A Teen's Guide to Christian Living: Practical Answers to Tough Questions About God and Faith

Overview

A Teen's Guide to Christian Living takes a refreshing look at real faith in God and how it sustains the younger believer through the ups and downs of life. As teens cope with the pain and fear of divorced parents, broken or abusive relationships, illness, or simply with the pressures of everyday living, this book will help to keep them on solid ground and gain a deeper understanding of their faith through answers to questions like:

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Overview

A Teen's Guide to Christian Living takes a refreshing look at real faith in God and how it sustains the younger believer through the ups and downs of life. As teens cope with the pain and fear of divorced parents, broken or abusive relationships, illness, or simply with the pressures of everyday living, this book will help to keep them on solid ground and gain a deeper understanding of their faith through answers to questions like:

  • How well does God know me? Does He love me in spite of things I've said and done?
  • Is there a best way to pray? How does prayer make a difference?
  • Does God watch over my family even if they don't all believe in Him?
  • Does loving God mean I can't go to parties, kiss or flirt?
  • Should I only associate with people who believe what I believe?
  • Can I still be a regular teen with regular friends and a regular life?

A particular strength of this book lies in stories by teens who share how they learned to rely on God during a moment of truth in their lives-stories that will inspire other teens to surmount life's challenges. Each chapter teaches a particular topic and closes with thought-provoking questions that will help teens examine their lives and put Christian principles into practice.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In their bestselling Taste Berries books, the Youngs utilized the power of stories to connect with teenagers. Their latest offering gathers such stories together in the last section, a change that will greatly reduce the readability of the book, which is otherwise a rather didactic series of questions and answers about Christianity. If the stories had been interwoven with the "answer" content, the result would have been much more effective. The first section of the book, Who is God (and Why Does It Matter)?, offers background material about the Bible and the Christian faith. It is hard to imagine that teenagers with burning questions will find much to engage them in these heavy, historically and theologically driven chapters. Other sections of the book (How is God a Part of My Everyday Life?) are more interesting and relevant to adolescents. While some social issues, like pornography, are given a thorough discussion, other topics, such as "cussing," are addressed too simplistically or dodged altogether. Personal reflection questions at the end of each chapter attempt to bring lessons home to young readers. Although the book contains some material teens would find helpful, the lack of a topical index means that such nuggets may be difficult to find. Nor is it likely that most teens will wade through the book's almost 400 pages. (Aug.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780757301018
  • Publisher: Health Communications, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 7/1/2003
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 1,416,100
  • Age range: 13 years

Meet the Author

Bettie B. Youngs, Ph.D., Ed.D., is the author of twenty-six books published in thirty-one languages and is a former Teacher-of-the-Year, university professor and an acknowledged expert on teens. Along with her daughter Jennifer, she coauthored the runaway best-selling series, Taste Berries for Teens. Bettie has appeared frequently on CNN, NBC Nightly News and Oprah.

Jennifer Youngs is a speaker and workshop presenter for teens and parents nationwide. She is also the author of Feeling Great, Looking Hot & Loving Yourself.

Debbie Thurman, has been actively involved in Christian ministry for more than twenty years. She is the author of From Depression to Wholeness, and Hold My Heart: A Teen's Journal for Healing and Personal Growth.

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Read an Excerpt

How the Bible Explains Our Lives and the World

The Bible opens with the words, "In the beginning, God . . . " Have you ever really wondered what "in the beginning" is all about? Time is a fascinating concept, so much so that some of our favorite science-fiction stories deal with altering time or traveling through time. As little children, we might have heard our parents or Sunday school teachers say that God has always existed. Always? Those of us who like to dig deeper and want to know the hows and whys of life are sure to ask the obvious question: "How?"

There was a beginning. No matter how we believe it all got started, it did get started, and because it did, you are here. It is only natural to ask, "How, and by what or whom?" It isn't so important to know when the beginning was (yes, we know about carbon dating) as it is to know that it was an event of great magnitude. A famous scientist decided the term "Big Bang" was appropriate. There have been all sorts of theories through the ages, some of them amusing myths, about how the universe came into being. Some want to say the Big Bang was a spontaneous event that just happened once upon a time when all the elements were exactly right. Just as seventeen-year-old Lance Waldrop (whose story you'll read in part 6) believed, there's only one little problem with that thought. Where did the elements come from? As we walk back through time to consider when the beginning was, we have to come to a point when we realize something can't come from nothing. It takes a Big God to make a Big Bang.

This brings us back to the question of how God existed before the beginning. It's kind of like having two mirrors reflect off of each other. Can they reflect nothing? Hardly. They can reflect an image back and forth to infinity, one would have to suppose. We've no doubt all sat mesmerized at one time or another as we've tried to see how far into infinity we can actually glimpse with two mirrors. Fascinating, isn't it?

Is God infinity, then? The old hymns your grandparents liked to sing, reflecting the words of Scripture, spoke of God as the Alpha and the Omega. That's A to Z, in case you don't know any of the Greek alphabet. In other words, man sees God as the everything. How does God see God? When He revealed Himself to Moses in the Old Testament, God called Himself "I AM" (Exod. 3:14). If God existed before the beginning (remember, "in the beginning, God . . . "), then He would have to be infinite, or existing beyond what we know as time. I AM. Period. That may boggle the human mind, but He's God. We're not.

The next word after God in Genesis 1:1 is "created." The God who always was, is and will be, acted. He created the heavens and the Earth, and everything else. That creative force brought human beings into existence. Those people, as God commanded, were "fruitful" and multiplied into nations that covered the world. God's people. It began with the first two people, Adam and Eve, who were "made in God's image" (Gen. 1:27). Although God considered His creation of man to be "very good" (Gen. 1:31), sin (rebellion) was already lurking in the world. It didn't take long for it to capture the heart of mankind as Satan appeared to Adam and Eve, tempting them with divine knowledge and power. We know this as "the fall" or "original sin." Because of this event, every person from that point on was considered to be born with a sinful heredity. What's more, we are all considered lost or separated from God through this sin unless we allow Him to redeem us.

God's Promises: From Abraham to a Jewish Carpenter

Why God chose a certain people through whom to work in early history we cannot know. After a number of generations (all those "begats" in the Old Testament) and God's disappointment with the sinfulness of His people, He chose to form an important covenant (or agreement) with Abraham, originally known as Abram.
Israel and generations beyond grew out of God's promise to Abraham that his descendants would be as plentiful as the stars, even though he and his wife Sarai (later renamed Sarah) were old and childless. The story of Abraham's faith is a fascinating one that begins in Genesis 12. It explains how the Jewish nation descended from Isaac, the miracle son of the elderly Abraham and Sarah, while the Arab nation descended from Ishmael, the earlier illegitimate son of Abraham and his wife's Egyptian maid, Hagar. Now you know why the Jewish and Arab worlds have been at odds since the beginning.

Of course, there is much history leading up to this covenant between God and Abraham, including the Great Flood (which God used to rebuild His creation) and the scattering of nations from the tower of Babel. Hollywood has taken much of its epic film material from the early chapters of the Bible. Those old classical stories, along with every element of the Bible that is inspired (literally, breathed into) by God, have influenced a lot of the world's great literature. Do they still have lessons to teach us today? You bet. Faith always matters; sin is still highly contagious; God always has a plan, and He still keeps His promises, to name just a few.

The Old Testament foreshadows the New Testament by speaking, sometimes quite poetically, about the coming of Jesus Christ. Much of early biblical history consists of God beginning to work out His secondary plan in mankind because the first plan, which was paradise on Earth, was rejected by Adam and Eve, allowing the father of lies—Satan—to operate freely in the world. Human nature became corrupt. It's not hard to imagine why, since even the angels had their problems. Lucifer (Satan) was the brightest among them before he and others rebelled against God.

Why Did God Give Man "Free Will"?

Had God not given man (and angels) the free will to choose what he wanted, His creation would have been meaningless. Love that is dictated is not love. Man chose poorly, egged on by the lost angels who wanted company in their misery, and for generations, sin grew and corrupted the hearts of mankind. God would have to form a new covenant with His beloved children, one that would give clearer meaning to the old laws and make some of them no longer necessary. Isaiah 53, for instance, is a well-known description of Jesus, the Son of God and Son of Man—"a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering"ùand a glimpse into his earthly life, and sacrificial death, to come. You may be familiar with the famous verse, "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity (sin) of us all" (Isa. 53:6). Jesus was God's plan to set the world right by answering for the sins of man.

Why Is the Bible "The" Book (Sacred to the Christian Faith)?

It is important to know that the Bible must be seen as a large mosaic, with all the pieces fitting together to make a picture. It will certainly make far more sense when taken as a whole, not in isolated bits and pieces. We must all read it for ourselves over a period of time to gain a sense of the scope of its plan and purpose. Some read it as literature, and it is certainly both beautiful and fascinating as such. However, a person who has accepted Christ as personal Savior then receives a deeper understanding of the Bible's meaning. The more one truly studies God's Word, the clearer it becomes. It is not unusual to discover more and more truth, even after reading it for a great many years.

If you placed all the holy books or scriptures of major religions or worldviews side by side, you would find many similar passages or teachings. So why is the Bible different, and what makes it so sacred to the Christian faith? The first five books of the Bible chronicle (tell a story of) many generations of God's chosen people, including the conflicts among those who were scattered abroad. Some of these people were heroic people of faith; some were singled out for the mistakes they made. God is seen in the Old Testament over and over as a loving God who wants to protect His people, but also as a God who naturally becomes angry with the fickle nature, ingratitude and forgetfulness of His people as they try to figure out what they perceive to be a better way than the one God has outlined for them. They even choose to reject God and to worship other false gods or idols.

God sent various prophets out into the world to remind His people of the promises He had made and of His deliverance from their former slavery and hardship. The prophets spoke for God and gave warnings of the discipline that awaited His people unless they turned back to Him. Prophets sometimes performed miracles in God's name and provided signs of His power to convince the people that He was still who He said He was. Still, many continued to stray and fall out of God's grace. God had no choice but to make a new covenant with His people because He had promised that He would not destroy the world again as He had done in the form of the great flood of Noah's time. Instead of abolishing all of the old laws, He chose to send His own son to Earth to embody a new covenant that would make the old one more meaningful, but also provide a solution to the problem of sin in man. The New Testament opens with the hope that arrives in the world through the birth of Jesus. It had been hundreds of years since God had spoken through any prophet, and a dark cloud of sin had fallen over the Earth. Faithful men and women of God still awaited some sign that God had not forgotten them.

Why and How the Bible Is Unique from Any Other Holy Book

The Bible, in its entirety, is unique from any other holy book because it combines these two covenants and outlines the plan of salvation through Jesus Christ, who is clearly shown to be not just a man, but the divine son of God. Furthermore, through Jesus a very important entity came into the world—the Holy Spirit—who God sent after Jesus had fulfilled the new covenant to each believing person as a guide and a comforter and a means of knowing God through a deeply personal relationship. The Holy Spirit is meant to connect us directly to God and to give us the means through which to communicate with Him and to know the truth of the Scriptures. "The Spirit helps us in our weakness," the apostle Paul writes in the book of Romans. "We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit because the Spirit intercedes for the saints (believers) in accordance with God's will" (Rom. 8: 26—27). We will discuss the Holy Spirit in more detail in chapter 3.

The Bible, the most widely read of all books, is recognized among true followers of Christ as the divinely inspired Word of God. That is one of the fundamental beliefs of the Christian church. It is not to be proved or disproved, but merely accepted as truth on the basis of faith. The Bible was written over a period of more than 1,500 years by a series of authors who wrote according to the instruction of God Himself. It predates by far all known writings of significance and is unique in that it has survived throughout all those centuries, despite the great hatred of those who have opposed its teaching. Many people have wanted to deny the authenticity of the Bible, but the longer we live the more proof we find that it is both historically and scientifically accurate.

¬2003. All rights reserved. Reprinted from A Teen's Guide to Christian Living by Bettie B. Youngs, Jennifer Leigh Youngs and Debbie Thurman. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442.

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