Monday, July 25, 2011

No Looking Back

Natalie’s best friend took cigarettes from her mom’s purse, lit up and offered one to Natalie. She didn’t want it, but she didn’t want her friend to think she was a baby. Within a month, Natalie was hooked. Her hands shook and she got headaches if she went too long without smoking. Finally, she decided she hated the smell, the taste, the cost, the sneaking around, and the headaches. It was hard, but she quit. Her best friend still offered her cigarettes, but Natalie walked away from the habit and didn’t look back.

The angels warned Lot’s family to run from the city and not look back. Lot’s wife ignored that warning and paid with her life. What’s wrong with looking back on a past you want to escape? It usually means you have a divided heart. You want to do God’s will, but part of you wants to keep your old habits. You can’t live with one foot in the world and one foot in God’s kingdom and be happy. When you decide to leave a sinful habit behind, make a clean break. Face forward. Don’t look back and take a chance of being trapped again. It’s not worth it!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Listen Up!

One day you notice a dark spot on your shoulder. How did you manage to get ink or marker there? You scrub till the skin is pink, but the spot remains. You forget about it, but a month later, you notice it again. It seems darker—and bigger. You scrub till it bleeds and cover it with a Band-Aid. Then one day you read an article in a teen magazine about skin cancer. It says to watch out for moles that darken or grow. You pray about it and go to talk to your mom. “Look at this,” you say, peeling off the Band-Aid. After consulting a dermatologist (skin doctor), you have the suspicious mole removed. It isn’t skin cancer—not yet. But getting advice from your mom and the skin doctor may have saved your life. Ignoring the problem could have been deadly.

When you have a problem, it’s good to share it with trusted others, like a parent, teacher, counselor, youth pastor, or doctor. Confiding in your best friend is fine, but your friend may not know what to do either. “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” (Proverbs 15:22 TNIV) It can be scary to share your problem with an adult, but it’s even scarier keeping it to yourself and not knowing what to do. People care about you and want to help. Let them!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Honoring Parents

Sophia’s mom died when she was only five years old, and when Sophia was eight, her dad remarried. Sophia liked Susan, her stepmother, except when she told her to do her homework or wash supper dishes. “You’re not my real mom,” Sophia said, “so you can’t tell me what to do.” When she complained to her best friend, Taylor, about it, Taylor only laughed. “You wouldn’t like washing dishes even if Susan was your real mom.” Sophia admitted Taylor was right. Even if her real mom was still alive, she wouldn’t want to do her homework or chores.

It’s not about whether you like doing what your parents ask. It’s about being obedient because you love God. What if you have a cranky parent who is hard to please? What if they rarely say “thank you” or give you encouraging words? Does God still want you to obey parents like this? Yes. Your parents’ attitude has nothing to do with it. It might seem unfair, but the Lord is pleased when you’re obedient in everything, no matter what. It’s certainly easier to obey anyone—parent, teacher, boss—who is kind and encouraging. But you can trust God to give you the strength to obey those in authority over you, no matter how they act. God will richly reward you for obeying when it’s hard.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Here Come the Plagues!

You’ve received a few warnings from your dad. “Limit your phone calls to ten minutes,” he says, “and then finish your homework.” You lose track of time, and an hour slips by. Dad warns you again about losing phone privileges, but you keep talking. Finally, Dad unplugs your phone and takes it away with him. You had several chances to obey the phone rule. When you refused, consequences forced you to obey.

God did the same thing with a very famous king. “Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Pharaoh is very stubborn, and he continues to refuse to let the people go.’” (Exodus 7:14 NLT) God gave Pharaoh many, many chances. In total, God unleashed ten crushing plagues against Egypt before Pharaoh finally obeyed. Don’t be stubborn like Pharaoh! Instead, be obedient to those in charge of you: parents, teachers, and pastors. It’s much easier to humble yourself than to have God humble you!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Sharing the Love

Kayla’s Sunday school teacher said, “Your life may be the only Bible your friends read. What are they learning about God by watching you?” Kayla knew she didn’t do any really bad stuff—no drinking, no drugs, no smoking, no swearing. But did her unbelieving friends (none of whom went to church) learn anything about God’s love by being around her? From that day on, Kayla determined that her life and her actions would demonstrate God to her friends. She made a list of things she could do to show God’s love, forgiveness, and compassion in some form each day to a friend. Sometimes she gave a sincere compliment or a word of encouragement. Sometimes she helped a friend carry something or gave a hand with homework. Sometimes it was forgiving a friend instead of being mad.

If your friends never read any Bible except your life, would they learn that “love is patient, love is kind”? (1 Corinthians 13:4 TNIV) Give to others what God has so freely given you. He’s devoted to your well-being, he forgives instead of getting revenge, he’s sympathetic to your problems, he’s patient, and he’s kind. Let God have control of your life so you can love others the way he loves you!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Worth Waiting For

Stephanie’s parents had separated, but not yet divorced. They were trying to work out their problems, but Stephanie feared that things were going from bad to worse. She helped out at home with her little sister and cleaning the apartment, and she prayed every night for her parents to be reunited. The eleven months she waited—praying every night and expecting God to work a miracle—were the longest months of her life. At times, she didn’t think God had even heard her. Yet she continued to look forward to her family being restored. At the end of eleven long months, when her parents were back together, did Stephanie think that waiting on God had been worth it? You bet! “The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him.” (Lamentations 3:25 TNIV)

In Webster’s dictionary, waiting is defined as “remaining inactive in one place while expecting something and looking forward to something.” Believers are waiting and expecting God to go to work for them, to work things out and make things happen that only God can make happen. “The Lord longs to be gracious to you; . . . Blessed are all who wait for him!”(Isaiah 30:18 TNIV) Whatever you’re facing, pray and wait for God to act.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Tough Get Going

You’ve looked forward to middle school for two years. In middle school you can be on a gymnastics team. You’ve taken gymnastics classes since you were four years old, and you secretly dream of competing in the Olympics one day. But from the first day of practice, you’re so disappointed. The coach doesn’t like you for some reason. He criticizes you constantly, even though you know you’re better than anyone else who tried out.

A few weeks into practice, you see the coach give one of the girls a big hug, and you ask a team member about it. “You mean Rachel? That’s Coach’s kid. He’s determined that she’s going to be a gold medal winner or something.” Now you understand the persecution you’ve been receiving. Coach wants his own daughter to be the best. You pray about it, and you decide to stay on the team. You’ll just dig in and work hard, keeping your eye on your long-term Olympic goal.

There’s an old saying that “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.” That means persevering through trials and mistreatment. (Note: persecution means the trials you endure that are not your fault. Punishment for wrongdoing is not persecution—it’s just consequences for wrong actions.) “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us—they help us learn to endure. And endurance develops strength of character in us.” (Romans 5:3-4 NLT) So be tough—and get going!