Many of you date. Dating can be a good thing when it’s done well. It’s important to get to know people of the opposite gender and learn about how you behave and respond in those kinds of relationships. I even know a few couples today who have thriving marriages that started in high school dating relationships. But let’s be honest, the statistics aren’t good for acheiving that kind of result typically. You already know that most dating relationships in high school don’t last very long, or at least most don’t last beyond high school. So it’s important to keep that in mind. The odds of your dating relationship ending up in a lifelong marriage are not in your favor.
I know, that view point is so pessimistic. “What a horrible outlook on dating, Lee!” I understand why you might want to say that to me. I was once in love with a girl in high school, and then I was again with another girl, and then again with another, oh…and then again before I graduated high school. Wait! Before you quit reading, hang in there with me here. I only started this letter to you with those thoughts to help you have a realistic perspective when you’re looking at your dating relationship.
Here’s what I mean. You have to remember that you might be the only real connection to Jesus the person you are dating might have. Seriously, you could be best representation of God and how his people are to live. And, if they already had a connection to Jesus when you started your dating relationship, if the relationship goes in a negative and damaging way emotionally, that might cause them to become jaded and leave Jesus, and I know you don’t want that result.
So, when you’re dating someone you have to be very responsible with how you behave and act in that relationship. Are you loving and kind? Are you exhibiting the characteristics of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, self-control, faithfulness? Are you showing this person what it means to live and walk in the Spirit of God? My friends, understand that your testimony is so important right now! You are teaching your dating partner about God just by living out your walk with him.
Listen, I messed up a lot at your age when I was dating people. I asked for forgiveness a lot, from God and the girls I dated. I know it’s not easy. You’re even still trying to figure out what you believe and how all of this impacts your own life. I get that.
Maybe think about it like this: Keep God as your default. When it comes to a decision, think about what God wants you to do in that moment. Sounds like “WWJD”–What Would Jesus Do?–doesn’t it? Just don’t rip yourself apart when you mess up, because you will mess up and God knows that you will. (About messing up and God’s help, read the first chapter of 1 John when you get a few minutes.) Just keep getting back up and showing that person what it means to be a child of God. Confess your failures to God and your dating partner, ask them for their forgiveness and offer forgiveness to them when it’s needed. Show them what real love is.
Hey, I love you guys. Be strong in your relationships. Invite Jesus into your dating relationship and allow him to transform you both so he is glorified. And pray, pray, pray! Keep turning your relationship and your dating partner over to the Lord and he will continue to help you.
I’ll share more thoughts soon.
Have you ever heard the expression, “curiosity killed the cat”? Let me tell you a story. The other day Aime and I watched our cat named Socks take a dangerous leap from the top of our dresser to the top of our craft cabinet. Even though I didn’t think she would die, I certainly was concerned about her welfare, that she might fall far from the top of that cabinet. It was her curiosity that led her into danger. Guys, we have to be careful with our curiosity, especially on the Internet. It’s easy to make one click out of curiosity into danger. But I know I don’t have to convince you of this, because you already know this to be true. As believers, as children of God, (and really everyone in the world should consider this for their well-being) we have to be very careful to not go down roads that lead to our destruction emotionally and spiritually. If I’m walking down the street and I pass a dark alley and I peer into the alley, my curiosity may push me to walk down that dark alley just to see what’s down there. The potential of danger in those dark alleys is a concern for good reason. Guys, it’s the same on the Internet. We can be surfing online, and without even trying we surf up to a dark alley of information, and out of curiosity peer into that dark alley. It could be pornography, it could be gossip news, it could be a funny video, it could be many things that look like you could just go in there and look around and not be hurt, but then you do get hurt when you go down the road. Your wisdom has to trump your curiosity.
I understand this because I’m not immune to this. I’ve peered down too many alleys in my lifetime, followed my curious heart into danger too many times, and have been bitten by the sting of pain too many times. No doubt, we’re gonna fall prey to her own curiosity at times. But if we never think about this idea, if we never think about the dangers lurking around the mysterious corners that our own curiosity leads us into, if we never consider the real hazardous implications and possible results of following that curiosity, then we will struggle to listen to our own wisdom when we really need to, when it might be a matter of life or death, and I mean emotionally and spiritually.
Just please be careful guys. Stay aware. There is so much at your fingertips, more than any other generation has experienced. You have to learn how to navigate this world and show generations behind you that you can do it well. And you can do it, but it will take you being sensitive to what is good and what is evil. It will take you choosing to do what is right on a consistent basis, many times ignoring your own curiosity. Please be careful guys. Remember, God is with you and is helping you everyday, in every hour, in every minute, in every second. Don’t be discouraged when you mess up, just get up and try again. God always loves you. And I love you too.
Let’s talk about being frustrated with the church. The organizational structures we have put in place in the church, as the large Kingdom of God and as a congregation, are there because we need some sort of organization to be productive. I don’t think any congregation of the Lord’s people would say they have a perfect system in place. We strive to do the best we can, but we will never do everything perfectly right.
I’m sure you’ll get frustrated at times with the church. You won’t like something we are doing, or the way we are doing it, or who is selected to do it, or how much something costs to do something, or we aren’t doing something you think we should be doing, or whatever. There’s always something being done in the church that isn’t being done the way you would probably do it. But, that doesn’t mean you should give up on the church! Giving up on the church and assuming you can do it all a better way kind of implies some arrogance and pride that maybe needs to be reconsidered, even though you might even be correct. Humility and patience can go a long way when trying to influence others to see a possible and better way. Remember how patient the Lord is with you and offer that same patience to others.
Now, there may be times in your life within the church when there are things being done that you believe are sinful. This is different. This is when you need to step in, with respect, talk to the leaders and discuss why you believe it is sinful. We need to steer away from things that are not God’s will and sometimes we need people like you to help us see those things. Be confident when sharing your views with church leaders, and be full of love and mercy. Even in these difficult situations we need to be patient and full of grace with those who are in the wrong. And remember to always trust the Lord. He will see the church through even the most difficult and heinous things, you can bank on that.
But when it’s a matter of preference, hang in there. Be a part of what’s going on and do the best you can with the kingdom role you have. Serve others in every situation you are in as if you are serving the Lord, because you are serving him! Discouragement may come, but be encouraged with the bigger picture, that we are the Lord’s people, his chosen possession, his children, and he is proud of us as we continue to spread his amazing news of salvation and passionate love for the world. Sure, we can do better, and we need to keep trying to do better, and we will always need your help to keep this work going. You may be called into a leadership position someday, so get yourself ready now and start thinking in ways that benefit the church, keeping that bigger kingdom picture in mind. Never give up on the Lord and his people, and the work we are called to do for our King. Keep going!
More soon. Peace to you today.
I know you see sex everywhere in our culture. It seems like it’s everywhere you look! But children of God, stay pure. Reserve sex for marriage, for the person you will be with for the rest of your life, with whom sex will be special forever. I know many of your friends are already having sex and doing other things against God’s will. But don’t you know they are searching for something? Looking for fulfillment in something beyond what is good and pure. Remember how much God loves you and desires good for you. When you have sex outside of marriage many things can result that are not what you truly want for yourselves: psychological issues, physical issues, and even undesired pregnancy. And those are just a few things! Don’t seek fulfillment by chasing after such things. God longs to fill you with his love. He longs to be what you are searching for.
And he is so much more than dating relationships that come to an abrupt end, physical relationships that leave you feeling empty, undesirable, and used. God longs to fill you with his spirit and joy, and desires you to be fully his, and he never will stop desiring you. And he’s not using you, he’s asking you to join him and his mission to bring his good news to the world, good news that is so much better than anything that doesn’t last. Sexual feelings and situations are like hunger that is never satisfied. But God satisfies. When you seek after him, dive into his word and live for his purposes, and love others like he does, he satisfies like nothing else in this world.
Sure, that’s not easy. We are talking about commitment, and discipline. But you already know about those things since you have already committed your life to Jesus. You know about commitment. You know about discipline. Think of all of the areas in your life where you show commitment and discipline: School work, athletics, music rehearsals, dance, video games, and even in friendship. Don’t sell yourself short! You know how to be committed to things and work hard. And that’s all God desires, is for you to commit to him, living and working in his kingdom. That’s why Paul calls us slaves to Christ, because we are now the workers in God’s kingdom for his mission, and that work takes commitment and discipline. And the beautiful thing is, he is always there with you. He will never ask you to do something and then make you do it on your own. He will always help you. His spirit will always help you along, giving you confidence as you move forward, giving you thoughts and encouragement, giving you strength physically and emotionally, when you lean into him. God will truly supply all of your needs.
In a culture where sex seems like it’s all around us and in everything we see and do, remember who you are: children of God. Remember that honoring God means keeping yourself pure and staying out of relationships that lead into sexually immoral things. Honoring God means saving sex, and all the wonderful and beautiful things that go with it, for your faithful and lifelong marriage with that one special person “until death do us part”. So be very careful when you date. Be very careful about the situations you put yourself in when you were on dates. Choose wisely. Seek advice from experienced believing adults about how to date well. Sure, it was a different time in our culture when they dated other people, but they were once your age. They understand the feelings you have and the challenges to stay pure. Trust your church family for guidance. We are all in this together.
And hey, I know some of you have already done sexual things you regret. Trust me, you aren’t the first one to give into sexual temptations. But today is a new day, and you are a new creation, even today! You may feel like you have been stained forever, but God removes stains completely. He is the toughest bleach, lifting out the toughest ink blots and coffee stains we can imagine! Think about it, don’t you forgive others when they hurt you? I know you do. Then allow God to forgive you. And forgive yourself. Love yourself enough to accept God’s passionate love and forgiveness for you. It’s real and it’s true. Remember what Jesus said to the lady who was caught in sexual adulterous sin? “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” So, stand confident again knowing that Jesus isn’t pointing his finger at you condemning you in judgement. He is simply joyful when you believe in his love and encourages you to stop the sexual sinfulness. Be pure starting now. Make today your new beginning, a new start of a new life of purity with Jesus. Start making better choices today that honor God since you truly are his special possession.
I love you all. More soon.
We must be careful. I am talking about being careful about preserving our witness, our testimony for Jesus to the world. You see, when we are not careful we can easily embrace certain things in this world and think they are good, when they are not good, and these things will dilute our message of true love. And God will help us understand these things more and more. Remember, God is holy and longs for you to be like him.
For example, be careful what music lyrics you listen to. Don’t be foolish and think they have no influence on you. If they had no influence on you or anyone else, there would be no musical lyrics to listen to! Every song has a message and you need to clue in to what those messages are and decide if they are good for you or not good for you, if they inspire holiness or unholiness. “So, should we never listen to music? Wouldn’t that be the best way to deal with music, to not listen at all?” No, listen and enjoy music! Just be aware of what you are allowing to influence you. Read the lyrics and pay attention. Not all lyrics are good for you to digest, especially over and over again. Lyrics should build you up and encourage you to be more of what Jesus wants you to be, not tear you down and lead you into evil ways. Lyrics that inspire you to be angry, to dream about sex or adultery, to foolishly not think before you act, to drink illegally and do other illegal things, such lyrics do not inspire love and holiness. As children of God, honor God with the music you listen to.
And to those of you who perform music, make sure the lyrics you are singing bring glory and honor to God and not to the evil in this world. Sure, sing about relationships, sing about love and things in this beautiful world we live in, but make sure they honor God and bring people along to knowing him more. Let your testimony for Jesus Christ be always at the forefront of your mind, flowing through the words that you use. Even when you don’t mention his name, pure love should still be pouring out of your words. Use your mind to discern what is truly good music, and what music is good for you to listen to and perform.
I know you know many of these things already. You are wonderful students, blessed with peace and love in Jesus. Please read these words as reminders and encouragement, not with offense. More to come.
Remember your identity in God. Just like Peter said, you are his special possession, his holy people, his royal family. He has made a way for you to live with him now and forever as his pure children, all of this made possible through Jesus Christ. And that is what you are, you are his children, just like I am. We are all in this together, this wonderful life with our holy God. This fellowship we share with each other, this family life that we share, it is a place of safety and confidence. Our family is a place of love and acceptance, unlike any other place in this world. Are we perfect? No, of course not, only God himself is perfect, though we have been made perfectly righteous through Jesus Christ by his will. No, our actions are not perfect. We don’t always love one another as we should. Why? Because we continue to struggle with sin, we continue to struggle with how to love each other in every moment, how to make everyone feel accepted and a part of this family. Our wrestling with sin and evil will be a tension we will live with until we die and leave this earth. It’s just a part of life. But we can know and always remember that Jesus has overcome our sin: our sin from yesterday, and today, and our future sin. We didn’t earn any of that justification and forgiveness, but we can enjoy the peace and serenity and love that flows freely within our fellowship with God. You see, when we heard the message of Jesus and believed in him, and submitted to him through baptism, we entered into a new life of freedom from sin, a new life where we have the blessing of forgiveness, and peace, and his beautiful Holy Spirit that continues to purify us and lead us into God’s will. Does this mean it doesn’t matter how we live or what we do since it’s all forgiven anyway? No way! We need to honor God and live a life that brings glory to him and furthers his kingdom work. He has done all of these things: created this fellowship, gave us freedom from sin, and gave us the important task to love one another, all because of his great love for us and his desire for us to thrive in this world. So let’s enjoy this family that we have! Let’s enjoy the peace in God that we now have! Let’s work hard, harder than we ever have, to love each other deeply as God, our Father desires of his family. How lucky we are to be called children of God! Let this truth bring confidence in every step you take as you walk with him.
I’ll write to you more, soon. I send peace and love to you all.