An imprint of Anglican Youthworks PO Box A287 Sydney South NSW 1235 Australia Ph: +61 2 8268 3344 Fax: +61 2 8268 3357 Email: email@example.com Website: fervr.net Published December 2016 Copyright © Anglican Youthworks This book is copyright. Apart from fair dealing for the purposes of private study, research, criticism and review as permitted under the Copyright Act, no part of this book may be reproduced by any process without the express permission of the publisher. Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission. NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION® and NIV® are registered trademarks of Biblica, Inc. Use of either trademark for the offering of goods or services requires the prior written consent of Biblica US, Inc. National Library of Australia ISBN 978-1-925041-97-2 Editor: Richard Beeston Project manager: Natasha Percy Theological editor: Loren Becroft Cover illustration: Shutterstock.com Typesetting: Andrew Hope
CONTENTS Introduction Richard Beeston vii
FAITH 1 What are God and Jesus like? 2 Jesus: The unexpected winner Jill Richardson 2 God: Bigger than you can imagine Mike Everett 3 The Trinity: H20, egg or triangle? Ronnie Campbell 5 How do I talk to God? 9 What is prayer and how do I pray? Greg Burke 9 Getting started with prayer Edward Sowden 11 Practical prayer tips Tara Sing 13 How does God communicate with me? 16 Four ways to hear God speak through the Bible Allison Redd 16 Kickstart your Bible reading Mitch Miller 20 How do I tell my friends about Jesus? 23 A life or death situation Samuel Mills 23 Ten discussion starters for conversations about God 25 Fervr writing team What can I do about sin? 28 Fighting the good fight Dave Miers 28 Three ways to fight the good fight Dave Miers 30
What if I doubt my faith? 33 Is it OK to have doubts? Ronnie Campbell 33 Understanding and defeating doubt Ronnie Campbell 36 How do I trust God when life gets tough? 42 Four things to remember when you are suffering Alex Greaves 42 Finding hope in hard times Deborah Spooner 44
CHURCH 49 How do I find a good church? God wants you … at church! Jill Richardson How can I find the right church? Fervr writing team/Christianity.net.au
50 50 52
What happens at church? 55 Why do Christians sing at church? Samuel Mills 55 What’s the deal with creeds? Joel A Moroney 57 What if I find sermons really boring? Joel A Moroney 60 Church is better when you get involved Duncan Robinson 61 Seven reasons to skip youth group this week … and the 63 flaw in all of them Mark Boyd
LIFE 67 Are Christians allowed to date? 68 Dating with a purpose Kristen Young 68 Dating with a future Kristen Young 71 Are you ready to start dating? Alex Greaves 73
How can I have good friendships? 77 Why God hates gossip Jason Fischer/Fervr writing team 77 How to be a seriously great friend Dave Miers 80 When friendships fail Cecily Paterson 82 How to cope with peer pressure Elisabeth Carter 85 How can I have a good relationship with my family? 88 Do everything without complaining Mike Everett 88 Should I go to church if my parents don’t want me to? 89 Jason Fischer/Fervr writing team What should a Christian look like at home? Mitch Miller 92 How should I be a Christian at school? 95 Stop trying to be cool Richard Beeston 95 Five ways to make an impact for Christ at school Tonika Reed 96 What should I do with my money? 100 Six steps to using money God’s way Tara Sing 100 Are you being generous with your money? Edward Sowden 103 What do Christians think about alcohol and drugs? 106 Is it OK for young Christians to drink alcohol? Andy Judd 106 Can Christians take drugs? Elisabeth Carter 108 Is it OK for Christians to smoke? 110 Fervr writing team/Christianity.net.au How should I use technology? 112 Getting real on social media Michael Hyam 112 Five social media guidelines for honouring God online 113 Lachlan Anderson Using technology for good Kevin Chan 116 What’s the problem with pornography? Matt Jacobs 117
What if I’m not feeling good? 122 Understanding self-harm Amy Kirkbright 122 Nine ways to help a friend through tough times Ryan Forsyth 126 How do I resist the lies of the world? 131 What God says about your body, success and beauty? 131 Faith Mazurczyk Christian girls in a sexy world Fiona Dewhurst 134
FUTURE 137 What is God’s will for my life? 138 Does your behaviour live up to God’s standards? Mike Everett 138 God’s plans for you Kristen Young 140 What if I fail my exams? Kristen Young 141 What should I do after I finish school? 145 What is your goal in life? Nicky Gangemi 145 What should I do when I leave school? Richard Beeston 147 What school subjects should I choose if I want to go 148 into ministry? Michael Dicker Four steps to making godly decisions Michael Dicker 151
INTRODUCTION What kind of life does God want me to live? And how should I act as a Christian at home, at school, at church, in relationships, and with my friends? These are just a few of the big questions we’ll help you answer in Unshakable. It’s so exciting that through Jesus, we can have a relationship with the creator of the universe. But that doesn’t mean it’s always easy to follow Jesus! In fact, a lot of the time, living as a Christian—especially when you’re young—can be challenging and confusing. That’s why we created this book! What’s inside Unshakable? The articles in this book are taken from our website, fervr.net, which contains thousands of practical and biblical articles on how to live for Jesus every day. Over four sections, we share answers to some of your biggest questions, so you can develop an unshakable faith and stand firm for Christ now and in the future. Faith Discover the foundations of being a Christian, explore what the Bible says about God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and learn how to deal with doubts. Church Turn here for answers to your questions about church, youth group and Bible study, and see why meeting and growing with other Christians is one of the most important parts of following Jesus!
Life Get real advice and practical tips as you discover what the Bible says about family, friends, sex, school, money, technology, mental health and more. Future What does God want you to do with your life today ... and for years to come? It’s time to start thinking through what your life as a Christian will look like beyond the teen years. How to read this book There are two ways you can approach reading this book. Firstly, you could start at the beginning! If you’re a new Christian, or someone who hasn’t decided whether or not to follow Jesus, then we encourage you to start with the first section, so you’ve got a good understanding of the basics of the Christian faith before going deeper. However, feel free to also flip around the book and get answers to whatever question you might be asking right now. All the chapters in this book are designed to stand alone and are written by different authors, so you’ll have no problem jumping into a topic of interest. Keep this book close by and use it to get helpful hints for Christian living whenever you need them. Don’t forget though ... There’s so much in Unshakable that will help you stand firm for Jesus and get answers to your big questions. But the real guidebook to life is God’s word, the Bible! So, why not grab a copy right now as you begin, and ask for God’s help to make the most of life in his name. Ready to dive in? Let’s get started! Richard Beeston, Editor, fervr.net
HOW SHOULD I USE TECHNOLOGY? GETTING REAL ON SOCIAL MEDIA Michael Hyam I have always had a love–hate relationship with Facebook. Facebook is great for lots of reasons. It helps me to keep connected with friends and family that I don’t get to see very often. It provides some great entertainment and it can be even better for gospel conversations. One night as I was preparing a talk, a ‘friend’ from high school started chatting to me, and the conversation turned to God and faith. I was able to answer his questions and ask him about his faith, all through chatting on Facebook. Of course there are also some downsides. The most obvious is wasting time. I could spend hours playing games, joining groups and chatting with friends. These are all good things, but in the end they’re probably not the best use of my time. Who are you online? One of the things that I really don’t like about Facebook is how people try to be, or look like, someone they’re not. One of the things that many celebrities and politicians do today is to try and manage their ‘image’. When they are with people, either chatting or having a photo taken, they want to control how all this happens. They want to be seen by people to be doing and saying the right thing. As Christians, this can be a big trap as well. We want our friends, family and even our youth pastors to think well of us. We want people to like us and, most of all, we want people to think that we are ‘good
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Christians’. On Facebook this could mean putting particular photos up for people or writing fancy status updates to impress people. What defines you? All these things reveal a deep insecurity about who we are as people. God’s word encourages us to find our security and purpose in Jesus and who we are in him. In Jesus, we are a ‘chosen people, holy and dearly loved’ (Colossians 3:12). It is at the cross that we see this love in action, as Jesus dies for us, deals with our sins, and brings us peace with God the Father and each other. Who I am as a person is not defined by Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat. It’s defined by who I am as a child of God, and what God thinks about me—he sees me as his child: loved, chosen and forgiven. So, go ahead and use whatever social networking site you like, but make sure you don’t try and be someone you’re not. Be yourself, share with others who you are as a person and who you are in Christ. And most of all, be safe. Don’t meet up with people you have never met, be careful choosing ‘friends’ or ‘followers’, and think before you post.
FIVE SOCIAL MEDIA GUIDELINES FOR HONOURING GOD ONLINE Lachlan Anderson Social media has become a massive part of most of our lives, and transformed the way we interact with one another. Although social media has many positive aspects, it also has just as many negative aspects, which we should be aware of and do our best to avoid. 1 Corinthians reminds us that we are called to live for God in all areas of our lives: So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God—even as I try to
please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. (1 Corinthians 10:31–33)
In my mind, there are five key areas that I think all Christians, myself included, should strive towards in applying this principle to their use of social media. 1. Don’t use it as your main way of socialising One of the many advantages of the internet is the ability to communicate over huge distances and maintain friendships that would otherwise have suffered. But what about interacting with those who live close by? We are created as relational beings, and there is no substitute for face-to-face interaction. We should be showing our love for our brothers and sisters by using our time to be with them in person. 2. Be yourself Sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram present us with the opportunity to show ourselves as we are: our interests, the things we did on the weekend, etc. However it’s so easy to create a version of yourself that suits the wider public appeal, to fit in. This can be especially true of teens. As James KA Smith says in an excerpt from his book Imagining the Kingdom: How Worship Works, teens are constantly aware of the things the ‘popular’ kids are doing via Facebook. In the never-ending competition for coolness, we will follow certain behaviours to fit in with that crowd. As Christians saved by the grace of God we are called to glorify him with all that we are, not with whatever it is currently cool to be. 3. Think before you post If we are to glorify God through our use of social media, we need to be actively thinking about how we are portraying our faith through our actions. I tell my youth group kids to ask themselves two simple questions before they post something: Is it loving to other people? And does it further or hinder the gospel?
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These can be applied to all of life quite easily, but in this case we as Christians really need to think before we post a status update, photo or comment. Are your tweets using loving godly language? Are your Facebook posts and photos constantly centred on you (bragging, selfies etc)? Are your photos modest in their depiction of your body? This doesn’t mean that every post needs to be a Bible verse or a deep and meaningful reflection. Rather, each post should reflect God’s love for us, his image-bearers. Remember that we are to be ourselves and if you’re someone whose trust is in Jesus then whatever you post should reflect the hope you have in him (1 Peter 3:15). 4. Think before you like/follow Much the same as what we post, the things we like or the people/pages we follow on social networking sites reveal our attitudes and convictions to those around us. Again, ask yourself: Is it loving? And does it further or hinder the gospel? In his letter to the Philippians, Paul says that they (and we) should think about things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8). This list isn’t limited to our thoughts; it’s a good standard by which to measure the things we like and follow too. Liking photos of girls or guys half naked on Instagram does not reflect God’s attitude to beauty; he is concerned with inner beauty and purity (1 Peter 3:3–4; 1 Timothy 5:1–2). Unloving jokes or bullying comments also don’t reflect what God has done for us through the death and resurrection of Jesus. These sorts of comments are out of place in the life of someone who is being made new by Jesus (Ephesians 5:4). We must be constantly thinking of the effects our social media use has on the spread of the gospel. 5. Be positive Social media should never a place to grumble or complain.
The Apostle Paul says that we should ‘do everything without complaining or arguing’ (Philippians 2:14). Jesus himself exhorts us to show God’s love in our sinful world so that people might know we are his disciples by the way we treat each other (John 13:34–35). If you keep it positive and loving, people will notice your outlook and see the effects of God’s grace in your life. If you need to vent because of a hard day, talk to a close friend about it in person. As Proverbs says: ‘A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity’ (Proverbs 17:17). Even better, talk to God—he’s a better listener than any human (Philippians 4:6–7).
USING TECHNOLOGY FOR GOOD Kevin Chan I thought about this topic the other day at work. Thirty seconds earlier, I had sent an instant message to a colleague sitting barely five metres away, instead of walking over to her. At my desk, I’m surrounded by gadgets. I’m typing on my laptop, which allows me to work around the clock. My smartphone has an inbuilt GPS, so I never need to stop and look at a map, a phone for all those work calls, WiFi to connect to wireless hotspots, and a camera. I have another mobile for personal calls. My iPod is nearby, to drown out the noise when I want to. Email’s constantly being checked in the background. Later I might update Facebook with another witty status message. We live in a connected world. Sometimes I’ll pick up my phone and marvel at the fact that I can speak to someone on the other side of the planet instantaneously. They call it the ‘information age’—the world of online banking, eBay, MP3s, blogs, YouTube and more. But have you ever wondered: is all this technology necessarily a good thing? We’re always wanting to be entertained, always consuming information. If you believe the news, there are more and more cases of ADHD. Life is
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fast-paced, leading to people feeling burnt out, overwhelmed, and depressed. People spend hours each day playing games in their pyjamas. Increasingly, you hear of people breaking up via text or email. Interestingly, one of the earliest descriptions of technology in the Bible occurs in Genesis 11. The people wanted to make a name for themselves (i.e. they wanted to be like God), and built the city and tower of Babel. God saw that they were too proud and arrogant, and punished them by scattering the people and confusing their language. Now, I love technological stuff, and there are many good uses for it. We can even use it to spread God’s word to a greater audience than ever possible in the past. But I think that, like a lot of things, it’s how we use technology that matters. For example, there’s nothing wrong with being entertained. But, we should never let technology become the master over us. If you find yourself on Facebook, or playing PS3/XBox/Wii every day after school for hours, maybe it’s time to think: who is your master? On the other hand, can you think of good ways to use technology for the sake of the gospel?
WHAT’S THE PROBLEM WITH PORNOGRAPHY? Matt Jacobs When it comes to thinking about how to live as a Christian, pornography is one of the big issues and temptations that just about every Christian will face. If you’ve gone to a church or a youth group for any amount of time, you’ve probably heard this topic come up in talks or Bible studies. And it’s awkward when it does. And everyone feels a little bit embarrassed. But why is pornography seen as such a bad thing? Are Christians really against something as good as sex?
A problem for guys and girls Pornography (and ultimately any form of ‘media’ such as billboard ads, books, art, music and things like that) tells a story about what it means to be human. The story that pornography tells is that people like sex. We find other people attractive, and the thought of being intimate is alluring. But pornography has a stronger message still, a message about what it means to be male and female. When we think about this, we’ll see that pornography is devastating and destructive. Rather than just being an issue of lust and disobedience, pornography is evil, because of its message about male and female. But before we think about that, we need a good foundation. So it’s helpful to stop and think about what the Bible says about being male and female. A really good place to start is Genesis 1–3. How God views people In Genesis 1, we read about God creating man and woman (verses 26–27), together as bearers of his image and likeness. Man and woman together are equally given the dignity and honour of being God’s image-bearers. One is not more in the image of God than the other; they are both equal in their status as image-bearers of God. You could even say that it’s together, as they relate to one another, that they reflect what God is like: a social, relational God. In Genesis 2, the story focuses more on people and their role in the world. The man is made to cultivate the garden, yet it’s not good for the man to do this alone. So the woman is made as a companion to the man; the woman is not made for the man’s entertainment, nor is she primarily made to make the man happy: she’s made to work alongside him as his partner. However, the man and woman are not exactly the same. They complement one another. A big part of their role in creation is to make family—if man and woman were the same, then making family wouldn’t work. And the creation of family comes about from their union of love. As these two image-bearers of God—different from one another, but complementing each other—enjoy their union of love, a family is created.
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In Genesis 3, we learn about sin, and we see what sin does to the relationship between the man and woman. When confronted with sin, the man blames the woman (and God for making her) and the woman blames the serpent for deceiving her. As a part of God’s judgement, he says that man and woman would fight for dominance, but that ultimately, men would rule over women (Genesis 3:16). So the Bible’s message about male and female is that we are both God’s image-bearers. We are both given the dignity and honour of being made in God’s image. We both share the role of ruling over God’s creation and making families together. However, an effect of sin is that our relationships are strained and damaged, and now there is a constant fight for power and dominance, a fight that men often win, resulting in the oppression of women. Valuing each other Bearing this richer understanding of male and female in mind—equal in value and status of being made in the image of God—we’re able to think more critically about pornography. The overwhelming story of porn is that sex exists for entertainment, and filming it is a good way to make money online. Porn is all about making money. Taking what is meant to be a loving union, having actors perform in front of cameras, and then selling the footage for profit. This isn’t a loving union anymore; it’s just acting. This is destructive and evil because it takes a good thing God has given to husbands and wives, and turns it into entertainment for the sake of turning a profit. Worse than that, there are many forms of pornography that depict women as existing only for the purpose of pleasing men; women are to meet men’s sexual demands no matter how demeaning it becomes for them. Say mean things to her, do terrible things to her. It doesn’t matter, as long as it sells. This is so wrong, because pornography takes away from a woman what God has given to her: her equal status as a bearer of God’s image. It degrades her from being ‘created in God’s image’ and makes her a ‘created thing to be
ruled over’. Porn is destructive and evil because it elevates a man’s status; man is not as an equal bearer of God’s image, but a little god himself, who can do what he wants to his woman. This makes women slaves to men. Slavery is not equality, or companionship, or even humanity. Slavery is dehumanising; she is a slave to a man’s desires, for the purpose of selling page views on a website. And that makes it repulsive. That should turn arousal into disgust. Do you struggle with the temptation to watch porn? There are stacks of great resources to help you give it up. Check out books by Patricia Weerakoon, and others, like Captured by a Better Vision by Tim Chester; Google ‘Fight the New Drug’, and read their research; better still (and this one takes guts), have a chat with an older Christian of the same gender whom you respect. The goal of saying ‘no’ to porn is not just to break a bad habit, but to grow a deeper understanding of God, what it means to be made in his image, and what it means to relate to other people as image-bearers of God. Therefore, grow a greater hatred of anything that dehumanises other humans, and a greater appreciation and understanding of Jesus as the ultimate human and of his ultimate expression of love for us: one that gives life and freedom—not one that takes and enslaves.
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WANT TO READ MORE? Here are some extra resources that can help you to think more deeply about technology.
Samuel Mills, ‘Four reasons not to pirate’, fervr.net, August 13, 2015, http://fervr.net/entertainment/four-reasons-not-to-pirate
Tim Chester, Will You Be My Facebook Friend?, 2013, 10Publishing, Leyland.