don’t just stop there. After dealing with your anger, take things one step further. “Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (Colossians 3:12 TNIV) Ask God to change you from the inside out. He will!

Friday, May 27, 2011


You hate going to school and beg your mom to homeschool you. You’re smart enough, but there’s so much fighting near your school. Hotheaded members of rival gangs rage against each other, making the neighborhood dangerous for everyone. Your biggest fear is getting caught between a couple of warring students on the way home from school. The gang members yell threats at each other and make convincing predictions of what they’ll do to each other. You just want to get far away from them and their rage.

Some people believe that respecting God’s instructions and avoiding sin will be boring. But it’s not boring—it’s safe. “The path of the upright leads away from evil; whoever follows that path is safe.” (Proverbs 16:17 NLT) Hotheads stir up trouble. A wise person tries to make peace. Do everything in your power to avoid hotheaded, rebellious people. Your life will be better for it!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Asking and Receiving

Gabby had always had a hot temper. She hated being told what to do—by her parents, her teachers, her older brother, her youth pastor. She didn’t really mean to, but arguing words flew out of her mouth before she thought about it. She was tired of the consequences of shooting off her mouth: detention after school, having her allowance taken away, getting socked by her brother. Then she read a verse in the Bible: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” (James 1:19 TNIV) Gabby correctly figured that if God wanted her to be slow to speak, God would give her the power.

How can we know what God’s will is? We can find God’s will in his Word. It’s spelled out for us in his commands and needs to be stored in our minds and hearts. There is one more important step in seeing your prayers answered. You must have faith (or believe) that God answers prayer. “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6 TNIV) Find out what God wants you to do—then be confident that He will help you to do it!

Monday, May 23, 2011


You’ve been a believer since you were eight years old. Since you were home schooled, most of your friends are from church or other home school families. When you start middle school in fifth grade, you’re shocked and hurt by the kids who make fun of you. They ridicule your longer skirts, your “What Would Jesus Do?” bracelet, and the kittens on your notebook cover. They call you a baby—and worse. You grow to fear going to school.

When you finally confide in your dad, he helps you find the courage God has given you. “I know that you stand firm in the one Spirit … without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.” Philippians 1:27 (TNIV) He helps you learn how to “stand firm.” From then on, you face their comments with a calm assurance, knowing God will save you from the effects of their attacks. Your calm, unwavering attitude also has an effect you didn’t expect. Your attackers grow uncomfortable, back down, and eventually quit. They even begin to treat you with respect.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Terrific Trade

Hailey had been obedient as a small child, but when she was eleven, it suddenly became harder. She felt her mom was too picky about cleaning her room and limiting TV and phone time. Even though Hailey kept most of her irritation to herself, her stomach often hurt. When she finally decided to obey willingly instead of reluctantly or with irritation, the upset stomach disappeared.

Being obedient is good training for life. . If you’re obedient to your parents when you’re a child, it’s easier as an adult believer to be obedient to God’s Word and live a happy, abundant life. Obedience has to be learned. Even Jesus had to learn to obey—did you know that? “Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered.” (Hebrews 5:8 NASU) Being obedient—especially doing something we really don’t want to do—will bring a form of suffering. It’s unlikely that you’ll ever suffer as much as Jesus did on the cross, but obedience will cost you some mental pain or emotional discomfort. The suffering usually results from not getting your own way about something. Be ready, stand firm, and you’ll come through on the other side of it—victorious! The more you learn to respectfully obey, the easier it will become. Then the turmoil and conflict will be replaced with joy and peace—a terrific trade!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Sticks and Stones

Insults, shameful comments, criticisms—all are words intended to hurt you. If you have a verbal abuser in your home, school, or neighborhood, you know how those remarks can wound your heart. They can even make you feel sick. Often no one else is around to hear the cruel words, and there is no one to comfort.

Michelle was overweight, and people teased her or criticized her about it. “Oink! Oink!” the neighbor boy said when she walked by. “Blubber body!” the kids at school called her. “Michelle, you’ll never slim down if you eat all that ice cream,” her mom lectured her. “Don’t you want to look pretty like your big sister?” Grandma asked her. An old nursery rhyme says, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” Words may not make you bleed, but they definitely hurt—badly. In fact, abusive words can take far longer to heal than broken bones or cuts.

If insults have wounded you, go directly to Jesus with your hurt. He himself said he was sent to heal the brokenhearted. (Luke 4:18; Isaiah 61:1) Ask him to heal your heart from the pain caused by scornful words. Believe it or not, God can comfort you better than any person on earth. In fact, the Holy Spirit is called the “Comforter.” Comforting is one of his most important jobs. “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever.” (John 14:16 KJV) God says you are worthy, valuable, and made in his image. And God loves you just the way you are!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Those in Need

Your youth group wants to spread that message to the kids in the homeless shelter in your city. You’re excited to go for the first time. You envision playing games with kids happy to see you. Or maybe you’ll read stories to an eager group of toddlers. Maybe they’ll let you make cookies in the kitchen with some of the children.

Three hours later, you head home, silent in the back seat of the teacher’s car. Yes, you got to play some games, but the kids weren’t what you expected. Four of them asked you if you knew where their mommy was. Two begged to come home with you, and you had to peel one little girl from your leg. You look down at the round yellow smiley face pin on your jacket that says: "Smile! God loves you!" But you wonder…

It’s hard to look at some of the conditions in the world and see God’s love in it. But when man was first created, God gave human beings free choice. Human beings fail at loving others. They fail often, and they can fail badly. Without God’s love in our hearts, none of us can love anyone very well. Yes, people fail us. But God never does. Stay close to him. He is love—and he will love others through you if you let him. Keep giving to those in need. Let them see God’s love in you.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Getting It All Out

You know from many years of Sunday school that believers are supposed to “do everything without grumbling or arguing.” (Philippians 2:14 TNIV) And yet, some days you feel so frustrated that you’re ready to explode. Sometimes it’s little things: your sister drinking all the orange juice or your best friend forgetting to return your favorite shirt. Sometimes it’s big things: your mom yelling at you for no good reason or an unfair grade on a test. You bottle up your feelings, pretending things are great. When you pray, she feel like a phony.

You have a wrong idea about being honest with God. He’s the one person to whom you can always tell the absolute truth. If it weren’t all right to be totally honest with God, would David have written these Psalms? “O LORD, hear me as I pray; pay attention to my groaning.” (Psalm 5:1 NLT) “Give heed to me and answer me; I am restless in my complaint and am surely distracted.” (Psalm 55:2 NASU) And in Psalm 142:2 (TNIV), David says, “I pour out before him my complaint; before him I tell my trouble.” Being totally honest with God about your feelings is good. It isn’t the same as grumbling about your life to everyone you meet. It’s just sharing your feelings with him so you can sort them out together—and he can help you in each situation. Talk to God. He cares.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Whole Truth--and Nothing But?

Maybe you have two friends. They both tell you the truth, but one feels warm and caring, while the other girl’s “truth” cuts deep. When you all try out for the track team, Girlfriend #1 says to you, “You’re a natural for long distance running. You hardly broke a sweat running the mile!” Fake Friend #2 also speaks the truth. “You know, your short legs are stubby, so don’t even think about hurdles. You’ll fall flat on your face.” Both girls spoke the truth, but only one spoke the truth in love.

What are some signs of growth in believers? They speak words of truth, but in a loving manner. They aren’t brutal, then claim, “I’m just telling the truth. Don’t be so touchy.” Their love is also honest. “Love must be sincere.” (Romans 12:9 TNIV) No faking allowed! True Christian love is open and genuine, not two-faced and phony. A growing Christian backs up her loving words with action. “Let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:18 NKJV) As you grow, let love guide you—in your thoughts, words, and actions.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Solid as Rock

Michelle’s sixth grade year was one long trial after another. In church camp the summer before, she was challenged to be bolder in her faith. So she decided to “come out of hiding.” Until now, she never mentioned church at school. She didn’t explain why she skipped certain movies or didn’t dress in the popular tight tees and mini-skirts. Michelle just tried to be nice and blend in. She never had to defend her faith—because no one knew she had any. Then in sixth grade, she wore her cross necklace and “What Would Jesus Do?” tee-shirt. She got noticed—and teased. When Michelle took stands on issues, she was often alone. But this was her attitude throughout: “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” (Psalm 27:13-14 TNIV) She put her trust in God and focused on him instead of those who ridiculed her. Eventually, two girls told Michelle they were Christians too, and Michelle made two excellent friends.

Friday, May 6, 2011


You’ve been a believer since you were ten years old. You truly love Jesus more each year, and you talk to him often. Jesus is your constant companion and best friend as you move with your military dad from place to place. You love the Lord, but there are times you just don’t want to do what Jesus says. You don’t always want to obey your dad, especially when he barks at you as if you’re one of his soldiers. You don’t always want to give part of your allowance in the offering plate; sometimes you want to buy something for yourself with all the money. But you know that if you really love Jesus like you claim, you’ll obey what he tells you to do.

Jesus made it very plain. “If you love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15 TNIV) Obedience and love go together, whether we like it or not. Don’t tell Jesus (or others) that you love the Lord if you’re not willing to do what he tells you to do. “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. Anyone who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” (John 14:21 TNIV) When you obey the Lord, he pours out such love on you. As you grow in this love, something wonderful happens. Obedience becomes a habit—and a joy!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Enemies: Whatcha Goin' To Do?

When it was time for the Israelites to leave their slavery behind in Egypt, God did a marvelous thing for them. He caused their former owners, the Egyptians, to like the slaves so much that they gave the slaves whatever they wanted to take with them! God can make even your enemies so pleased with you that they want to help you.

You wish your enemy would do that! You’re sick of being picked on at school. You have no idea why Jason, the class clown, has singled you out, but he’s made fun of you all year. You tried ignoring him, as your teacher suggested. You stood up to him and demanded that he stop it, like your dad suggested. You’re tempted to call him names back, like your best friend suggests. Finally, you give up and do what you should have done in the first place: you pray. You ask God to change Jason’s heart and cause him to be friendly to you. Every time he picks on you, you pray again. Slowly, over a matter of weeks, Jason stops making fun of you. One day when you drop your books, you’re astounded when Jason stops and picks them up for you.

God can change the hearts of people.

Monday, May 2, 2011

First Do This...

Nicole’s older sister Steph caused constant turmoil in the family. At sixteen, Steph demanded to run her own life. She rebelled against everything: going to church, her curfew, doing homework, and any rule their parents set. In high school, she’d made new friends, and these friends liked to party. Nicole shared a room with her sister, who often dragged in reeking of alcohol and cigarettes. When Steph’s boyfriend dumped her, Steph was stunned and hurt. Nicole heard Steph pray for God to bring him back. When it didn’t happen, she blamed God and continued to rebel. Nicole shook her head. How could Steph expect God to hear her prayer—even if he wanted to help her—when she continued in her sinful and rebellious lifestyle?

Nicole’s sister is no different from many people. They rebel against the Lord’s instructions, but when an emergency strikes, they expect God to answer their prayers anyway. He won’t. “If anyone turns a deaf ear to my instruction, even their prayers are detestable.” (Proverbs 28:9 TNIV) God has made it clear throughout Scripture. He won’t help rebellious people. If you’re cherishing certain sins in your life, deal with them and get it out of your life. Then you’ll be in a position for God to hear your prayers.