Summer 2009 -- Make a List

Summer’s in, school’s out. The problem? With all that time on your hands, it’s easy to lose track of what’s important and whittle your time away on things that will only hurt you. In two months, you’ll wonder where summer went and what the heck you got accomplished.
I challenge you to make this summer matter. Here’s the challenge: do something really good for yourself (that’s easy enough), do something really good for someone you know, and do something good for someone you don’t know or don’t like (let’s face it: it’s hard, but you can do it). It’s not going to be easy, but it’ll be worth it.
You see, when we make use of our time, we benefit everyone around us – including people we don’t even know. Don’t spend too much time doing something that won’t stick with you – like playing video games, searching the Web, or lying around wondering what on earth there is to do.
Instead, as I’ve told you before, spend your time on useful, lasting, productive things. Finish your homework assignment (yes, I mean now. Well, I guess you can wait until you’re done reading this.) Clean your room without being asked. Read your Bible, spend time with God. Set your iPod to Shuffle mode while you do your chores. Listen to worshipful music. Invite a friend over. Bake cookies for your neighbor or enjoy the summer by riding your bike. (Hey, everyone likes muscles, right?)
God doesn’t want us to be lazy. Time is a funny thing, like a pen. You know there’s ink in there, but it’s not going to last forever. You don’t know when that ink will run out. Make this the best summer yet.

You’ll never have another Summer 2009.

Make a list of all the things you want to do before summer is over. These can be fun things, like doing a high-dive into a pool, or healthy things, like riding your bike up and down your driveway every day. It can also be things that will help you be more confident and tune into the Lord, or investing in other people’s lives. Think of as many things as you can. Have fun and be creative!


Swimming Safely

When you go swimming, and you dive deep down into the water, it feels so good. But suddenly your chest feels tight, so you swim up for air. Only, you misjudge the distance. You’re deeper than you thought you were. There’s one foot from you and the surface that you weren’t expecting.

Sometimes life can be like that. We know that we’ve gone a little far but we’re not scared – everything feels good and cool right now. But soon you realize you need to get back on solid ground. Only, you’ve fallen deeper than you expected and you can’t quite reach the surface in time to save yourself.

It’s a scary feeling.

The truth is, one of these days, you’re bound to get that feeling. You’re bound to get that sinking feeling, like you’re going lower and lower and can’t stop. Because right now it’s ok. But what about tomorrow? Maybe you’ll drown in your sin. Maybe what’s holding you down from really living is not going to go easily now that it’s consumed you.

And suddenly you feel scared. You know it’s time to get out, but it’s so hard. It’s too much of a challenge. You’ve gone too far.

When you’re just about to give up, a strong hand reaches down. You grasp it and you’re pulled up to safety. The Lifeguard says you need to be more careful.

"I’m sorry," you say. "I won’t do it again. I promise."

The Lifeguard smiles sadly. "While I’d love for you to be more careful, you will do it again. You’re human. But remember that I’ll always be there to save you. Don’t let anything get in between you and Me, ok? Don’t let anything drag you down. Swim safely."


Never Covered with Shame

I sought the Lord, and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are neve covered with shame. - Psalm 34:4-5

That's how I want to be. Verse 4 is very comforting -- when we seek God, he answers us and keeps us safe -- but today I want to focus on the last part, verse 5.
What does it mean to be radiant? Radiance is a bright light or glow, but what happens when radiance is found in people?
Have you ever met one of those people who just seem to shine? Whether they're attractive or not, their inner qualities seem to bubble to the surface and make you feel good. These are the people who we can learn from and grow in. Just from the simple things that person does, you can tell Christ is working through them. These people are radiant.
The truth is, no matter how ugly you think you are, you can be amazing. You can shine. You can be radiant. Deep down, it's what everyone wants. Everyone wants to live with purpose, to love and be loved, to work for a good cause.
Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.
Sin and shame come hand in hand. Shame is like guilt, only worse, because people can see right through it. When you feel ashamed, you're never happy. When we ditch sin and strive for holiness instead, our sinful wordly shame is lifted from us and we are radiant.
That's what I want to be like. When people see me, I want them to see a radiant servant of the Lord, a girl worthy of respect. I never want my face to be covered with shame, instead I want to be radiant because I look to Him.


Did God Really Make the World?

Q: "Some kids at my school are saying God didn't make the world. I know they're wrong, but I don't know how to back up what I believe. Can you help?"

A: Sounds like those kids have forgotten their old Sunday School lessons. The Bible is pretty clear on God's existence and the beginning of time. In fact, there's a whole book devoted to the beginning of the world.
Genesis 1:1-2 says, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty. Darkness was over the surface of the deep and the spirit of God was hovering over the waters." In the beginning...God. That's all there was. God wasn't created, made, or born. He just was always there. It's simple, really, but such a thing is hard for us to grasp.
John 1:1 tells us, "In the beginning was the Word [Jesus], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."
Nehemiah 9:6 states, "You alone are the Lord. You made the Heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host. The earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything and the multitudes of Heaven worship you."

There's also scientific evidence -- loads of it -- that prove that the Theory of Evolution is just that: a theory. Nothing more. It's a theory proved wrong, even, but people still refuse to believe that what they've been thinking for all these years is wrong. People are stubborn. Creation science is really cool. You should look into it. Visit the creation museum and research to find the facts. And, of course, have the Scripture to back up your claims.

Looking for a fun, hands-on book about creation science? Check out the book It Didn't Just Happen. It has mind-boggling information supporting God's creation of the world.


There's Nothing You Can Do

Let’s say you’ve been saving your money for four long years to buy a car. You’ve been working so hard but you still don’t have enough money. It seems like nothing you do will get you that car. Then your Dad surprises you with your very own car – one way cooler than you could ever have gotten on your own. You don’t have to pay a penny for it! You feel gratitude toward your Dad for giving you something so precious.

That’s how it is with God. Until you become a Christian, you are searching for a place in this world. You are searching for purpose. But no matter how hard you try, you could never get it. But God offers us purpose through salvation (eternal life!). He gives it as a gift. You can’t do anything to earn it. You can’t be proud of yourself because you couldn’t ever deserve it. Yet God loved you enough to give you this gift, a gift way cooler than any you’ll ever receive. Instead of being proud of yourself, you are proud to be part of God’s family!

In Romans 4:16a, God tells us, "So people receive God’s promise by having faith. This happens so the promise can be a free gift."

What do you do with a gift?

You believe it, accept it, embrace it.


Eyes on the {Real} Prize

"Lord, You have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or You brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting You are God." – Psalm 90:1-2

This is one of the verses I’m memorizing for a Bible Bee I’m participating in. I have to basically memorize the whole Bible. I know I can get pretty deep every now and then, but let’s face it – that’s a huge task! While there is a…um…cash prize for the winner, I’m trying not to get wrapped up in the money aspect and how many verses I can memorize in a day. It’s extremely difficult for me, because I want to just blow through all the verses and not give a care about what they say. Yet it forfeits the purpose.

Eyes on the {Real} Prize
I’m trying to keep my goal on God, not the cash prize, not the number of verses I blurt out, not my competition. I want my focus to be solely on God, and then – the cool part? – I can’t lose. Even if I don’t get the money and the trip to D.C., (although my joy may be of a slightly lower degree at first, let’s be honest), by the end of September I’ll be coming away with an amazing experience and the Truth to guide me.

Now I Know
I’ll be prepared wherever I go, "for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me" (Psalm 23:4).
When I’m seeking God, "surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever" (Psalm 23:6).
I know that, by carrying the Truth with me, "I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against You" (Psalm 119:11) because "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path" (Psalm 119:105).
I know it’s important that I study the Bible because "The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us" (John 1:14) and because "whoever hears My Word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life"(John 5:24).
Now I know that "faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the Word of Christ" (Romans 10:17).


We've Never Felt Real Hunger

Have you skipped breakfast one day? Chances are you got hungry pretty fast. When you sat down for lunch, bacon burger within reach, you said, "Let’s eat! I’m starving!" You finish all but a few bites of your burger and some fries, which you toss to your dog.
We all do this in our everyday lives, but when you really think about it, it seems so selfish. We skip one meal and say we’re starving? Then we just trash the food we have? You know how it feels when you’re at someone’s house and you’re – well, starving, of course – and you find out they eat lunch an hour later than your family normally does. You start to feel like you’re being deprived and all you think about is food.
What if I told you that a human being would actually beg for those scraps of food you toss in the trash? People all over the world don’t have adequate food. People – children, even – die of starvation every day. What little food they may get is so small and is probably something that would make you lose your appetite.
Statistics show that 1 billion people suffer from malnutrition and hunger. Even in the United States, thirteen million people have to skip meals or eat less so they can pay the rent.

Want to fight against world hunger? Go to www.bread.org & www.thehungersite.org now.


Another Lazy Saturday

It’s another lazy Saturday. You might not even be awake while I’m writing this. I’m not going to give you a long sermon, because I’m positive that on a Saturday you don’t want to read it and I don’t want to write it.
Instead, I’m going to simply ask that you do something today. Make today useful. Accomplish something other than catching up on your zzzzs. It doesn’t even have to be saving the world today. You could just tidy up your room, cook dinner for your family, or read your bible. Maybe you could ride your bike up and down your driveway or go for a swim in your friend’s pool. The simple things in life add up. Just being nice and having a good time can change your attitude for the whole week. Maybe you could invite your friend over to your house for a sleepover? Just get out there and do something you really want to do today, besides watching cartoons. But first you have to wake up.