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Teens get guidance for living straight in a crooked world

7/30/2003 News media contact: Linda Green · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn

This report is a sidebar to UMNS story #381.

By Linda Green*

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - Bad company, a bad compass and bad comprehension are three reasons people make bad decisions.

During a workshop at Youth '03, instructor Duffy Robbins gave young people strategies for making "Straight Choices in a Crooked World." The international youth event, sponsored July 23-27 by the United Methodist Board of Discipleship, drew 9,000 people together to learn how to grow in faith and do ministry in their communities.

Society gives teens all sorts of answers to their questions, noted Robbins, chairperson of the youth ministry program at Eastern College in St. David's, Pa. "In a world where you are getting the wrong answers, how do you know when someone is giving you the right answer?"

People make bad decisions when they are surrounded by others who constantly make bad choices, he said. "Bad companions ruin good morals."

A defective compass also causes people to err, he said. Today's culture suggests there is no such thing as right and wrong, and "there are no convictions."

People make "dumb or crooked" decisions because they are "fooled by appearances," he said. With bad comprehension, someone might make a choice that feels well thought out, but after it's made, "you realize that you did not see the whole picture."

The Scripture reminds us to walk by faith and not by sight, he said, and bad decisions often are based solely on what is seen. "Packaging influences our decisions," Robbins said. When sin entered the Garden of Eden, it did so in a tree that looked good to the eye, he said.

He told the teens they could make wise choices if they "stop, look and listen."

Before making a decision, he told the teens to stop and think ahead, then backwards. "Ask yourself, 'Where do I want to end up?'" He suggested they draw a diagram mentally or physically and give themselves options, and then choose the best one and think about the results. "If I don't like the consequences, I should not make that choice."

Robbins told the youth to "look for the lie." Although many people are "pretty savvy," they are also easily fooled, he said "This is a world that will lie to you all the time, and the problem is that lies do not always look like lies." He added: "Satan perverts life. He takes something that is good and makes it evil."

The word of God is the light in a dark world, Robbins said.

Scripture contains two types of guidance - precepts and principles, he said. The Bible is filled with stop signs or "thou shall nots" and yield signs that allow you to make the call. "God has given the boundaries, and you make the decisions based on his principles."

He cautioned the teens that the yield signs may mean one thing on this day and another thing another time. "You don't go to the Word of God and let your fingers do the walking and say this is the will of God for me." He told the teens that they have to think about what they've read.

"When I'm trying to make straight choices, I have to be very careful and have the light in my hand. … When you want to make good decisions, stop, look and listen."

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*Green is United Methodist News Service's Nashville, Tenn., news director.

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