Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Fast in Secret


16 “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 17 But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. 

Fast in Secret

As a Christian teen, I am thinking that this subject is about as far removed from your normal way of life that it may be hard to conceptualize. However, whether or not we fast, unfortunately, we all have the desire to be noticed and affirmed by our peers--especially our Christian peers.

There is no doubt that the Lord Jesus certainly understands our natures when He said, "When you fast, do it secretly!" He so understands our propensity to declare our godliness loudly, so that all may understand how very spiritual we are! 

All too often we are just like the pharisees. After all, what good was it to go to all the discomfort of fasting if no one knew what you were doing. Rather, they would go about revealing their great distress at how uncomfortable it was to fast, so that everyone would understand how godly they were.

Christ was not impressed! Neither is He impressed at our tendency to display our great spirituality before others. If we are memorizing Scripture, we want to tell everyone. If we read and study our Bibles every day, we want to make sure that all of our Christian friends know what we are doing. And if we actually take the time to fast, which is extremely rare in our day, we most certainly want our Christian friends to know what a great sacrifice we are making for God.

Just as the world has its heros and giants, so, too, do we want to be known among our Christian friends as giants of the faith!

Again and again, from the words of Christ, we understand that Christianity is not about outward displays of our character, but rather, Christianity is a religion of the heart. In our heart of hearts, before God Himself, where do we stand? Is God impressed with our spirituality? Is God impressed with the amount of time we spend studying His Word or praying to Him? In the end, that is all that matters!

As a Christian mother, one of my greatest goals was to impress upon my children that it was not my approval they needed. They needed to live every moment understanding that Jesus was right there beside them. If their actions pleased Him, then they did not have to worry about whether I would be pleased or not. It was not my approval, but rather God's approval they needed to gain.

Though it is good to please your parents in the Lord, it is better to realize that it is God you must please. There is much you can keep from your parents, but nothing is kept from God. He knows even the very thoughts and intents of our hearts!

How different might our Christian influence be on those around us if all believers took these words to heart. We do not serve God so that those around us will be impressed. We serve God because we love Him so very much that we want to please and obey Him in all we do! 

That is the very message that the Pharisees missed. They were ever so concerned about what the people thought of them, but they flagrantly ignored the words of Jesus. His very life and testimony was a slap in their face. They did not want a servant in their Messiah--they only wanted a civil king who would overthrow Rome and put them in the seat of power.

May we, as the Christian teens, turn our hearts and minds to Christ. Let us pray that He will give us the strength and power to ignore the attitudes and pressures of this world and seek only to serve and obey Him. Just as Christ has given so much to us, may we turn our hearts in complete submission and service to Him!

Let us fast in secret that we may gain the eternal rewards of God our Father!

God Bless You,
Linda

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

If You Forgive!


14 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. 

If You Forgive!

As a Christian teen, have you ever thought seriously about what it means to forgive? As you are faced by peers who tease or ridicule you for your faith, how do you respond? That leads us to verses 14 and 15 of Matthew 6.

Why, at the end of the Lord's Prayer, does Jesus add these verses? Is this not just a repetition of verse 12: "And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors."

When God takes the time to make a point twice, we need to listen. Jesus knows the propensity of our hearts to think of ourselves as being better than others, especially if we are aware of their sins. We will not, in our own selves, forgive others. We will, rather, remember what they have done. Often our memories will fester for years and years, causing great bitterness and even hatred to take root in our hearts and lives. As teens, it is not easy to forgive those who taunt us or who have wronged us.

We must, however, ask ourselves the question, "Who has sinned the most? Have those who have wronged us sinned more than we have sinned before God?" That really is the point, is it not? No matter what anyone has done, when we stand before God, though we may think of ourselves as ever so righteous, we are condemned. When God looks upon us He stamps, "condemned" upon our very souls, and there is nothing we can do about it!

Christ looks upon us and says, "Do you desire forgiveness? Then, forgive others, just as I have forgiven you." Are we exempt from this command because we are still just teens? No!

The forgiveness we have received from Christ is not due to our goodness, or any merit in and of ourselves. We cannot earn salvation, and we cannot buy salvation. Salvation comes to us only when we fall before Christ, condemned, and totally unable to change our own hearts. Only as we look to Him, and cry out for salvation, will we be saved. No matter who we are, or what our age, all must come to Christ the same way!

With the salvation of Christ comes total forgiveness. Now when God looks upon our hearts, He sees the perfect blood of Christ. Have we deserved this? No! Then, if God has granted to us such complete and full forgiveness, which we could never deserve, how can we look upon any who have wronged us and not forgive them? 

The truth that Christ is illustrating is that, being a Christian teen is not just a momentary decision to be rescued from our sins. Being a Christian teen involves a complete change of our hearts and lives. Gone are the selfish desires that so permeated our beings; instead, the grace of Christ rules in our hearts and lives.

Of course, that change does not necessarily happen immediately. The sins into which we have fallen do not necessarily disappear immediately. Often it takes years of studying God's Word, and praying for His help to release us from the bonds of sin which so easily entangle us. That is really the idea behind Philippians 2:12:
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; (Philippians 2:12, New King James Version)
Let us, then, pray that God would grant to us a spirit of forgiveness. Let us immerse ourselves in His Word, reading and memorizing its glorious truths. Let us pray, daily, for strength and help to live our lives in a manner which is pleasing and glorifying to God, our Father. Set your heart to do these things now, while still in the days of your youth. The habits you set now will stay with you all of the days of your lives.

Go, then, in God's strength, and forgive men their trespasses, just as God as forgiven you!

God Bless You,
Linda

Monday, July 29, 2013

Yours is the Glory!


13 And do not lead us into temptation,
      But deliver us from the evil one.
      For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

Yours is the Glory!

What or who do teens worship today? Oh, we may not think of our homage as worship, but in reality, the things that mean the most to us are the things we worship. Yet, here in Matthew 6, the Lord Jesus, in the Lord's Prayer, teaches us: "Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever." In other words, glory should only be ascribed to God!

To none other in all of the earth below or in the heavens above can be ascribed the word, "glory!" Again and again in God's Word we, as Christian teens, are told to honor and glorify the Lord, Here, in the words of Christ, we are told that to God, alone, is the power and the glory forever!

It is significant, then, that glory is also ascribed to the Lord Jesus Christ.
 3 But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. 5 For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake. (2 Corinthians 4:3-5New King James Version)
Truly Jesus Christ is the Son of God, truly human, but truly divine. He was not just a great man who lived on this earth, but He rules now at the right hand of God. He came to this world to save a people for Himself. We, as Christian teens, are not left here on our own, but are in constant communication with the Lord Jesus Christ and with God our Heavenly Father.

These words of Christ need to permeate our very being. Just as we have been taught here by the Lord Jesus Christ, so should we pray to God to keep us from falling into temptation, and to deliver us from the wiles of the devil. Truly, we as Christian teens today are too often incredibly naive as to the plans of Satan and his followers. We misunderstand not only his power, but the influence he has on the hearts and minds of those who do not know the Lord.

We tend to believe that the powers that direct the affairs of this world have our best interests in mind, but truthfully, they are on a fast track toward destruction. Satan has one goal, and that is to have all of the world worship Him. To that end, he rules deceitfully, most of those who rule the nations of this world. Why is it important for us to understand this?

As Christian teens--the future of the world lies before us. What part will we play? Right now, we need to immerse ourselves in God's Word as we prepare to take on the mantel of leadership. We need to cry out to God for wisdom to understand the times in which we live so that we will not be deceived by the followers of Satan.

As Christian teens, let us fall before our God of grace and glory; let us embrace Him, alone, and use the time we have on this earth to magnify and glorify His name. Let us proclaim God's glory in all the earth. May our voices rise up in praise and honor to His Holy name.

Why? Because to Christ, alone, belongs the kingdom, the honor, and the glory. It is Christ who will, in the final day, sit upon the throne judging and ruling this world. Satan and his host will be cast into eternal damnation, and Christ will rule forever and ever! May we, then, take care that we are truly followers of Christ and not deceived! Go to Christ for His Words, alone, are true and faithful! (Revelation 21:5)

May God hasten the day when Christ returns! Yours is the Glory, oh God!

God Bless You,
Linda

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Forgive Us!



12 And forgive us our debts,
      As we forgive our debtors.

Forgive Us!

Forgive us . . . as we forgive! In those few words we see the true substance of Matthew 6:12. But, why do we, as teens, need to be forgiven? We are just as good, maybe even better, than our peers. We treat others kindly, and try not to be too selfish. We have not murdered nor stolen from others, so what need is there for forgiveness?

Our difficulty, when it comes to forgiveness, is that we constantly compare ourselves to other people, and usually find that we come out pretty good! Oh, we know we are not perfect, but, then, nobody is perfect. Right?

In the end, however, it is not our peers who condemn us! It is God who condemns us. Why? God is holy, righteous, just, and completely good. In His pure holiness He cannot even look upon sin. That is our problem. No matter how good we may look or actually be, compared to others, we always fall short when we stand before God. No man, woman, or child can stand before God, for their sin, no matter how small in comparison to others, is blatantly hideous in the sight of God.

Is there no hope? Yes, there is hope, for Christ, the righteous and holy Son of God came to this earth for the sole purpose of purchasing salvation for His children. Through His shed blood, He has provided a perfect covering of our sin, so that when we stand before God, He does not see our sin, but sees, rather, the perfect blood of Christ.

To what do we owe this salvation? It is all of Christ and none of us. We are not worthy the least of His favor, This idea is expressed beautifully in this hymn, entitled, "I Am Not Worthy."

I am not worthy the least of His favor, 
But Jesus left heaven for me;
The Word became flesh and He died as my Savior,
Forsaken on dark Calvary.

Chorus:
I am not worthy this dull tongue repeats it!
I am not worthy this heart gladly beats it?
Jesus left heaven to die in my place
What mercy, what love and what grace!

I am not worthy the least of His favor,
But "In the beloved" I stand;
Now I'm an heir with my wonderful Savior,
And all things are mine at His hand.

I am not worthy the least of His favor,
But He is preparing a place
Where I shall dwell with my glorified Savior,
Forever to look on His face.

Considering these things, what are we, as Christian teens, to do? Jesus said, "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors." God, through Christ, has forgiven our debts, and we need to look to others who are hopelessly lost and forgive them as well. We need to reach out with the Gospel of salvation, and pray for those who have not found the peace and comfort of Christ.

That is why we are here! We are not home yet--we have not reached the gates of heaven, which means, we still have a job to do for the kingdom of Christ. 

Go, then, this day, and pray for wisdom and strength to live this day as God intended for you to live it. Pray that God will help you to remember to forgive others as He has forgiven you! It's a tall order, but by the grace of God, it can be done!

God Bless You,
Linda

Friday, July 26, 2013

Daily Bread


11 Give us this day our daily bread.

Daily Bread

As a teen, do you know what it is life to go hungry? Have you ever been in the situation where you really did not know when or where your next meal would come?

For those of us who have lived with the blessing of great prosperity, we hardly know the meaning of the words, Give us this day our daily bread. Oh, we, as Christian teens, may acknowledge that everything we have, including our food, comes from God, but we have not known what it is like to live from day to day, wondering if there will be any food to eat today, or tomorrow!

That has not always been the case, even in countries such as the United States. My mother often told us of the story of her life in the 1930's. Her father was away due to illness and could not provide for his family, so her mother tried to take in sewing. That was not easy at a time when there were 9 children to care for. 

Being one of the 3 oldest, she was expected to take off school every 3rd day to care for the children at home so her mother could work, but sometimes there was not enough work available for her mother. Food became scarce, and finally, my mother confided with her friend that she would not be coming to school any more because she no longer had the strength to walk the 2 miles to school.

It was a small community, and when word got out that the Miles children were starving, the community became involved and made sure the family had food. But, what if everyone else in the community was in the same condition? What if everyone was scrambling to find something--anything--to eat?

How often do we, as Christian teens, actually think about those in this world who are hungry, or even starving? 

Unfortunately, we, who live in prosperity, often are guilty of forgetting that it is God who provides for us--even our daily bread. He gives us healthy bodies that can work, and jobs to earn the money we need to take care of our daily needs. 

Many of us are in circumstances where our governments will provide for those who cannot meet their daily needs. As a teen, have you ever thought about what that means? Is it really the job of the government to feeds its citizens? Have you ever considered that maybe God placed that responsibility upon His children. Where is the church today? God's people should be providing for their own. Perhaps that day will again be upon us, when our governments will no longer be able to take care of its citizens. Will the church step up to the plate?

Let us, as Christian teens, consider how we may look beyond our own doorsteps, and even beyond our own countries, to areas in the this world where hunger still abounds. How can we help? Is God choosing to use us to help others in need? Even as teens, there are things we can do to help!

In the end, there is more involved in these words of Christ than we first realize. We are called to look at the most basic necessities of life and understand that it is truly God who provides and cares for us. Never, while on this earth, do God's children have to be alone or in need, for God is always right beside us, caring for our every need. 

Let us, then, consider our great and marvelous God who even provides our daily bread. Let us consider what great things He would have us do for Him while we still remain on this earth. In these words, let us understand that we, as teens, need to take up the responsibilities given to us by God. He has a plan for us--may we be busy preparing for that plan!

God Bless You,
Linda

Thursday, July 25, 2013

God's Will


10 Your kingdom come.
      Your will be done
      On earth as it is in heaven.

God's Will!

As a Christian teen, what do you think of when considering God's will?

What is it that we, as Christian teens, really want? Is it peace on earth, a comfortable life, friends, happiness, health, or prosperity? All of these things are wonderful, but is that really what we want? No! In the end, it is not our life here on earth that matters--it is the kingdom of God that matters. What do we really want? We want God's kingdom to come, and we want God's will to be done here on earth just as it already is being done in heaven.

That may sound a bit drastic to you as a teen. After all, your life is just getting to the point where you are ready to try your wings and fly. Unless you have already experienced some great difficulties, you probably do not think much about what heaven will be like.

How can I say, then, with such confidence, that we want God's kingdom to come? In the end, no matter what our life is like here on earth--good or bad, it is contaminated by sin. Ever since Satan brought sin into this world, it was doomed. Even on the best of days, life is difficult. Who does not get tired of the rampant sin and evil which seems to rule this world? Who does not get tired of battling the sin in their own hearts and lives?

When you think of it, heaven is more than just a wonderful place we want to be. With heaven comes the end of sin--a complete release for the true Christian teen from the affects of sin, forever! In heaven we will not have to deal with the sins of others, but more importantly, we will not have to deal with our own sins! Gone will be our pride, arrogance, anger, bitterness, and any other sin which seems to so easily beset us on this earth. 

We love to think of the peace, joy, and happiness of heaven. We love to consider that first glorious moment when we are in the arms of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, but how often do we ponder what it will mean to be released from the power of sin forever? Can you imagine what life on this earth would really be like if no one sinned? It is truly beyond our comprehension!

Freedom! Freedom from sin and all of its effects upon our lives and upon the lives of those around us. For once, we will truly be totally in sync with God's will. We will truly desire what He desires; we will love what He loves, and we will never even question His will. 

When Jesus spoke these words to His disciples, we must remember that He, alone, truly understood their wonder. He, who came from heaven's glory, suffered unknown sorrow over the sin and evil that permeated all of this earth--not only manifested in its people, but also manifested in all nature. Imagine how difficult it must have been, for He knew from personal experience, what awaited Him and all of His children in heaven. He had already walked the streets of heaven, smelled the glorious fragrance of the flowers and trees, and heard the angels sing!

Let us then, as Christian teens, lift our eyes to heaven. Let us look upon this God we so love and worship, and let us pray that God would truly hasten the day when our faith will be sight. No longer will we long for heaven and eternity with Christ, for we will be with Him forever, and God's will, will be done! May our prayer be found in the words of Christ:

                Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!

God Bless You,
Linda

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Hallowed!


9 In this manner, therefore, pray:

      Our Father in heaven,
      Hallowed be Your name.

Hallowed!

The word "hallowed" is a rather archaic word that for today's teens probably seems to be somewhat remote.

Jesus said that the Father's name is hallowed, but what does it mean to be hallowed? According to Webster's Dictionary, it means: To make holy or set apart for holy use. What, then, does the word "holy" mean? Webster's Dictionary defines holy as: Exalted or worthy of complete devotion as one perfect in goodness and righteousness.

According to these definitions, only God is holy, and therefore, only God is to be hallowed. That is exactly the point that Jesus is making in verse 9 of Matthew 6. Only God is perfect in goodness and righteousness; as such, His name is to be hallowed or set apart for holy use. 

Unfortunately, we are so used to hearing God's name abused, even among teens, that we have lost that sense of God's name being hallowed.

The Jews so valued God's holy name that they would not speak it aloud and would only write it with the consonants, leaving out the vowels. In our day we have totally lost the sense of the holiness of God's name. As a matter of fact, even Christian's ears no longer tingle when they hear people take God's name in vane, or use it as a swear word, as it is so commonplace, even among children and teens.

This should not be the case! We as Christian teens need to return to having a sense of awe even upon just speaking or hearing God's name. How can we rekindle that element into our daily lives? The outward manifestations of our actions and words are a very accurate indicator of the true state of our hearts before God.

In Luke 6, Jesus said, A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. (Luke 6:45New King James Version)

It all comes down to our hearts, does it not? How can we, as teens, learn to hallow God's name? We can learn to hallow God's name by spending time, daily, reading and studying God's Word, and spending time in prayer. Through the means God has given us, we need to immerse ourselves in Christ: Bible study, prayer, fellowship with other believers, attending a Bible believing church, and developing friendships with other believers are just a few of the many means at our disposal to do this very thing.

Do our friendships matter? Yes! How often do our good intentions crumble when we are surrounded by peers who do not know the Lord? What a difference it makes when we are able to cultivate some good Christian friendships!

Christ saves, but we have the responsibility to actively pursue growth in Godliness. Paul reminds us in Philippians 2: Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.

Let us, then, work out our own salvation in fear and trembling, remembering that we serve a holy and righteous God.
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name.
God Bless You,
Linda


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Lord's Prayer


5 “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. 7 And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.
8 “Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. 

The Lord's Prayer

Today we begin the section from Matthew 6 on what is commonly known as the Lord's Prayer. Just how can you, as a Christian teen, benefit from understanding what Christ was teaching His disciples? How can you apply these words to your life today?

As in yesterday's devotion, Jesus was addressing the public, showy mannerisms of the religious leaders of His day. Wanting to display their godliness before all of the people, the religious leaders made a great display of their prayers before the people. Jesus, however, quickly went to the heart of prayer in His words to the disciples.

You, as a teen, may have great difficulty praying in front of other people. Does that mean you are not a very good Christian? Of course not! Prayer, as we will come to understand, is actually a very personal thing between you and God!

So, then, what is prayer? Prayer is that deep, personal, communication we have with God our Father. We are not to pray so that others will think highly of our great spirituality. Rather, we pray in secret, to God our Father because we long to be with Him. We long to communicate with Him, for we realize that we can do nothing apart from Him. 

Is prayer one-sided? Do our prayers just consist of us going to God and presenting our needs and desires to Him? Do we only go to God to ask Him for those things we need, which we hope will result in a better life for us?

Often, that is the way it seems to us as believers. We tend to only go to God when we are in trouble, or to pray for someone we know who is having problems. Does that seem to describe your prayer life as a Christian teen? 

As in all true forms of communication, prayer is a two-way street. When we pray in secret, baring our very soul before God, He responds. Yes! He communicates with us as well. In our heart of hearts, we sense and feel His response. This may sound somewhat foreign to you. Have you ever thought of just finding a quiet place to communicate with God? That is exactly what Christ did repeatedly while He lived and walked upon this earth!

When we are fearful, and cry out to Him for help, we feel that fear dissipate. When our hearts are filled with anxiety, we sense His overwhelming peace. When we study His Word, He fills our hearts with understanding. When we are almost overcome with sorrow and grief, He sustains us. When we are reminded of God's great love for us, our hearts are filled with joy.

But there is more! Jesus said, "When you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words." True prayer is not about repeating a magic formula; true prayer is not a talisman that, if said repeatedly, will result in a response from God. True prayer is communicating with God, and actually, does not even require any words at all! 

Spend some time just adoring God! Spend some time thinking of all of the attributes of God that you can remember. Spend some time remembering all those things that God has done for you, personally. No specific words are required, yet the resulting love and joy of Christ you experience, will carry you through even the most difficult of days.

Why else are words not even required? Jesus said, "For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him." God knows His children! He knows every need we have--even those needs of which we are not yet aware! As a doting, loving Father, He loves to bestow gifts of love and grace upon His children. 

As a Christian teen, by the grace of God, become a praying teen! There is no right or wrong way to pray to God. Do not be afraid to pray because you do not know what to say, or because you are afraid you will not pray correctly. Just go to God as you would to your best friend!

As we delve more into the Lord's Prayer, may you experience joy and peace in your own personal times with God. May you find in Him your anchor, your peace, your comfort, and your everlasting joy!

God Bless You
Linda

Monday, July 22, 2013

Charitable Deeds


 1 “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 3 But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly. 

Charitable Deeds

Charity! The word has a pleasant ring, does it not? As a teen, what comes to your mind when you think of charity? Perhaps you think of a free hand-out, or maybe you think of a good or kind deed. Maybe the very thought of charity, or charitable deeds makes you uncomfortable. Maybe you are not comfortable giving money to people who do nothing to earn it. Rather, it may seem that they are too eager to take the little you possess away from you.

As Jesus spoke these words, surely He sensed a mixed reaction from the people. In His day, often the poor seemed to line the streets with their hands out. The religious leaders of the day made a great show of giving to the poor, waiting until many people were milling about, observing their generosity to the poor. Despising their arrogance and selfish hearts, Jesus said, "Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven."

Jesus was going beyond the deed itself and getting to the heart of the matter. Why are we, as Christian teens, called to give to the poor? And, when we give, why are we to do so in secret, even to the point of our left hand not even knowing what our right hand is doing? Are we only seeking a reward from God, the Father? Is not giving to the poor a duty for our parents and not us? After all - we are only kids!

Jesus was pointing out a basic principle that we would do well to remember. We do not own or possess a single thing! Everything we have--even everything we have worked hard to obtain--is a gift from God, Himself! What we own or possess did not come from our parent. What we own did not become ours because we worked at a part time job and bought it. Everything we own is a gift from God!

Have we spent hours at a job, just to earn the things we have? How, then, is that a gift from God? Asks yourselves the question, "Who gives me the strength, health, and power to accomplish the things I do? Who gives me the intelligence needed to perform my daily duties?" When you think about it, is not everything we are, including all of our strengths and abilities, a gift from our Creator God?

How foolishly we tend to take pride in things that are God-given talents or abilities. Those talents or abilities do not make us any better than our peers. How foolishly we tend to think better of ourselves if we have been destined to riches. Perhaps we have been born into a wealthy family, but does that really make us any better than our servants? Perhaps we have a high IQ. Does that make us better than those who struggle with learning?

This is exactly the point Jesus was making, and the people knew exactly what He was saying. That is why so many took offense at Jesus' words. What of us? Are these principles offensive to us as well? 

Being a Christian teen is so much more than just making a decision to accept Christ as our Savior! Being a Christian teen involves a complete change of values and attitudes. Understanding that we are nothing before a righteous and holy God helps us to understand our true state. Nothing we are, and nothing we have is of any value apart from Christ. But, with Christ, we have everything; our relationship to Him is of more value than all of the silver and gold in this entire universe.

Why should we, as true believers, be generous with our charitable deeds? Why should we do our charitable deeds in secret--even to the point that our right hand does not know what our left hand is doing? We, as Christian teens, owe everything we have and are to Christ. None of the things we give to others is ours in the first place. By giving to those in need, we show that Christ is truly in our hearts, for by giving to others, we are, in a sense, throwing all we own at the feet of Jesus, our wondrous and glorious Savior!

Go, then, and do your charitable deeds in secret that God the Father may reward you openly! Look for opportunities to help those who are not as smart or not as wealthy as you!

God Bless You,
Linda

Friday, July 19, 2013

Love Your Enemies!


 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. 

Love Your Enemies!

As a teen, do you have enemies? Probably most of you said, "Yes!" How do you treat those enemies? How do you really feel about them? Jesus said to His disciples, "Love your enemies." How is that possible. Certainly that is not what requires of us today, is it?

If yesterday's message from Christ was difficult to receive, then today's words of Christ are even harder to bear. Yesterday we were encouraged by Christ to go the extra mile. If our enemy asks us to go one mile, we should willingly go two miles. Yet today, the Lord Jesus Christ's words to the disciples, and thus to us, as Christian teens, and encourages us to do more than just go the extra mile. Christ urges us to love our enemies.

Is that even possible? Certainly that must be what the disciples were thinking when they heart the words of Christ. How do you, as a teen, love someone who curses you? How do you love someone who spitefully uses you and persecutes you? How do you love someone who has murdered a friend or loved one? Jesus ended Matthew 5 with these words:
"Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect."
What did Christ mean? Certainly, on this earth, we, even as Christian teens, can never actually attain perfection, so what was Jesus really saying? Paul, in 1 Corinthians, gave us a wonderful commentary on these very principles. Believers in the church of Corinth were taking one another to the courts to resolve their issues, but Paul said, that according to Christ, they were wrong in doing so.
 7 Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another. Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated? 8 No, you yourselves do wrong and cheat, and you do these things to your brethren! 9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:7-11New King James Version)
His words, "And such were some of you," must have pricked their very consciences! Before we became Christians, how did we appear before God? Is there any reason that God should have chosen us to become believers? No! Did God see some good in us, and therefore said, "Choose that one."? No! Before God, we were nothing. Our sin was so great that we would have been separated from Him forever, but for the blood that Christ shed to pay for our sins.

So, as we view the unlovely of this world, especially those who have wronged us, what are we to think? We are to consider that what they really need is Christ! We are to love them, and to pray for them, that God would reach down and pluck them out of the very furnace of hell, just as He did for us!

"Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to them who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you." Those are the words of Christ; that is the heart of the Gospel. That is what it really means to be a Christian teen! May God make us more and more like Christ, so that His love shines forth, even upon our enemies! And let us remember, that what is impossible for us, is possible for God. Pray that God would give you a love for your enemies!

God Bless You,
Linda

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Extra Mile


 38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. 41 And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away. 

The Extra Mile

The message that Christ spoke in these verses probably almost sound like a foreign language to today's teens. As a matter of fact, from our perspective, they seem to indicate a rather weak person.

However, the words of Christ from the Sermon on the Mount today get to what is really the very heart of being a Christian teen, yet its message is not easy to bear. The Lord Jesus urges His children to go the extra mile! This is not an easy principle to incorporate into our daily lifestyles, for everything within us claims, "That is not fair."

Jesus teaches us, as Christian teens, to not resist evil people. If we are slapped on the right cheek, then we are to turn the other cheek to him also. If a person wants to steal our tunic, then we are to give him our cloak also. If we are forced to go one mile, then we are to willingly go two miles. We are to give willingly to those who ask to borrow from us, even if it means we are to lose that item forever.

These principles really go against our nature, do they not? Not many teens would even consider such a thing, would they? Yet, we must remember, that as Christian teens, we are not ordinary teens!

None of these things are easy to bear. Life is hard, and we have worked, sometimes for years to obtain the possessions we own. We are not, then, too willing to give them to someone who will not respect them. We certainly do not want to give them to someone who may destroy them, and not be able to replace them.

When you think of these words of Christ, what is the real message that He is trying to point out to His disciples--and thence, to us as well? Jesus is saying that, as true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, our lives are not our own. The things we may possess are mere trinkets which have no value in eternity. We must look rather, Christ says, to the heart of life, and observe the real meaning of this life. Our hearts are not to be grounded in this life or in the things we possess, but rather, our hearts are to be grounded in eternity.

The message Jesus was teaching to us in these verses from Matthew 5, reminds me of a chorus we sang when I was a child:

With eternity's values in view, Lord;
With eternity's values in view -
May I do each day's work for Jesus
With eternity's values in view.

This message seems rather remote in this, the 21st century, does it not? We live in a very selfish society, and even Christian teens have been sadly affected by this world's egotistic lifestyle. Just think what would happen if all true believers took these words to heart and began to live them. 

Though it may be against the very fabric of our being to do so, let us pray that God would reform our hearts and our lives so that we, too, would gladly go that extra mile. Let us pray that God would grant us hearts that love others more than we love ourselves! Let us pray that God would enable us to live with eternity's values in view!

God Bless You,
Linda

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Oaths



33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ 34 But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one. 

Oaths

As a teen, how often do you say something that you really regret? Those words just seemed to slip out of your mouth, and you wish so much that you could undo their affect? That is exactly the subject of today's devotional from the Sermon on the Mount.

This passage from Matthew 5 regarding the taking of oaths is a little more obscure in our society and perhaps a little harder to understand. Is the Lord Jesus telling us that all oaths are wrong? No!

What is an oath? An oath is a solemn appeal to a deity, or to some revered person or thing, to witness one's determination to speak the truth, to keep a promise, etc. Jesus is referring, in this passage, to oaths or promises made before God Himself. 

Are oaths still made today? Yes, oaths are still made today. For example, if you are called to a court to be a witness, you are asked to swear an oath that you will tell the truth. In a marriage ceremony, vows made between the bride and groom are often actually oaths they make to each other before God. Why, then, is Jesus speaking against oaths?

In Jesus' day, the religious leaders often required people to make oaths, causing them to sin. Did the people owe their allegiance to these religious leaders? No! Their only allegiance should have been to God. Jesus was addressing this practice of the Pharisees. 

Other Bible passages also address the making of oaths. Swearing an oath before God is not wrong, as a matter of fact, as a teen, if we make an oath, we should only make oaths in the name of God. In doing so, however, we must remember that God holds us accountable for the oaths we make. Because of this, Jesus was warning that it would be better to not make an oath at all, than to make an oath before God and then to not keep it.

We must realize that in all of our speech, we must be very careful, for once words come out of our mouth, there is no taking them back! James spent almost an entire chapter warning us to be careful about the words that come out of our mouth. Though it is a rather long passage, I hope you will take the time to read it and consider it carefully.
 1 My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. 2 For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. 3 Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. 4 Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. 5 Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things.
See how great a forest a little fire kindles! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. 8 But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. 10 Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? (James 3:1-11New King James Version)
God is perfect, righteous, and holy. Let us, as Christian teens, be very careful to be obedient to Him, especially regarding any oaths we have made, or might consider making in His name in the future.

God Bless You,
Linda

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Marriage for Life!


31 “Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery. 

Marriage for Life

There is hardly a subject more relevant for today's teens than this. How are you to view these Words of Christ in this, the 21st century?

In a day when the sanctity of marriage is definitely under attack, what are we to think of the Words of Christ as found in our passage today from Matthew 5? We certainly can see that what God intends for marriage is not what we commonly see in our day.

According to the Bible, marriage is for life. Teens today need to take a step back and reconsider their relationships with members of the opposite sex. Marriage is a commitment that each person makes to one another--a commitment that is actually a vow before God. We must also realize, that in spite of what we are taught by this world, sexual relationships with those of the same sex are forbidden in God's Word. 

Unfortunately, due to our sin, vows of marriage often go through many times of great pressure, but for the Christian couple who are determined to be obedient to God's law, He gives grace to weather the difficult storms of life. No couple is exempt from such times, but all who have weathered those storms experience a strengthening in their relationship to one another. The Christian home is meant to be a haven, and for a couple who are committed first of all to Christ, and then to one another, it can truly become "heaven on earth."

Having said all of that, how are we to view those who have experienced divorce? What of those who have divorced and remarried? Are they condemned by these Words of Christ? No! First of all, there is more to this subject that is taught in God's Word than what appears in this passage. Second, as Christ forgives our sins, so must we forgive the sins of one another. 

Even as teens, you know that there do exist circumstances where, even for the believer, divorce is the only option. For example, when the lives of the children are endangered, due to an abusive parent, the other parent must protect the lives of the children. Is this an isolated circumstance? Unfortunately, it is not. That parent, then, needs the love and encouragement of the Christian community. They need friends to encourage them to protect their children, and to raise them in a Godly environment, training them to be obedient to God's Word. 

In the end, then, what do we, as teens in this 21st century, take away from these Words of Christ? If we are unmarried, then we must carefully consider our relationships. Believers must marry believers--believers who are committed first to Christ and then to each other. Also, according to the Bible, marriage is between one man and one woman. Just because something becomes the law of the land, it does not make it right before God. Those who are married must seek to guard their personal relationship with Christ, and then their relationship with their husband and wife. By the grace of God, they need to pray for one another and seek healing in difficult times.

For those whose spouse has been unfaithful, divorce is not a mandate. It is allowable, but, if possible, the conversion of their spouse, or their reconciliation to God is to be sought. Wounds such as these are deep, but God certainly blesses those who desire to recommit themselves to God and to each other.

Life can be so difficult; sin can be so wearisome--our own sin as well as the sins of others, especially those to whom we are very close. Let us, by God's grace seek a closeness to Christ, and may God lead us through the valleys of trouble. In the end, may His name be glorified above all.

As teens, if you are unmarried (which most of you probably are), enjoy this time to get to know members of the opposite sex. However, unless you are ready to take on the responsibilities of marriage, consider choosing not to date at this time. Enjoy group relationships with your friends. The true purpose for dating is to choose a life mate, and if you are not ready for that, make a commitment to wait, even for dating. You will not regret that decision. If you do date, do not date an unbeliever! 

As we consider the difficulties of life, let us also not forget, that the times are evil, but they will not last forever. God our Father has promised that a time is coming when all of of the things of this life will pass away, Indeed, there will be no more death, no more sorrow, and no more pain. (Revelation 21) May the Lord hasten that day!

God Bless You,
Linda