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The common message of encouragement to teens everywhere in this anthology is this: God loves you unconditionally and is always there for you. If you put your faith in the never-failing love of God, you will find yourself standing on a ...
The common message of encouragement to teens everywhere in this anthology is this: God loves you unconditionally and is always there for you. If you put your faith in the never-failing love of God, you will find yourself standing on a foundation that cannot be shaken when the things of this world seem to be tumbling down around you--or even down upon you!
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New Days, New Ways PHILIP F. NEWMAN
JANUARY 1 A FRESH START
"Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?" (Isaiah 43:18-19a)
Happy New Year! January means a fresh start; a chance to begin anew; a do-over if we need one. Sure, it's true that every day is different from the one before. We serve a loving, forgiving, faithful God whose mercies are "new every morning," as the prophet Jeremiah put it in the Old Testament (Lamentations 3:23).
Still, the beginning of the year carries a special sense of unspoiled promise. It can feel like an exciting opportunity to hit the "refresh" button as we navigate from the year that was—the great, the good, and the not so good—and enter an unexplored page in front of us.
Each day this month, we'll explore a different aspect of the new days ahead with some ideas for new ways to go deeper with God and to view ourselves, our schools, our relationships, and the culture around us. Are you ready for a fantastic year?
What "new thing" do you sense God leading you to in the coming year?
What "former things" from last year are you glad to put behind you?
JANUARY 2 D—DEVOTIONAL BEGINNINGS
Train yourself to be godly. (1 Timothy 4:7b)
Hope you had a fun New Year's Day!
For the next seven days we'll spell out the acronym "Daily QT" as we focus on getting to know God better and growing stronger in our faith. "QT" is short for "quiet time," a one-on-one meeting with God—preferably in a quiet, private place—that can last anywhere from a few minutes to a half hour or more. The QT is reserved for reading the Bible, thinking about what God is saying through the word and how it applies to your life, listening for God's voice, and praying for others.
Having a regular devotional time like a QT does require discipline, but it shouldn't feel like drudgery. Think of your best friend; you don't force yourself to be with him or her, right? You can't wait to see your friend. That's a good way to approach time with God, too. God is, after all, the best friend you'll ever have. God is also gracious, meaning that if you miss a day, God will still be excited and eager when you meet together the next day.
What do you think are some of the benefits of meeting daily with God?
What are some of the distractions that make setting aside a quiet time difficult, and how could you overcome them?
JANUARY 3 A—ATTITUDE CHECK
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:3-5)
Philippians—the book sandwiched between Ephesians and Colossians in the New Testament—contains a power-packed message from Paul, the apostle who experienced a 180-degree life change when Jesus met him on the road to Damascus.
As you let today's verses soak in, think about the attitude that Paul is describing here: humility rather than vanity; other-centeredness rather than self-centeredness; a servant's heart rather than a selfish heart.
Now, think about your own life in light of how Paul describes Jesus and the attitude that led Jesus to the cross. Jesus could have proclaimed himself king and ruled by force, but instead he suffered and died, not only to rescue us but also to transform our attitudes as we walk with him.
Spend a few minutes asking God to reveal any areas where your attitude might be more selfish than humble and write down what comes to mind.
What difference does it make to remember that Jesus, who lives within every Christian by the Holy Spirit, helps us walk in greater humility when we ask?
JANUARY 4 I—INQUIRE WITHIN
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." (Matthew 7:7)
One of the keys to success in any area of life—school, friendships, career, family, and more—is the ability to ask good questions (and to listen carefully for answers; more about that tomorrow). Having an inquiring mind can be especially helpful in our spiritual growth and quiet times with God.
God loves it when we ask questions! Questions like: What would you like to show me through the Bible today as I read? What's your purpose for the hard time I'm going through right now? How can I know you and feel your presence more than I have before? Will you give me strength and energy for tomorrow's midterm exam?
Whatever is on your heart today, take a few minutes to pray or journal your questions to God—and trust that God will speak to you with wisdom and direction as you stay open to hear God's voice.
What question(s) would you like to ask God today?
Can you think of a time when you asked a big question of God and the answer came in a way that surprised or amazed you?
JANUARY 5 L—THE LOST ART OF LISTENING
"Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me [Jesus]." (John 6:45b)
I will listen to what God the Lord will say; he promises peace to his people, his saints—but let them not return to folly. (Psalm 85:8)
Does it ever seem to you that our world has a lot more talkers than listeners? How often do we find ourselves in a conversation and while the other person is talking, we're thinking about the next thing we are going to say? (If you've done this, join the club; so have I and just about everyone else!)
Good friends are good listeners, and those who learn new things quickly and successfully are almost always good listeners.
In your times with God, listening is just as important as expressing your thoughts, feelings, and questions. It might feel strange or unnatural at first, but the more you sit quietly in God's presence, listening to God's voice, the more attuned your spiritual ears will become to receive the insights, inspiration, encouragement, and truth that God wants to pour into your life.
What qualities do you think make a good listener?
Why do you think it's important to become a really good listener when it comes to your relationship with God?
JANUARY 6 Y—YIELD TO THE LORD'S LEADING
"Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." (Luke 22:42)
If you've driven a car—or even just paid attention while riding in one—you're aware of how important yielding is on the roads. When your eyes see the red-and-white, upside-down triangle with the word yield in the center, they signal your brain to slow down, let other vehicles go first, and make sure the way is clear before you proceed. Failure to yield can lead to a smashed-up car or much worse.
In your life as a follower of Jesus, yielding is critically important. To yield is to give up control, to slow down and look for God's leading, to resist the urge to do whatever you feel like doing at the moment. Yielding means saying, as Jesus said to his Father, "Not my will, but yours be done."
As you yield to God, you'll discover a great truth: God will lead you into much better places than you could ever take yourself!
If you were to let God take the lead in every area of your life, how do you think your life would change?
Is there any specific thing that you know you need to yield to God but it seems too hard or scary to give up control?
JANUARY 7 Q—QUIETING THE NOISE
This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: "In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength." (Isaiah 30:15a)
Much of what our world calls "strength" today comes with a lot of sound and fury attached. Think about it: the weightlifter in the gym who pumps the most pounds—and grunts the loudest while doing so; the movie star who screams while blowing the bad guys to smithereens; the guitar hero who cranks up the band's amp until every note rings in the audience's ears; the misguided parent (or teen) who thinks yelling and slamming doors will demonstrate power.
Often, strength is loud.
But the kind of strength that God cares most about doesn't need crashes and booms. Inner strength holds the highest value, and it's developed in moments of solitude, in times spent with God, listening, sensing the Spirit at work within us, reading the Scriptures and letting their truth sink into our spirits and souls.
That's how we grow the strongest spiritually—by making room for quiet.
As you go about your day, listen closely to all the sounds in your home, your bedroom, and your car. What noises could be turned down or off for a while to create some quiet time and allow you to hear God more clearly?
JANUARY 8 T—TEACHABLE MOMENTS
Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. (Psalm 25:4-5)
When you meet one-on-one with God, you're meeting not only with the Creator of the universe and the hope of the world, but also with the greatest teacher in history.
Among its many benefits, your daily quiet time provides amazing opportunities to learn more about God, God's ways, and God's good plans for your life. The word teach appears a whopping 349 times in the Bible. In one place, Jesus promises his disciples that the Counselor—a.k.a. the Holy Spirit—will come from the Father to "teach you all things and ... remind you of everything I have said to you" (John 14:26).
As we wrap up our focus on daily devotional times, I hope you'll keep them going and keep that promise in mind: the Spirit is with you—teaching, guiding, and reminding you with every step you take along your journey with God.
Think about the best teacher you've ever had. What made her or him so special? What did you learn from this teacher that has stuck with you?
Will you make a commitment—and share it with a parent, youth pastor, or friend—to meet daily with God this year?
JANUARY 9 YOU ARE GOD'S HANDIWORK
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. (Psalm 139:13-14)
Today, we begin a series of messages focused on your identity as a Christian—who you are in God's sight.
In the popular book series The Clique, a few of the "in" characters refer to classmates they don't like with the phrase "loser beyond repair" (LBR). In other words: you are so not cool and you never will be.
Have you ever felt that way about yourself? Or—let's be honest—have you ever called someone else an LBR to his or her face or behind his or her back? Whatever the case, in Psalm 139 we discover that just the opposite is true.
You and every other person were carefully created, lovingly formed, wonderfully made. You bear God's imprint. Before you were born, God fashioned you with great precision and purpose.
Loser beyond repair? Don't buy it. In our Creator's eyes, each of us is a WBC—winner beyond compare.
How aware are you of the great truth that you are "fearfully and wonderfully made" by a loving Creator?
Considering that this is also true about everyone else, is there anyone you need to speak to, or about, in a different way than you have been?
JANUARY 10 YOU ARE GOD'S BELOVED
But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. (Titus 3:4-5)
"Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him." (Deuteronomy 33:12a)
You don't have to earn it; you only have to receive it as a gift. "It" is God's love. It's free. God's love for you is deeper, stronger, and more lasting than any other love in the world.
If, for whatever reason, you've got the idea that God loves you more when you're "good" and less when you're "bad," today would be a great day to chuck that notion. It's simply not true. Nothing you do could make God care for you any more or any less. In Christ, you are God's beloved child!
It is true that if you sin or drift away from God, your experience of God's love will decrease. You won't enjoy the close fellowship and friendship that God wants you to enjoy until you turn back, reconnect, and receive God's forgiveness. But God's love for you will never waver.
Do you ever think that God loves you less or more at certain times than at other times?
What difference could it make to remember that God's love for you never changes?
JANUARY 11 YOU ARE RESCUED
For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13-14)
Just about every day, cable news channels carry another image of a harrowing rescue: frightened people, with flood waters raging all around them, stuck on top of a car or house. Imagine how that kind of terror might turn to extreme relief as a helicopter lowered its basket and plucked you to safety, lifting you away from almost certain death.
In a similar way, all who come to God in faith have been rescued, too. It might not feel as dramatic as a last-second rooftop liberation, but being rescued spiritually means so much more in the long run. If you've said yes to God through Jesus Christ, then you have been freed from an empty, purposeless life. As Paul puts it in today's verse, you have been "redeemed"—purchased by God, forgiven, and set free.
And that is news worth shouting from the rooftops.
What does it mean to you that God has rescued you from darkness and brought you into the Kingdom?
Does knowing that God has "purchased" you and set you free change your view of God in any way?
JANUARY 12 YOU ARE A NEW CREATION
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! (2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT)
Having grown up at the foot of Colorado's Rocky Mountains, I remember that awesome feeling of walking outside on winter mornings and stepping into a powdery blanket of freshly fallen snow. The whole world seemed new.
It's kind of like walking on a beach after the tide has gone out and left the sand smooth and glistening. Or like washing the car, inside and out, and spraying it with a little "new car" scent. Ah ... fresh! When things are new, they seem more special, don't they?
That's how it is to belong to God. Because of God's incredible love, mercy, and grace, we have been made new. God views us as new creations thanks to the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf.
Being "new" doesn't make us perfect, of course; we're still prone to stumble at times, and we still need forgiveness. But it does mean that if you've accepted Christ's invitation to walk with him, then at the core of your being you're a whole new person!
What images or memories cause you to think most about "newness"?
In what ways can you draw encouragement and strength from knowing that God sees you as a "new creation" in Christ?
JANUARY 13 YOU ARE SET APART
Look at this: look Who got picked by God! He listens the split second I call to him. (Psalm 4:3 THE MESSAGE)
But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. (1 Peter 3:15)
If you've ever been singled out in a good way—presented with an award in front of the class or the school, taken to dinner by your mom or dad, mentioned in the newspaper, or interviewed on television—then you know how special it can feel to be "set apart" for individual recognition.
Excerpted from 365 More Meditations for Teens by Sally Sharpe Copyright © 2009 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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