Ruth 2: A Better Man

Part 1 of Ruth started HERE.

Eddie Vedder wrote the incredibly sad song “Better Man” in 1984 about an abusive relationship his mother was in with his step-father. The song communicates the idea that Vedder’s mom is in despair because she does not think that a better man is out there.

She lies and says she’s in love with him, can’t find a better man…
She dreams in color, she dreams in red, can’t find a better man…
Can’t find a better man
Can’t find a better man

Fast forward to the year 2017. We seem to be in crisis mode when it comes to what godly manhood looks like. Politicians, celebrities, and pastors are in the news for all the wrong reasons. Abuse. Sexual misconduct. You wonder, is there a better man out there?

This Sunday I will be preaching from Ruth 2. As I was studying this particular passage it struck me how timely it was for what is going on in our culture today. If there is one thing we desperately need it is some men who we can look to as godly role models.  In Ruth 2 we are introduced to a man by the name of Boaz. There are a number of characteristics that stood out to me regarding Boaz. Allow me to share a few with you.

  • Godly men live out their faith in the workplace
    • Boaz did not buy into the lie that we need to keep our faith and our work separate. Boaz was open (not pushy) about his faith with his employees. In Ruth 2:4 here is how Boaz greets his staff, And behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem. And he said to the reapers, “The Lord be with you!” And they answered, “The Lord bless you.”  Boaz is the kind of boss any one would want to have BECAUSE his faith had such an impact on how he treated people in the workplace. What difference is our faith making in the workplace?
  • Godly men show compassion to those who are poor, marginalized and thought to be unimportant by society
    • Boaz ends up showing tremendous grace and kindness to Ruth. She is in his fields trying to scrape together enough grain to feed herself and Naomi. I’m thinking that many successful men in Boaz’s day would not have given Ruth a second thought. Woman. Gentile. From the hated land of Moab. Boaz goes out of his way to show grace, HESED love, and compassion to this woman. He provides her with an abundance of food and gives her hope when she needs it the most. Do we notice those who are hurting or struggling right around us in everyday life?
  • Godly men make women feel safe
    • Boaz commands his young men to stay away from Ruth so that she is not sexually or physically abused by them. Ruth is incredibly vulnerable working out in the fields by herself and Boaz steps in and protects her. But Boaz’s compassion does not stop there. In verse 8 Boaz refers to Ruth as his “daughter”.  Boaz’s motives are pure and Ruth is blown away by the fact that she is in the presence of a very powerful man and he is treating her like a family member.
    • I must confess this makes me think about how safe women must have felt with Jesus. Jesus did not run away from female friendships. Instead, some of his closest friends and disciples were women. Jesus never used his position of influence or power selfishly. Jesus was always looking to serve, bless and show compassion. Do we make woman feel safe in our presence?
  • Godly men use their money, time and resources to be a blessing to others
    • Boaz was very generous with all that he had so that he could be a blessing to others. Not only was Boaz generous but he encouraged his employees to be generous as well. In verse 15 we read this, When she rose to glean, Boaz instructed his young men, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her.” Boaz knew that life was not just about making as much money as possible. Boaz had his eyes open for people that God was strategically bringing into his life so that he could show them HESED love. Are we using our money, resources and talents for the good of others?

Of course, this story is not primarily about Ruth or Boaz. Boaz is merely a dim reflection of the better Man that was to come about 1000 years later. Boaz was a godly man but he too was a sinner. Boaz was the GOEL (kinsman-redeemer) for Ruth. But Jesus would be the ultimate GOEL (Kinsman-Redeemer) for all humanity. I want to be a better man. I want to be less like me and more like Boaz. I have to remember that it is not enough just to say that I need to be more like Boaz. Moral exhortations to be better won’t change my sinful heart. Every single day I need to die to self so that the life of Jesus Christ is set ablaze in me.

Ruth 1: Hesed love in a culture where feelings are god

My best ideas for blogging come from the time I spend immersing my heart and mind in the truths of God’s Word. This Sunday I am going to begin preaching through the book of Ruth. With that said, my plan at this point, is to write a blog post for each chapter in the book of Ruth.

Ruth 1: Hesed love in a culture where feelings are god

hesed
Hesed=Loyal Love

Early on in the book of Ruth we are introduced to an amazing woman by the name of Naomi. Naomi had expectations for how life would turn out just like the rest of us. Get married, have some kids, settle down, and enjoy life. We are introduced to her husband, Elimelech, and her two sons. But very quickly we discover that life does not end up going as Naomi had hoped. There is a famine in Bethlehem. Which is ironic because Bethlehem means “house of bread.” So Elimelech and Naomi pack up their belongings and move to the city of Moab.

bethlehem to moab
biblejourney.org

At first glance this move to Moab might seem like the wise thing to do. If there is no food in Bethlehem why not get out of town? The problem with moving to Moab is that God is the one who brought them into the Promise Land. This is where God wants them to live, it is their home. Furthermore, Moab is not a good place for God’s people to live. The city of Moab had originated from an incestuous relationship between Lot and his daughter. In the past, the people of Moab had been a stumbling block to the Jews because they had led them to worship false idols when they were in the wilderness. It seems pretty clear to me that Moab was not the neighborhood that God wanted Elimelech to move into.

So at this point in the book of Ruth we are confronted with a powerful, counter-intuitive truth. Instead of running from the pain that comes from unmet expectations in life, we need to allow God to use the difficulties to mold and shape us into the image of his Son, Jesus Christ.

I wonder how often we do the same thing as Elimelech? Instead of honestly dealing with our pain, or unmet expectations, we take some kind of shortcut that we hope relieves the pain we are feeling.

How many times does this happen in marriage? We all have expectations when it comes to marriage and then, well, you get married. Things are much harder and more challenging then we ever imagined. So what do we do? Too often we look for shortcuts out of our difficulties and into some type of temporary pleasure. Sports. Shopping. Fixing up our house. Advancing our career. Fitness. Social media. Food. Alcohol. Porn. An inappropriate flirtatious relationship. Something, ANYTHING, to alleviate the pain we are feeling.

Let’s just say that the move to Moab did not go well for Elimelech and Naomi. Elimelech died and so did both of his sons. Naomi was stranded in Moab with her two daughters-in-law. Things went from bad to much worse. Isn’t this what running from our pain does? The escape we are seeking only multiplies our suffering.

The story then begins to show us what real love looks like. The kind of love that can sustain us when life does not meet our expectations.

We discover hesed love in both Naomi and in Ruth.

Hesed love is opposite of the spirit of the age, which says we have to act on our feelings. Hesed says, “No, you act on your commitments. The feelings will follow. Love like this is unbalanced, uneven. There is nothing fair about this kind of love. But commitment-love lies at the heart of Christianity. It is Jesus’s love for us at the cross, and it is to be our love for one another. -A Loving Life by Paul E. Miller

In Ruth 1:8 Naomi says this to Ruth and Orpah (her other daughter-in-law), “Go, return each of you to her mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me.”

This is an extraordinary display of love. Hesed is translated as “kindly” in this verse and Naomi is showing this kind of love to her two remaining family members. Think about it for a moment. What do you think Naomi’s feelings were telling her to do at this point in her life? Most likely her feelings were telling her that she should keep these two women as close as humanly possible. She had no one else. Instead, she goes against her feelings and encourages her two daughters-in-law to leave so that they can remarry and start their life over again.

Naomi neither suppresses her feelings nor is trapped by them. So she determines to love her daughters-in-law no matter what it costs-even if it intensifies her anguish. That is hesed, pure and simple. But maybe you are saying, “I’m not sure I want to love like this.” The only alternative is some form of self-love. And even that has a cost-it destroys your soul. -A Loving Life by Paul E. Miller

Here is another powerful lesson that goes against “the spirit of the age.” Our feelings are not always reliable when it comes to living the way that God wants us to live. Our culture tells us that self-fulfillment is what life is all about. The gospel tells us that true love (hesed) is not looking to satisfy one’s self, instead it is looking at how it can sacrificially be a blessing to other people.

So let’s begin to make some connections with how this relates to everyday life.

  • Imagine how this kind of hesed love could revolutionize our marriages today.
  • Imagine how much deeper our relationship with Christ would become if instead of running from the pain of unmet expectations we patiently waited for what God wanted to do in our lives.
  • Imagine if we abandoned the lie that love is merely something we feel and rediscovered that love is a deep, lifelong commitment that reflects the way that God loves us? How would this impact our society? Our churches?
  • Imagine how this kind of love could strengthen relationships in, and outside, the church.

Can you see any other ways that Ruth 1 applies to everyday life?

Looking forward to sharing thoughts with you from Ruth 2-4 in the coming weeks.

ruth and naomi
Naomi demonstrating hesed love by telling Ruth and Orpah to return to their homes. Painting by William Blake

 

Surviving or Living? The Gospel Makes All The Difference.

Last night the New Life Care Ministry hosted an event called “Surviving or Living? The Gospel Makes All The Difference.” What we wanted to address is the fact that there is a gap between knowing the facts of the gospel and how it relates to everyday life. The major reason we are so fatigued, burnt out, anxious, prone to give into temptation is that we we are not immersing our hearts and minds in the truths of the gospel. We fail to see what the good news of Jesus Christ has to do with how we feel and live on Monday morning. Here are the notes from our time together.

  • Introduction to Care Ministry at New Life Church
    • It is for you
    • It is for you to recommend to others
    • It is Christ-centered
    • It is discipleship
  • Introduction to our topic tonight, “Surviving or Living”
  • The problem
    • Many of us feel tried and worn out
    • We hear of the abundant life but we wonder if we are missing out
    • We feel like we are in survival mode
  • The solution is the gospel
    • What is the gospel? “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,  and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.” -1 Corinthians 15:3-5
  • But we have a problem again. We need a bridge to get us from the amazing truths of the gospel to how it actually connects to everyday life.

bridge.jpeg

  • The bridge is learning what it means to abide in Jesus Christ (John 15).

Table discussion

  • Read John 15:1-11
  • “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

  • Questions:
    • What does Jesus say the vine, branches, and gardener represent?
    • What happens to a branch that does not abide to its branch?
    • What happens to a Christian that is not abiding in Jesus?
    • Describe how you have been feeling lately (happy, tired, sad, anxious, etc).
    • Verse 5 tells us that a person who abides in Jesus bears much fruit. What do you think it means to bear much fruit?
    • What is the key way that we abide in Jesus? (Verse 7 gives you the answer.)
    • How have you been doing lately when it comes to abiding in Jesus by reading the Bible? (doing great, it’s a struggle, non-existent)
    • End of table discussion

Large group time

  • Let’s get even more specific and practical when it comes to how the gospel relates to everyday life.
    • How should Jesus’ love for you impact the way you live everyday life?
      • As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. -John 15:9
    • How should the fact that Jesus has forgiven you of so much impact the way you respond to people who offend you?
      • 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. –Ephesians 4:32
    • How should the fact that we have been given all the riches of Christ (forgiveness, adopted into God’s family, eternal life) impact how generous you are?
      • that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ,in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Colossians 2:2-3
    • God loves you and cares about you so much that he sent his Son to die on a cross for you. How does this impact our daily temptation to be anxious or worried?
      • 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. -1 John 4:10
    • Our culture lacks contentment. How should the gospel impact your level of contentment and gratitude in everyday life?
      • 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:11-13
    • Jesus is amazingly beautiful to gaze upon. How should this impact a person’s temptation to look at porn?
      • 26 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. –Mark 13:26
    • Here is the key. As we think about these Biblical truths we find that we are abiding in Christ.
    • A helpful tool to abide in Christ
      • The Gospel Primer by Milton Vincent
    • Let’s take a few moments of prayerful reflection. Identify something that is on your heart and mind these days (a concern, difficult circumstance, temptation, etc). Prayerfully think about how the gospel applies to this particular issue.
      • Write down your thoughts here:

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  •  Have a few people share their thoughts based on their time of reflection (only if you feel comfortable doing so)
  • Closing prayer

We had a great discussion and I hope people left with a better idea of how to abide in Christ and the difference he makes in everyday life. What are some ways that you apply the good news of Jesus Christ to everyday life? Would love to hear from you!

 

A Book I Want To Encourage The Ladies To Read

One of my strongest convictions as a pastor is that followers of Christ need to be immersing their hearts and minds in the Word of God. With that said I want to recommend “Women of the Word” by Jen Wilkin.

Jen WilkinI must confess to having another motive for encouraging you to read this book. There is just a lot of junk out on the market today when it comes to “Christian Living.” This is true for books written for men and women. So, when I find an author that is faithful to God’s Word, like Jen, I want to pass along the good news!

In the book Jen gives the reader the Five P’s of Sound Study:

  • Study with Purpose
  • Study with Perspective
  • Study with Patience
  • Study with Process
  • Study with Prayer

When women grow increasingly lax in their pursuit of Bible literacy, everyone in the circle of influence is affected. Rather than acting as salt and light, we become bland contributions to the environments we inhabit and shape, indistinguishable from those who have never been changed by the gospel. Home, church, community, and country desperately need the influence of women who know why they believe what they believe, grounded in the Word of God. They desperately need the influence of women who love deeply and actively the God proclaimed in the Bible. p. 49 “Women of the Word”

Then towards the end of the book, chapter 8, Jen makes it very practical by having her readers practice what they have been reading by studying the book of James. (A book of the Bible that I just began preaching through!) Again, this instruction is fairly easy to follow and it takes you step by step through the Five P’s of Sound Study.

To live the life that God has called us to we need to know the Word. For our marriages to grow and flourish we need to know the Word of God. To be able to guide our children in daily life we need to know the Word of God. I hope this book is a huge blessing to you as you seek to know God better through his Word.

 

What People Aren’t Telling You About Happiness

Isaac Watts wrote the famous hymn “Alas, And Did My Savior Bleed” in 1707. Due to the fact that I have been in the church all of my life I have probably sung this song hundreds of times. Here is how the chorus goes:

At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light,
And the burden of my heart rolled away,
It was there by faith I received my sight,
And now I am happy all the day!

OK, either Isaac knew something that I don’t or there is something seriously wrong with me and my faith. What I can say for sure is that this idea of being happy all the day does not line up with my personal experience.

We all want to be happy and joyful.

All of us want to be happy. All of us are seeking after something that will fill up the empty spaces of our life and make us feel complete. This pursuit is what leads people to accomplish great things like going to college, advancing in their career and raising a family. The pursuit of happiness also leads people into addictions and bad relationships. This hit will ease the pain. This person will finally be the one. Every step we take in life is a step, we hope, that leads us towards greater joy and happiness.

We were told that only God will make us happy.

At some point many of us are told that only God can make us happy. So we head off in a new direction. We leave behind the things that have failed to satisfy us in the past and make our way towards God.

Unfortunately we were not told that even when we have God that there will be many times where we are struggling, hurting and feel like something is missing.

These days I am increasingly disturbed by the fact that we are telling people half truths about happiness and joy. Yes, I still believe that joy is found in Christ. The part that we are leaving out is that this happiness and joy is incomplete. It is true, we have found the greatest treasure of all in Jesus Christ but our souls are still encased in a human body that is strongly impacted by sin. Our joy is only a fraction of what it will be one day.

“We want. Life leaks. Desires are disappointed. And God, our Father, remains eternally good.” -Jen Pollock Michel

Here is why I believe this is such a big problem. We are making promises about the Christian life without the support of God’s Word. Think about it for a moment. The saints in the pages of Scripture went through valleys of all shapes and sizes. The Psalms are filled with men and women who had a deep intimate relationship with God yet at the same time went through seasons of serious heartache, sorrow and depression (Psalms 42-43).

I can say that Jesus is my greatest source of joy. I also need to be painfully honest and say that I live with a haunting sense in my soul that I am still not complete. Every single day feels like I am in one intense spiritual battle. There is an ache that I live with that I wish I could just make go away. Some days I truly wonder if I have the strength to keep going.  If we are not open about how we are feeling I believe we could cause others to question the authenticity of their faith. If we look around and everyone seems like they have it all together then something surely must be wrong with us, right? Perhaps we have combined the American Dream with the gospel and created something that is bound to disappoint and disillusion everyone who comes into contact with it.

If you love Christ but still sense in your heart that there must be more you are right. You are not odd. You are not alone. You are a normal Christian person. Being discontented with life is not always a bad thing. We long for a new body free of pain and disease. We long for relationships that are completely safe and true. We long to be rid of our ever present sin nature. Finally, we long to be home. I am talking about home in the best sense of the word. Home with God.  Let’s rejoice that one day our joy will be full but until that time let’s temper our unrealistic expectations with these words from the Apostle Paul, “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” Romans 8:22-23

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” -CS Lewis

When We Place Ourselves In A Position Of Authority Over God’s Word

One of the tragic changes that we see unfolding in our culture today is that people are increasingly placing themselves in a position of authority over the Word of God. It is now quite normal for people to think of the Bible as intolerant, bigoted and old-fashioned. The result is that clear teachings in Scripture become reinterpreted to fit their “enlightened” human wisdom.  The Bible simply does not work this way. I want to plead with people to remember that the Bible does not need to be rescued, we do. The truth of the matter is that God and His Word are in a position of authority over every square inch of our lives and this universe. Instead of revising God’s Word to fit into our way of thinking or our lifestyle let’s humble ourselves before God and the timeless authority of His Word.

You Need To Know About Progressive Christianity

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. -2 Timothy 4:3-4

If you hear that something is “progressive” you might think that it is a good thing. That is simply not the case when it comes to Progressive Christianity.

Let me share with you a few of my own thoughts about Progressive Christianity before I have you read the excellent article below by Alisa Childers. I believe that we need to be aware that there are a growing number of people, churches, denominations, universities and ministries that identify themselves as Christian but do not hold to what we would consider an orthodox or traditional understanding of the Christian faith.

Maybe you are thinking, “Michael, pipe down, don’t you know you are going to make some people angry?” That’s not my goal but I really am OK with it. I made peace with the fact that I will not make everyone happy a long time ago. We need to remember that the truth is not always warmly received. John the Baptist clearly taught the truth of God’s Word and the result was that he had his head cut off. Just sayin’.

He (elders in the church) must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. -Titus 1:9

I need to state that defining Progressive Christianity is not easy. The reason for that is because it encompasses lots of people who come from very different theological backgrounds. You can check out THIS from Wikipedia.

So what is at stake with this whole discussion? What kind of issues are we talking about? I believe Progressive Christianity gets in wrong in a number of really important areas (same sex attraction, gender, marriage, hell, substitutionary atonement, absolute truth and the trustworthiness of the Bible). These topics, and others, are all currently being redefined and we need to know what we believe and why we believe it.

There is another side to this that I want to briefly mention. We need to be careful about stating our theological position and then shutting down all dialogue. For the person who is wrestling with questions about the Bible we need to be willing to listen and have genuine dialogue. God loves the skeptics and those who are intellectually curious and so should we!

HERE is the link to Alisa Childers article, “5 Signs Your Church Might Be Headed Toward Progressive Christianity.” I strongly encourage you to read it!

I would love to hear your thoughts, ideas and questions! Please leave me a comment!

Is God anti-gay?

We are in a time of massive misunderstanding when it comes to what the Word of God teaches about same-sex attraction (SSA). Have you heard about the Nashville Statement? If not then I will admit I am a bit jealous of your ability to carry on with your daily life without paying too much attention to what is going on in the social media world.

Anyway, the Nashville Statement is a document that a group of Evangelical Christians came up with to take a stand against same-sex attraction and transgender identity issues.

The social media world went CRAZY over this document. Lots of name calling and angry posts on both sides. It all just makes me sad.

My concerns about these issues are both parental and pastoral. I love my family and my church and I want them to know what the Bible teaches about these kinds of volatile topics.

With that said, I want to recommend a book to you. “Is God anti-gay?” by Sam Allberry.

I won’t go into great details about the book but let me give you a few reasons why I am recommending it. First and foremost Sam Allberry uses the Bible throughout this book. The Bible is always our source of knowing what it good and true. Another reason I like this book is because it has a nice balance of truth and love. Sam identifies himself as a man who has struggled with same-sex attraction. So this book comes from a person who understands, at a very personal level, what this conversation is all about. Which results in a book that is gracious towards those who are struggling with SSA. Lastly, the book is short! The copy I have is only 83 pages long. You can read it in a couple settings. In a culture (and a church!) that is so confused about SSA I highly recommend this book to everyone!

Ten Things All Teenagers Should Know

1. The pursuit of pleasure can lead you places that you do not want to go. All humans are pleasure seeking missiles. It is how God has wired us. Who in their right mind does not want to be happy? When I turned 18 I began seeking pleasure in the wrong places and it almost cost me my life. You can check THIS out if you want to learn more about my story. Here is the truth of the matter. You were made to be in a relationship with God and only he can truly satisfy the deepest cravings of your heart. There are a world of substitutes for God but all of them lead to pain and heartbreak. “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” -Augustine

2. You do not need a boyfriend or girlfriend to be happy. The people who are never happy unless they have a “significant other” grow up to be people who have serious issues. Their story is all too common. Relationship after relationship and a bunch of bad stories. Don’t be the guy or the girl that believes that life is void of meaning and purpose unless they are dating someone. If you want to watch a true story of a young lady who tried to fill up the empty spaces of her life with relationships then watch THIS.

3. The most important thing about the person you date (or end up marrying one day) is that they love Jesus more than you. Common interests are good. Being able to laugh together is nice. If you become the most important thing in the life of the person you are dating then they have made you into an idol. Eventually they will discover that you can not meet their deepest needs. Which leads to disillusionment and the end of the relationship. First and foremost look for some who is passionately in love with Jesus.

4. Get to know and befriend those who seem left out and alone. In high school I spent the majority of my lunches in the high school bathroom hiding because I was terrified of going into the cafeteria. Why? I was incredibly shy and did not know anyone. It’s not hard to understood why this led me to hate high school. It would have meant the world to me to have had someone reach out to me and bring me into their circle of friends. One thing to keep in mind. Sometimes the people who are hurting or feel alone put up a facade that they are OK. It’s just how they have learned to get through the day. You will have to push past those defenses if you want to get to know them. Who can you reach out to? Your friendship could seriously change their life.

5. Forget about being cool. Instead, be remembered as a person who loved others. I don’t even know if teens use the word cool anymore. In the 1980s being cool meant that you were popular. It is way overrated. The two greatest commandments in all of scripture are to love God and to love others. Make it your ambition in high school to love others well.

6. Develop a devotional life now. Everything that I am writing about here is impossible if you are not developing a meaningful relationship with God. Your heart and life will only change as you are growing in your love for Christ. Another thing to keep in mind. There are alarming statistics about Christian high school students going off to college and walking away from the faith. Here is the number one reason that happens, a lack of love for Jesus Christ. Make it a priority now to pursue Christ with all of your heart.

7. Be involved in church now and in college. It’s great if you have and hang out with some Christian friends at school. In fact, I think that is very important. What you need to know is that Christians are part of the family of God. Being a part of a church that is passionate about Jesus Christ will help you grow in your faith. I would encourage you as you head off to college to get connected with a local church. Parachurch organizations (CRU, Intervarsity) are great, but God has called us to be in fellowship with others in the local church.

8. Your parents love you more then you will ever know. I would gladly lay down my life for my kids. No exaggeration. Your parents feel the same way about you. Work on building your relationship with your parents. Open up about how you are feeling and what you are thinking. You may be pleasantly surprised when it comes to all the wisdom they have and are willing to share with you.

9. You need to be on guard against wasting large portions of your life with your phone and social media. How many hours a day do you think you spend on your phone? Some studies say that teens spend nine hours a day looking at screens. You need to be aware that your phone and technology are shaping you more then you know. Our phones often times distract us from the real world and from real relationships. So what do you do if you sense that your phone and technology are becoming too important to you? It’s really not enough just to put your phone away. You need to replace it with something better. “True freedom from the bondage of technology comes not mainly from throwing away the smartphone, but from filling the void with the glories of Jesus that you are trying to fill with the pleasures of the device.” -Tony Reinke, “12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You

10. Enjoy the days of your youth. Man, enjoy these days! I look back with way too many regrets about high school. Don’t worry about what others think. Discover who you are and embrace it. Laugh a ton and enjoy these days because they go by so fast.