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

Approaching Gender Biblically – Conclusion

Approaching Gender Biblically - Conclusion

This is part 3 of 3 in my miniseries on the Christian view on gender roles, feminism, and things like that. Thanks for sticking with me!

See part 1 here.

See part 2 here.

On Tuesday, I promised to talk about what gender roles look like as a single, because my post was what gender roles should look like in marriage. And obviously I’m not married, as a lot of us here are not. As much as that’s sort of helpful for the future, I’d like to attempt at tackling the question: “What should I do now?”

That, my friend, is a tough question.

But I’ve been doing some research, talking to my parents and friends, and reading, reading, reading. And I think that I’ve come up with somewhat of a coherent post. Please forgive me if I step on any toes, that’s truly not my intention. As the tagline on my site says, “One Christian Teen Girl’s Contemplations,” that’s what these are.

In the first post of these three, I talked about feminism. More specifically, I should say, I’m talking about equality feminism. Feminism that says women and men should strive to have the exact same roles in every aspect of life.

However, as review, what I said in my post is this.

Men and women are absolutely equal. We have equal standing before God. We are all, every one of us, worth the same. We’re all sinners in need of a Savior, and we’re all created by God’s handiwork.

So when we Christians (as women especially) fight for sameness in the name of equality, we discredit God’s design.

There’s a verse in Galatians that many Christians use to support the whole feminism-sameness thing. They say, “It doesn’t matter what your gender is! Define yourself however you’d like!”

Galatians 3:28

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Okay, that would be a fair argument if that’s what the verse were saying. However, if you read the chapter, you’ll notice that this isn’t talking about discrediting gender. It’s talking about us all being equal before God. We are all children of God because of what He’s done for us.

With that out of the way, I’d like to approach what the whole point of this post is supposed to be.

Living biblically as a single. (Or, as anyone, really.)

What does it look like?

Anyone remember Mary and Martha? In Luke 10:38-42, Jesus came into a village. Two sisters, Mary and Martha were in that village. While Martha’s busy, working really hard, Mary is getting to know Jesus and listening to Him. Jesus says to Martha, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (v. 42)

See, we needn’t try to prove our worth. We don’t need to try to find our satisfaction in work, or equality (however we try to define that), or whatever. Jesus Christ is the only thing that will satisfy us. A personal relationship with Him – not work, not feminism, not even marriage – is what will fill that hole in our hearts.

When we look to be equal all around (meaning the same in every aspect), we aren’t truly satisfied in who God is and who He has made us to be. We don’t view Him as the ultimate authority in our lives. We want to dictate who we are, what our roles are, and what our gender is.

As Christians, we can’t do that.

C.S. Lewis said, “God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.”

We must remember the basis for our identity. Who we are is found in Him alone. Our relationship with Him is what will satisfy us.

God has created us with equal value (Genesis 1:27). At the same time, in Genesis 2, we see that God creates woman from man. Naturally, that makes us different. There is a defining line between the genders.

We shouldn’t try to fight that line. God is the one that knows best.

So what do we need to do?

Accept our standing before God – that is where our identity is found.

 

Don’t try to prove ourselves. Among men and women, neither is ‘better’ than the other. We were made in the image of God. Our roles are truly enough.

 

Take a stand against the feminist movement that tells God that we know better.

 

And above all else, get to know God and find our ultimate satisfaction in Him. We honestly won’t find it anywhere else.

This post is in no way comprehensive. I hope you’ll look into this topic for yourself (as I will) to understand it even more. Thank you all for reading!

*aj

I’m Just Contemplating The World, Among Other Things.

I’m Just Contemplating The World, Among Other Things.

I don’t know what you’d call me. A thinker, perhaps. I think about things on a really big scale sometimes and people look at me like I’m weird when I make analytical and philosophical comments.

Nothing new there.

Anyway…I’m that weird friend that likes to talk about why things are the way they are. The meaning of life, the measure of success…all that jazz.

But I rarely stop there.

When I think, my life gets put into perspective.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about religion.

Usually, “religious” people have a normal life. School. Work. Play. Family. And on top of that, church and spiritual things once a week or so.

But that bothers me. If our lives are so-called “religious,” why isn’t it integrated into our lives?

That’s a question that has been weighing on me lately, as you probably read in my post about Church Camp Christians.

Honestly, though, my thoughts have been going even deeper than that.

These philosophical contemplations hit me at random times.

I few weeks ago, I was sitting around in my own little head (like I do most days), and thinking.

Why is Jesus the only way?

 

Why do I really live the way I do?

 

Why does God deserve my worship?

 

Could I just pick some other religion if I wanted to?

 

Why?

 

And I mean, I do know the answers to those questions.

I realize that I don’t have too much of a choice. This is God’s universe. He created it. He has existed forever and ever.

Now, when I say that I don’t have much of a choice, please don’t take it the wrong way.

It’s just like this.

I either choose to love God and be saved by Him, or I don’t.

I choose His way, or I choose mine.

At first, this might seem unfair. Who put God in charge?

Well, that’s the thing. This is HIS universe. He didn’t have to create us, but He did anyway. He knew we’d rebel against Him, but He created us and loved us anyway. He knew that we would rebel and therefore break our relationship with Him, but He still sent Jesus for us. He still forgives our sin because of His grace. And He deserves our worship because He is God. It’s not really explainable.

God has always existed, and always will exist. Earth is just a smudge in all of eternity.

So, why is Jesus the only way? Well, if there was another way to God, one that was easier, then why would Jesus have come in the first place?

Simple. He wouldn’t’ve. There’s no point in an unnecessary sacrifice.

When I look at the world, my thoughts are provoked.

When I see people walking in the streets. When I see people in stores. When I see people writing books or making movies.

What are they living for?

 

Do they realize that we are made for more than just going through boring old life?

 

Do they realize that God is at the center of the universe? That He is in control? That He wants to have a personal relationship with them, no matter how far gone they are?

 

Do they realize that they’ll never be satisfied until they get to know God for who He is?

 

Just a simple shift in perspective makes me realize that it’s not about me.

It’s not about how good I am, but about how good God is. He loved me, and gave Himself for me.

I don’t live out of guilt, obligation, or drudgery.

I live because I don’t deserve grace. I don’t deserve love. I don’t deserve hope.

And yet, I have been given it. It’s beautiful, really. Inspiring.

If you consider Christianity a religion, then I want my religion to bleed into my everyday life.

No, actually, I want it to take over.

I want my relationship with Jesus to be the thing that I live for. The thing that makes my heart beat. The thing that inspires me.

And you know what?

It sure does.

*aj

Religion vs. Christianity

Religion vs. Christianity

A lot of people dismiss Christianity as just another religion. But it’s not. And I’m here to show you why.

(Yes, I just gave all you awesome readers an abrupt start. Forgive me, lovely lords and ladies. But please read on.)

When people think of Christianity, a lot of times they think of religion. It’s right up there with Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Mormonism, Judaism…and all those.

But Christianity? It’s not the same. Really. I hesitate to consider it a religion, even though that may be upsetting to some.

Because there is something that stands out about Christianity that other religions do not have.

Freedom and Sincerity.

 

“But Amanda,” you say, “I’m a Mormon, and I’m very sincere.”

I am sure you are. After all, belief in something is much more than just words. Saying the words “I believe” do not ensure that you actually do, for all that it proves is that you have a voice and a mind.

But freedom? I will explain that in a minute.

I’d like to point out a few things about the Christian life.

First of all, God knows we are not perfect. He knows that we are sinners and, by nature, turn away from Him.

Romans 3:23

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

But yet, He extends grace to us, at our darkest. And by receiving that, sin has no power over us anymore.

Romans 6:14

“For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”

And, in turn, we are changed from the inside out.

2 Corinthians 5:17

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

Did anyone hear anything about good works earning anything in there? Obligations? Our performance?

Uh, I sure didn’t.

So as I was saying, we have freedom.

Freedom from the power of sin and death over us.

Freedom from eternal life and righteous standing before God being based on works.

Freedom to live for God because of gratitude to Him for your salvation.

Not because you’re locked into tradition.

Not because Mom and Dad make you go to church so that hopefully, religion will rub off on you.

Not because you have obligations to live up to so that you’ll go to Heaven when you die.

Because of the freedom you’ve been given, sincerity springs from that.

 

And that’s why Christianity is different.

Why we look different. Why act different. Why we are motivated to live a pure and holy life.

Perhaps in the future, I’ll write some blog posts reflecting on other religions.

What I can say is this, however.

I’m not religious.

I’m a Jesus-lover, for He loved me first and pursued my soul.

I’m not living to please God because I have to.

I live to please God because it brings me joy, and the only joy that’ll ever last.

I’m not bound by obligations.

I’m set free by the love of my Creator for me.

1 Peter 2:16

“Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.”

And that’s what I want to do.

*aj

God Fell In Love With Us? Oh. Right.

God Fell In Love With Us? Oh. Right.

Clichés drive me crazy. Especially those Christian ones.

(Sorry, that was an abrupt beginning.)

There are a lot of cliché phrases that go around in Christian circles, especially ones that take the place of solid theology.

There’s a way of thinking that goes around, even from pastors(!). It goes something like this.

“God fell in love with His people, and so He sent His Son to die for us!”

So, God fell in love with you?

“Fell in love”?

When I think of falling in love, I think of romance with out someone’s own consent; a relationship that “just happened;” a love formed of SURPRISE! emotions, and basically the first half of Taylor Swift songs.

So when I think of God falling in love with us, I think of an emotion. An impulse. Something that had to do with our performance.

But right here in the Bible, we know that we are horrible, sinful, wretched sinners.

And it was then that Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

That blows my mind, and shows me something amazing.

Love is a choice.

God did not fall in love with us, He chose to love us.

1 John 4:19

“We love because he first loved us.”

I know, this is such a simple concept. But it’s really important to note.

Because once we realize that God’s love for us is a conscious choice, it makes it so much sweeter. Nothing we could ever do could make us deserve God’s love. That is just so incredibly amazing to me, that He chose to love us, at our absolute darkest.

When I understand His love, I want to show that love to others. I want to inhale His grace and exhale His forgiveness! I want to be so full of Him, that when I tip, love pours out.

Even when tough things come along, I know that God’s love is stronger than everything. He didn’t have to love me. I did not deserve it in the least.

I’m a broken and utterly flawed human being. I deserve eternal punishment. But God had mercy on me, and extended grace to me.

I find that to be the most awe-inspiring and mind-blowing thing ever.

I’m caught between wanting to fall to my knees and worship and wanting to run to my roof and scream that Jesus saves. I will write until the whole world hears…

JESUS CAME TO SAVE YOU! REGARDLESS OF YOUR PAST, PRESENT, OR FUTURE! FORGETTING YOUR REPUTATION, THE MISTAKES YOU’VE MADE, AND WHERE YOU ARE RIGHT NOW.

JESUS WILL SAVE YOU, JUST ACCEPT IT! BELIEVE AND RECEIVE.

And there’s my little speech.

God didn’t fall in love with us, He chose to love us.

Even though we’ve turned our backs on Him, His love still stands.

Even though we can’t repay Him, His grace still extends to us.

He does not want to see anyone perish.

2 Peter 3:9

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”

*aj

That Scary Thing Called Waiting

Misty Mountain Top

Being a Christian can be scary.

Scratch that. Being a Christian is quite scary.

But it’s exhilarating. And so, so, worth it.

Life…it’s an adventure. Need I say more?

And sometimes it’s not very clear what we should do. And that feels scary, doesn’t it?

To me, it sometimes does. Because, to put it plainly, I’m not the one in control. Most times, when things seem bleak, it’s totally not in my power to change any of it.

So before you say that life is hopeless and all that, wait. Because as uncomfortable any and every aspect of life may seem, and we are totally not in control, we know who is.

We Christians have something that the rest of the world does not. What’s that, you ask?

Peace. Assurance. Hope.

And the scary part?

God calls us to wait on Him.

The excuse that “patience is a virtue that I don’t have” doesn’t go far with God.

Isaiah 40:28-31

“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

Psalm 27:14

“Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”

Lamentations 3:25-26

“The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.”

Psalm 37:34

“Wait for the Lord and keep his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land; you will look on when the wicked are cut off.”

Does anyone else feel like it’s a bit scary to wait on God? I’m pretty sure we all do. But here’s the interesting thing.

Waiting is associated with strength, and goodness, and salvation, and exaltation.

Whoa. That is quite mind-blowing to me.

Because as tough as it is to be a Christian, and as hard it is at times to wait, our waiting is not in vain.

Like those verses say, God is faithful! Our strength shall be renewed; we will be saved; we will be exalted.

It might feel at times like God doesn’t know what He’s doing.

But that’s never the case.

A favorite quote of mine says this:

I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know the One who holds my future.

So, I’m realizing this more and more: waiting is the good part. It’s only scary if we let ourselves be afraid. God has it all under control. It’s His universe, after all. His will, His plans, and we are His people.

Should we let ourselves be afraid, though?

Isaiah 41:10

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Suddenly, this whole Christianity thing isn’t looking as hopeless, dark, and scary as before…

*aj

Lessons From 1 Timothy

Stairs

You can’t write about the Bible if you don’t understand it. And you can’t understand the Bible if you don’t read it. Am I right?

That’s what I’ve been discovering lately, through studying the book of 1 Timothy.

First of all, I really really really love this book. Probably one of my favorites in the Bible. It’s so clear and helpful for real life. Because, let’s face it, this world is full of lies. Even in the church, there’s so much false teaching! And it is so prevalent, and ever so misleading. So here are a few extremely important points that I’ve discovered this week.

  • People teach falsely. Some on purpose, some by accident. But false teaching is a real thing. Just because someone claims to be a Christian, it doesn’t mean that we can listen to them ignorantly because of their title. We need to test everything.

So, how do we avoid listening to false teaching? First and foremost, the Bible is the only source of ultimate truth. How do you know if someone is giving you solid and true doctrine on the Bible? Well, check the Bible itself. And don’t base your life on one out-of-context verse. For example, here’s what not to do. John 11:35 says, “Jesus wept.” Going with this as my life verse, and knowing to live a life following after Jesus, I am going to constantly weep. After all, that’s exactly what Jesus did, right?

Okay, yes. That is ridiculous. But the point is, we must check all things with the Bible itself! We cannot add to it, or take away from it. This Book is the Holy and Inspired Word of God. Let’s not get it wrong.

1 Timothy 6:3-5

“If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.”

  • Without understanding the Gospel correctly, we cannot understand life itself.

1 Timothy 1:15-16 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.

 

If we mess up any of this, we will not be able to understand anything else. Without the Good News that Christ has come to save all, there is absolutely no meaning to life. Remember, my friends, if we do not understand that we are inherently sinners, saved alone by the amazing grace of God – and not ourselves –  there is no point in Jesus’ death. If we are saved by our works, why did He come? (That’s a trick question.)

  • We must understand who Jesus really is. Not some “good teacher,” not some passive, apathetic, random guy. No, Jesus is the Son of God, possessing ALL power, and He is ALIVE.

1 Timothy 3:16b

He was manifested in the flesh,

    vindicated [means proven true] by the Spirit,

        seen by angels,

proclaimed among the nations,

 believed on in the world,

        taken up in glory.

 

  • No matter how old we are, we can set an example for our brothers and sisters in Christ. Spiritual maturity has little to do with age, and we can lead others in Truth, regardless of being young.

1 Timothy 4:12 “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.”

We are ambassadors for Christ, even as kids and teens (and adults, later). If we understand Truth, we must share it with others!

I hope you’ll take these truths to heart, and study the Bible for yourself. Really, it is such an encouraging Book, and the guide for our lives. It’s so important to understand the Bible correctly. It’s not just a book. It’s the Holy, Inspired, God-Breathed, Word of the Creator Himself. The source of Truth, amongst the lies. And it’s right here, to teach us to walk in godliness!

*aj