YOU'VE MADE UP your mind. Instead of splitting your summer between lazing on
the beach and scraping together odd chores to make money, you want an adventure.
You want to go where none of your friends has gone before. You want to visit your
The attraction-and the problem: Your cousin lives on the other side of the
planet in Borneo, where his scientist parents study insects. You don't know how to
get there or where to find him. So you ask around.
"Go to China and turn south for a few thousand miles. Lotsa luck."
"Your cousin and his family must have misplaced their brains-and it sounds
like it runs in the family."
But finally your search pays off. "Borneo? You want to get to Borneo? I was
born and raised in Borneo!" a professor at a nearby college tells you proudly. "And
I'm headed back there for the summer. I know your cousin, and I'll be happy to take
you right to him."
Suppose you were actually hunting for a far-off cousin. Which bit of advice
would help you most? It's no contest! You want to link up with someone who not
only knows where you are going and how to get there but also knows your cousin
and precisely how to find him.
You might never attempt an adventure to a hard-to-find location. But if you're a
Christian, you are already on an all-important adventure. God the Father has invited
you to come to him. James says, "Draw close to God, and God will draw close to you"
(4:8). The Father invites you to enjoy a close relationship with him right now. Your
life's destination, in fact, is God. He's the one you want to find.
But how do you get to him? Who can show you the way? Can you get to God
without Jesus? No way. Not even close. Without Christ you can't get there from here,
because to know the Father, you have to know the Son. To love the Father, you have
to love Jesus Christ. To serve the Father, you have to serve Christ.
HOW WOULD YOU feel if someone said to you, "You're so much like your dad!"? It
all depends on what your dad is like, right? If Dad has movie-star looks and Nobel
prize-winning brains, you might pat yourself on the back because people think
you're like him. But if he's like most dads-wiry hairs sprouting from his ears-you
might hope you're not like him, at least not in that way. any statements below
that describe how you are alike. (If you prefer, compare yourself to your mother,
older sibling, or another relative.) Do you have .
the same eye color?
the same hair color?
the same body type and facial features?
the same basic personality traits?
the same musical and artistic talents-or lack thereof?
the same spiritual goals in life?
the same wiry hairs growing out of your ears?
the same taste in TV, movies, and music?
the same food likes and dislikes?
the same sense of humor?
If you resemble your father closely enough, even people who don't know him
will get a good idea of what he is like by looking at you.
If you asked Jesus if he was a lot like his Father, he would answer, "Absolutely!"
Jesus not only is your way to get to his Father, he also is your way to know what God
the Father is like. Jesus is "the visible image of the invisible God" (Colossians 1:15).
So the more you know about what Jesus said and did, the more you know about God.
When you see Christ's compassion for people, for example, you know God is compassionate.
Or when you read Christ's words of truth, you know God is truth. God the
Father wants you to know him.
You might not show a striking, obvious resemblance to how your dad looks or
acts or talks. But Jesus shows you exactly what God is like. Get to know the Son, and
you get to know the Father.
January 3 Ask for Something Outrageous
Bible Reading: John 14:12-14
You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, because the
work of the Son brings glory to the Father. John 14:13
DERRICK GLANCES across the cafeteria to where a girl sits with her friends. Dear
God, he prays silently, let me go out with her and I'll witness to her so much she'll for
sure want to become a Christian.
Natalie lays her hand on the exam paper she has just completed. Closing her
eyes, she prays without moving her lips. God, I don't expect a perfect paper. But
please make enough answers right to get me a B.
What's the most outrageous thing you have ever asked God for? That a twenty-pound
sack of money would spill at your feet? That the pimple growing like a third
eye in the middle of your forehead would disappear by morning? That your parents
would slip you a Ferrari for graduation-or sooner?
Jesus said we can ask him for anything. That's right, he said anything! John
14:13 says he had a good reason to extend this invitation. Jesus-our only way to the
Father and our only way to know what the Father is like-also wants to teach us to
show off God's greatness. Here's the formula:
Your prayer for anything in Christ's name
+ Christ's perfect answer to your prayer = Glory to the Father.
When we pray in Christ's name, we are asking for our requests to be fulfilled in
Christ's will. Since Jesus knows how to bring glory to God, he will answer our
prayers in his best way so that God receives the glory he deserves.
So even though you might ask Jesus to miraculously change the answers on
your exam, he knows you could grow more and bring greater glory to God by trusting
him as you study. The result? Your prayer helps you recognize that God will help
you when you study!
Jesus himself asked his Father for something outrageous, wondering aloud if he
could avoid going to the cross. But he quickly added to his request, "Yet I want your
will, not mine" (Matthew 26:39). Skipping the cross was not the Father's will, for he
wanted salvation for us.
So go ahead-ask for anything. But ask in Christ's name. If you don't get the exactanything you pray for, it's because Christ knows a better way to give God glory.
January 4 What a Way to Go!
Bible Reading: John 14:1-4
I am going to prepare a place for you I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. John 14:2-3
WHERE'S YOUR HOME? Finger? Eyebrow? Coldfoot? (Those are real towns in Tennessee,
Saskatchewan, and Alaska.) But a Christian's better-than-Worms hometown
is only a temporary residence. (Worms is in Nebraska.) It's not temporary because
you can't wait to get out of Boring (in Oregon), but because Christ is preparing a permanent
home in heaven. Paul said, "We are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus
Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior" (Philippians 3:20).
Way back in the dark days, Christian youth groups used to gather around a
large, floor-mounted acoustic instrument called a "piano" and sing a peppy little
chorus about our other "home":
This world is not my home, I'm just a-passin' through; My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.
The angels beckon me from heaven's distant shore; And I can't feel at home in this world anymore.
Where is "heaven's distant shore"? And how do you get there?
Once again Jesus Christ steps in to show you the way. Jesus is the way to the Father.
He's the way to know what the Father is like. And he's the way to bring glory to
the Father as you pray in his name. But after all this, he won't leave you stuck in this
place where at times you "can't feel at home." He won't abandon you with no hope of
finding your way to heaven. When his time is right for you-either when he returns
or the moment you die, whichever comes first-Jesus promises to take you to where
he is. He's your way to go home.
Do you realize that Jesus couldn't show you how to get home if he hadn't come
down to earth? See, you need more than a map to find your way to God. You even
need more than somebody to tell you the way. You need somebody to meet you
where you are. Jesus finds you and takes you to where you need to be. The Son of
God left his home in heaven and came into your world to show you the way home.
And he came looking for you because he loves you.
January 5 Down in Lonesome Town
Bible Reading: John 15:9-16
The greatest love is shown when people lay down their lives for their
friends. John 15:13
"I DON'T KNOW what my problem is," Tamara blurts through tears. "I have friends.
It's not like I ever have to sit alone. But I still feel lonely in a crowd. I'm not sure anyone
understands me-or wants to. Even my teachers. I think I could die and nobody
would even notice I'd left."
Making it through middle school or high school minus feelings of loneliness is
like darting through cold season without getting a runny nose. Sooner or later you're
probably going to feel like a giant drip.
Like a runny nose, lonely feelings tell you something is amuck. Loneliness might
seem like it's about popularity or looks. It's actually more about a God-given desire
to be loved and accepted. That's a deep, healthy need everyone has. When that need
goes unmet, you feel lonely.
Most folks try to get rid of loneliness in one of a couple ways.
Approach #1: Act like a worm by crawling away from the crowds. Here's how
worms think: "I'm lonely because nobody loves me. Nobody loves me because I'm
not lovable. The safest thing I can do is burrow underground. I'm never going to get
close to others." The worm approach pushes you even further from people.
Approach #2: Act like a puppy by doing anything to get people to like you.
Puppies think, "I'm lonely because nobody loves me. Nobody loves me because I'm
not trying hard enough. I'm going to get the attention of others, even if I make a fool
of myself or go against my standards." The puppy approach pushes you to do things
you later regret.
Here's a better plan for dealing with loneliness: Act like the child of God that you
are. Feeling loved and accepted starts with your relationship with Christ, who is the
only one able to meet the deepest needs of your life. Talking to Jesus and reading his
Word-the Bible-are steps to strengthening your friendship with him. He laid down
his life for you, so it's obvious that he regards you as a friend worth dying for (see
John 15:13). That's powerful comfort when you wonder if anyone cares.
God, of course, wants to help you behave better than a worm or a puppy dog-more
on that later. But your first step to crawling out of loneliness is to get close to
the God who wants to be your best friend.
January 6 A Friend in Need
Bible Reading: Proverbs 17:17
A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.
"A FRIEND knows you totally and likes you anyway."
"A friend is always there for you."
"A friend loans you money and doesn't bug you to get it back."
"A friend knows how you're feeling just by looking at you."
So how would you describe a "friend"? You might say, "Anyone I know." Or
"Only those I can share my secrets and feelings with." Huge difference? That's because
there are different levels of friendship.
Casual friendship is the first level. Casual friends are your next-locker neighbors,
other classmates, neighbors you chat with but don't know well, and perhaps
many of your teachers. (You wouldn't call all of them enemies, would you?) Anyone
you talk with qualifies as a casual friend.
Close friends are the second level of friendship. Your close friends include people
you eat lunch with, the ones you choose to sit by in class, and the ones you want
time with on weekends.
Committed friends take you to a much deeper level of friendship. These are people
you allow to see the real you. You trust them with your secrets, hurts, and joys.
Most people have a group of casual friends, fewer close friends, and just a handful of
If you have lots of casual friendships but come up short on committed friendships,
you'll feel lonely. Only on that third and deepest level of friendship are your
needs for love and acceptance truly met. It's committed friends who take away your
Some days you want to go into worm mode and inch away from everyone. But if
you get close to an inner circle of a few trusted friends, you find those friends comfort,
counsel, and challenge you. When you hurt, your committed friends might not
know what to say, but just being there for you helps. When you have to make a decision,
friends let you bounce ideas around. Sometimes their advice doesn't really help,
but just having them around gives you confidence that everything will work out.