Monday, August 03, 2009

A Smile on My Face

                I recently took some college/career types along with some High School Students on a trip to San Francisco for a mission trip with CSM (They did a great job).  The trip was really good.  You can read about it at the Theology, Lockers, and Life blog if you are interested.  When I arrived home I was faced with a tore up basement (it flooded while I was gone, thanks to one of our elders and some good friends for helping get everything dried up) and an empty house.  My wife and kids had left for Minnesota for two weeks.  I believe this is the longest time I have been away from them.   I miss my family.
                My personal thoughts have a purpose.  I sit here with my two dogs lying on the floor next to my bed with a quiet house.  No kids playing and no wife to cuddle with before falling asleep.  I have never really lived alone.  I went from a house with parents and four brothers to a college dorm with a roommate.  After a couple years of that I got married.  Perhaps for the first time in my life I am realizing how much God has wired us for relationships.  Earlier tonight I connected with my family through Tokbox a video conferencing web site.  It was great to see their smiling faces.  About twenty minutes ago I looked at a photo from our vacation early in July and saw my son holding a fishing rod with Mt. Massive in the background.  It put a smile on my face!!
                My family makes me happy (most of the time).  I love them and I know they love me.  In the midst of all this I hear the words of Jesus resounding in my head, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”  Some days that doesn’t seem so hard, but most of the time and especially during moments like this one it is not only hard, it makes me question my own love for Jesus.
            A little self reflection from time to time can be good for the soul.  I want to keep this short so I am going to wrap it up here.  What if you had to choose between your loved ones and Jesus?  What if you had to give up that which is most precious to you in order to follow Jesus?  At this moment the very thought creates pause in my spirit.  Yet, I want more than anything for my family to follow Jesus with that kind of love and passion.  Perhaps my own love and passion for Jesus needs to burn hotter.

Human Arrogance

I had an interesting conversation with one of my High School Students about the influence teenagers have on culture.  It was her belief that teenagers set the standards for culture.  They have more influence on culture than any other age group.  Certainly when it comes to pop culture there is some truth to what she thinks.  It is also true that pop culture has some influence on culture overall, but what kind of impact do teenagers have on the culture overall?

I think the popular thing to say here is that they are the trend setters and they determine where culture will go.  There influence is so significant and important that we must pay close attention.  I am not so convinced.
The title of this piece may have tipped you off to my view.  People are naturally arrogant, as a people we tend to think we deserve everything and the world revolves around us.  Actually the truth that mankind is arrogant is a Biblical truth.  Arrogance is why Satan fell from heaven (Isaiah 14:12-14) and it was arrogance that Satan used to tempt Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:5).
The truth is every age group has an impact on culture.  Parents raise kids and impact the current culture, teachers teach them, and so on.  Only adults can vote and impact the political culture and they pass laws and bills that impact us, impact teens, and impact our ability to do ministry.  Culture is all encompassing.  What students are taught in school has a huge influence on what they believe in almost every area of their life. 
For those of us in youth ministry we tend to have a passion for teenagers.  We love to hang out with them.  They are old enough to ask great questions and dive deeper into their faith.  They have the ability to begin owning their faith and they make decisions that will impact the rest of their life.  They are still young enough to be influenced and we want to be part of that influence and help them become men and women that honor God.  In the process I wonder if we sometimes unintentionally send the message that the world is all about them. 

So what am I saying we should do?  I don’t exactly know.  I know your not suppose to say that when you are writing something like this, but it’s true.  I think there are some things we should be doing in general, but I don’t know if our narcissistic culture can be easily changed.  Here are a couple general ideas:

  • Make sure when we worship it isn’t about what God has done for us as much as it is about who God is.  I realize the two cannot be completely separated and really shouldn’t be separated.  It is however easy to become too focused on the “what God has done for us” side of the equation.
  • When we teach, make sure we are teaching a God centered theology and not a man centered theology.  This Christianity, Jesus thing is not about living our best life now or figuring out how we can manipulate God to benefit ourselves.  It is about realizing that the God we serve is sovereign and deserving of worship in spite of what circumstances we find ourselves in.
  • Draw students to a cause bigger than themselves, namely the cause of God’s kingdom.  This is so countercultural that I believe they will be attracted to something so farfetched, so different, and so huge.
  • Be willing to challenge the cultural norms with Biblical truths.  I know it sounds obvious, but I think some of us don’t want to offend so we become shy with the truth.  Be kind and gentle, but don’t be afraid to be blunt.