A New Year {Encouragement for Young Men}

Written by Jonathan on . Posted in Blog, Challenging, Teen Boys, Teen Guys

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:9

2014. A brand new year. Among all the festivities of the past few weeks, I’m sure you took a few minutes to jot down a few New Year’s goals (don’t worry if you didn’t; I’m not judging). Perhaps you reviewed 2013 and all that happened. Or didn’t. Either way, what I’m about to say applies to all of us, goal makers and non-goal makers alike.

As I looked back over my 2013, one thing kept popping up in my face: All the times I failed (it’s not the happiest thought, I know). Failed to be on time, failed to keep my cool, failed to follow through on something, failed to focus on what I needed to be focusing on. Ouch. It hurt. I was feeling a little overwhelmed at trying to do better in 2014, and then I received an email from a friend.

Let me back up here. A few weeks before, someone had begun a “Bible verse email.” Basically this is where someone’s name goes on an email, it’s sent around to 20 people, and those 20 people send a Bible verse to the person named (also known as a “chain letter”). My name eventually ended up on the list and this person was sending me my verse. Except she sent the wrong verse. I did get the right text, but it had the wrong reference with it. She quoted it as coming from I John 1:9 when it was supposed to be referenced as Joshua 1:9. Being one of those people with an insatiable curiosity, I had to look up 1 John 1:9… And that’s where I felt as if I’d received a smack right in the face.

I had been so worried about wondering how not to fail in 2014, that I forgot about what Christ has done. He’s paid for our failures! And, like I John says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” It’s time to confess our failure, and to begin again. Learn from your failures of last year, then forget them. Live each day this year intentionally. Realize that choices have consequences, whether good or bad, and only you can choose whether to do the right thing or not. And most importantly, don’t view 2014 as a daunting year, but instead as a fresh start. Acknowledge what Christ has done, confess your failures, and look at 2014 as a clean slate, ready to be written on.

“The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes. Unless a particular man made New Year resolutions, he would make no resolutions. Unless a man starts afresh about things, he will certainly do nothing effective.” – G. K. Chesterton

G.K. Chesterton’s quote is brilliant picture. What are some fresh ways we can approach 2014?

What are some things you’d like to change this year in your life?

What are some of your goals for this year?


The Power to Not Turn the Other Cheek {Encouragement for Young Men}

Written by Jonathan on . Posted in Blog, Challenging, Teen Boys, Teen Guys

Somebody shared an interesting thought with me the other day. When we think of turning the other cheek, we, as young guys find that hard to accept. We think of it as weakness, and want to fight back. That’s just a passion within us that makes sense. But what if turning the other cheek shows more strength than it does weakness? What if it’s not as meaningful if the person who turns the other cheek IS weak?

Think about it. If a person doesn’t fight someone because they physically aren’t strong enough, is that any big deal? No, they don’t really have a choice. There’s no respect there. Picture however a tough, strong guy who is able to fight back, and someone slaps him on the cheek. Now he is able to fight back and could probably win against the jerk who is picking a fight. But instead he chooses not to. That demands more respect. That’s meaningful. He’s strong enough to fight back and win, and yet, he still chooses to hold himself back.

This is the very example Jesus gives us. When the soldiers were taking Him away to be crucified, we notice a couple things right off the bat. First of all, Jesus tells His disciples to go buy a sword. Don’t believe me? Look it up! (Luke 22:36) Why then a few hours later does He admonish Peter to put the sword back in his sheath when he cuts off Malchus’s ear? (John 18:10-11) The disciples ask Jesus if they should smite (Luke 22:49) with one of the two swords He told them was enough (Luke 22:38) and when Peter in an impassioned frenzy goes for the closest guy’s head (who ducks left, so that Peter accidentally lops off his right ear), Jesus tells him to put his sword back in his place, for all who take the sword will perish with the sword (Matthew 26:52). Then, to add incense to injury, Jesus touches the guy’s ear, and heals it! (Luke 22:51) Why wouldn’t Jesus let His disciples, who had a small ability to defend Him with their two swords use it? It was partially for their own safety (John 18:8-9), but there was also a deeper reason. He chose not to defend Himself. Look what He tells Peter after telling him to put away his sword: “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53) He then turns to the soldiers and upbraids them for their cowardice but says it must be this way to fulfill the scriptures (Mark 14:48-49). Jesus was communicating that if He wanted to, He could stop what was happening. We know He had power because when all He did was say “I am after the soldiers said they were looking for Jesus, they all fell backwards (John 18:4-6). He could have stopped them if He wanted to. He had the ability to defend Himself. What we see here is that nobody took His life from Him…He laid it down willingly (John 10:18). I’m glad for that. It means the Jesus I serve isn’t the weak, sissified Jesus some would make Him out to be. He is strong and mighty and powerful. So strong that He was able to lay down His life to save us.

So when you see the command to turn the other cheek, know that it doesn’t mean you’re supposed to keep yourself weak and not get strong enough to defend righteousness, your family, the weak, the underprivileged and helpless. It’s not a command for the weak. It takes strength to do what Jesus did and not hot headedly defend your own pride. It means so much more when you willingly turn the other cheek when you have the ability not to.


How does this change the way that you think about Jesus and His life on earth?

How can you apply this concept in your own life?  

Have you ever found yourself going between the two extremes of hotheadedness and irresponsibility?

What are ways that you can strengthen yourself, spiritually and physically?

Can you think of a time in which you showed greater strength in holding back rather than exacting vengeance?

Gird Up Your Loins Like a Man! {Encouragement for Young Men}

Written by Jonathan on . Posted in Blog, Challenging, Teen Guys

As I’ve read the Bible, I’ve come across an interesting and awkward sounding phrase. Look at these two verses:

1 Peter 1:13 “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;”

Luke 12:35  “Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning;”

“Gird up your loins.” O.O

Of course, I’m looking at the old-fashioned, Old English, sometimes-weirdly-worded King James version when I see that phrase. Other translations say things like this:

“Be ready!”  “Stay dressed for action!” “You must keep your belts fashioned.” “Be ready for action!”

So why put the uncomfortable phrase “gird your loins” in this blog post? Because that’s what we as young men need to do if we aren’t going to be spiritual sissies! Let me explain.

In biblical times everybody would wear robes. But as you can imagine, whenever a man was doing physical activity like working, running, or fighting in battle, the loose hanging robe around his ankles had the potential to get in his way. Therefore men would wear a special kind of belt called a girdle (which now has an unfortunate connotation in our minds so I’m just going to call it a belt ha!) that once wrapped around their waist, there was enough slack to pull the remaining section of the belt in between their legs to pin up the loose folds of the robe to create the effect of shorts or pants. They would do this to be ready for physical action if they were expecting a battle (Deuteronomy 1:41) or if they were going to need to run (1 Kings 18:46). It was associated with being a man, especially one who is ready for war. Many belts were also used to carry weapons and water into the battle (Judges 3:16; 1 Samuel 25:13). A girdle or “war belt” (which sounds way cooler) was a prized possession (1 Samuel 18:4; 2 Samuel 18:11). Without girding your loins you would be tripping over your own clothing and would be an easy, unprepared, and ill-fitted target.

That’s why God sometimes told His prophets to gird their loins like men! (Job 38:3; Jeremiah 1:17) It’s also why He commands us to “Stand therefore having your loins girt about with truth and having on the breastplate of righteousness!” (Ephesians 6:14) He wants His men to be ready for battle! We need to be prepared because our soul, the souls of those around us, and the very truth itself will be attacked and we are the ones to defend it! Don’t run away from the fight like a sissy! Be ready for battle! Gird up your loins like man and let’s fight for the faith together!

Do you feel lethargic or sense a battle around us?
Are you prepared to stand against the onslaught against truth our culture bombards us with in the mediaschools and entertainment?
How does one prepare himself for a spiritual battle
Are you prepared with the truth to answer questions your friends might pose to you about God? (1 Peter 3:15)
Read Jude 1:3. What are ways we can earnestly contend for the faith?

Other reference verses to look up: Exodus 12:11; Exodus 29:9; 1 Samuel 25:13; 1 Kings 18:46; 2 Kings 4:29; 2 Kings 9:1; Job 38:3; Job 40:7; Psalm 45:3; Proverbs 31:17; Isaiah 5:27; Isaiah 11:5; Acts 12:8.

A Bright Path {Encouragement for Young Men}

Written by Jonathan on . Posted in Blog, Challenging, Teen Guys

A Bright Path


“But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day.” – Proverbs 4:18


This past weekend my family and I went camping with friends. One night I was walking back to our campsite, loaded down with my guitar and food for dinner, using my phone as a flashlight to watch out for cactus or stray rocks. As I made my way down the path, inky-darkness surrounded me and my little flashlight. I couldn’t see to the right, I couldn’t see to the left, and I couldn’t see more than five feet in front of me. And then it hit me: this path was like life! So often we’re walking the path of life; we don’t know what is in front of us, or what surrounds us. There are rocks and cactus and trees that we could step on or bump into. We don’t know what’s coming in the next year, or the next month, or even the next day (James 4:13-17 is a great passage about this)! However, what we do know is that God will illuminate each step we take, and tells us “I will keep you safe. Just trust me.” Through his Word, God reveals to us how he wants us to behave in life. When we act according to his commands, the burden we have of knowing what is coming down the road is taken off our shoulders. Just like my little flashlight showed me if there was anything to avoid stepping on in my path, we can know that God will light up our path in life, directing us where we should go with each step we take.

Where does your path seem dim?  
Are you willing to trust Him that He will make it clear in His time?  
Are you listening attentively enough to know?


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