Critical Issues. Absolute Answers.

Critical Issues. Absolute Answers.

by Thomas Nelson

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Compiled by youth leader Jay Strack, this book is a contemporary resource solidly based in Scripture that parents and youth leaders can use to answer the tough questions teens have about life. 

Today’s teens are coming of age in a broken, fallen world. The rise of technology has brought new problems that previous generations have never faced—problems that parents may have a hard time helping their teen through. 

Compiled by trusted youth leader Dr. Jay Strack, this book contains essays written by forty youth leaders and ministers across the nation on eighty topics that kids in their youth groups asked for guidance on. Each entry is solidly based in Scripture and answers questions that teens have on a variety of topics, such as: toxic relationships, cyber bullying, failure, depression, media influence, human trafficking, and more. 

A free 11-week facilitator’s guide is available online, making this an easy-to-use resource for youth leaders.

Features & Benefits:

  • Questions drawn from those actually asked by teens
  • Perfect for personal use by teens or as a resource by parents
  • Great purchase for ministries to use with youth groups
  • Answers written by trusted, experienced youth ministers and compiled by Dr. Jay Strack
  • Free 11-week facilitator’s guide easily transitions this book from personal use to small group use

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780529102171
Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date: 07/14/2014
Sold by: HarperCollins Publishing
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 272
File size: 4 MB
Age Range: 13 - 18 Years

Read an Excerpt

Critical Issues Absolute Answers

Solutions for Students

By Jay Strack

Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2013 Thomas Nelson
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-529-10217-1



Pursuing Christlikeness

Finding Your Pace

BROOKE COONEY Calvary Baptist Church, Clearwater, FL

At some point during every semester in elementary school, we were given the President's Physical Fitness Test. Every time I anxiously awaited my turn, and every time I hoped that this run would be different. As an asthmatic, I actually hoped that not every lap would end with my dropping out early, gasping for air while inhaling a few puffs of my inhaler, and subsequently receiving comfort from the teacher. (Yes, that was embarrassing.) I never did complete one physical fitness test at a sprint, so I effectively labeled myself "not a runner" and avoided running altogether.

Now, a few decades later, I run 5Ks weekly. What changed? Well, as I have grown, the signs of asthma have primarily diminished. I started running short spurts with friends. Over time I gained confidence that I could set and meet my next running goal. I was spurred on by my husband and motivated by friends' successes.

Developing a godly character is much like training to run a race. Virtuous character is formed one deliberate and obedient step at a time. Even dramatic conversions to Christianity, like Paul's, result in Christlike character only with discipline and obedience to the Scriptures.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24–27 ESV)

Paul, like us, had the opportunity to make ungodly, unwise decisions that would be pleasurable or lucrative in the moment but potentially have devastating consequences for generations to come. Our obedience and our disobedience will either profit us or cost us, as well as all the people we influence. So Paul resolved to discipline his body and be master over it lest he weaken both his communion with God and his witness. He chose to pursue godly character for the furtherance of the gospel and the growth of his relationship with Christ. Paul did not become a pillar of the faith at his point of conversion, but as he lived in obedience to Christ's commands.

In contrast to Paul is Samson. Although Samson was called and anointed by God, his life illustrates the cost of being trapped by temporary pleasures and neglecting character development (Judges 13:5; 16). Samson was physically strong but tragically weak in self-discipline, unable to overcome both his temper and his desire for beautiful women. Samson's lust cost him his sight, his freedom, his life. He was physically strengthened by the Holy Spirit to carry out God's will against His enemies, but Samson did not pursue strength of character. He did not clear the hurdle of lust, that part of him that said, "I want that—and I want it now!"

Samson's downfall was beautiful women, but it can easily be money, status, or power. Giving in to the voracious hunger of our sinful heart will cost us our freedom (Romans 6:6–7). So how do we lay off the sin that clings to us (Hebrews 12:1) and instead pursue a Christlike character? Running that race takes the daily renewal of our minds through the Word, prayer, and fellowship with believers.

Christlike character develops with exposure to the Word of God:

How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! ... I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I set your rules before me. I cling to your testimonies, O Lord; let me not be put to shame! I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart! (Psalm 119:9-10, 30–32 ESV)

Knowing God's Word and following His commandments will build our character and strengthen our spiritual muscles so we avoid becoming prey for the devil. Just as lions pursue the weakest of their targeted prey, we are easy targets for the pseudo-lion, the devil (1 Peter 5:8), when we neglect character development, when we don't make time for the reading, study, and memorization of Scripture. When we pore over God's Word daily, though, we pace ourselves with the Alpha Lion, the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Revelation 5:5).

Prayer is the next step. We should pray about our moral weaknesses, first acknowledging them before God and then seeking His strength and His truth. Christ, the Word made flesh, was diligent in prayer up to the very hour when He was betrayed. Fully God and fully man, Jesus knew what obedience would cost Him, yet still He prayed for God's will to be done (Luke 22:39–46).

Finally, character is influenced by the company we keep. Growing spiritually in a youth group and finding adult leaders to mentor and encourage faithfulness to God is key to running a good race. We find encouragement to stay the course of Christ in His body, the church (Hebrews 10:24–25). We need to avoid making excuses about how running the race with others slows us down.

These days I look forward to running. I didn't start with any real desire For the utmost pursuit of Christlike character, we must press on. I>l to run, but with time and training, I now run with both perseverance and pleasure. For the utmost pursuit of Christlike character, we must press on. We must forget the failures and the successes of the past and run with obedient perseverance the race marked out for today (Hebrews 12:1–3). When we do so, we will look back at the end of our lives and see that running the race in obedience to Christ resulted in godly character that brought Him glory.

Perfectionism >

Living in a World That Demands Perfection

JEREMY NOTTINGHAM First Baptist Church, Broken Arrow, OK

Coaches want touchdowns, goals, and home runs. Teachers want As and 4.0s. Band directors want to win national band competitions. Colleges want perfect ACT scores and tons of extracurricular activities. Parents want scholarships. Employers want lots of effort. Youth pastors want commitment to church events and godly lifestyles. When did the life of a teenager become so busy, demanding, and challenging? Do you ever just want to scream? The demands have continued to mount over the years, and they show no signs of letting up. In fact, it appears that the only way to make it in life is to fall in step with every demand and do whatever it takes.

Practice makes perfect is what students have always been told. We pretty much realize that perfection is impossible, but—and I'm not telling you anything you don't already know—teens are forced to pursue perfection like never before. Some of you have band practice or football practice for hours in the killer heat of August. It has become a job to many of you, and your love for the music or the game slowly fades as you pursue your goal of perfection. Others of you stay up late working on homework trying to keep your GPA up so you can get into a good college—or any college, for that matter! Colleges have put the pressure on potential students because of limited space. So the pursuit of high ACT scores to land the right school and a good scholarship has meant an increase in the academic workload.

The danger we find in this fast-paced and demanding lifestyle is the breakdown of a teenager's spiritual life. Unfortunately, because of the craziness of schedules and demands, you young people often have to let something go. Usually, when the pressure mounts, the spiritual life will be the first to go. After all, you teenagers generally don't get graded on how you're doing spiritually, and colleges aren't asking how many quiet times you had in the past year. So the pressure to be perfect in academics, sports, and fine arts is, in my opinion, one of the leading causes in the spiritual decline on an individual and national basis.

Thom S. Rainer and Jess W. Rainer have taken a careful look at your Millennial generation. Today's teens are on the back end of this generation, but the Rainers have great insight into the spirituality of this group. Their research unveiled sobering statistics: "The shocking reality for us is that only 13 percent of the Millennials considered any type of spirituality to be important in their lives." If the pressure and priorities don't change, this astounding and frightening statistic will only get worse. The Rainers also learned that when Millennials were asked if Jesus was the only way to heaven, "only 31 percent strongly agree with this belief. The rest have a tepid belief in the doctrine, or they disagree with it altogether." Almost three out of four in your generation do not know or believe in the truth of Jesus Christ. Adults who are coaches, teachers, parents, band directors, youth pastors, and I'm sure you can add to the list—all of us need to remember that your spiritual life is more important than where you get into school and where you could play soccer on a scholarship.

So, how can you navigate through this world of high expectations remembering that your spiritual life is more important than anything else—and living that way? Matthew 6:19–21 says, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Now, I'm not at all suggesting that you throw in the towel with either academics or athletics. Not at all! Those are extremely important, but your relationship with Christ is even more important—far more important—than these things. Colossians 3:2 says, "Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth." Every effort of study or athletics should be in an effort to bring glory to God and a pursuit of the things that matter in eternity.

So I invite you—I challenge you—to make a stand and a change. Seek Christ first in all you do and let everything else fall into place after that. Don't let the pressures of life and the demands of perfection interfere with or even derail your walk with Jesus. He must be first in everything you do, because He truly is the Fullness of Life.

Self-Esteem >

What We Should Say to Our Reflection

BROOKE COONEY Calvary Baptist Church, Clearwater, FL

You formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

—PSALM 139:13–14 ESV

As Christ followers, we say that we believe the Bible is God's inerrant Word. Yet when our stomachs are bloated, our biceps too small, our curves in all the "wrong" places, or our best is less than someone else's, we waver. At moments like those, we often choose to exchange the truth of God's Word for the lie "I am not wonderfully made."

We all fall into the sin of comparison (2 Corinthians 10:12, 18). In a world that broadcasts inaccurate messages of air-brushed beauty, we let God's idea of true beauty be overruled by the idol of our culture's standards (1 Peter 3:4).

God says that we are created in His image "to do good works, which [He] prepared in advance for us to do" (Ephesians 2:10 NIV). We are created for a purpose, and that purpose is forgotten when we view ourselves through the eyes of fallen man, think on temporary things, or ponder imagined realities.

When Samuel was sent to the house of Jesse to anoint Israel's next king, he was looking through the lens of man, not God's. Samuel would have anointed the wrong man had God not spoken these words:

Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7)

God looks at what cannot be seen with even the latest medical technology: the heart and soul of man. The heart is a creation that can only be perceived by an intimate knowing, and God knows us in the most intimate way. On that basis He declares us a wonderful work:

God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness." ... Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. (Genesis 1:26, 31)

O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. (Psalm 139:1–3)

In order for us to bring God glory, we must focus on the facts and honor no other god. In today's society, however, we often bow down to the gods of fame, beauty, popularity, power, and success. This is called humanism and is defined as "the focusing of energy and attention to humankind and not looking for help or salvation from any deity."

We are duped into thinking that if we look, eat, think, and act in certain ways, we can fulfill the longing in our hearts as well as save ourselves from ourselves. This is not what God's Word teaches:

Not that we are to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.... For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends. (2 Corinthians 10:12, 18 ESV)

Furthermore, worldly wisdom teaches self-confidence, but the Bible teaches God-confidence:

We have such trust through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God. (2 Corinthians 3:4-5, emphasis added)

God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:7 ESV, emphasis added)

Self-esteem, self-confidence, and acceptance of oneself—all this is false confidence if it is not attached to God-confidence.

At the moment of our salvation, God gave us His Holy Spirit, who equips us with God's power that is sufficient for all things. Reading God's Word enables the Holy Spirit to transform our minds and conform our actions to that of Christ Jesus. Through this process we become competent ministers of the gospel of Christ. God has designed good works for us to do with our physical bodies, and once we engage in that work as ministers of Christ, we transfer our thinking to the eternal and lay aside the consuming burdensome thoughts of self (Romans 12:1–2). We then live in the knowledge that this world is our temporary home.

Next, living with a heavenly kingdom in mind, we replace the negative thoughts in our mind with the mind of Christ. We change our inner dialogue, our self-talk.

Self-talk is what we say about ourselves in our minds. Oftentimes our self-talk consists of negative statements like "I never do ___________ right" and "I always mess ___________ up." The Bible clearly teaches that we should fill our mind with what is honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, or worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8). These thoughts lead to a peaceful spirit that God calls us to pursue (1 Peter 3:11) while simultaneously helping us "abstain from every form of evil" in the present age (1 Thessalonians 5:22).

Shifting our focus from our outward appearance to the inward quality of our heart, basing our self-confidence on God-confidence, and transforming our self-talk to align with the truth of Scripture are steps we need to take toward living with godly self-esteem. Then, when we look in the mirror, may we affirm the truths of God: we are wonderfully made in His image for His kingdom's work.

Blame >

Taking Responsibility for YOU!

CHUCK ALLEN Sugar Hill Church, Sugar Hill, GA

I recall watching General Norman Schwarzkopf in a battlefield briefing during Operation Desert Storm when he said, "To win this war, our goal isn't to fix blame, but rather to fix problems." When General Schwarzkopf said that, I immediately recalled the time my high school baseball team was playing for the state championship. Things weren't going our way, and the dugout was full of whiners, gripers, and excuses as to why we weren't "getting it done." Our coach sat us all down, took a deep breath, and in terms that were Waterford-crystal clear told us that champions are filled with courage, not excuses.

I vividly remember blaming my older sister for a stupid decision I made. Upon learning the truth of the situation, my mother taught me a great lesson, and that lesson has helped shape my life, my family, my career, and my ministry. Mom said this: "Never trust a whiner and never become a whiner. They turn rights into wrongs and wrongs into resentment."

These three examples shout to us that the world needs young champions to step up and lead, not just follow; to fix problems, not fix blame; to right the world rather than find more wrong.

So, just how do we keep from falling into the trap of the blame game? Well, I'm glad you asked. First, always remember that your character, not your achievements, will forever measure you. As a result, being a person of godly character is essential. Now let me offer you four cornerstones of character that can help you always be the person who fixes problems rather than fixes blame.


Excerpted from Critical Issues Absolute Answers by Jay Strack. Copyright © 2013 Thomas Nelson. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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