Reaching Others for Christ and Keeping Earth Temporary
Reaching Others for Christ and Keeping Earth Temporary
Many of us have taken the answers to these questions (above) for granted. When is the last time you really considered these questions and the gravity of the answers?
Every Tuesday this past May we were at the local public high school to meet with any teens who were willing to join the conversation on these and other questions.
Help Them Face The World And It's Questions
We went in with the belief that many teens have questions like these but don't have anyone to ask them to or don't even know how to ask them. We are even more convinced that this is true now. One girl was trying to formulate her thought "if God exists, why do bad things happen to good people?". Another teen, who is a believer, stated it in those words. The look on this girls face revealed that she felt that question was one few others, if any, would have shared. It was quite possible a question that she would not have asked had someone not helped draw it out. Can you imagine the weight that question carries for high school girl in this day and age?
When we asked the teens what they what gave their life meaning and what they were hoping in for their futures we realized how empty these things were for them. One girl hoped for a better relationship because of the poor relationship with a boyfriend she just had. Another girl hope life wouldn't stink because it does now. For these girls and many other teens they gain meaning from relationships or other things that can fail too easily. Their hope is in temporal things like a relationship going well, life at home improving or just making it through high school. And when asked what they would hope in if those things failed, they didn't really have an answer. So much of their life hinges on things that are so small in the scheme of life, let alone eternity.
This should give us reason to pause and consider how we as the church are ensuring that these types of questions can be asked by the young people in our churches and communities. Are we? If they are not being asked of us who can take them to The Truth, then they will be asked of others who will give false hope at best.
One woman had this to say in review of a play on the life of C.S. Lewis and his coming to Christ:
"The open-endedness implied by conversation is important. Christianity, real Christianity, is not a series of deliverances which shut down thought. Conversion does not happen like a closing-off to the world, to discovery: my own conversion, at least, began with a “what if” that felt like a window opening on fresh air.
What if the universe was not in fact closed, was not in fact a locked-in machine after all? What if aesthetic experience did in fact point to truth? One doesn’t need to jump straight to Christianity: but the door is open, the wind is blowing, the quarry has broken cover.
There is something, here, to be pursued. There is something here, too, that is good: the news from a far country that all this implies is good news. It matches who we are, it brings us to life, and does not shut us down.”
“Or because, describing aesthetic experience, speaking to my reason in a rigorous and challenging way, he was my friend? Because this is how friends, how peers, speak to each other, as Lewis (of course) discusses in The Four Loves: They share a good, they share a pursuit, a quarry.
Friends do not, or don’t exclusively, face each other. They face the world shoulder to shoulder.”
Teens need someone to come along side them and help them face the world and it's questions.
Hope Is Fed Promises
The wedge in the door to the school was hope, or rather it was lack of it. Suicide rates have been high in Maine and with recent suicides in our area this past winter many were finding themselves unsure where to place their hope.
Recently I heard someone say that hope is fed promises. It's either fed healthy promises that will last or junk promises that only satisfy for a while. The analogy is great because we know the effects of healthy eating vs binging on junk food. Junk food and sodas satisfy our taste buds but don't give our bodies the long lasting energy we need to sustain an active life. Once the sugar rush ends, we're left with pain and regret as the headache sets in.
In the same way we can place our hope in promises that meet the temporal craving. Consider these:
When we place our hope in promises like these, our hope will be put to shame and we will be left with pain and regret.
We, however, have been born again to a living hope (1 Peter 1:3), that does not put us to shame (Rom 5:5) and that should stir us to action (1 Peter 1:13)! We as the church need to be taking this hope to those who have no hope, to those who are placing their hope in junk promises. We need to also ask ourselves what we are hoping in each day. Is it ultimately in the only One who can satisfy, or are we placing our hope in wells that do not satisfy? (Jeremiah 2:13).
Don't Waste Your Life
The following story illustrates this well and has impacted me in this area.
Three weeks ago, we got word at our church that Ruby Eliason and Laura Edwards had both been killed in Cameroon. Ruby was over eighty. Single all her life, she poured it out for one great thing: to make Jesus Christ known among the unreached, the poor, and the sick. Laura was a widow, a medical doctor, pushing eighty years old, and serving at Ruby’s side in Cameroon.
The brakes give way, over the cliff they go, and they’re gone — killed instantly.
And I asked my people: was that a tragedy? Two lives, driven by one great vision, spent in unheralded service to the perishing poor for the glory of Jesus Christ — two decades after almost all their American counterparts have retired to throw their lives away on trifles in Florida or New Mexico. No. That is not a tragedy. That is a glory.
I tell you what a tragedy is. I’ll read to you from Reader’s Digest what a tragedy is. “Bob and Penny . . . took early retirement from their jobs in the Northeast five years ago when he was 59 and she was 51. Now they live in Punta Gorda, Florida, where they cruise on their thirty foot trawler, playing softball and collecting shells.”
That’s a tragedy. And people today are spending billions of dollars to persuade you to embrace that tragic dream. And I get forty minutes to plead with you: don’t buy it. With all my heart I plead with you: don’t buy that dream. The American Dream: a nice house, a nice car, a nice job, a nice family, a nice retirement, collecting shells as the last chapter before you stand before the Creator of the universe to give an account of what you did: “Here it is Lord — my shell collection! And I’ve got a nice swing, and look at my boat!”
Don’t waste your life; don’t waste it.
We have a hope in something greater than a “good life” here. The teens we talk to in the public school have those types of hopes and dreams. We have something greater, born again to a living hope.
Is our life being lived for those worldly passions or for the greatest joy - bringing glory to our Lord?
Let's live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. (1 Peter 4:2)
Through this time at the school we did have one story in particular that we'd like to share, but I'll let Sophie tell that story next time...