Why the “generation of promise” may not be JUST 25 and under

I work part of the time in a college environment and we have a growing number of young adults in our church. I have three young adult sons. I can actually remember the “fire in my belly” coming out of college. (My memory isn’t completely gone.)

So, it’s natural to hear about motivating the generation and focus on this upcoming generation and talk about a “generation of promise.”

I read an interview our denomination’s head did and he was emphasizing the growing demographic of 25 and under in our denomination.

And I applaud that.

I also want to say… we need to realize that it is STILL a both/and world.

So while everyone under 25 is out to win the world before they get “old” (you know… 30), we may want to reevaluate all God did in the world BEFORE this current generation hit the scene.

We also need to realize that GOD STILL CALLS and regardless of what denominational officials may be looking for… God doesn’t seem to see age as a restriction in any direction.

I am preaching through Genesis currently and I am reminded of a word the Lord gave me last fall for my own life. So here are a couple of reminders when we think only those under 30 are capable of doing something great for God.

Abraham was called out of Ur of the Chaldeans when he was 75. He was 100 when Isaac was born.

Moses was 80 when he came back to lead Israel.

There are so many great examples across the age spectrum. We shouldn’t limit a “generation of promise” to the one coming up.

We have not failed, necessarily. We perhaps just have not begun. And it’s not too late.

Which led me to a moment last fall when I was getting hard on myself again for not “accomplishing” more to this point in my life.

The Spirit spoke to me and said, “Dan, Moses was 80 when he got started. Give yourself a break.”

Let’s realize that today is a great day… no matter your age… to be a part of a “generation of promise.”

 

The Radical Love of Christ

1 Corinthians 13. I usually avoid this chapter because it was so abused at weddings over the years. Coming back to this chapter as an “ancient well” in my spiritual reading is always the toughest passage to visit.

But it is so needed. Especially in the Body of Christ. Especially in this day.
The Corinthians church was into spiritual superiority. They were taking different gifts and treating them as marks of superiority. The powerful manifestation gifts (tongues, healing, prophecy, etc.) were treasured and exalted. Yet, other groups would take their favorites (or the ones they loved but were getting beat up by the other groups) and would whack away at their “opposition.”
Opposition in the Body of Christ. It’s an ancient tale.
It seems this is the game we play. We know the greatest commandments: Love God. Love the neighbor.
But today, I would ask, “Who is my neighbor?”
And for the Church, Jesus might give a different illustration. The reason I say that is today we, as believers, seem more intent on loving our neighbor who isn’t a believer than loving our neighbor who just may be a believer… just not “our kind” of believer.
In this, the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 ring a bit more true.
“If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” (1 Cor. 13:2-3, NIV)
No one is without excuse.
“Who is my neighbor?”
It’s the Pentecostal you can’t stand because he talks too much about praying for healing. It’s the Episcopalian you can’t stand because she’s involved in “dead ritual.” It’s the Lutheran you can’t stand because they always want to help the poor. It’s the Catholic, because… It’s the Presbyterian, because…
We spend so much time yipping at each other, we forget the very mark of Christ that is supposed to distinguish us from the rest of the world! “See how they love one another.
May we finally hear those words of our Savior and our King, and actually work by the power of the Spirit to make them real.

“Spiritual”… Not “Religious”

For those making that claim, my contention is that the best way to be “spiritual” is to understand where real spirituality is found.

4 As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:4-5, NIV)

We may think we know “spiritual.” But we don’t know a thing until we know spiritual. ;)

The Rage Against Religion While Thinking You Are Spiritual

David Brooks is one of my favorite columnists. He hits it out of the ballpark again on THIS COLUMN.

He took the viral video of the guy raging against religion and got into the why, and then the results of the video. Challenged with the exact words of the video, the young man actually realized he needed to learn to say some things differently.

Brooks goes on to demonstrate how it’s not a problem to have “angst” in our world. It’s just what to do after that angst is our problem.

For generations we’ve been told to think for ourselves, but all we know how to do is say what we don’t like.

For generations people have been told: Think for yourself; come up with your own independent worldview. Unless your name is Nietzsche, that’s probably a bad idea. Very few people have the genius or time to come up with a comprehensive and rigorous worldview.

Brooks’ remedy is rather interesting:

The paradox of reform movements is that, if you want to defy authority, you probably shouldn’t think entirely for yourself. You should attach yourself to a counter-tradition and school of thought that has been developed over the centuries and that seems true.

The old leftists had dialectical materialism and the Marxist view of history. Libertarians have Hayek and von Mises. Various spiritual movements have drawn from Transcendentalism, Stoicism, Gnosticism, Thomism, Augustine, Tolstoy, or the Catholic social teaching that inspired Dorothy Day.

Passion is great. Just give it some place to land. Rigorously examine what is out there. What have the ancients taught us? Where is a path we can find?

I am deeply thankful that even in my time of angst I found the ancient paths still leading to Christ. Over the years I have been so thankful to keep exploring those paths and found the richness of who he is, and realized that within “religion” there is a design that helps to truly follow Christ. It gets expressed in so many ways, and most of them awkward in one way or another. But following those paths has given me the beauty of Christ.

I don’t fly solo very well.

Quote of the Day

This was from my reading this morning in Common Prayer:

When I fed the poor they called me a saint. When I asked why they were poor, they called me a Communist.” (Dom Helder Camara; 1909-199)

And in other news, I am sure this was a quote but we’ll never know:

In last night’s halftime show the Black Eyed Peas sang a line that went something like:

“Obama, let’s get these kids educated”

The unrecorded quote of the day probably came from the White House as the president leaned over to his wife and said, “Michelle, a guy with plastic hair just told me to get American kids educated.”

Religious

This column in Christianity Today is thought-provoking. Are you “religious” or “spiritual”? Careful how you answer!

The word religion comes from the Latin religare (re: “back,” and ligare: “to bind”), so the term is associated with being bound. In that sense, defining oneself as “spiritual, not religious” couldn’t be more apt, reflecting a desire to not be bound by any rules, community, or belief. Being spiritual but not religious is the perfect fit for people who don’t like the demands of religion but aren’t quite ready to say they have no soul.

Catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft has noted that our culture’s fear “is not the fear of death, as it was for the ancient cultures of Greece and Rome, nor is it the fear of hell,” as found in the Christian, Jewish, and Islamic societies of the medieval period. No, the fear of the age “is the fear of meaninglessness itself.”

Yet those who oppose organized religion may be missing out on some of the best tools for staving off meaninglessness.

I am bound, and gladly. I am so grateful for the faith delivered once for all to the saints. This is something I will be discussing on Wednesday nights in an adult study at our church. Join us!

Sexual Sin and Our Response

This is a great post by George P Wood. It’s worth discussing.

In my experience, modern Christians tend toward the extremes of intolerance and tolerance. On the one hand, some Christians elevate sexual sins above other sins. On the other hand, other Christians turn a blind eye toward porneia, except when it involves child sexual abuse, incest, and adultery. This tolerance arises from the notion that premarital sex or homosexual activity, or the use of pornography, are trivial.

Neither extreme is right. God cares about how we use our bodies, including how we use our bodies sexually. The biblical norm of marriage leads toward human flourishing both in this life and the life to come. The worldly value of porneia leads to human languishing both in this life and the life to come. When people flourish, we should rejoice; when they languish, we should grieve.

We need to teach people abundance, not how to flirt with disaster.

Popularity of Mysticism

Who woulda thunk it?

This Ross Douthat column in the New York Times reflects on the popularity of so many mystical practices, but it has its downside. We are dabbling in so many things, we are diving into nothing. We are not fully entering into ANY of the practices, so we might think we are mystics, but the proof is in the pudding.

As society has become steadily more materialistic, Johnson declares, our churches have followed suit, giving up on the ascetic and ecstatic aspects of religion and emphasizing only the more worldly expressions of faith. Conservative believers fixate on the culture wars, religious liberals preach social justice, and neither leaves room for what should be a central focus of religion — the quest for the numinous, the pursuit of the unnamable, the tremor of bliss and the dark night of the soul.

We have dabbled, but the goal of a true mystic has not been witnessed. We are more materialistic and less godly!

I sat in a conference this past weekend and one of the plenary sessions talked about the big elephants in the room. She went after racism, sexism, and homophobic attitudes. Initially, the reaction was positive. Actually, the overall reaction is probably still positive. Yet, what was unsettling in my spirit was this lack of the overwhelming love of Christ. Her point was to treat people we disagree with as human. Agreed. No quibbles or quarrels.

Yet, if true change is going to happen, and if we are going to genuinely engage homosexuality or other issues with genuine Christian faith, we are going to need the overwhelming love of God. We are going to need to be swept away by the beauty of Christ. That is the beauty of true Christian mysticism. It is not denial. It is not simply moving away in some monastic practice. It is the beauty of Christ. When his beauty overwhelms us, these other “elephants” are no longer huge issues. We act out of a true heart of love and change happens. It truly does. I have been witness to that and it is not only undeniable, it is beautiful. It is beautiful in an overwhelming way.

I call this blog “Apprentice to Jesus” because my goal is to attach our lives to Jesus in a lifelong journey. Part of that journey has a mystic content to it. But we cannot dabble in those practices. We must be full in for the overwhelming beauty of Christ to take effect.

What’s more, it’s possible that our horizons have become too broad, and that real spiritual breakthroughs require a kind of narrowing — the decision to pick a path and stick with it, rather than hopscotching around in search of a synthesis that “works for me.”

We need to quit dabbling. We need to be full in with Christ. Take up the ancient practices. Work with them. Live in them from time to time. There is no need to move away to a monastery. They can be lived out in the reality of our world. Adjustments need to be made, of course. Yet, isn’t Christ worth that?

Bad Theology Aside

In spite of bad theology (see previous post), and the moral arguments we COULD have, what is obviously needed now is action. Please join me, if you have not already, in sending support to Haiti relief. If you are looking for reputable organizations, please try here or here. There are so many others, but if you want to donate right away and don’t have a favorite, these two are great resources.