Tag: image of God

No question – our nation is becoming a polarized place.  Civil discourse is out; loud, sometimes violent assertion of opinion is in.  Sensational news reporting is what sells.  No one wants to really understand.  How can we turn this around?

Teenagers see the opinionated world of adults on news channels, in school, and even perhaps in church.  How do they choose their own path? How can we soften the discourse in our nation?

Teens often choose to follow their parents’ beliefs.  Parents like this.  But are parents offering a good example of citizenship?  Can dinner table talks (does anyone have these anymore?)  include civil debate on social issues?  How about presenting the other side’s arguments in an objective way and asking questions that help everyone understand?

Teens sometimes choose to walk in direct opposition to their parents.  Parents don’t usually like this.  Again, do adults offer a good example?  How can adults learn to discuss issues of disagreement with teens if those teens seem closed to any discussion?  When have you tried to discuss a controversial topic with another adult you know thinks differently?

First of all, let’s learn to express opinions without absolute certainty.  Let’s encourage questions. Let’s frame unbiased intelligent questions that, if answered honestly, will further discernment.

Social media, as well as on-line interaction in general, is geared toward getting attention.  Just as sensational reporting sells TV news, shocking or biting comments get attention on social media sites.  Posts are “rated” by the number of “likes.”  Everyone wants their photo or video to “go viral.”  Fame:  everyone wants their fifteen minutes.   I do not think the answer is for everyone to get off Facebook and Twitter.  Personally, I believe these to be excellent tools for sharing ideas that by their nature are not covered by news outlets, or part of the viral video archive.  Perhaps we ought to encourage raising more questions instead of sharing shocking photos or stories.

Here’s an idea.  Ask your teens what they feel is an important issue in the world today.  Have them do some online research.  Maybe encourage them to find opposing articles on the subject.  Share links to these sites or articles.  Let them ask questions, not poke holes in arguments.  Share the questions. Encourage discussion.

Some think the Bible speaks in only one voice.  Not true.  Many disagreements fill the pages. Some stories indicate very little discussion behind the scenes.  Other stories show how thoughtful prayer and loving relationships encourage community.   We are created for community. Relationships are everything.  Bible study that doesn’t encourage community is sterile and isolating.

Final thought:  when leading teens in Bible study, let’s look for some disagreements. Let’s encourage questioning of Bible characters motives.  Jonah is a great example of a guy who didn’t want to forgive his enemies and was actually afraid that God would do just that.  So he ran away.  Let’s not be like Jonah.  Our world needs understanding and forgiveness to move forward.  It is a relatively small globe, this earth.  All humans share the image of God.  Can we make real progress in seeking to understand one another?

Let’s encourage one another to be part of the solution.

 

 

 

Five verses every teen should remember from the New Testament: Ephesians 2: 10, Matthew 28:20, Philippians 4:13, 1 Corinthians 13:8, and Romans 8:28

Teens need some absolutes to hold onto. So much around them seems to be colored in shades of gray. Relative morality, postmodern thought and situational truth often leave young people more than a little confused. And those teens who have some grounding in the faith need a few things that cannot be argued. Teenagers face a daily challenge to their self-worth. They see great problems in the world and in their communities and families, wondering where God fits in. They face temptations to believe that what they have been told is wrong is actually just fine. And they are looking for purpose for their own lives.

These five verses may not be comprehensive for a mature Christian faith, but they should be on the tip of every teenager’s tongue. These verses speak to the issues of self-esteem, loneliness, confidence, relationship, and patience.

“We are God’s handiwork.”

Ephesians 2:10 is a basic verse for teens, because it affirms our identity in the image of God. We are God’s handiwork. And as Rich Mullin’s once said, “God don’t make no junk.” Teens who wonder if they will ever measure up to other people’s expectations should always remember this. One of my middle school Bible study girls sang the Britt Nicole song for her talent show, “Gold.” She gets it. Created in God’s image, each one should never feel unworthy of love.

“I am with you always.”

The reality of the risen Jesus’ presence in our lives every single day is the good news of the gospel. Remembering that God himself, through the spirit of Jesus, is willing to accompany us through anything is reassuring. It can relieve our fears and ready us to take steps into the unknown. For teens, especially any who have felt abandoned by a parent or a friend, this promise is most important. Just reach out your hand and take his. He is there.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

An affirmation of the power of Christ to sustain us through trials, this verse gives believers extra confidence. The emphasis is not on our human ability, but on God’s. It can also be a powerful reminder of the strength Christ gives to resist temptation. Any teenager who feels weak when facing academic or social pressures can take heart with this verse. Any teen facing peer pressure to make bad moral choices will be strengthened if this verse expresses their confidence in Christ.

“Love never fails.”

Absolutes are rare in our world. Yet some, with Biblical authority, affirm God’s ways. This truth reminds us of the greatest two commandments, according to Jesus himself:   Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind. And Love your neighbor as yourself. If we love God and love people, we cannot fail. And teens need to remember that such love always wins. God loves all of us in spite of every thoughtless word, every rebellious action, every sin. God is love, and God is eternal. Love never fails.

“God works all things together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose.”

Teens sometimes cave to the belief that evil people prosper. Sometimes the cheaters and exploiters appear to win. And teens tend to over-dramatize failures. This verse reminds them that God is working behind the scenes. God has ways to work surprising things – things that look really horrible on the surface – together for good. And he does it all the time. By deliberately looking for God’s perspective, teens can be optimistic. Things are never quite as bad as they may seem. God is working his purposes out. And he has plans to prosper us, to give us a future and a hope.

 

Teenagers wonder how the Bible can really help them in daily life. These five verses, with a simple faith in Jesus, serve as reminders of God’s amazing presence and power in our lives.