Building or Destroying? (Proverbs 14:1-3)

Faith proves itself over time. How you live will show what you really believe. In Proverbs 14:2, the Bible observes that a person who “fears the Lord” will be someone who “walks in his uprightness,” while the person who acts wickedly shows that they actually “despise” or reject the Lord. The godly woman (and man) will build a strong family knit together by Christian love (Proverbs 14:1). But the ungodly person destroys their own home with their words and actions. In the same way, the foolish man (or woman) brings hardship into their life through complaining, lying, and gossiping, but the wise person actually protects their life by seasoning their speech with grace and kindness.

What kind of person are you right now? What kind of person are you becoming? Are you building up or destroying your own life? How about the lives of your family and friends? If you focus on loving and obeying Jesus, then you will be a builder and helper in the work of His kingdom. At the same time, you will lay a foundation of righteousness for your future family that will honor your Lord and Savior. The time to begin fearing the Lord with your ways is now, with a lifetime of Christian living ahead of you. Take the yoke of Christ upon you now, in your youth. You will never regret the decision.

The Text (Proverbs 14:1-3)

14 The wise woman builds her house,
    but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.

Whoever fears the Lord walks uprightly,
    but those who despise him are devious in their ways.

A fool’s mouth lashes out with pride,
    but the lips of the wise protect them.

Questions to Think About

  1. Do you do more building or tearing down of others with your words? Explain.
  2. Would your friends and family describe you as someone who “fears the Lord”? Why or why not?
  3. What are you doing now to lay a foundation for a lifetime of godly service to Christ?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

Walk in Wisdom, Not Foolishness (Ephesians 5:15-20)

The Bible does not recognize “adolescence” or “the teenage years” as a distinct stage of life. As Dr. David Alan Black has discussed in his book, “The Myth of Adolescence,” the Bible speaks of childhood (birth to age 12), young adulthood (age 12-30), and mature adulthood (age 30 until death). We see this, for example, in the incarnational life of Jesus. In Luke’s gospel, we see Jesus as a baby and child, then He is in the temple teaching at age 12, and finally He begins his ministry at age 30. The Apostle Paul writes about how he thought as a child, and then he began to think as an adult and put away childish things (1Corinthians 13:11). The ancient Jews had a special ceremony called a “bar mitzvah” at age 13 to recognize the transition of boys into young manhood (religious Jews today still honor this tradition). For thousands of years, cultures all over the world treated ages 12-14 as a time to begin training young men and women as young adults rather than children. They were given and expected to show increasing responsibility in life. For much of history, 14 and 15-year-olds could start earning real money in a career and even marry (I’m not advocating these things for us today, just pointing them out as historical facts). The idea that ages 12-18 (or even up to age 22 or older!) would be a time of totally carefree fun and irresponsibility is a modern invention that only dates back to the late 19th century AD or perhaps even later. This notion of a long stage of adolescent carelessness has created generations of middle and high school students who are beginning to develop adult desires and interests like finding romantic relationships and meaningful work but lack adequate training in how to prepare for biblical marriage, parenthood, and vocational callings (finding the jobs God wants them to do). Teenagers still want to be adults as they always have but our modern society wants to keep treating them as children.

But today’s challenge from Ephesians 5:15-20 to walk in wisdom and redeem our time for the Lord should apply to teenagers, too! Middle and high school students are old enough to take individual ownership of their walks with Christ. They are emerging young adults. They are old enough to take public stands for their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. They are old enough to start having their own quiet devotional times with the Lord. Teenagers are old enough to start taking responsibility for reading their Bibles and praying on their own. They are old enough to start sharing their faith and testimonies with lost friends and family. And middle and high school students are old enough to start planning their time and using it wisely. They are old enough to say no to alcohol and other substances and influences that might control their minds and souls and to instead learn how to be controlled by the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Teenagers are old enough to joyfully praise Jesus in chapel and church and not care what their friends might think. They are old enough to stand up for the Lord at the lunch table, in the locker rooms, and on the sports fields. And they are old enough to stop living as selfish children and start living lives of sincere praise and thanks to Jesus Christ. For our middle and high school students, it’s time to start growing up in the Lord. And for our parents and teachers, it’s time to start expecting more from our students spiritually and helping them to grow as God wants them to grow.

The Text (Ephesians 5:15-20)

15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise,16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.

17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Questions to Think About

  1. In what ways do you think and act more like an adult now than when you were in elementary school?
  2. How can treating teenagers as children create problems for their spiritual and overall life growth?
  3. Are you taking increasing responsibility for your own walk with Jesus Christ? How can you tell?
  4. Does your heart sing with praise to God throughout the day? Why or why not?

Notes

  • The word translated as “redeeming” in verse 16 carries the idea of buying back something that was or could be lost. Paul is saying that if we do not plan to use our time wisely, it will be wasted and we may even fall into sin. The old adage “idle hands are the Devil’s workshop” is not literally in the Bible. However, the underlying principle that laziness often leads to other sins and always leads to lost opportunities for doing good is taught in today’s passage, the book of Proverbs, the Parable of the Talents, and many other places in Scripture. Biblical rest as part of a balanced weekly schedule is good. However, hours and hours and days upon days of doing nothing but streaming videos, playing games, and posting and commenting on selfies is not redeeming the time that God has given us.
  • Note the importance of singing to the Lord in our hearts through different types of worship music. “Psalms” probably refers to songs taken directly from Scripture, while “hymns” refers to songs about who God is and what He has done and “spiritual songs” refers to lyrics about our personal experiences with God. All of these should be sung from our souls out of an atttitude of thanksgiving to God for His many mercies and graces in our lives.

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

Wisdom Calls Out (Proverbs 8:1-9)

Wisdom cries out to you each day. The voice of wisdom comes to you from God’s Word whenever you read it or hear it taught. The call of truth and guidance also comes to you from your school and possibly your parents and church and friends, too. Proverbs 8 describes wisdom, or choosing to do what is right and good, as a kind woman crying out for our attention, like a godly mother pleading with her child. Sadly, many students and adults ignore wisdom’s call and instead choose the way of foolishness and sin. They are led away by the voices of this world, Satan, and their own evil desires. They believe the great Hollywood myth that everything will be okay if they just “follow their hearts,” not recognizing that all of our hearts are desperately wicked and deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9). Only the Word of God, the voice of wisdom, can show us what is right and true and best. Only the Bible can teach us the good and perfect will of God for our lives. Only Jesus can give us real, lasting happiness and joy.

You can choose today and every day to follow the voice of wisdom or the voice of folly. You do not have to suffer from a life apart from Christ and His joy. If you will study God’s Word and commit your heart to following the Lord, you fill have peace and grow in faith and godliness. Wisdom calls out to us all. Will you hear her voice?

The Text (Proverbs 8:1-9)

Does not wisdom call out?
    Does not understanding raise her voice?
At the highest point along the way,
    where the paths meet, she takes her stand;
beside the gate leading into the city,
    at the entrance, she cries aloud:
“To you, O people, I call out;
    I raise my voice to all mankind.
You who are simple, gain prudence;
    you who are foolish, set your hearts on it.
Listen, for I have trustworthy things to say;
    I open my lips to speak what is right.
My mouth speaks what is true,
    for my lips detest wickedness.
All the words of my mouth are just;
    none of them is crooked or perverse.
To the discerning all of them are right;
    they are upright to those who have found knowledge.

Questions to Think About

  1. How would you explain the biblical difference between being smart and being wise?
  2. Are you and your closest friends growing wise in the biblical sense? How can you tell?
  3. Why do think that so many students and adults choose the broad path of foolishness and sin instead of the narrow path of wisdom and godliness?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

Shared Debt, Shared Danger (Proverbs 6:1-5)

The Bible talks a lot about money. God often tells us to be careful not to love money more than Him and other people. At the same time, however, Scripture encourages us to use money wisely. We should work hard and take care of our wealth so that we can provide for our families and give to the church and those in need. And we should be very suspicious of debt in all forms. Debt carries with it promises and obligations. When we borrow money, we are agreeing to pay it back in a certain amount of time, usually with interest. We are betting on having money in the future that we don’t have now. Since only God knows the future, all we can do is make logical guesses about income that we hope to gain. We can plan to work hard and smart to earn what we need to fulfill our debt, but things can happen that are beyond our control (lost jobs, major sicknesses, damages to our homes, sudden changes in the economy, etc.).

Proverbs 6 begins with a powerful warning against sharing debt with others, even close friends (and possibly family, too). This would include co-signing on loans, a legal agreement where two or more people borrow money together and then share the responsibility for paying it back. This often happens when parents help a teenage child to buy a car or lease an apartment, but it can also happen with college friends sharing a place. The higher stakes version involves business ventures where partners or investment groups borrow a lot of money together (hundreds of thousands of dollars or more) with plans to eventually make enough profit to pay back the loans and still have money left over. Risky, the Bible says. As you read today’s passage from Proverbs, notice the urgency of God’s call to get out of shared debt as soon as possible; we are told to even lose sleep until we are free from the danger of shared “surety” or legal responsibility for loans (chances are, a person in a lot of debt is already losing sleep with worry anyways). God likens the person with shared debt to a hunted animal like a deer or bird, which must run desperately until it gets away. Yikes!

The application of this passage for you as middle school students may seem far in the future, but it is not as far away as you think. In a few years you will want to buy a car, and you may want to get help from your parents in doing so. After that, you may want to rent an apartment while in college or starting out on your own in your career. Will you expect your parents to co-sign a loan or a lease? Maybe. But if they tell you, “No,” or give some heavy strings attached to a “Yes,” just know that they are probably not being mean, but simply listening to the warnings of Scripture about shared debt. For now, it would be wise to start earning and saving money through chores or allowances or small jobs. You want to start preparing now to avoid entering the cycle of debt at a young age like so many other Americans. If you want to know more about how your family can start applying the Bible’s teachings on money for your life right now as a student, a great book on this topic is “Smart Money, Smart Kids” by Dave Ramsey and Rachel Cruze.

The Text (Proverbs 6:1-5)

1 My son, if you become surety for your friend, If you have shaken hands in pledge for a stranger,

2 You are snared by the words of your mouth; You are taken by the words of your mouth.

3 So do this, my son, and deliver yourself; For you have come into the hand of your friend: Go and humble yourself; Plead with your friend.

4 Give no sleep to your eyes, Nor slumber to your eyelids.

5 Deliver yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, And like a bird from the hand of the fowler.

Questions to Think About

  1. Do you expect to borrow money to buy a car in high school? Why or why not? What is your family’s plan for purchasing your first vehicle?
  2. Do you plan to rent an apartment with friends during college and ask your parents to co-sign the lease? If not, what other options might be available to you so that you can avoid getting your parents to share debt and responsibility not just with you, but with one, two, or even three roommates?
  3. Have you started learning how to earn, manage, and save money? Explain.

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

Walk in Light, Not Darkness (Ephesians 5:8-14)

In helping to teach children’s church one Sunday, I was amazed at the insights of one little first grade girl. First, during prayer requests, she raised her hand and asked that “God would take away everyone’s sins.” Then, during the lesson about the Fall, when the question was about what Adam and Eve did after they ate the fruit and disobeyed God (Answer – They hid.), she blurted out, “You can’t hide from God!” My friend looked at me and said, “Out of the mouth of babes” [can come the deepest truths – if you don’t know the expression.]. Today’s passage in Ephesians 5 reminds us that we need to let the light of the gospel pour into the darkness of our sin and drive out the evil stuff that we try to hide from God. Light is a biblical metaphor for goodness, holiness, and truth. Jesus taught that He Himself is the very “Light of the world” and that “he who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12). It is not God’s desire for Christians to hide from Him in fear and guilt and shame over our sin. Jesus came to deliver us from the power of sin and bring us into the light of His love. He wants us to confess and repent of our sins as soon as we realize that we have done wrong, so that we can experience His forgiveness and enjoy the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control – Galatians 5:22-23) in our lives.

If you are struggling with areas of darkness and sin like we saw in the last post on Ephesians 5:1-7 or the posts on Ephesians 4:17-32, here is some very practical advice that I plan to use with my own children as they get older:

1) Do not be alone in your room with your phone or other non-school issued device. For the guys, this will protect you from watching inappropriate videos, shows, or photos. For the girls, this will help to protect you from overuse of social media that research is showing to be linked with depression, anxiety, and poor self-esteem. For both guys and girls, it will help you to avoid spending too much time on your device so that you can have more time for real life activities and social interaction with your family. It will also give you more time to spend with God, which if you are a Christian, your soul should be longing for each day. YouTube and Snapchat simply cannot fill the God-shaped holes in our hearts – only fellowship with Jesus can quench our spiritual thirst.

2) Seek out strong Christian mentors and friends who can help you to walk in the light and stay out of the darkness. At NRCA, spend time with friends who are showing evidence of following Jesus and avoiding sin. Make the most out of Bible class, homeroom devotions, and chapel by really trying to listen and follow along with the lesson or message in your own Bibles. On your travel and club teams, find the other Christians and start praying together before practices and games. This will strengthen your walk with Christ and your witness to your lost teammates and coaches. Finally, if your parents are Christians, ask them about trying to start a family devotion or prayer time, if not every day, maybe at least once a week on the weekend. If your family does not have time to plan something, you could offer to read the blog post (even during a car ride) and then talk about it and pray afterwards.

3) If you attend church, seek out friends who really want to be there and avoid close fellowship with the students who obviously don’t want to be there. Pay attention during the lesson or sermon and bring a print Bible with you to follow along. If your family does not attend church, find a church you like that puts sermons online. Block off some time each weekend to listen to some worship music, listen to or watch a sermon with your Bible out to follow along, and spend some time in prayer. Maybe text a friend afterwards to talk about what you learned.

You might say, “This sounds like a lot of work.” Well, yes, living the Christian life does take discipline, but it really is about putting yourself in God’s presence so that He can do the work of change in your life each day. Would you rather remain in the darkness of sin and the world, or walk in the light with Jesus and your brothers and sisters in Christ?

The Text (Ephesians 5:8-14)

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth)10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14 This is why it is said:

“Wake up, sleeper,
    rise from the dead,
    and Christ will shine on you.”

Questions to Think About

  1. What do you think about the practical suggestions above?
  2. Who is trying to help you to walk with Christ in the light right now?
  3. Are you spiritually asleep or are you awake to the things of God? How can you tell?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel