Dear Christian Teens: You Were Made for More (+ EXCITING NEWS!)

Dear Christian Teens_ You Were Made for More (+ EXCITING NEWS!)

 

Dear Christian Teens,

 

You were made for more. You were made to do great things. And it all starts right here.

 

I understand what it’s like to be stressed out over school and work and life in general. I understand the pressures we face from all sides – the pressure to be perfect, the pressure to give into temptation, the pressure to be consumed with busyness – it’s rough.

 

But we don’t have to give into the pressure.

 

People are going to tell us (if they haven’t already) that the teen years are all about fun. Partying. Living it up. Chilling out, messing around.

 

And then after we turn eighteen, get shipped off to college, and come out somewhat alive, we’ll be ready for a fantastic life. Get a good job, get engaged, and hopefully find something fulfilling in our lives. Maybe add a little religion to our busyness. Can’t hurt, right?

 

But that’s not the right message in my estimation.

 

Because if the time we turn thirteen until the last day of being nineteen is used to just get by, what will the rest of our lives look like?

 

If we don’t learn how we should live now, how will we know how to live when we’re adults?

 

If we don’t invest in our faith now, how do we expect to be mature Christians later?

 

If we don’t love others now, how do we expect to love our future families?

 

If we don’t practice serving God now, how do we think we’ll be effective in the future?

 

But this shouldn’t be discouraging. No, now is a great time to make the most of our lives.

 

Today I turned sixteen. I’m finally starting to grasp what it means to be a teenager, though not by the standard of the culture.

 

I’m learning what it means to prepare myself for my life instead of just getting away with the bare minimum. And to be honest, it’s a difficult lesson to learn.

 

But I’m investing in my faith by studying the Bible regularly. I’m learning how to be discerning. I’m learning how to use my personality to serve God the most effectively. I’m finding the roots of my faith.

 

And you know what? These are some of the most fulfilling things I have ever done.

 

Working hard is scary, I know. It’s easy to watch Netflix all summer instead of getting a job. It’s easy to be lazy (which is different from rest, by the way). It’s easy to disrespect our parents, and it’s easy to think that we always know best.

 

Taking cues from authority figures will truly lead us in the right direction. Learning how to work hard now will help us develop a good work ethic for our adult lives. Knowing why we believe what we believe is so important in having a strong faith.

 

But it doesn’t have to be painful.

 

It doesn’t have to stress us out.

 

No, in our stress from everyday life, we can grow our faith and strengthen our relationship with God. We can find comfort and peace, instead of anxiety. Instead of freaking out over not knowing how to be productive, we can pursue efficiency while there’s less pressure.

 

We can surprise the people around us who expect us to rebel by being kind, loving, and patient.

 

Dear Christian Teens, you really were made for more. More than just scraping by.

 

And instead of being crushed by the pressures, we can live with hope. Hope that we are never alone. Hope that God will always lead us. And hope that this isn’t the end.

 

Oh, guess what! I have exciting news. Gabriela and Nadine persuaded me to participate in Camp NaNoWriMo this month. Which means…I AM WRITING A BOOK!

 

Crazy, right? When you all took my survey, I got lots of people begging me to please write a book. That made me happy, and motivated me to actually pursue writing more than just 700-word blog posts. And I’ve actually gotten most of my book outlined, but here is where you guys come in.

 

If you want a certain topic to be addressed in more detail than I would be able to on this blog, TELL ME. Even if I’ve addressed the topic on the blog before, LET ME KNOW WHAT YOU WANT TO SEE IN THE BOOK. Comment on a post of mine, shoot me an email, tweet me, or whatever floats your boat.

 

I WANT YOUR INPUT!

 

Hopefully, by the end of April, I will have written 25,000 words. Who knows if that will actually happen, but I am going to try. Pray for me, peeps! Thank you all!

 

*aj

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Dear Christian Teens: How to Stick With Your Faith

Dear Christian Teens- How to Stick With Your Faith

Dear Christian Teens,

I understand.

I understand that life is difficult and faith in Jesus is unpopular.

I understand that it’s really easy to walk away when you have your own freedoms.

I get it that when school is hectic and demanding (high school or college, anyone?) it’s easier to slack on spiritual growth.

I understand that there are seven days in a week and only two days in a weekend, and it’s incredibly tempting to binge-watch Netflix in between naps, books, snacks, and coffee in those two short days. Studying is frustrating, yes. And faith can seem to take the back burner when we’d rather have “me time” and chill out.

I also do know that a lot of “raised Christian” kids don’t stick with their roots because being a Christian isn’t easy.

It’s easy to sleep in on Sundays instead of going to church.

It’s easy to watch Netflix (or even read novels) instead of spending time in the Bible.

It’s easy to be around bad influences because they’re popular people to be around.

But at a point, this becomes really dangerous because we let ourselves slip away from what we once considered truth. Honestly, the temptation to slip away is real. I’m not saying most of us will fall into this, but we can’t approach our spiritual life and growth with apathy or half-hearted commitment.

A lot of us are teenagers right now, which means that right now is the launchpad for the rest of our lives (to put it as Alex and Brett Harris do). Our decisions and beliefs now will shape our futures.

I’m NOT going to beat us all up on how we should be doing this or that and how we aren’t. That doesn’t accomplish anything, really.

What I will say is this.

If you want to stick with your faith, find the roots.

 

For a while, my roots were my parents. I believed in Jesus because they taught me to, and this later turned into having a faith of my own. By this, I mean that I read the Bible consistently on my own accord instead of just relying on family devotions, prayed without Mom or Dad around, and so forth. My faith became my own and it was my own choice.

It’s so simple to believe something when you have people heartily supporting you in that faith. But when nobody’s watching, what is that faith like?

Look down deep and find your roots. Is your belief growing in what someone has told you, or what you know is true? I can tell you for a fact that if your faith is a piggyback ride – you stay with it because someone’s carrying you – you won’t last long when you have to stand on your own two feet.

Let your roots be in the unshakable foundation of grace and truth and grow up into that.

Maybe you are strong in your foundation. That’s wonderful. Want the key to staying strong in that? Growth.

A foundation without an attempt at growth is like planting a seed in the desert and not watering it. It’ll be “there,” but it won’t make any progress, and will probably die.

We want to grow in our faith, and not let ourselves wither and shrivel up or blow away.

We can grow by studying the Bible intentionally. By understanding grace. By being hungry for truth and feeding that hunger.

So much of this is learning. Not a memorization of the “right answers,” but a belief in the God whom we know is true and the saving knowledge of His amazing grace, poured out through His Son.

We learn how to fashion our lives by knowing the Bible and the proper understanding of it. It comes from times of praying as well as reading. And following the Holy Spirit’s leading in our lives.

Let your roots be solid by faith in truth, and your growth be steadfast by living in grace.

Dear Christian Teens, I understand that faith doesn’t always seem convenient, glamourous, or comfortable.

Look at it this way. Even when it doesn’t seem like it, there is grace for you. Whether you’ve loved Jesus your entire life or you’re far away from any faith at all, His grace covers you.

Coffee fails. (Sadly.) Our favorite shows go off of Netflix. Heartbreaks happen. And the things that we think satisfy us will ultimately perish.

But one thing does not, and that is the grace of God. That no matter where you are in life, you can be mended and made whole again. You can be given new life even when it feels miserable and dry. What we need isn’t temporary fixes of TV binges and chocolate, but something that lasts, and something to hang onto.

Our faith – no matter how difficult or unpopular – is what will last. We’re talking about eternity here!

Looking for a surefire way to stick with your faith? Find true significance. Understand joy. See the significance of the cross. And see the difference between Christianity and religion.

Grow in grace.

See, our faith is significant because it is what our lives must be centered around.

And our lives can be more beautiful than we could ever imagine.

Thanks to Amanda F. for reminding me of this verse!

2 Peter 3:18

“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”

*aj

Dear Christian Teens: On Why We Love Church Camp

Dear Christian Teens- On Why We Love Church Camp

Dear Christian Teens,

I think I’ve finally figured out why we love church camp.

You know. The retreat that so many of us go on once or twice a year.

We all bring terribly bad-for-your-health junk food, money to order pizza at midnight, and tissues to cry into when we have those heart-to-heart conversations.

And more importantly, we bring our Bibles and those journals that we dust off to use once or twice a year.

And with many other things, the memories are lovely things that we visit often after it’s over.

And we look forward to the next one that’ll come up next year.

But why do we enjoy this so much? And why is it so different than our normal lives?

I’m not going to talk about the goofiness that goes on (or why we play Do You Want to Buy a Duck? After the clock turns 12:00). I’m here to talk about the fire that is sparked in our hearts.

Dear Christian Teens,

You know that feeling. You know how it feels to raise your hands in worship with sincerity. You know how it feels to regularly read your Bible and just get it. You know how it feels to enjoy listening to the chapel sessions. You know how it feels to connect with your small group after.

It’s that fire that sparks in your heart after hearing compelling messages.

That fire to live out your faith no matter what.

But sometimes, we get home from church camp, and the fire burns out.

You’re ridiculed at school because you’re viewed as intolerant.

You come to the realization that you’re imperfect…and life is hard.

And then there’s a lot less motivation to read your Bible, so you kind of don’t do it.

Church camp becomes just another experience, and we see it as completely separate from normal life.

But it shouldn’t be.

I think I know why we love church camp. We love it because it sparks a fire inside of us. Our faith becomes even more real to us.

But seriously, when we go home, it shouldn’t end. Even though life gets harder when we aren’t surrounded completely by Christians, we can’t just give up.

Jesus isn’t the Savior of Youth Group Excursions.

He isn’t the Savior of Summer Camp.

Jesus is the Savior of our lives, and His love isn’t any different for us when we are at camp than when we are at home.

We love church camp because we feel God’s presence. We hear His voice. Things become clear to us.

But that doesn’t mean that the other 51 weeks of the year need to be boring.

No. Those 51 weeks can be the best weeks of the year. Wanna know why?

Because we get to live it out. We get to read the Bible on our own free will. We get to pray about things in our daily life, not just out loud in front of our friends. We get to trust God in tangible ways. And we get to grow in Him, which takes much longer than five days out of state.

We get to see God work things out in our lives.

So Dear Christian Teens,

We love church camp because it’s a great experience and we are on fire for God.

However, real life is the experience that we’ve been given for the rest of the year.

Let’s take that fire in our hearts and bring it into our daily lives.

For this is what we’ve been given. Let us not let our fires burn out.

And if we let ourselves be under the control of the Holy Spirit, we will not burn out.

*aj

Dear Christian Teens: On Relationships

Dear Christian Teens 1

Happy Tuesday, awesome blog readers.

Today’s post is a bit different than normal (and I do know that I say that a lot). However, some things have been on my heart recently about teens and relationships.

This is a shorter post today, because today is my first day back to school and last night I was trying to get to bed early. A near-impossible feat on a blognight, I know (and I just made that term up now).

But nevertheless, the points still stand. And I’d like to share them with you.

I am planning on planning on doing more “Dear Christian Teens” articles in the future. (Yes, I am very indecisive and unpredictable, so I can’t promise anything, but I will plan on planning on it.) 😛

I mean, this is a teen blog, after all.

So, here goes. Dear Christian Teens #1. In which Amanda talks about romantic relationships. And dating. And other things she has never quite experienced, but probably will someday.

**

This is written like three separate letters. (Have you noticed my obsession with letters yet?) It’s rather choppy, I know, and I’m sorry. But I wanted to alternate. Because alternating is fun.

So…to be blunt…

Dear Christian Teens,

Dating is not a sport. It’s not “marital practice”. We should focus on the final goal when we are considering a romantic relationship – marriage – for our hearts are much too precious to be thrown around like bowling balls.

Dear Christian Guys,

Value the modest girls. The ones who care about God’s opinion over yours. Beauty fades. Dignity stays.

Dear Christian Girls,

Value the gentlemen, not the bad boys. Humility and selflessness are to be treasured, not thrown away.

Dear Christian Teens,

Choose to love someone who loves God over you. If your eyes are fixed on others and not God, you won’t find The One God has for you. You will find them by focusing on Him.

Dear Christian Guys,

True beauty comes from the inside out. Not the other way around.

Dear Christian Girls,

Don’t compromise your purity to be loved. Rather, prove that you’re worth it by staying pure.

Dear Christian Teens,

Love your family. Treat them with respect and kindness. How else do you expect to be ready for having a family of your own?

Dear Christian Guys,

Your walk with God is invaluably important; you are to be a spiritual leader. You don’t have to be a pastor, but God calls you to be the head of your family and to lead them in truth. Never compromise that.

Dear Christian Girls,

You are God’s beautiful creation, and not an object. Don’t make people think you are by dressing and acting without decency and dignity. Never forget that who you are is defined by what Christ has done for you, and you do not have to prove anything.

Dear Christian Teens,

God must be the center of your life. If He is not, especially in terms of relationships, your life will not be solidly built. Form your life around your relationship with God, and let Him lead you.

And Christian Teens once more,

Marriage will not always be glamorous like in the movies. It won’t be all butterflies and rainbows. But love, and the most beautiful kind at that, is a love that is committed. Not just when it’s easy, but always.

**

I’m sorry if my thoughts are incoherent.

But I guess what I’m trying to (indirectly) say through these mini-letters is this.

God should ultimately be the one guiding our relationships, not us alone.

We all are precious and valuable, and none of us should ever see others as objects (despite what the culture says).

“Old-fashioned” virtues like modestly, decency, humility, and selflessness are BEAUTIFUL. To be treasured, and valued and appreciated.

When commitment to God and to each other is the center of a romantic relationship, it will be much stronger. Seriously. God isn’t to be put on the back burner, people.

And lastly? Dating and relationships are to be taken seriously. As are our relationships with our families. Because really, the ultimate goal is to raise up families to love God and know Jesus.

We can’t listen to the culture when it comes to such important matters. Marriage is beautiful, people. Not to be corrupted.

We were made for each other, God designed it that way.

So Dear Christian Teens,

Let’s be serious. Let’s focus on God first before others, and treat everyone like Jesus would.

Anybody with me?

*aj