Teen Devotional

//Teen Devotional
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Jesus Came to Testify to the Truth

Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.”You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” John 18:36-37

Why did Jesus come into this world?  One reason was to speak the truth.

We live in a world ignorant about God, ignorant about righteousness and sin, ignorant about successful living. Jesus came into this world to speak truth. His kingdom is established, not by arms, but by truth.

In our verse listed above, he speaks, seemingly in vain, to Pilate. Was it in vain?

Pilate’s reaction did not matter. Jesus was commended for making the good confession to Pilate. (1 Timothy 6:13). What mattered is that Jesus was a faithful witness. In fact, that is a name of Jesus – the faithful witness(Revelation 1:5 ). To be a faithful witness you just have to speak the truth. You don’t need to worry about the reaction.

Matthew Henry said, “He rules in the minds of men by the power of truth…The foundation and power, the spirit and genius, of Christ’s kingdom is truth, divine truth. …He conquers by the convincing evidence of truth; he rules by the commanding power of truth.”

But not only was Jesus born to testify to the truth, so were you. The nature of the kingdom of God is such that it conquers – not by guns – but by truth. Truth needs a voice; truth needs a tongue. God wants to use you to speak truth.

But how many times do I hold back because I don’t think it will make a difference. How many conversations have I not had, letters to the editor not written because I don’t think it will make a difference. Because I don’t think it will produce those results, I don’t speak. But there is power in the truth. And the nature of my calling is to be a faithful witness, to make the good confession no matter what the results. If we have spoken the truth we have been successful

God wants to use you to give voice to the truth. And the focus must be on faithfulness. As we faithfully give voice to the truth, like a sword coming out of our mouth (Revelation 1:6), truth conquerers. So let us know, be filled with, and speak the truth.

 

Want to know more answers so that you and your young person can testify to the truth? Check out 7 Questions Everyone Should Answer. These CDs will equip you to speak truth to those around you!

Scorning the Shame

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Heb 12:2

The world is attempting to press us into a mold. One of the strategies people use is shame. The Bible was written in an honor/shame culture. Shame is a commodity given by a group to enforce certain behavior. We should feel shame when we are guilty before God. But there are things for which we should not feel shame. Indeed peer pressure by other kids often attempts to shame our young people into doing non-Christian activities. “You don’t drink? You don’t do drugs? Don’t be a loser.” These kids are trying to shame the other kids into a certain behavior.

The cross was similar. Today’s executions are private. But to achieve the maximum shame, Jesus was crucified in public, either naked or with very little on. He was mocked by the leaders. He was alone, deserted by his friends. Only his mother and a few women were left. The hope was that the shame of the cross would change the behavior of other would be criminals.

But instead of feeling the shame of the cross, Jesus scorned it. Scorn is “Contempt of disdain felt toward a person or object considered despicable or unworthy.”  So while the leaders were attempting to shame Jesus by public humiliation, he did not receive their shame; he scorned their shame.

In a similar way, when someone attempts to shame you with a godly standard you have decided upon, don’t receive their shame.  Don’t let shame alight on you for doing right. Scorn it. Jesus scorned the shame of the cross. Scorn the shame that others will give you for following Jesus.

Similarly, if we are a parent teaching our children to walk in an anti-Christian world, we need to teach them to actively scorn any shaming they receive. Jesus did. His Spirit inside gives us the power to do likewise.

Teen Devotional|

Painful Love and Forgiveness

Blessed are those that mourn, for they will be comforted. Matthew 5:4

Our families will never be perfect. We will sin against each other and be sinned against. Relationships invariably involve pain. That is the way of love. How we choose to react to that pain will depend on our perspective.

C. S. Lewis makes clear that the choice is between loving and having a hard heart.

Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket–safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.

And when your heart is wrung out, to use his words, what are you to do? Forgive. In fact, part of the reason God put you in this marriage (or family) is so that you can learn forgiveness. Forgiveness is a skill we need to teach our children (and ourselves). Jean Vanier had this to say:

Too many people come into community to find something, to belong to a dynamic group, to find a life which approaches the ideal. If we come into community without knowing that the reason we come is to discover the mystery of forgiveness, we will soon be disappointed.”  ~~ Jean Vanier, Community and Growth

Put these thoughts together and you realize that to love is to open yourself up to pain. But to refuse to love is to harden your heart. And it is only when we are wounded that we can learn the grace of forgiveness. When we learn the grace of forgiveness, we have learned a little more of the costly love of God in Christ. And we have become a little more like Christ.

Are you hurting from loving someone? Do you realize that God is helping you discover the mystery of forgiveness?

 

 

Puritan Activities to Encourage Spiritual Growth

At this time of year, it is appropriate to remember our spiritual (and perhaps physical) forefathers.  New England’s first white settlers were those who separated from the worldy Church of England (Separatists).  These “Pilgrims” landed in 1620.  Another group tried to purify the worldy Church of England (Puritans).  But a mere ten years later, the colony was infused with a great migration of Puritans who had finally given up on the Church of England.  Two thousand Puritans emigrated in 1630 alone.  Both of these groups brought with them a rich emphasis on the daily walk of the believer. We can do well to imitate them.  The following notes are from Christian History Magazine, Issue 41,

The Puritans sought a living relationship with Jesus Christ through public worship and private “devotions.”  Private devotions took place in secret exercises, private conferences, family devotions, and private meetings.

“Secret” or “closet” exercises. Alone, the Puritans meditated and prayed just before sleep at night, upon rising in the morning and on Saturday in preparation for Sunday.  At night they would review their day’s behavior, repent of sin, and give thanks for the blessings. In addition, there were special sessions of self-examination on a birthday, New Year’s day or some remarkable act of Providence.

Private conference.  Believers were specifically instructed to seek out “much conference, especially with Ministers and other experienced Christians.”  These conferences were designed to solve problems and strengthen individuals and families in grace.

Family devotions.  The Puritans rightly viewed the family as a “little church,” so family devotions were essential.  “Families are the nurseries for church and commonwealth; ruin families and ruin all.”  This third private exercise ideally occurred in the morning before work, before meals and in the evening.  The Bible was read chapter by chapter, a psalm was sung and prayers (using a devotional) were offered up.

Neighborhood prayer meeting.  Congregations formed groups for women, young men, girls, tradesmen, and ministers.  Meetings were held in homes weekly or biweekly.  “We pray, and sing, and repeat sermons, and confer together about the things of God,” explained John Eliot, a founding pastor and missionary to the Indians.

In addition to these exercises, the Puritans were known to keep track of their spiritual state and experiences through journals.  New Englanders were also highly literate and considered reading a means of grace.  Religious publications – sermons, tracts, catechisms, and devotional manuals–were best sellers.

What strikes me almost 400 years later is how little has changed.  While technology has changed our physical life, the means of nourishing our spiritual life remain the same.  What this article does so well is specify those means so clearly.  Make use of these means of building up your own soul and the soul of those around you that were used by the founders of our country.

 

Do You Feel the Sacrifice of the Incarnation?

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9)

I dont know about you but I cannot grasp that grace.

Several years ago, I came across a story in National Geographic (June 2003) that has stayed with me. In it, I begin to feel the incarnation in a minuscule way. Perhaps it will affect you too.

It is a story about people like Dinesh Parmar. One of 10,000 Bhangis in Ahmadabad, Parmar earns money by manually cleaning latrines, sewers, and gutters and by removing dead animals from the streets. He is a Bhangi, a member of the Untouchable caste.

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In India there are 5 castes- levels of grouping. The ranks in Hindu society come from a legend in which the main groups, or varnas, emerge from a primordial being. From the mouth came the Brahmans-the priests and teachers.  From the arms came the Ksahtriyas-the rulers and soldiers. From the thighs come the Vaisyas-the merchants and traders. From the feet come the Sudras–laborers. Each varna in turn contains hundreds of hereditary castes and subcastes with their own pecking order. A fifth group describes the people who areachuta. The primordial being does not claim them.

The lowest caste is called the untouchables. They do all the dirty work that no else wants to do. Deal with dead bodies. Much of the manual labor. Within each caste there are subcastes. Within the untouchable caste the lowest subcaste is called a Bhangi.

Let me describe a days work for Parmar. He removes the manhole cover. Cockroaches scurried from the darkness as the stench below filled the street. Parmar hesitated for only an instant, then dropped into the hole- with no gloves, no gas mask. His body hidden inside, he methodically lifted bucket after bucket of excrement over his head.

Off to the next job – He led the way to a nearby lane. He climbed into several more manholes to scoop out clots of filth and sludge.

My Reaction

Do you recoil at that story and that picture?  I do. Do you love this man enough to leave your country, your wealth, your rights as a US Citizen, your future opportunities,  to enter his world? To become a Bhangi, to earn money in this way, to so humble yourself and humiliate yourself? To save a few? Oh by the way, the majority aren’t going to appreciate the sacrifice you have made. They are going to reject you and kill you.

I can’t. The gap is too wide. The sacrifice is too much. But Jesus did this and more.

Jesus loved us so much that he humbled himself, and came and entered our world of filth and stench. He became the lowest of the low.

That is the grace of Jesus. This is the sacrifice of the Incarnation.

 

Handling Temptation Like Joseph

But Joseph refused. “With me in charge,” he told her, “my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he was entrusted to my care. No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her. Gen 39:8-10

We are daily faced with temptations. Some are small, some are large. All threaten us. Some will destroy God’s plan for our life. Joseph, a young man in his early twenties, was faced with a destiny altering temptation. Would he participate in “secret” sin? Or would he resist? Notice how Joseph handled this temptation.

First, Joseph resisted temptation and refused sin.  He was not passive. He took an active stand against temptation. Joseph refused repeated temptations. He would not indulge in even just a “little” sin. If we will defeat temptation, it is because we are actively resisting and refusing with the power of the Holy Spirit. Resisting sin is not a matter of “letting go and letting God.” Resisting sin is a matter of “Getting God (‘s power) and getting going.”

Second, Joseph saw the temptation as a sin against another person.  For Joseph, this would be a sin against his master who had treated him so well. Most sins, even seeming innocent ones, harm those in our church, our current family or our future family. Remember how Achan’s sin affected the whole nation? Similarly, Proverbs says that righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people (Proverbs 14:23). Giving into temptation will always harm others in some way.

Third, Joseph saw the temptation to sin as a wicked thing. By definition sin is a wicked thing. We don’t use that word much today, but sin is wicked. The strategy of temptation is to make sin seem attractive in the moment. But like a worm for a fish, the hook is hidden under the bait. Take the bait and the hook has you. Part of growing in holiness is actually hating sin and calling it wicked.

Fourth, Joseph saw the temptation as sin against God. All sin is against God, even “victimless” sin and sin that seems to only affect you. The God who made you, loves you, and has the best plan for you. He lives within you, wants to bless you is grieved and offended when we sin. That is part of what the fear of God means –  fearing God’s disciplining hand.

Fifth, Joseph fled from temptation. He ran out of the house. The only way to handle some temptation is to flee, to run away. Paul commands Timothy, “Flee the evil desires of youth” (2 Tim 2:22, see also Proverbs 6:8, 1 Cor 6:8, 10:14, 1 Tim 6:11), There will come times when we are not to stand and fight a tempting situation but should immediately make a hasty retreat.

Sixth, Joseph accepted the painful consequences of unjust suffering. After being falsely accused, Joseph spent over two years in a jail. Resisting temptation will cause suffering. Some of that suffering will be against our flesh that wants to sin. There still is a bent toward sin within us. We will fight sin until we die. Some of the suffering might come from “friends” who want us to sin along with them. If we refuse their entreaties to sin, we may be ostracized.

Seventh, Joseph was blessed because of his integrity. Because he resisted sin and kept his integrity, God was able to exalt him when the time was right. Eventually, he was raised from prisoner to viceroy (2nd in command). God’s road to blessing always goes hand in hand with resisting sin.

Can you think of temptation you are facing? How is it wicked and a sin against God? How is it a sin against other people? Can you flee? Are you willing to resist the bait? How does God want to change you?

Teen Devotional|

From Slave to Free Soldier: A Metaphor of the Christian Life from Rhode Island

As a young man, James Mitchell Varnum hated the slave trade that occurred in American colonies. As a general in the Continental Army, he wanted to do something but what? The need for more men in the army provided the perfect opportunity.

In February of 1778, the Rhode Island Assembly acted upon a suggestion made by General George Washington and General Varnum. “Every able-bodied negro, mulatto or Indian man slave” that chose to do so could enlist in the 1st Rhode Island Regiment. “Every slave so enlisting shall…be immediately discharged from the service of his master or mistress, and be absolutely free.”

By a legal act, any slave that wanted to, could walk away from his slave master and enter into the Continental Army. He would be a free soldier. And when the war was over, he would be completely free.

But of all the slaves in that area, 88 enlisted. Why not the others? Perhaps they did not hear the news. Perhaps they were afraid of the unknown and were not willing to step forward. Perhaps some were comfortable as a house servant. The chains they knew were better than the unknown war. The comforts they knew were better than the discomforts they could imagine.

I see several illustration for those who seek to live the Christian life:

1. You and I are born slaves to sin. We are enslaved to gossip, lust, anger, hypocrisy, and self-righteousness. We are born selfish. Jesus said, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. But Jesus said he came to proclaim liberty to the captives. And securing that liberty came not from a legislative decision but cost him his own life. Jesus came to give his life as a ransom to set you free.

2. We are set free from slavery. But it is not a liberty to indulge the flesh. No, it is a liberty to fight in the Lord’s army. It is a liberty from your old slave master to serve a new master.  Jesus is our Savior and our Warrior-King. We leave the slavery of sin and enter into the commander’s Army. The time for complete rest will not come until the war is over. Jesus has set us free from slavery to be enlisted in his army. And in that army, we fight with love and truth. And we proclaim liberty to others who are still captive.

3. We tell others about the freedom that is offered. We are one former slave telling another former slave how to be free. We are enlisted former slaves walking through Rhode Island saying, “Come with us. Leave your chains and join us.”

You are set free from slavery to be a free soldier. What a joy!

Teen Devotional|

Teenage Obedience and Humility

Some thoughts for teens in your life.

He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death. Phil 2:8 ESV

How do we humble ourselves practically?Jesus on cross

This verse makes clear that one way we humble ourselves is by obeying. By obeying even when it hurts. It is an act of humility to lower ourselves and place someone above us.

Of course, God has placed parents above you. But it is another thing entirely for you to accept that placement and humbly submit to them. Just because someone is above you in rank does not mean we automatically accept that ranking. It is an act of the will. It is an act of humility.

Rebelling against the created order was the original sin of Lucifer, the angel of light. Though created to be lower that God, he was not satisfied with that status and did not accept that ranking underneath Him. In his pride, he refused to submit.

Similarly, though parents are placed over you by God and in a place of authority, a young person does not have to have a submissive heart. Like the devil, you can also rebel against the created order. From this verse we see that at the root of that discontentment is pride.

The alternative is to be like Jesus, actively humbling yourself by becoming obedient to them as an act of your will. Placing yourself under the authority of another is a humbling act. Submitting to another is a humbling act. But Jesus, though equal with the Father in essence and being, willingly humbled himself by becoming obedient to the Father.

The blessing of obedience is found in verse 9. Therefore, God has highly exalted him. Humility always brings honor. Lowering ourselves always brings honor. Take a look at any obedience issue you have. Is it really a pride issue?

How would God call you to humble yourself by becoming obedient?

Lord Jesus, thank you for humbling yourself and becoming obedient to death, even to death on a cross. Give me that same humble spirit that is willing to yield to those in authority over me. Help me actively humble my will.

Teen Devotional|

Harming Themselves to Their Own Shame

Are they not harming themselves, to their own shame? Jeremiah 7:19

Are unbelievers victims of sin and satan? Or are they rebels following their own selfish way? The Bible teaches both.  Jeremiah 7:19 says they harm themselves, but that harm comes from their own shameful activities and attitudes. How eloquently stated!

On the one hand, unbelievers who sin do harm themselves. Ideas have consequences. And bad ideas have bad consequences. By believing untruths about God and the way the world works. many unbelievers have brought harm upon themselves. God is not mocked, a man reaps what he sows (Galatians 6:7). Men and women have an enemy who comes to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). Jesus offers rest to any who are weary of satan’s buffetings.

On the other hand, this harm they bring upon themselves also brings shame. Shame only comes to one who is guilty of doing something wrong. The Bible affirms that men and women are not just victims, but guilty participants in sin. They have willfully chosen to go their own way and instead of God’s way. On the judgment day, Jesus will not condemn innocent victims. He will judge guilty rebels.

How do you look at unbelievers? How do our children? Do you see victims or rebels? Can you see both at the same time?

Father, give eyes to see the real harm that has come upon others. Make me as compassionate as you. Father also give me eyes to see the depth of sin of the human heart. Help me see the rebel’s true heart.

Losing is Good for You (and Your Child)

Ashley Merryman in The NY Times has some advice on the cultural drugs we are fed. (HT David Murray)

The author argues that we are teaching our children something wrong when everyone wins. In fact, she argues, we need to teach them how to lose:

In life, “you’re going to lose more often than you win, even if you’re good at something,” Ms. Twenge told me. “You’ve got to get used to that to keep going.”

When children make mistakes, our job should not be to spin those losses into decorated victories. Instead, our job is to help kids overcome setbacks, to help them see that progress over time is more important than a particular win or loss, and to help them graciously congratulate the child who succeeded when they failed.

This is common grace character wisdom that stands against the culture of self-esteem.

I argued the same thing here when highlighting a quote of Tim Tebow after losing. Teaching our children how to honor the Lord in defeat should be on our discipleship agenda. Is it on yours?