Enjoy all the Days of Your Life

20190407_163542

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

But the godly will flourish like palm trees…..Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green. Psalm 92:12-14 NLT

When I was young I was inspired by John Kennedy, because he was the most youthful U.S. president, and he showed what younger people can do. Now that I am older, I am inspired by Ronald Reagan, because he showed us what older people can do.

When I was 19 I was invited to join a home Bible study group. Everyone else was in their mid twenties to early forties. As well as studying the Bible together we did a lot of social activities, and as a 19 year old I thought it was cool that people in their twenties and even forties would hang out with me. Over thirty years later, I found myself at a restaurant, eating nachos with one of my college age Bible study groups, and I thought it was cool that people in their early twenties will hang out with someone in his fifties!

Its funny how our perspective changes as life changes. Many people fear getting older. I don’t. Long before I turned 50 a few years ago, a few people in their 70’s and 80’s told me the 50’s were the best years of their life. There are three reasons to love being in your 50’s. 1. People take you seriously. 2. Usually you are financially solid by 50. 3. Most people in their 50’s are still in reasonably good health. Some joke that while 50 is the new 30, 9 pm is the new midnight. It is true that in my early twenties whenever I would have a Bible study finish early in the evening, I would run over to the baseball stadium to catch the rest of the game. Today whenever a Bible study finishes early in the evening, I think, “Great! I can get to bed early tonight!” Sometimes I will force myself to do things I used to do, just to prove to myself that I am still young.

There are other advantages to growing older. Having worked with so many different churches and conferences over the years I know a lot of people. My friends list keeps growing. A couple of years ago when I had to evacuate Florida for a hurricane, there were several families between Texas and Tennessee that let me know their homes were open for me. As you get older you get wiser in choosing your friends, and over the years you have more friends to choose from. Also as more young faces appear in my life, I have more people to share my old stories with, who have not already heard them a hundred times. By the way, when an older person tells you the same story a hundred times, it is not because he forgot he already told you. It is because he gets to relive it every time he tells the story.

Speaking of younger faces, I have found working in the education field that everyone likes working with young people whether it is coaching and teaching, or just coming to school one day on career day to talk to kids about their career. I believe we all find hope for ourselves by believing we are making a positive difference in a young person’s life. Also kids keep us full of life. I remember a few months after my mother died, I was visiting family, which of course made me think of my mother. I left the visit to go join the 5th and 6th grade class from the school I worked with at an outdoor ed camp. While driving I became very sad thinking about my mother. I told myself once I got to the camp and was surrounded by youthful 5th and 6th-graders their presence would cheer me up and I would be happy again. Sure enough that is what happened. Those kids had no clue how they helped me overcome my grief!

Two thousand years ago, Mary, a young girl, probably around 14, was told by an angel she was having a baby. She went to see her cousin, Elizabeth, who was on the other side of the child-bearing age margin, but was also with child. Their visit must have been very meaningful as Mary’s youth must have inspired aging Elizabeth, and Elizabeth’s experience must have inspired a very young Mary. They both needed each other. Today we all need each other. We should not be afraid of growing old. As I mentioned a couple weeks ago. Psalm 23 tells us God’s goodness and mercy follows us all the days of our life. As a youthful Kennedy and an aging Reagan have both inspired my life, we all need both young and old people in our lives. What is more, whether we are old or young, people need us in their lives. Enjoy your youth. Enjoy your old age. Enjoy all the days of your life!

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.

Discipling Children By Integrating Not Segregating

20140115_133735

As we contemplate the Sabbath School lesson on discipling Children, I am reminded of a blog post someone shared with me on Facebook a while back, that really hit home with me and  my personal observations. The article, “Youth Groups Driving Christian Teens to Abandon Faith” mentions that many (not all) church youth groups help teens connect with each other, but fail to connect teens with the church or God. So, when they outgrow the youth group, they leave the church and God, which they never were connected to anyway.

Some youth leaders have even confessed to me that they had no relationship with Jesus themselves, and wanted me to teach the kids how to have the assurance of salvation, since that was something the youth leaders confessed they have not even experienced themselves. The youth leaders connected with the kids, but were not connected to Jesus, therefore it ended there, instead of going on to becoming disciples for Jesus.  What we need are youth leaders who can connect with kids and connect with Jesus.

If not designed and executed properly youth groups can actually shoot themselves in the foot. Some youth groups isolate kids from the church family instead of integrating them into the church. For example, I once had a 20 year old lady tell me, “I don’t want to go to that church meeting tonight because it will all just be grownups and I want to hang out with kids my age.” The youth group failed this young woman, because at age 20 she still saw herself as a kid instead of identifying herself with the grownups which she is now a part of! She is now too old for the youth group, but does not realize that she is now an adult. She is now on the outside as she is too old for the youth group, but never was connected to the church family, let alone God. And no, the solution is not a young adult group. I am not saying it is wrong to have one, I am just saying there is a problem when a 20-year old does not realize they are not a little kid anymore, and putting them in another bracket will not fix the problem. At age 12 Jesus did not become a youth or young adult. He became a man. The term teenager was not even recognized until the 19th century.   There were no youth groups as anyone 12 or older was now a part of the regular church congregation. 

I have served in smaller churches with no youth groups so to speak, and saw teens thriving in the church family. There was no segregation between young and old. In one church in West Texas, the bulletin editor was 13 years old, and was probably the most responsible bulletin editor I ever saw. She was home schooled, and if I did not have my sermon information called in before 1 pm Wednesday, she was calling me! She is now married with two children, in her early 30’s and still very active in her church family, and more importantly has an experience with God. She never made the transition from youth church to the “real” church, because she was brought up in the  “real” church from the git-go. Unlike the 20-year old woman I mentioned earlier, she sees herself as a grownup and has for a long time. She stopped seeing herself as a little kid, back when she was 13 putting the bulletin together every week.

Youth groups, like any other type of Church group, is purposeful only as it helps young people feel connected to Christ and a part of the entire church family, instead of just a part of a little group only connected with themselves.

Matthew 7; Moral Authority

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine:  For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.  Matthew 7:28-29

 

 

This verse makes it clear, that while the scribes were all full of themselves because of their supposedly exalted positions, that in reality they had no authority or influence over the people. Why? Because, while an organization had given them a title of authority, they still had no moral authority. I like the way The Message Bible translates this verse. “When Jesus concluded his address, the crowd burst into applause. They had never heard teaching like this. It was apparent that he was living everything he was saying—quite a contrast to their religion teachers! This was the best teaching they had ever heard.”

 

 

I remember growing up as a teen, wanting to follow Jesus, that there were older people that I looked up to and had spiritual relationships with, not because they had a title or position in the community, but because I sensed they truly walked with God. I also remember I chose them as my mentors, they did not choose me. I was not alone. A few years ago, I went to a youth leadership workshop. I am sorry I don’t remember the name of the man giving the workshop, but he confirmed that even today, children choose their own mentors. A child may belong to a church with three pastors and a youth director, but may feel more comfortable sharing their burdens with the church janitor. Chances are the janitor has an intimate relationship with God that the youth want to find. The janitor has moral authority when his or her life is harmony with God’s Word.

 

Last week I was in a youth evangelism council meeting, where a video by Andy Stanley was shown, where he talked about moral authority. He put a label on a concept that the Holy Spirit had been revealing to me for some time. Stanley calls it “moral authority.” I had never thought of that label before. Authority does not come from a title or position, it comes from character. In heaven, Lucifer wanted God’s authority but did not want His character. Problem is, the authority comes from the character. While Lucifer, like the rest of us can never be God nor should we seek to be God, we should be seeking His character instead of his power. Where there is no morality there is no authority. Your authority is limited to your morality, regardless of any position or title you may or may not have. In other words there are people with influence that have no position, and there are people with positions that have no influence. This is why many of them seek to use force and manipulation when they can’t lead naturally. Meanwhile there are others who lead, while using no titles, positions, force or manipulation, but are quite successful, because, they have moral authority.

 

Position does not give holiness of character. It is by honoring God and obeying His commands that a man is made truly great.  {Conflict and Courage, p. 189}