The Next Great Generation

If you want to be great, you will first have to stop being content with mediocrity. Greatness demands sacrifice!

Most students of recent history are familiar with those people whom Tom Brokaw named "the Greatest Generation". They survived the great depression, fought WWII, and then helped build America into a Superpower. If there were to be one criticism of this generation, it would be in their seeming inability to pass along this willingness for sacrifice to the next generation. One can readily see why this might be the case: They simply wanted a better life for their kids, and they didn't want them to have to go through the hardships that they went through. While this is a noble sentiment, it robbed their kids of the struggle that is so necessary to make people worthwhile.

Please don't get me wrong. I know that many of the parents from that generation did raise their children with the knowledge that sacrifice for others is required of all noble people, but many did not. So now we have a generation of people who have a sense of entitlement - specifically, an entitlement to other people's money. That this same generation has little concept of sacrifice is even more evident by it's unwillingness to pay it's own way, or even for it's own mistakes.

How else could you describe a generation that aborts between 1/4 and 1/3 of all it's children? How else could you describe a generation that has run up more than $16 trillion dollars in debt for it's own children and grandchildren to pay? I was reading the results of a survey that was taken over a period of years from numerous congregations. It indicated that less than half of churchgoers prayed every day, and only a quarter of them read the Bible each day.

So, how is all of this related, and what does it have to do with the next "Great Generation"? Simply this: Men and women who are in constant contact with their Creator, through prayer and study, understand the need for sacrifice. This means foregoing certain pleasures until they are married. This means foregoing certain expenditures until they can afford them. People who read God's word on a regular basis will come to understand important things like sacrifice, self-control, and love for their neighbors. People who pray for God's loving kindness every day are far less likely to treat others in a hateful or disrespectful manner.

And... people who are sincerely trying to be the best servants of God are going to learn that this means service to others. We live in unsettled times, it is true, but so has every person of every generation that has ever lived. The only difference, from generation to generation, is whether or not that generation will choose to be great. We are in need of the next Great Generation! Right now, our families, the Lord's church, and this nation are in serious peril - you don't have to be a genius to recognize this truth. 

Here is another truth that I believe we must face right now: We are in danger of losing all that we have if we do not become that next great generation. It will require sacrifice that goes far beyond "lip service". It will require strength of character that goes far beyond the watered down morality of modern society. And, more than anything else, it will require a return to God. If you are willing to become part of the next great generation, then you must start soon. Today, in fact, would be a great day to start. You can do so by praying to God for help and forgiveness. Then, you can pick up your Bible with the firm commitment to find out everything that God expects of you. It will require sacrifice, but the next generation is counting on you. Are they worth the sacrifice to you?

Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant. Jesus, as recorded in Mark 10:43, NIV


The Lure of the Other Side

The grass is always greener on the other side. Old English Proverb

One of the most important parts of any Vacation Bible School is snack time and our VBS is no exception. Since the preacher's house is situated adjacent to the church building, we have found it very convenient to serve the cookies and punch from underneath our carport. The only thing inconvenient about this arrangement is that we have a lot of lawn mowers and old windows and the like that are stored behind the carport. The obvious problem is how to keep curious 4 to 10 year olds away from these things that they might get hurt on.

Our solution was to stretch a garden hose between the building and the edge of the carport, and then explain to the kids that they could not cross to the other side. This has worked very nicely throughout the years, but the "line" has not always served to remove the "lure" of the other side. One day my wife called me over. She said that I just had to see what was going on out by the carport. What I saw when I got out there was a line of kids, mostly 4 and 5 year olds, all standing at the boundary of the garden hose. None were crossing the line, but they had found some branches from our big tree and were reaching over as far as they could to see what they could touch with those branches. They were obeying the letter of the law, but they were having a bit of a struggle with the spirit of the thing.

I had to laugh, because this is the very type of thing that we all struggle with all of our lives - no matter what our age may be. Whether its a group of little boys teasing a vicious dog, a teenage girl going out with that wild boy, or some of us pushing the speed limit because we are in a hurry, the results are the same: Someone nearly always ends up getting bit. Even if we "get away with it" this time, such outcomes just seem to make us bolder for the next time, and the next time is nearly always more fraught with peril.

Then there is God's way. God sets boundaries for us - not to be unreasonable or to keep us from fun - but to protect us. When our kids were little, we put up gates at the stairways to keep them from falling. Our loving Father does the same for us. If we are wise, we will mature enough to realize that the boundaries God sets are perfect and put in place to keep us from harm. Then we can begin to truly enjoy the blessings that are rightfully ours, rather than continually reaching over the line to get to that thrilling green grass on the other side.

The Lord will keep you from all harm - He will watch over your life. Psalm 121:7, NIV


The Love of Truth

He that would seriously set upon the search of the truth, ought in the first place to prepare his mind with a love for it. For he that loves it not, will not take much pains to get it, nor be much concerned when he misses it. John Locke

One of the most important things that we must settle in our minds is whether or not we really have an interest in the truth. So often, we will sit down to read the Bible in order to prove what we already believe. We believe one thing about salvation, another about worship, and another still about the commands for our everyday lives. Having these pre-conceived notions, we then sift through the scriptures like a child on the beach picks up shells on the seashore: We only gather those truths which we find attractive. By doing so, we often miss out on the very thing we began our search for in the first place - the truth!

This is why it is critical that we have a love for God, and therefore a love for His truths. If our motives are really to find out what God's commands are because we love Him, then our quest for the truth becomes so much easier. It becomes easier because we are not trying to defend our own ideas, but are instead trying to find out how God wants to be served. Our motivation becomes very simple: We want to discover the truth because we love God. If we truly do love God and Christ, why would we want to do anything else?

Here is how God's word describes this love for the truth:

I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on you laws. I delight in your commands because I love them. Psalms 119:30 & 47, NIV

If you love me, you will obey what I command... If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching... He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. John 14:15, 23 & 24, NIV

We have come to know Him if we obey His commands. The man who says, "I know Him", but does not do what He commands is a liar and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys His word, God's love is truly made complete in him: Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did. I John 2:3-6, NIV


The Lesser of Two Evils is Still Evil

Of two evils, choose the least. Erasmus

How many times have we overheard someone say that they chose the lesser of two evils, as if they had just accomplished something noble?

My wife and I were at a restaurant  with a menu containing a list of food that we normally wouldn't have consumed on a bet. Instead of ordering a couple of cokes (or just leaving as soon as the waiter's back was turned) we ordered the least offensive item we could find. Then, after choking down something we would have  probably ordered our two year olds (in years gone by) to throw back on the ground, we paid an exorbitant price with a nice tip for something that, for all we knew, was bio-hazardous waste.  People do strange things in the name of polite behavior.

How much better it is to simply refuse the choices offered when confronted with such a poor selection. When we find ourselves in unpleasant circumstances and want to rise above that state, we will have to make choices superior to those that put us there in the first place. By continually choosing the least distasteful course among bad choices, we will remain on a path that takes us to places we don't want to go, be with people that we really shouldn't be with, or eat things that are best left uneaten.

If you continually find yourself dissatisfied with you lot in life, maybe it is time to upgrade your choices. Since the creation, God has allowed man to choose his own path, but not without consequence. He will allow us to continually choose from a wide array of evils that can only lead to death, but what He really wants us to do is to choose life. Which... will you choose?

This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him.  For the LORD is your life... Deut. 30:19-20, NIV


The Last Acceptable Form of Bigotry

The last acceptable form of bigotry is that of bias against Christianity.

I was watching Bill O'Riley last night and he had a clip from the show, "Saturday Night Live". The clip showed an actor who was playing Christ and mocking Christianity. Now, if you were to ask the people who put on this little skit, they would likely claim that they were not mocking Christ - rather, they were making fun of a popular quarterback by the name of Tim Tebow.

Perhaps that is what they were trying to do - I won't argue their point. But the effect was to mock Jesus, and they are not the only ones doing so. In fact, countless people, from ESPN anchors to so-called "serious journalists", have used the "Tebow" story as an opportunity to mock Christ and His followers.

How sad!

How sad it is for their to be such an attitude of hostility against Christians. It seethes beneath the surface, but comes out quickly whenever anyone dares to bring up Jesus in a serious manner. It infuriates these people - often they can barely contain their scorn as they rail against anyone who would dare to acknowledge the name of Jesus in any way other than in the form of a curse.

So, what should our response be? How should Christians react to such open bigotry? While I cannot speak for others, I can tell you what I intend to do: I intend to pray for them. You see, Christ died for their sins. He died for those who spit on Him, and who cursed Him, and who struck Him, and who mocked Him, and who crucified Him. In fact, while He was dying on the very cross they nailed our Lord and Savior to, He asked God to forgive them because they did not know what they were doing.

I think the same is true of most of those who put down Christians (and the Lord whom we follow) today: They just don't know what they are doing. Does it make us mad? It should! But it should also make us hope and pray that they will repent, for most of the people who involve themselves in this last acceptable form of bigotry are just like we used to be: Ignorant and in danger of being lost for all eternity. And, like us, they need to repent. I pray that they will!

"But I tell you who hear Me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you." Jesus, as recorded in Luke 6:27-28, NIV