Thank you for your nice letter. Congratulations on your recent birthday, and your acceptance to the Middle School football team. It will be my honor (one which I greatly look forward to) to give you some advice. There can be nothing more important in life than your relationship with God. I know that when you are young; death, eternity and the Lord God can seem far away. But God does love you and wants to be with you on this journey to becoming an adult.
I am thrilled to hear that you have taken the first step by accepting Christ as your Savior. You need to find a Christian community, which will nurture you as you mature in your walk. Is the teaching based on the Bible? Are there mature Christians willing to mentor you? Are there fun activities? Is prayer a normal part of the church? Are there other people your age in the church that you can get along with? Do the sermons challenge you to improve or just lull you into a false sense of security?
Are you reading the Bible? Your parents have told me that you have trouble reading. There are ways to understand scripture painlessly. Select a version of the Bible that you can understand easily. I would suggest: NIV, The Living Bible, or NIVr. “The Message” can be interesting, but I would recommend to compare it to other versions, NIV and King James tend to be the most accurate. As a former Coach, I feel quizzing is a good way to learn the Bible. But you need to know the Word so that you can use it for more than just a fire escape. The Bible is God’s love letter to us. If the Church; and that is each of us individually, is Christ bride, we should want to hear what our beloved has to say to us. Read the Bible. Many times, I have been tempted; or things are going really bad, the Word from God has comforted, protected and guided me. I would suggest you start by reading Genesis, Exodus, the Psalms or Kings and Samuel. Then move on to the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) If you can establish a habit of daily Bible reading, then try tackling the Prophet or the Epistles. I learned when first studying the Bible, to read as long as I wanted to, and then put it away, reading because I wanted to, not because I had to. (to meet somebody else’s requirements) Pretty soon I had to limit my reading to only one hour, so that I could get the sleep I needed each night.
While the Bible is wonderful, it can not replace prayer. When I was young I thought that prayer was only repeating the words that were written by Apostles and long ago Saints. That gave way to my just presenting a “wish list” to God. I fell asleep during Wednesday night prayer meetings, listening to church members extolling their prayer list of needs. Then one summer while at a Christian camp, I learned that I needed to shut up and listen to what God had to tell me. A good beginning is to look at the Lord’s Prayer recorded in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 6:9-15) Pray then like this: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Here is a pattern I have used in the past:
1. Adoration Even the vary name of God is Holy. God created everything including us. Our dumb mistakes can bring glory to Him.
2. Thanks Giving gratitude for being created, breath to breathe, everything else that exist.
3. Confession Letting God know that we know we have fallen short of the glory of God. Repentance is a big part of this; turning around and going with God instead of against Him.
4. Petition Asking God for the things we need “Our Daily Bread” This includes physical needs, mental needs and spiritual needs. I like to go back to adoration, telling God how very wonderful He is at the end of my prayer.
Youth Groups can be the worst or the best things that happen to a church. The group needs a wise, fun, mature, inventive, resourceful and generous leader. The group also needs volunteers to help guide activities and supervise members. Some of the best groups, I have worked with were peer led, but that requires a great deal of maturity on the part of the youth leadership. I have seen petty, vindictive, worldly centered people completely destroy a youth group, and by extension, a church and the Christian witness in a community. I have learned that the best most effective youth groups have four elements: Worship, Education, Community Service and Recreation. The members care for each other. When one of the members have a failure, they are protected and gently corrected. Youth group activities can be planned in such a way that they meet two or more of these objectives at the same time. Quiz meets are largely educational, but often have recreation activities. Worship activities can include, singing, testimonies, and prayer. Some education concepts are Bible study, Speakers, Special events, and other things. Community Service activities can be as simple as sitting with an older person, or helping a family pack and move, feeding homeless, raking leaves, washing cars or shoveling snow. A large part of recreation for most youth groups is sports. That is a real area of concern. A group needs to try and meet needs of all the members, not just the super athletic. I saw one group handle this by involving the non-players in things like equipment management, running snack activities, score keeping and filming games. Other recreation activities are parties, hayrides, concerts or watching movies.
There are many things that you can do now to assure that you can have a better adulthood. Eat a healthy breakfast that has plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Try to have a salad or vegetable dish for lunch. When you eat supper; eat early and sparingly. Try to never go to bed with food digesting in your body. Exercise often. Never ride in a car if you can walk, never walk if you can run. Take your education seriously, pay attention in class. If you do not understand something, ask for it to be repeated and/or get help to understand it. Every time you get a test or assignment back go over and correct wrong answers until you not only get them right; but understand how to get the right answer. Sit in the front of the classroom, if there is not assigned seats. Take notes, even when the teacher does not require it. Socialize outside of the classroom not inside of it. When you get home re-write your notes, look up anything you missed in class or do not understand. We live in a wonderful age, when you can find vast amounts of information on the computer. Do assigned reading, and then look up anything that confuses or interest you. Keep information organized some you can find it when needed. Try to learn a new language.
Investigate new skills until you find an occupation that interest you. Seek out and assist experts in your chosen profession. Be slow to change fields of interest; but change if you need to. Get a penpal; the old fashioned kind with paper and pen, that you address an envelope and mail to a foreign land. This will help with your reading, writing, social studies and social skills. You have two ears and one mouth, they should be used in that proportion. Tell the truth. Do not try to excuse yourself. If you make a mistake, lie, cheat, steal or gossip – admit it! This will accomplish many things. It will be easier to correct problems your misbehavior causes. The truth will be known. You will quickly regain any loss of respect, and your punishment will be lessened, if not totally averted. Do whatever you need to do to go to college. Keep your grades up, seek tutoring when you need it. School should always come first, but if you can handle an afterschool and summer job, while keeping your grades adequate, you need to do so, to help pay for college. Strongly consider, attending a local community college for the first two years. You can save on housing and tuition. Think about military service. You might be thinking, “I don’t want to be a combat warrior” But you do not realize that there are many jobs in the military: Chaplain Assistant, Beach Lifeguard, Kennel Attendant, Librarian and Bulldozer Driver, to name a few. In the military, you get free housing, healthcare; and money for college. Be polite to everyone, but especially to those that do not like you. Robert this is getting long and I have given you a lot to think about. Next time I will try to answer the questions you had about dating, intimacy and sex I am here and willing to be your sounding board about those things you feel you can not discuss with your parents. I look forward to hearing how your life is progressing.