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God’s Word Can Change Your Life
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Colossians 3:16
Have you ever wondered why you should read the Bible? Or have you heard someone say that God’s word changed his or her life? What does that mean? Can reading the Bible really change someone’s life? The Bible totally has the power to shape us and to change our attitudes, actions and desires.
Check out this verse:
“And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Ephesians 6:7
What does it say about God’s word? It calls the Bible the sword of the Spirit. Swords are powerful weapons. By calling the God’s word a sword, it’s telling us that what we have in our hands is powerful and strong, like a sword. We can use it to defend ourselves and it gives us strength.
What about this verse:
“But He (Jesus) answered and said, ‘It is written: Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Jesus compares God’s word to life. We need God’s word to live just like we need bread. It’s not only our physical bodies that need food. Our spirits need food, as well. When we read and study the Bible, we are nourished spiritually. God’s words give us life.
God’s words are powerful. They can change our lives. But it can be so tough to discipline ourselves to read and memorize Scripture. Think about food. You make time for eating everyday, usually three times a day, maybe more. We have times set aside each day for meals. We need to eat to stay focused, to have energy, to grow and so we don’t get cranky. It’s the same thing with God’s word. Set aside time each day to read the Bible. It can be at night before bed or early in the morning or maybe right after school in the afternoon. It’s easier to do when you set aside time everyday.
Throughout the Bible, we read of people setting aside time for prayer and reading the Bible. King David writes about it in the Psalms. Jesus regularly sought solitude, escaping the crowd of people following him, so that he could spend time praying. Decide what works best for you. Are you a morning person? Get up a few minutes earlier and open up your Bible. Are you more awake at night? Read it before you go to bed. The time of day doesn’t matter, but creating that habit in your life is incredibly important. When you consistently read God’s word, you’ll find that your thoughts, actions and desires line up with God’s. The Bible does have the power to change your heart, soul, and mind. It’s life changing!
2 Timothy 3:16-17
1.) How have you seen the Bible impact your life?
2.) What time of day is ideal for you to spend reading the Bible?
3.) Why do you think it is important to read and study the Bible?
Dealing with Disappointment
“Why am I so discouraged?
Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
I will praise him again,
My Savior and my God.”
Disappointment stinks! Have you ever been so sure you were going to get a certain birthday or Christmas present only to open all of you presents and realize it’s not there? I remember a time that happened to me. I was so sure I was going to get the birthday present I really wanted. I’d been hinting at it for weeks. I even hinted at the color and the size. There was no doubt in my mind I would get that present. And, that was really the only thing that I wanted.
So when my birthday came around, I opened box after box, hoping that this time it would be the one thing I really wanted. But, that one gift wasn’t there. I was shocked. How could my friends and my family have missed my hints? How could they have gotten me anything other than that one gift?
I was so disappointed. Of course, not getting the gift I wanted seemed like such a huge disappointment at the time, but, in reality, it is a minor let down. However, life does bring us disappointment. It comes in different forms, some more tough or significant than others: a forgotten birthday present, a relationship breaking up, something at school not going your way. We all face disappointment. So, how do you deal with it? What do you do when you’re disappointed?
Check out this verse in 1 Samuel 30:6.
“David was now in great danger because all his men were very bitter about losing their sons and daughters, and they began to talk of stoning him. But David found strength in the Lord his God.”
A few details to fill in the circumstances here: David had been anointed king but was not yet the king. Saul was still king. David was leading the Israelite army in battles against warring tribes. David’s army had suffered a recent defeat. Their sons and daughters had been captured by the enemy and taken away. Needless to say, the men were incredibly disappointed. You can imagine that David was also dealing with feelings of disappointment.
What can we learn from David and his men on what to do or not to do when we are disappointed?
1. Don’t take it out on others! The men in David’s army were upset. Not only did they lose the battle, their families had been taken prisoner. What did they do? They took out their feelings of disappointment and anger on David. They blamed him for all the bad things that had happened recently. What was their plan? Kill David. Taking your disappointment out on other people is a very unhealthy way to deal with it. And, in the long run, it is not a solution. What if they had taken it out on David? What if they had killed him? They would’ve been without their leader (and future king) and they still would not have gotten their families back. It might have temporarily made them feel better, but it wouldn’t have fixed the situation. Taking your disappointment out on others doesn’t solve the problem.
2. Find strength in God. Even though David was also upset and disappointed, he had a different reaction than the men. He turned to God. He found his strength and encouragement from God. When you’re feeling sad, upset or disappointed, find strength in God. He will give you the strength you need to endure difficult circumstances. Find Bible verses that encourage you.
Everyone faces disappointment. What you have to decide is how to respond to it. You can take it out on other people or you can turn to God. Taking your disappointment to God is a great way to deal with it. If you are struggling with how to actually do this, read through a few Psalms. David often wrote songs/poems about his disappointment. Some of the psalms are laments, voicing David’s struggles. God is big enough and strong enough to handle you telling him about your disappointment. Find a close friend or mentor to help you, too. We need people in our lives to encourage us when we are down.
1.) Describe one time recently when you were disappointed.
2.) What do you tend to do when you are disappointed? What else could you do?
3.) Who is one person you can talk to about your disappointments? Do you turn to God about them? If not, why not? If so, how has that helped you?
Helping a Hurting Friend
“A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.” Proverbs 17:17
At some point in life, we all experience situations where we are trying to help or comfort a friend, family member, or maybe even a stranger. Sometimes, you’re trying to help someone through an experience that you’ve never had. It can be difficult to know how to help, to find the words to say or to know what to do. You may feel clueless about what to do, or unsure how to show love and compassion. Here are some ideas that may help.
Start by listening
The Bible has a lot to say about the importance of listening. The books of James and Proverbs both frequently mention listening. James 1:19 says “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this. Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” When you don’t know what to do, start by listening. Don’t worry about what you are going to say, just listen. Actively listening is a great way to show that you care. It’s also a good way to help you figure out how you can best help your friend or family member.
Be an active listener
Show that you are interested in what the other person is saying. Think about it. How do you know someone is listening to you? How do you feel when you know someone isn’t really listening? What about when they are listening?
• Look him or her in the eye.
• Put your phone away.
• Give the person your full attention.
• React to what they say.
• Repeat back to them what you heard them say in your own words.
• Ask questions, especially if you don’t understand.
Your friend or family member will likely be thankful that you took the time to listen.
Care through action
Look for ways you can help! Go out of your way to do extra things for that person to show that you can care. If you don’t know, ask! Have you ever been going through a tough time and someone offered to help? Think back to that time. What helped you the best? Try to be that support to your friend. Maybe they just need you to sit and listen. Maybe they just want to watch a movie or do something fun to take their mind off of things. Maybe you can get them a small gift, run an errand or help them with a chore.
Pray for your friend and pray with your friend, if they are open to that. Prayer is powerful and important. In Philippians 4, Paul writes, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God.” If your friend isn’t sure about praying, share with them why you pray or how prayer has helped you at a tough point in your life.
Keep it up!
Of course, this isn’t all you can do. It’s just a short list to help you walk with friends through tough times. Maybe you can help by passing on good advice you’ve received from someone else. Remember to be careful about what you say. You want to encourage them! Take comfort in and guidance from God and His word. It will help you and it will help others in your life.
1 John 3:18
1.) Have you helped someone during a tough time in his/her life? How did you help?
2.) How has someone helped you during a tough time in your life?
3.) Is there someone in your life that needs your help right now? What can you do to help him/her?
Words and Thoughts
“A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.” Luke 6:45
Do you use Google maps or a GPS? It’s a pretty awesome invention. Before smartphones or a GPS, you had to ask for directions and write them down on paper. Now you simply speak or program a destination into it and it will devise a route or multiple routes for you. If you make a wrong turn, it will tell you to turn around or it will recalculate to find a new route so that you still end up at your final destination. Have you ever thought about how the thoughts and words we use are like a GPS or navigation app? Every day, we are programming our direction in life by the words we think and speak. This is true whether or not we are consciously aware of it.
Need an example? This one may seem straight out of your life. You are getting ready to take a test, you’ve studied for it and prepared but you still say to yourself, “I’ll probably fail this.” You are shutting yourself down from doing your best even before you’ve started the test! Or you may say “nobody likes me” or “no one wants to hang out with me”. What’s the result of those statements? People who enjoy your company will notice a change in you. They may like you but not your sad attitude, self-pity or negativity. They may stop hanging out with you, not because they don’t like you but because you’ve become negative.
What if you started thinking and speaking faith-filled words—words of truth according to scripture—instead of words you simply feel based on your circumstances or what other people are saying about you? The Bible tells us to think about things that are good, right, excellent, and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8). When we let God fill us with those things, good things spill out of us and we can share those good things with others.
For example, if you are feeling nervous or apprehensive about something you need to do, you can remember what Paul says in Philippians, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Phil. 4:13
When I was in middle school, we had to run quite a bit in PE. To help me on those days, I would say Isaiah 40:31 to myself in my head over and over: “But they that wait on the Lord shall renew their faith. They will mount up with wings as eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not be faint.” You know what? It totally helped me keep running. Sure, I still got tired and it wasn’t easy. But I just kept thinking, “I will run and not grow faint. I will run and not grow faint.”
Proverbs 18:20-21 says, “From the fruit of their mouth a person’s stomach is filled; with the harvest of their lips they are satisfied. The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” This isn’t talking about the food we eat as much as the words we speak. Through the words we think and speak, we either live with the consequences of their negativity or we live in the hope and truth of what Christ says through His Word.
Our words and thoughts can’t prevent bad things from happening in our lives. In fact, Jesus told us that in life we would experience troubles and tough times (John 16:33). But what we think and say can set us up for either a life of hope and truth or discouragement and negativity. Our words and thoughts reflect what is on our hearts.
Set your mind and heart on hope and truth found in Christ’s Word. By thinking and speaking faith-filled words, we are not only allowing Christ to transform our own hearts, but also the hearts of others around us as they see and hear Him through our lives. With practice, you can learn to say only those words that are filled with hope, encouragement, and truth.
1.) How have you seen this kind of thing true in the lives of those around you? In your life?
2.) What kind of negative talk comes out of your mouth? What are some things you tell yourself that drag you down?
3.) What are you saying that is good and encouraging? To yourself? To others?
4.) Why is it so important to think about things that are good, lovely, excellent & praiseworthy, like Philippians 4:8 tells us?
When friends don’t seem to care…
“Cast all your cares and anxieties on him for he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7
Friends are in incredibly important part of life. As you grow older, friends take an increasingly larger role in your life as your family’s influence decreases. You spend more and more time with friends. But in middle school and high school, friendships can be tough. People change. All of a sudden your best friend from elementary school is mean to you, gossiping about you or ignoring you to make “more popular” friends. Or maybe he or she is starting to make poor choices. What do you do?
I recently had a conversation with a student on this issue. Here is what he had to say about friendships in his life.
“I've had a hard few weeks. My friends are including me less and less in their activities. I find I'm always the last to hear about things, and they now have plenty of inside jokes that I'm not a part of. It feels like one friend in particular is pushing me out of the group. But the truth is that not only are my best friends in this group, but I’m also the glue that holds them together. I've been really upset because none of them seem to notice or care that I'm feeling so left out and abandoned. Please pray that things get better for me. I am a Christian (have been all my life), and I trust God that it will get better, but that doesn't mean I don't need prayer and encouragement.”
Have you ever felt like this guy? Ever been hurt by your friends and wondered how to deal with all of the emotions it brings? I think we all have! We’ve all felt pushed out and excluded. So, what do you do when this happens? How do you react when your friends change?
1. Work out what you need
Instead of freaking out and focusing on the circumstance that you cannot change, ask yourself, “What do I need in this situation? God may be using this situation to teach you about trusting him and finding your self-worth and identity in Jesus, not in other people.
Sometimes a friendship is worth saving because of the history or importance of your relationship with that person. But other times, it is wise to let that friend go as you grow up. You won’t keep all of your friends for your entire life. At times you will be closer to some than others. If they are really treating you poorly, don’t stick around to get mistreated. Work out what you need to with them. Say what needs to be said and then separate yourself from them. Find friends who encourage you to be a better version of who God created you to be.
2. Remember that God fulfills our deepest needs
Be careful defining what it is you think you need. Sometimes what we think we need isn’t really what we actually need. Do you need your friends to include you? Or do you need to feel a part of something?
Focus on what you have rather than what you are lacking. I know when I focus on my problems, they seem to get bigger and bigger. But when I focus on God, He helps me put things into perspective. My feelings of anger and frustration dissolve and I can deal with the situation.
3. Realize you can’t change people
How great would it be if you could change people and everyone did what you wanted them to do? Wouldn’t the world be a better place? But you can’t change your friends. You could sit around forever and analyze why your friends are doing what they are doing. You could point out all of their flaws and how they disappoint you. But nothing will change. Believe me. I’ve spent plenty of my time doing this in the past. We all do it even though it is a useless waste of time.
What is within your control? Your actions and your reactions. Do you believe that God can and will meet your needs? What changes do you need to make? Is it time to find new friends? Friendship problems are not quickly or easily solved. It is tough to change friends. You will go through times of sadness and feel a sense of loss. You may cry or get angry about it. And that is ok! All of that is normal. Friends are important and when friendships fall apart, we should be sad. We are losing something. But, it is super important to find friends who encourage us to grow, build us up, and help us to make good choices.
The Bible says, “Cast all your cares and anxieties on him (Jesus) for he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7). God loves you. Turn to Him. He will take care of you through good times and tough times.
1.) Do you have any current struggles with friends? What’s going on?
2.) What do you need in that situation?
3.) Do you feel or think that your identity is firmly rooted in God? Why or why not? If not, how can you move toward realizing that you are one of God’s dearly loved children?
4.) Is there a friendship in your life that maybe needs to end right now? Why would that be the wisest choice? How does it make you feel to think about losing that friend?
How to Handle Life Changes
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10
I’ve never been a big fan of transitions or change. I’m not one of those people who changes things just for the sake of changing things. Growing up, I didn’t randomly rearrange my room or move things around. When I was in college, I always struggled in August when I headed back to school after a summer at camp. And, just this week, we packed up my parents’ house and moved them to Scotts Valley. They lived in the same house for almost 40 years! That’s longer than I’ve been alive. It’s a huge transition, a life-altering change.
Life brings changes. Sometime we have control over those changes. We make choices to change things – transferring to a new school, moving from one house to another. But most of the time, we don’t have control. One of your parents gets a new job and you move to a different state. Or friends move away because it’s cheaper to live somewhere else. Families break apart because of divorce. Changes can be incredibly stressful. And, they’re inevitable! Life is going to change. So what are a few good ways you can deal with the stress when everything around you is changing?
1. Draw close to God
Major life changes can really mess with your relationship with God. When unanticipated and unwelcome change comes your way, how do you react? Do you let that change draw you closer to God or push you away from him? Turn to God when life gets tough.
2. Don’t be afraid
It’s so easy to fall into fear during transitions. You know things aren’t going to be the same. The fear of the unknown grips you and you imagine how everything will be worse than before. It couldn’t possibly be better. Watch out for fear! Don’t let it creep in and take hold of you! Fear interrupts faith and causes us not to trust God. Did you know that, “Do not fear” is the most repeated command in the Bible? God doesn’t want us to be afraid. He is with us.
3. Get Help
We live in a culture that values and promotes independence and strength. We get the message that we should be able to handle things on our own. If we can’t, then it’s a sign that we are weak. We want to put on a brave face to hide our fear and to make others think that we can handle it. But inside, we’re falling apart. When life gets tough and change comes your way, ask for help! Ask pastors, Bible study leaders, parents, parents of friends. We’re here to listen to you, to give advice and to walk through life with you. God gives us people to help us in life. We aren’t meant to do it all on our own. We need each other!
There’s no way to avoid changes in life. Some are harder to handle than others. When life gets tough, turn to God, continue to walk in faith, and ask for help. You are not alone!
1.) What is one thing in your life that is changing right now? Does it cause anxiety?
2.) In general, how do you handle change?
3.) How does it comfort you to know that God is there all the time – in the midst of transitions and in the tough times?
Changed from Within
"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden."
- Matthew 5:13-14
God is always at work molding and shaping us to be more like Jesus. How does that impact the way we interact with the world around us? Does that mean we’re supposed to live in a little bubble tucked away from the rest of the world? Should we seclude ourselves on a mountaintop somewhere? No way! It’s absolutely critical that we live in such a way that we bring honor and glory to God and the people around us see a difference in us. Salt doesn’t do anything while it sits in the shaker. God uses us here and now to make a difference for him. We’re in this world, but not of it. We have been changed by God
We live in a world totally permeated with sin. Every day we are bombarded with images and messages that directly contradict God’s message to us in the Bible. These messages come from school, sports, friends, work, TV, and social media. Really, the list is endless. So how does God change me? How am I different from the world around me?
God wants us to see things from His perspective. When we see things and people as He sees them we will have a different heart towards them. When we start to see things through a “God filter”, we are able to treat even those annoying people in our lives with a little bit of love. Every time we do that, it gets a little bit easier to do it again. When we allow God to change our hearts, we stop to think before we speak and use words to encourage instead of tearing down. Romans 12:2 says that God will transform us into a new person by changing the way we think. Spending more time praying and reading the Bible allows God pour more of Himself into us. God fills us up with things like love joy, peace, goodness, strength, power, and a sense of what is true.
As God changes your heart and your mind, certain things you used to do will no longer appeal to you. As you begin to understand more of who He is, you’ll want to please Him more and you’ll want to surrender more of your life to Him.
God custom designed you to be different and make a difference! Be salt and light to those around you!
- Romans 12:2
- John 3:30
- 2 Corinthians 5:17
- What is one way you think God is currently molding or shaping you?
- When do you find it most challenging to be different from those around you? To follow God?
- How have you seen your heart soften or change toward others?
What’s in Your Head?
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”
Our thoughts, whether godly or evil, determine our actions. When a thought enters your mind, it’s small and easily handled. But if you allow a thought to stay around, it grows. The longer it stays, the bigger it gets. If it’s a good, positive, godly thought, then you want it there so it will grow. But, if it’s an evil, negative, hurtful thought, you want to get rid of it as fast as possible.
Think of it this way: when a thought enters your mind, it’s about the size of a dime. If you continue to dwell on that thought, it grows to the size of a boulder, then to a chair, then to a couch, then to a monster truck. You get the picture. There’s really no limit. It keeps grown. If you had to throw an object, what would you choose to throw – a dime or a monster truck?
If you unload a negative thought quickly, you don’t have to worry about it growing within you. The longer it stays, the more damage it does.
The Bible encourages us to watch every thought that enters our minds. Our thoughts can control us. D.L. Moody, a 20th century preacher, said, “What has your attention, has you.” If your thoughts take you to a place of anger, then that anger is controlling you. The same is true with selfishness, lust, deceit, greed, and pride. But if your thoughts take you to what is good, to selflessness, to gratitude, to generosity, then those things control you.
What’s in your head? Whatever it is, it will come out in your words and in your actions. Fill you mind with the good things that come from God. It will change your perspective and you will be an encouragement to others.
- Philippians 4:8
- Luke 6:45
- Psalm 119:9
- What has your attention?
- Do you struggle with negative thoughts? Do you notice that they grow when you dwell on them?
- What can you do to keep good thoughts in your head? To get bad thoughts out?
Strong and Courageous
Joshua 1:9 “This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Have you ever had a time in your life when everything seems to be caving in on you? When nothing makes sense and God seems so far away? Maybe you're there right now. I’ve definitely been overwhelmed by life before. It’s tough! Life throws us curveballs and catches us off guard. We’re afraid and we feel weak.
Did you know that regardless of how you feel or how disconnected you are, God has promised you that He will NEVER leave? He’s always right there with you. He loves you all the time and no matter what – even when you are falling apart, even when you mess up, even when life seems to be caving in all around you, even when you are afraid.
Joshua knew what it was like to be afraid and overwhelmed. After Moses died, he took over as the leader of the Israelites. For 40 years, the Israelites had wandered in the desert. Now, they are on the verge of entering the Promise Land. But, they are afraid – afraid of change, afraid of the people who currently live in the land, afraid to trust in God. And, Joshua is afraid, too. He has to lead this hesitant group of people. Joshua must have wondered what God was doing, why he had been chosen as the leader, what was going to happen. Questions swirled in his mind – What if we lose in battle? What if I fail as a leader? What if we end up back in the desert? Yet, God responds to Joshua multiple times with words of encouragement. God promises Joshua that he will be with him wherever he goes.
God’s promise to Joshua is also a promise to you. God’s got you. Isaiah 49:15-16 says, “Never! Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you! See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands…” God has not forgotten you. Nor will He ever forget you. You are carved in the palm of his hand. It’s like God’s got a tattoo of you and every time he looks at his hand, he thinks of you.
“Be strong and courageous!” Life can be tough but God is bigger and stronger than anything life can throw your way. Put your trust and your hope in Him.
- Share a time when you felt like the world was caving in on you.
- What are you worried about now? How does knowing God is with you help you be strong and courageous?
- How can you help others when they go through tough times?
- Philippians 4:6-7
- Psalm 23
- Romans 12:15
Where is Your Hope?
“We wait in hope for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, For we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, Even as we put our hope in you.”
Reading these verses causes me to pause and think about hope. Where or to whom am I looking for what I need in life? Do you ever stop and think about this? Who I place my hope in is incredibly important! Do I truly expect to receive what I pray for? Am I putting my hope in God? Or do I look to myself? My parents? The government? Friends? My church?
Of course, our parents are supposed to provide for us and we definitely need friends and family in our lives. Both our churches and the government have a role in providing for us. However, when all is said and done, whatever we have comes from God. Job expressed his realization of this when he said, “The Lord gives and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21) Everything we have comes from God. We are just taking care of it or enjoying it for a while.
The central message of the verses from Psalms quoted above is that we are to wait on the Lord. He promises to provide for our every need, just has he provides for the birds, the flowers and the trees. Even though it can be tough to wait on God, it is also a good thing. I know I’ve wondered about God’s timing. I wonder why certain things seem to take so long, why God doesn’t step in and intervene sooner, why he hasn’t provided things I’ve really wanted and prayed for. But I have learned a lot by waiting. It teaches me to rely on God. When I take things into my own hands and try to force what I want, it never seems to work out well. God’s timing is better. He knows what he is doing.
God is our help and our shield. He protects us. We can put our hope and trust in him because we know he will do what he promises, even if it seems to take a long time.
- Where or in whom do you tend to place your hope?
- What is something you are hoping God will do or provide for you? Do you feel like you’ve been waiting for a while? Do you get impatient? What can you do when you are feeling impatient?
- Think of and share of a time when you have put your hope in God and seen him provide.
- Psalm 130:5
- Romans 8:24-25
- Zephaniah 3:17