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Good News Publishers 1300 Crescent Street Wheaton, IL 60187 For helpful Christian literature, please write to the address above or visit our website at www.goodnewspublishers.org. Bible References: ESV.

rowing in

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by Christin Ditchfield

© 2004 Good News Publishers. Printed in U.S.A. Illustration: David LaPlaca, Design: Liita Forsyth

to an end. But our adventure will continue in Heaven—a place so wonderful that no words can describe it (1 Corinthians 2:9). There we will see God face to face. We will finally know Him the way He knows us (1 Corinthians 13:12). And we will live with Him forever and ever. The Bible sometimes compares growing in God to running in a race—with Heaven as the finish line. “Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). Are you ready to join this “race” of faith? Okay. On your mark. Get set. Grow!

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Are You Growing in God? “ Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught.” Colossians 2:6-7 Soooo . . . you prayed and asked Jesus to forgive your sins. You invited Him to come and live in your heart. Congratulations! You are now a Christian—a disciple, or follower, of Jesus Christ. You have become a child of God. Now it’s time to get to know God better and grow in your relationship with him. Growing in God is not very different from growing up as a human being. You began your life as a tiny little baby. You didn’t know anything about the world around you. You couldn’t do anything for yourself. You had to learn how to walk and talk and eat and play. You’re growing up even faster now, getting bigger every day, and learning new things all the time. One day soon you will be an adult. 2

The same thing happens to your faith in Jesus. Right now you are a “baby” Christian—you have a lot to learn! But little by little, day by day, you will grow. You will learn more about what it means to be a Christian and how to live a life that pleases God. One day you will be a “grown-up” Christian—a mature believer—and you’ll be able to do great things for God.

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This booklet will tell you how to grow in God: the things you can do right now that will help you draw closer to Him. There are all kinds of ideas and suggestions inside. Most of them come right from the Word of God itself—the Bible. Sometimes you’ll see Scriptures listed in parentheses like this: ( ) Look up the verses if you want to read them for yourself, or use the special sections called “To Find Out More.” Now here is how you can Grow in God . . .

1. READ the Bible! “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105

why He created all of us. The Bible teaches us right from wrong and shows us how to live in a way that pleases God. It introduces us to Jesus—our Savior—God’s one and only Son. Sixty-six books make up the Bible. They are divided into two sections: the Old Testament and the New Testament. Some books tell us the stories of heroes of our faith: men and women who lived for God and did great things for Him. Others are filled with poetry, prayers, and proverbs—words of advice and instruction. Still others contain prophecies, special messages from God to His people. The stories about Jesus begin in the New Testament.

The best way to get to know God is to read the Bible. Every word, every verse, every chapter was inspired by God Himself. Someone once said the Bible is God’s love letter to us. The Bible explains who God is and what He is like. It tells us how He created the world and 4

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There are many ways to study the Bible. You can start at the beginning and read straight through, from Genesis to Revelation. If you were to read four chapters a day, you would finish in about a year or so. (If you could read nonstop—without eating or sleeping or taking a break—you could do it in 78 hours!) Or you might choose to study one particular book at a time. Many new Christians begin by reading the Gospel of John. You can also look up verses throughout the Bible on a specific subject, such as “courage” or “friendship” or “peace.” Most Bibles have a concordance, or index, at the back that will help you find the verses you are looking for. You may also use a Bible study guide or workbook. Whenever you finish a paragraph or chapter, review what you have read. See if you can answer the five W’s and an H: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How. Ask God to help you understand these Scriptures and learn something from what you have read. You might want to write your thoughts down in a notebook or journal. 6

Memorize Bible verses that are meaningful to you, verses that encourage you or challenge you. a Copy verses onto sticky notes. Put them where you will see them often—around your bedroom or on the bathroom mirror.

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a Make

your own flashcards. Practice saying each verse first thing in the morning, on the way to school, or before you go to bed at night. a Sing the words as a song. Use a familiar tune like “Pop Goes the Weasel” or “London Bridge Is Falling Down,” or make up your very own. a Ask a parent or friend to test you. See if you can say the verse and the reference (title of the book, chapter, and verse) without any help.

Prayer is talking to God. God is the best friend you could ever have. You can share all of your thoughts and feelings with God, because

He understands. He always has time to listen. He always cares (1 Peter 5:7). Whenever you want to talk to Him, you can! You can pray anytime or anyplace. You may want to pray silently or out loud—with your eyes open or shut. You might say prayers you have learned at church or memorized from the Bible. Or you can choose to pray in your own words. It’s a good idea to set aside at least one special time to pray each day (maybe before or after you read your Bible). Praise God for who He is—how good and kind and loving He has been. Confess your sins to Him: admit your mistakes. Tell God that you are sorry and pray for His forgiveness. Ask God for what you need. Bring all of your problems to Him. Pray for your friends and family and others in need. Thank God for listening to your prayers—and answering them! God answers prayers in all kinds of ways. It may not always be the way that we expect! Sometimes God performs miracles— and sometimes He works through “ordinary” circumstances. God may speak to us through

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To Find Out More: Read Psalm 119:9, 11, Deuteronomy 6:6, and 2 Timothy 3:16.

2. TALK to God! “Pray without ceasing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17


our parents or pastor or friends. He might lead us to a verse in the Bible that will help us. The Bible tells us God always answers prayer. Sometimes He says, “Yes.” Sometimes He says, “Wait.” And sometimes He says, “No.” You see, God is not only our best friend, He is our Heavenly Father. Like any good parent, He provides for us and He protects us. He knows what is best for us. Often He sends us what we really need—even if it’s not what we think we want. No matter what His answer is, we can trust Him completely. He will always give us His very best (Matthew 7:11). You may want to keep a prayer journal—a notebook in which you write out your prayers, like letters to God. You can decorate your journal with your own artwork or stickers or photos. You could put together a prayer poster, with photos of your friends and family, neighbors, classmates and teachers, missionaries, world leaders. Then pray for each person as you look at his or her picture. Or write their names on a file card, a strip

of construction paper, or a piece of poster board. Use it as a bookmark and keep it in your Bible. Sometimes it helps to make a list of specific things you are praying about (a sick friend, a problem at school, a neighbor who needs a new job). Leave some space next to each request. Later you can write down how and when God answered that prayer. Be sure to thank Him!

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To Find Out More: Read Luke 11:9, Mark 11:24, and Philippians 4:6.


3. TELL Others the Good News! “But in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” 1 Peter 3:15 A witness is a person who tells others what he or she has seen. Jesus says that we are His “witnesses” (Acts 1:8). He wants us to tell others about Him so that they can know Him, too. They need to hear the good news: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Some people witness by becoming missionaries. They travel to foreign countries and faraway places to tell people about Jesus. Some become pastors, preachers, and Bible teachers in their communities. Others simply share the good news with everyone they meet—at the grocery store, in the neigh12

borhood, at work or at school. You don’t have to wait until you’re a grownup to be a witness. There are many ways you can share your faith in Jesus Christ right now! Ask God to show you how and who He would like you to witness to. Here are a few ideas to get you started: a Invite your friends and neighbors to come to church with you or attend a Christian play or concert. a Share how you met Jesus and how it has changed your life—what it feels like to have Him living in your heart.

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a Give

out tracts—little booklets like this one that explain how to become a Christian. One of the most important ways to witness to others is to show them that God loves them—by loving them ourselves. If we set a good example and treat others with kindness and respect, they will see Jesus in us. His light will shine through us and help them see the Truth.

To Find Out More: Read Matthew 5:14-16, Mark 5:19, and Psalm 71:14-18.

A salvation bracelet is a fun way to share your faith with your friends. All you need is some twine or string and a few colored craft beads. When your friends comment on your bracelet, you can tell them that: a Black is for the sin, or disobedience to God, that is in all of our hearts. (Romans 3:23) a Red is for the blood Jesus shed when He died on the cross to take the punishment for sin in our place. (Romans 5:8) 14

a White

is how our hearts look when our sins are washed away and we have been forgiven. (Psalm 51:7, Acts 3:19) a Blue is for baptism. The Bible tells us to be baptized as an outward symbol of what has taken place inside our hearts. (Matthew 28:19) a Green is for growing in God—getting to know Him more and more each day. (2 Peter 3:18) a Gold is for Heaven. Because our sins have been forgiven, we can live with God forever and ever in the most beautiful paradise. (Revelation 21:1-3)

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4. GO to Church! “Encourage one another and build one another up.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 The Bible tells us that when we give our hearts to Jesus, we join the family of God. We become God’s children (1 John 3:1). Spending time with our Christian “brothers” and “sisters” helps us to grow in our faith. The simplest way to get together with other believers is to go to church. At church, we worship God together. We pray together. We study the Bible together. We are reminded to put God first and make choices that honor Him. Every believer is an important part of God’s family. God has given each of us our own unique gifts and talents (1 Corinthians 12:1-31). He wants us to use these gifts and talents to encourage each other—and help each other. Together we can comfort those who are sad or hurting inside. We can work to find solutions to our problems. We can celebrate miracles and answers to prayer. 16

Here are some ways you can get together with other Christians: a Go to church services with your family or friends. a Join a Sunday school class or small-group Bible study. a Find a Christian youth group that meets at your church or in your community (Youth for Christ, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, etc.). a Sign up for a church-sponsored camping trip, missions trip, Christian concert, or retreat. a Participate in Bible clubs and “See You at the Pole” events at your school. a Start your own Bible study or prayer group with a few friends who share your heart for God. Try to meet on a weekly or monthly basis.

To Find Out More: Read Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, Proverbs 27:17, and Hebrews 10:25.

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5. GIVE Back to God! “You received without paying; give without pay.” Matthew 10:8 When we think about how much God has done for us, and all that He has given us, we naturally want to give thanks. And give back. One way that we can give back to God is to give money to those who are doing God’s work. When we regularly set aside a certain amount of money to give to our local church, it is called a “tithe” or “offering.” We may also choose to give to missionaries or to groups that reach out to the poor and needy. Jesus said that the size of our gift is not nearly as important as the attitude of our hearts (Luke 21:1-4). God can multiply even the smallest gift and use it to bless thousands of people (Luke 9:10-17). Here are other ways you can give back: a Donate canned goods to food pantries that feed the hungry; give toys you no longer play with or clothes you’ve outgrown to homeless 18

shelters and community care groups. sick and lonely people in hospitals and nursing homes. a Organize a bake sale or garage sale or recycling drive to raise money for an important cause. a Volunteer to help with special projects at your church or community center; shovel a snowy sidewalk for an elderly neighbor; babysit for a busy mom. a Visit

To Find Out More: Read Hebrews 13:16, 2 Corinthians 9:6-7, 13, and Romans 12:13.

Growing in God is not something that happens overnight. It takes time. Do you know what makes it so exciting? No matter how old we get or how long we live a Christian life, we will never know all there is to know. We will never get to the end of God. There is always something more to learn. Something new to discover. It’s an incredible adventure—the adventure of a lifetime! One day, our time on this earth will come 19


Growing in God