Raising the Next Generation – Proverbs 22:6

1410655386Proverbs 22:6 – Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Familiar words but a heavy implication. Are we training the next generation in the truth and passing on our faith? I was able to preach on just this issue to our congregation.

Listen to it here.  .

We must pass along something solid. The bedrock of our faith is: 1.) Who God is, and 2.) What He has said:

  • In a generation losing its grip on right and wrong we must train them in morality, because God is Good.
  • In a generation accepting relativism we must train them in absolutes, because God is unchanging.
  • In a generation rejecting the Bible as authoritative we must train them in Truth, because God has spoken honestly.
  • In a generation slipping into desperation we must train them in Hope, because God has sent Jesus Christ.

Who are you training up? Are you passing along bedrock? Remember the next generation needs us to put Proverbs 22:6 into action.

Romans 8 – Solid Ground When All Else is Sinking Sand

Romans 8 is a lighthouse of encouragement when the fog of life rolls in confining our view to immediate circumstances. In it we find perspective. In it we find Hope. Despite the pain and heartache we may encounter on our journey, Romans 8 reminds of us of truth.

Sometimes we need to be reminded of what we already know. 

Sometimes we need to rehearse to ourselves the truths we already claim.

Sometimes we need to stop focusing on how we feel, and focus on what we know.

Romans 8 is a proclamation of the one and only Solid Ground. All other ground is sinking sand.

“My Hope is Built on Nothing Less”

by Edward Mote, 1797-1874

1. My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

2. When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

3. His oath, His covenant, and blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When every earthly prop gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

4. When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found,
Clothed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne!
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

The Problems of Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

Life can be hard. We have problems come at us from all angles. How we deal with these and move forward defines life as we know it.  I was greatly encouraged through my personal study and preparation of 1 Thess. 4:9-18 in how I look at life’s problems.

It is my prayer that this passage would encourage you as well as we allow a biblical perspective to be our guide in light of the problems of life.

  1. The Problem of Yesterday: Just Keep Loving.   We all get hurt, we all have disappointments, we all deal with this. But Paul encouraged the Thessalonians to keep loving one another. God had taught them how to love (verse 9) but Paul still reminds then that it never can just be put on cruise control and forgotten. “But, we urge you brothers, to do this more and more.” (verse 10).  No mater what life has dealt you, love one another more and more.
  2. The Problem of Today: Just Keep Working.   One day Jesus will return, but until that day we have to live this life in a productive way. We should not live dependent of others but work hard day in and day out. (verse 11) As we do this we will maintain the respect of our community, and maybe more importantly, maintain respect for ourself. (verse 12) It is a great temptation to slack off or give up when things get hard. Hang in there. Keep working hard and it will pay off.
  3. The Problem of Tomorrow: Just Keep Hoping.   Last week I attended the funeral of a dear church member.  In a year cancer racked her body and claimed her life while she was in her prime. But her funeral was a celebration of hope. It was a living example of Paul’s words that we “do not grieve as other do who have no hope.” (verse 13) While the unknowns of tomorrow can be painful, we are not without hope. The object of our hope is Jesus Christ and his victory over sin and death. “For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again…” (verse 14). When we hope in Jesus we will never be put to shame. Whatever tomorrow holds, we hold onto hope in Jesus. “Therefore encourage one another with these words.” (verse 18)

1 Thess. 4:9-18

Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, 10 for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, 11 and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, 12 so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.

13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Your Pain is not Meaningless

Whether secretly or publicly, some of you may be going through some of the hardest days of your life at this very moment. I know friends and family that are hurting. Life if full of pain. But Take Heart! Be encouraged! If you believe the Bible like I do, then it is not for nothing!

“Not only is all your affliction momentary. Not only is all your affliction light in comparison to eternity and the glory there. But all of it is totally meaningful.” -John Piper

This is the opening phrase in the audio insert of Piper in the below video. If you are in the middle of difficult circumstances this song and clip is for you. Really, this is for all of us, because hard times are no respecter of persons. The song is powerful but don’t miss the audio clip of Piper at 3:23 which is a selection for his 2013 sermon “Do Not Lose Heart”.

2 Cor. 4:16-18  Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

“Though You Slay Me” – Shane and Shane

I come, God, I come
I return to the Lord
The one who’s broken
The one who’s torn me apart
You struck down to bind me up
You say You do it all in love
That I might know You in Your suffering

Though You slay me
Yet I will praise You
Though You take from me
I will bless Your name
Though You ruin me
Still I will worship
Sing a song to the one who’s all I need

My heart and flesh may fail
The earth below give way
But with my eyes, with my eyes I’ll see the Lord
Lifted high on that day
Behold, the Lamb that was slain
And I’ll know every tear was worth it all

Though You slay me
Yet I will praise You
Though You take from me
I will bless Your name
Though You ruin me
Still I will worship
Sing a song to the one who’s all I need

Though tonight I’m crying out
Let this cup pass from me now
You’re still all that I need
You’re enough for me
You’re enough for me

Though You slay me
Yet I will praise You
Though You take from me
I will bless Your name
Though You ruin me
Still I will worship
Sing a song to the one who’s all I need
Sing a song to the one who’s all I need

A World My Grandparents Would Not Recognize

changeChristianity is the underdog. Times have changed. My grandparents have all past away, but if they were here to see our current state, I believe they would be shocked. How quickly the tides can turn. Biblical Christianity is the minority, yet that does not change our convictions. It just makes it harder to stand up for them. These are the times where individuals, churches, denominations will all be tested in their convictions. Below are some thoughts on Atheism today and the changing definition of Marriage, concluding with a video addressing the key need.

In our day Atheism has a new face. It is the normal face. This is what an Atheist looks like today. The Atlantic published an article where they interviewed college age unbelievers to get an understanding of the new mindset soon to be the primary influencers in our generation. Listening to Young Atheists is a revealing article. Check it out in full at the link but here is a summery.

  1. They had attended church. Most of our participants had not chosen their worldview from ideologically neutral positions at all, but in reaction to Christianity. Not Islam. Not Buddhism. Christianity.
  2. The mission and message of their churches was vague. These students heard plenty of messages encouraging “social justice,” community involvement, and “being good,” but they seldom saw the relationship between that message, Jesus Christ, and the Bible.
  3. They felt their churches offered superficial answers to life’s difficult questions. When our participants were asked what they found unconvincing about the Christian faith, they spoke of evolution vs. creation, sexuality, the reliability of the biblical text, Jesus as the only way, etc. … Serious-minded, they often concluded that church services were largely shallow, harmless, and ultimately irrelevant.
  4. They expressed their respect for those ministers who took the Bible seriously. “I really can’t consider a Christian a good, moral person if he isn’t trying to convert me.” As surprising as it may seem, this sentiment is not as unusual as you might think. It finds resonance in the well-publicized comments of Penn Jillette, the atheist illusionist and comedian: “I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe that there’s a heaven and hell and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life or whatever, and you think that it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward…. How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?” Comments like these should cause every Christian to examine his conscience to see if he truly believes that Jesus is, as he claimed, “the way, the truth, and the life.”
  5. Ages 14-17 were decisive. One participant told us that she considered herself to be an atheist by the age of eight while another said that it was during his sophomore year of college that he de-converted, but these were the outliers. For most, the high school years were the time when they embraced unbelief.
  6. The decision to embrace unbelief was often an emotional one. With few exceptions, students would begin by telling us that they had become atheists for exclusively rational reasons. But as we listened it became clear that, for most, this was usually connected to a deeply emotional transition as well.
  7. The internet factored heavily into their conversion to atheism. When our participants were asked to cite key influences in their conversion to atheism–people, books, seminars, etc.—we expected to hear frequent references to the names of the “New Atheists.” We did not. Not once. Instead, we heard vague references to videos they had watched on YouTube or website forums.

While belief is under attack, the institution of marriage that has been upheld for thousands of years is being redefined. The recent Supreme Court decision will have ramifications beyond what we can foresee.

Trevin Wax writes a article titled Why Gay Marriage is Good (and bad) for the Church. He shows clearly that things will never be the same, the question is how will the church respond and what foundations do we really have that will guide us in these changing times.

Al Mohler addressed the hypocrisy of the supreme court, and particularly Justice Kennedy, for striking down DOMA with accusations of making “moral judgments”, all the while making an equally moral judgment, just with the opposite conclusion. Read his thoughts in Waiting for the Other Shoe – The Supreme Court Rules on Same Sex Marriage.

Here is an interesting take on the subject. If Jesus were to be interviewed, what might He say about Same-Sex marriage? Joe Dallas takes this imaginative response in this clever article. Check it out – Jesus and Same Sex Marriage.

Above all, the linchpin for how we decide what to do about all these issues, and issues we haven’t even seen yet, are dependent on one thing. Has God Spoken?  If He has, we must heed his words and adjust our lives. If He has not, we live as we wand do the best we can without any real consequences or meaning.  Has God Really Spoken?

This is an interview between three brilliant minds and godly men: Don Carson, John Piper, and Tim Keller. They are addressing the issue of Biblical Authority in an Age of Uncertainty. How will we respond to God’s Word when our culture rejects it?

We live in a world my Grandparents would not recognize. Yet fortunately I believe there is a God who has spoken to us for this day. He has made a plan and given us hope. Above all He has given us Jesus. So no matter what the winds of change bring, there is one who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Jesus Christ.

Looking to Him,

-Adam

Subtlety is Overrated – John Bunyan Addresses Legalism

Sometimes we need to hear the truth in an upfront obvious way. We can be thick. We can be dense. We deceive ourselves into believing some things. Where is our standard? What is our guide? How do we discern the Truth?

The Word of God.

Romans 3:19-20 is a smacking reminder we cannot earn our way to heaven. “Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

We cannot be good enough in our own power to please God. When we focus on the rules, we don’t become better, we only see how bad we are. We see how desperate we are for a Savior.

Even if you’ve never read John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, the (not-so-subtle) names of the characters tell you quite a bit. Christian, Evangelist, Mr. Worldly-Wiseman, and Mr. Legality are exactly what you would expect; nevertheless, Bunyan’s point cuts to the heart.

In his journey from the City of Destruction to Mt. Zion, Christian takes some bad advice from Mr. Worldly-Wiseman. In this snippet, Bunyan powerfully illustrates the truths of Romans 3:19-20 and Galatians 4:21-27:

“Christian left his path to go to Mr. Legality’s house for help. As Christian neared the hill, he was struck by how high and foreboding the hill appeared. One side of the hill hung precariously over the path that wound its way around it, and Christian feared that the overhanging hill would fall on him.

Filled with fear, Christian stopped his journey and stood still, wondering what he should do. His burden now seemed heavier to him than it was just moments before he had taken this detour off the path that Evangelist had instructed him to follow.

Flashes of lightning came out of the hill, and Christian was afraid that he would be burned. Christian began to sweat and quake with fear. He was sorry that he had taken Mr. Worldly-Wiseman’s counsel.”

After meeting back up with Evangelist, Christian’s error is explained to him:

“The person to whom you were sent for relief, whose name is Legality, is the son of the slave woman who, with all her children, is still in bondage. The mountain that you feared would fall on your head is Mount Sinai. Now if the slave woman and all her children are in bondage, how can you expect them to set you free from your burden?”

Lets learn a lesson from Christian on his journey. Legalism will only crush you, not save you. We must trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ for grace and forgiveness. We must lean fully on Him and live each day in His power.
Go out and trust in Him today!
Your fellow worker in the field.  Adam

Fake Love, Fake War – Dealing with Porn and Gaming Additions for Young Men.

This article, written by Dr. Russell Moore, Dean of the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, touches a topic all student pastors and volunteers need to be addressing with their young men. None are unaffected and we cannot be silent. Read these words and allow God to challenge us as we reach the next generation. I highlighted the last paragraph, so read to the very end. Dr. Moore does not leave us hanging but pushes us to the only answer that provides any real hope.

*******************************

You know the guy I’m talking about. He spends hours into the night playing video games and surfing for pornography. He fears he’s a loser. And he has no idea just how much of a loser he is. For some time now, studies have shown us that porn and gaming can become compulsive and addicting. What we too often don’t recognize, though, is why.

In a new book, The Demise of Guys: Why Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do About It, psychologists Philip Zimbardo and Nikita Duncan say we may lose an entire generation of men to pornography and video gaming addictions. Their concern isn’t about morality, but instead about the nature of these addictions in reshaping the patten of desires necessary for community.

If you’re addicted to sugar or tequila or heroin you want more and more of that substance. But porn and video games both are built on novelty, on the quest for newer and different experiences. That’s why you rarely find a man addicted to a single pornographic image. He’s entrapped in an ever-expanding kaleidoscope.

There’s a key difference between porn and gaming. Pornography can’t be consumed in moderation because it is, by definition, immoral. A video game can be a harmless diversion along the lines of a low-stakes athletic competition. But the compulsive form of gaming shares a key element with porn: both are meant to simulate something, something for which men long.

Pornography promises orgasm without intimacy. Video warfare promises adrenaline without danger. The arousal that makes these so attractive is ultimately spiritual to the core.

Satan isn’t a creator but a plagiarist. His power is parasitic, latching on to good impulses and directing them toward his own purpose. God intends a man to feel the wildness of sexuality in the self-giving union with his wife. And a man is meant to, when necessary, fight for his family, his people, for the weak and vulnerable who are being oppressed.

The drive to the ecstasy of just love and to the valor of just war are gospel matters. The sexual union pictures the cosmic mystery of the union of Christ and his church. The call to fight is grounded in a God who protects his people, a Shepherd Christ who grabs his sheep from the jaws of the wolves.

When these drives are directed toward the illusion of ever-expanding novelty, they kill joy. The search for a mate is good, but blessedness isn’t in the parade of novelty before Adam. It is in finding the one who is fitted for him, and living with her in the mission of cultivating the next generation. When necessary, it is right to fight. But God’s warfare isn’t forever novel. It ends in a supper, and in a perpetual peace.

Moreover, these addictions foster the seemingly opposite vices of passivity and hyper-aggression. The porn addict becomes a lecherous loser, with one-flesh union supplanted by masturbatory isolation. The video game addict becomes a pugilistic coward, with other-protecting courage supplanted by aggression with no chance of losing one’s life. In both cases, one seeks the sensation of being a real lover or a real fighter, but venting one’s reproductive or adrenal glands over pixilated images, not flesh and blood for which one is responsible.

Zimbardo and Duncan are right, this is a generation mired in fake love and fake war, and that is dangerous. A man who learns to be a lover through porn will simultaneously love everyone and no one. A man obsessed with violent gaming can learn to fight everyone and no one.

The answer to both addictions is to fight arousal with arousal. Set forth the gospel vision of a Christ who loves his bride and who fights to save her. And then let’s train our young men to follow Christ by learning to love a real woman, sometimes by fighting his own desires and the spirit beings who would eat him up. Let’s teach our men to make love, and to make war . . . for real.

 

Passing the Torch: We Need Each Other

I want to take the time to comment on and article written by Mark Howard for The Rooted Blog. I see a theme of mutual need between student ministry and the corporate church body that has been inadvertently skewed beyond recognition.
Across the board, the current state of student ministry in the church is a wide range. Some churches get it and are really reaching the next generation. They are speaking the Gospel in a way teenagers understand and see as legitimate. Other churches (and maybe the majority) are woefully lacking in connecting with the next generation. And I mean woefully! When student worship and teaching can become synonymous with “crazy time”, something has gone awry. In a stage of life when are teens are starved for guidance and direction, do they think church is a place to come just for laughs?
Given the circumstances, it’s no surprise that many youth are restless, insecure, jaded, and desperately searching for meaning to explain all the hurt and suffering they see around them, meaning for their very existence. Sadly, many within the church offer nothing more substantive than the vaporous teachings of the world. In some churches, “youth group” has become synonymous with over-the-top games, entertainment, and shallow teaching. They are told, yes, life here on earth is a mess, but don’t worry, one day you’ll die and go to heaven. There things will be right. In the meantime, want to see how many marshmallows I can stick in my mouth?
(that last quote cracked me up…chubby bunny, chubby bunny…)
Do we really believe the faith of our youth is so pointless that the best God has for them now is a temporary escape from the world on Wednesday night and Sunday morning? This sort of ministry just reinforces a belief in the meaninglessness of this life.
The church should be a lighthouse of hope, contrary to that lie! Life is not meaningless! Amidst the rising teen suicide rate, we should be shouting that there is real hope. That hope is not some mystical belief, but a person; Jesus Christ.
What student ministry needs to focus on is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which Paul says is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe!
I am firmly convinced that what today’s youth need most is the gospel of Christ Jesus the Lord. He is the one in whom the fullness of God is found, and he’s the one in whom we are filled (Col 2:9-10). Moreover, he is the one who gives meaning to this life.
Are we showing teenagers Jesus? Anything else that we turn their attention to is a lesser thing. Jesus is the pinnacle from which our gaze must not move. So how do we see Jesus?
Where is Jesus found? In the worship of his people, the church. As others have said, the way we come to know Jesus is through the means he gave us: Scripture, true Christian fellowship, the sacraments, and prayer. These are the practices that by faith renew their minds in such a way that enables youth to view and live in the world with purpose and meaning as followers of Jesus. These are the practices that by faith force youth from their technologically imposed isolation, discourage their entitlement, and lead them to a spirit of humility and repentance. These are the practices that by faith expose their dependence on Jesus and remind them of their need for grace.
Student ministries must not separate themselves so much from the cooperate body of believers that teenagers do not regularly see the Body of Chirst in action. They need to see adults worship. They need to partake in the Lord supper (and be taught the meaning behind each part). They need to see prayer at work in the corporate setting.
When we segregate the teens so “they can do their own thing”, we send a contradictory message to them about what it means to be part of the body. “Church is just for adults” can be subconsciously learned after years of practice. And we wonder why college and young singles 18-25 are M.I.A. (missing in action) from church? If what is happening is truly important, why would we not want to raise up the next generation to understand and carry on that importance?
This article is a great reminder that the teenagers need the church, and the church needs teenagers. We cannot except the inadvertent teaching that church is just for adults. No, we need to put our focus squarely on Jesus and show that true meaning and purpose is derived from Him, and it is applicable for all ages. Teens need to see and believe that, just as adults need to see and believe that.
Your fellow worker in the field,  Adam
Lets finish off with an appropriate song from Sanctus Real: We need each other