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!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Unity in the Family

Emily’s family had a really rough month! First her dad lost his job. When he couldn’t find another one that paid as well, they sold their large home with a pool and moved into a tiny house. Then her mom discovered she was expecting another baby. Emily was in turmoil—until one evening they had a family round table discussion about their situation.

“Loving God comes first,” her dad said, “and then loving each other. If we pull together, we can make this work.” The discussion that followed brought out different ideas for making money, cutting costs, and helping care for the baby when it arrived. There were many different ideas—but the family was like-minded about their purpose: loving God and loving each other.

Unity should exist among Christians. This doesn’t mean thinking exactly alike on everything. It means having the common goal of working together and serving one another, of being “perfectly united in mind and thought.” (1 Corinthians 1:10 TNIV) Being unified comes with the promise of a great reward: God’s presence in your life. “Be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.” (2 Corinthians 13:11 NKJV) Stand united!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Be a Peacemaker

Maybe your dad likes to pick fights. He fights with your mom, your older brother, his boss, and the neighbors. When he’s drinking, it’s even worse. You try to do everything he wants, but sometimes nothing is good enough. Things can be calm and peaceful one minute, and then within ten minutes of his arriving home, he’s shouting and fighting with someone. The only person able to calm him down is Uncle Mark. He stops by frequently, patiently listens to your dad, and helps him get things fixed around the house. You wish Uncle Mark could live with your family fulltime.

It’s very difficult to live with people who are quick-tempered. They seem to be looking for a fight—and they usually find one. As far as it depends on you, however, be a person who stops quarrels. Don’t add fuel to the fire—instead help put it out. The “fire” might be at home with a brother, at school with a best friend, or with someone on your soccer team. “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Your anger can never make things right in God’s sight.” (James 1:19-20 NLT) Rather than adding your own anger to a fight, make it your goal this week to be a calming influence on an angry person. Be a peacemaker!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

It's Your Choice

The first week in her new middle school, Melissa watched kids quietly. She finally decided which group she wanted to belong to, and she planned how to get them to accept her. They finally did, but this group’s activities landed Melissa in trouble. One weekend everything blew up in her face. Finally Melissa prayed, “Lord, I guess I don’t know how to choose good friends. You can see into their hearts. Please bring me the friends you want me to have.” Melissa was lonely for a few weeks, but then she was paired in a flute duet with a girl she truly liked. Later she shared an assigned spot in the science lab with another girl who turned out to be a believer.

When you let God choose for you—whether it’s friends, clothes, or extracurricular activities—you’ll end up with God’s best. Be patient. Continue to pray while you wait. Don’t get in a hurry and settle for less than the Promised Land God has in mind for you.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Loving a Show-Off

Sarah had a kind and generous heart by nature, and she didn’t understand why other kids had trouble getting along—until Tiffany moved to town. Tiffany was in Sarah’s grade at school, and she attended youth group and Bible study every week. But she didn’t just participate like everyone else. She blew into the room, like a gust of wind that unsettled everything. She was loud, thought she knew it all, and was determined to change everything so it was done “right.” A bossy show-off—that describes Tiffany perfectly, Sarah thought.

Living in harmony with such an inflated ego strained Sarah’s patience. Sarah would have preferred avoiding Tiffany altogether, but she knew Jesus wanted her to be kind and loving toward Tiffany. Help me, Lord, Sarah prayed as she acted in kind ways, whether she felt like it or not. Over several months, Sarah’s heart slowly lined up with her loving actions. In the end, Tiffany became Sarah’s close friend.

“All of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.” 1 Peter 3:8 (TNIV) Being kind and loving toward one another isn’t just a good idea. It’s a commandment from God, and it applies whether we feel like being compassionate or not. Show love and kindness to others—it will come back to you multiplied many times over!

Friday, September 9, 2011

I Will Not Fear

Chloe was afraid all the time. Her single mom had lost her job, and she was often sick. Her dad moved clear across the country. Chloe was being bullied at school by three tough girls who followed her around. She kept quiet about it, not wanting to add to her mother’s worries. No matter where she turned—school or home—there was something for Chloe to fear. Then Amber invited Chloe to church. Chloe learned about trusting in Jesus as her Savior, and how everything was under God’s control. Now she didn’t have to fight her fears alone. She could trust God to work, free her from fear, and deal with the scary situations.

Sometimes, believers even brood about their fears. They forget something very important—connecting with God through prayer. “I prayed to the LORD, and he answered me, freeing me from all my fears.” (Psalm 34:4 NLT) Talk to the Lord. Tell him your worries and concerns. Thank him that he has everything under control—even the things that look out-of-control to you. Sometimes fears can make you feel lonely and cut off from God. What if you’ve prayed, but you feel like your prayers aren’t reaching heaven? Our emotions are poor judges of the truth. You may not feel God’s help, but keep on praying. Freedom from your fears will come. “In sudden fear I had cried out, ‘I have been cut off from the LORD!’ But you heard my cry for mercy and answered my call for help.” (Psalm 31:22 NLT)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

This Way--or That Way?

Have you ever been fooled? You think you’re making a good choice—a godly choice even—but it turns into a disaster? Suppose you’re thrilled when Kylie moves in next door. Kylie is everything you’re not. Where you’re timid, Kylie’s brave, ready to try anything. Where you’re shy, Kylie’s outgoing. She can speak to total strangers with ease. There’s always something exciting happening with Kylie around. You feel lucky that Kylie is your friend. Until . . . Kylie’s “try anything” attitude prompts her to shoplift some candy. When caught, her “outgoing” personality causes her to mouth off to the store owner. Both your parents are then called. Kylie seemed like such a great friend, but the results of that friendship are a disaster.

“There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.” Proverbs 14:12 (NLT) So how can you know if you’re on a wrong path—when it appears okay? First, check it out with God’s Word. There may be guidelines or a commandment concerning your situation. What about the times there isn’t a specific Scripture to go by? (There are no verses telling which brand of running shoe to buy or which band instrument to play.) In those cases, find a trustworthy, godly person and ask for advice. Don’t rely on your own understanding. Let God lead you.

Friday, September 2, 2011

False Accusations

Have you ever accidentally made false charges against anyone? It’s easy to do. You can see or hear something, think you know what’s going on, and you pass it along. That happened to Elizabeth. She was walking by her neighbor’s home when Mr. Jones ran out of the house. He raced to his car, squealed as he backed out of the driveway, and tore off down the street. Mrs. Jones came out on the front porch looking upset, but her husband was long gone. Elizabeth, embarrassed, hurried home. She told her sister that Mr. Jones was driving like a maniac, like someone who’d been drinking. She also reported that Mrs. Jones was really upset with him. Maybe they were getting a divorce.

That night at supper, Elizabeth repeated her story. Her mom scowled, then replied, “You’ve made some serious charges. And you couldn’t be more wrong.” Elizabeth’s face grew warm as her mom explained what had happened. “Mrs. Jones called and asked us to pray for her husband’s father. They got a call this afternoon that he’d had a heart attack. You witnessed Mr. Jones racing off to the hospital, hoping to see his father before he went into surgery.” Ashamed of the rumor she’d started, Elizabeth hung her head.

People often jump to conclusions, many of them false. When you see something that makes you curious, don’t try to be a mind reader. Don’t assume bad motives or reasons for what people say or do. Then you’ll be less likely to make false accusations. Wrong thinking and guess work (like Elizabeth’s) lead to making false charges. Instead, pray about things you see, and give people the benefit of the doubt. Then others will do that for you! “Keep far away from falsely charging anyone with evil.” Exodus 23:7 (NLT)