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Students, don’t miss this series of posts on “wasting your life” over at the Rebelution blog.  Good Stuff – here is part 2 in the discussion:

I am convinced our lives will be no better than our view of death. In Luke 9:23-25 Jesus spoke the following: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”

Jesus makes it clear that depending on how we think about death we will either save our lives, or we will waste them. We can waste our lives trying to save them, or we can find our lives striving to spend them for Christ.

Drawing primarily from the life and death of Jim Elliot, as well as Michael Billings, we will spend the remainder of this series examining three marks of a tragically wasted life, and then three marks of gloriously spent life. Here’s a quick preview:

    3 Marks of a Tragically Wasted Life

  • A lukewarm attitude of complacency.
  • A lazy habit of procrastination.
  • A paralyzed lifestyle of timidity.
  • 3 Marks of a Gloriously Spent Life

  • A hot-hearted desire to be useful.
  • A relentless passion for the good use of time.
  • A constant readiness to risk for the Gospel.

Some questions for discussion:

  • Does your life contain any marks of a wasted life?
  • Does your life contain any marks of a spent life?
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I read the following from a Westminster Prof – Carl Trueman.  A very convicting and convincing article.  I encourage you to take the time to read it!

Growing up, I adored my grandfather.  He was probably the funniest man I ever knew, with a razor sharp wit, absurdism and satire running through his veins, and an imagination that seemed to know no bounds.  His letters to me were mini-masterpieces of surreal satire, and he knew how to have fun, how to puncture pomposity, and how to provoke people to think.  Yet he was, by today’s standards, uneducated.  He had left school at thirteen to work in a factory; he was a union man; he lived through the General Strike and the Depression; he knew what it was like to tramp the streets, looking for work but knowing there was no work to be found; and, a psychological victim of the British class system, he never came to see my mum play sport for her school lest he cause her embarrassment.  I loved him dearly and when he died, it was as if my own world came to an end.

I hated the system that had treated my grandfather like dirt and kept him tugging his forelock at those whose only virtue was to have been born to wealthier familes; I hated the system that had worked him so hard and broken his health so that he could never really enjoy his retirement; and I hated the system that had made him believe all this was part of his proper place in the world and had even persuaded him that it would be less embarrassing for all if he did not come to the touchline to watch his daughter play sport for her school. Indeed, one of the reasons I wanted so desperately to get in to Cambridge was to show him, and myself, and the chinless public school (in the British sense) wonders who epitomized the system, that the system could be beaten, that someone from my family could push their way in to the very heart of the establishment by sheer hard work and natural talent, rather than by money, `breeding,’ and possession of no chin and an old school tie.  The day I was accepted, he told my mum that he could not believe that the family had risen from being nothing to being represented at Cambridge.  But in my eyes we hadn’t risen at all, we had simply made a necessary point: we could do it too; we could get to where `they’ were.  My grandfather was not nothing; he was -and still is — one of the greatest men I have ever known.  What could that great mind have done, if only it had been given the privilege and leisure of study?

Now, there’s quite a contrast between the world in which my grandfather grew up and the world of today.  By age fifteen, he had done two years of hard work; had he not done so, the result would have been simple – he would have starved.  By age twenty, he knew what responsibility was; by age thirty he had spent over half his life in the workplace.  Indeed, he did not become an adult when he married and had children; he had already been an adult since before he had really needed to shave.

Today is so different.  If the poverty and hard work of my grandfather’s era left men middle-aged at thirty, the ease and trivia of today’s society seems to leave us trapped in a permanent Neverland where we all, like so many Peter (and Patty) Pans, live lives of eternal youth.  Where my grandfather spent his day hard at work, trying – sometimes desperately – to make enough money to put bread on the table and shoes on his children’s feet, today many have time to play X-Box and video games, or warble on and on incessantly in that narcissistic echo-chamber that is the blogosphere.  The world of my grandfather was evil because it made him grow up too fast; the world of today is evil because it prevents many from ever growing up at all.

In some ways, today’s world is the very antithesis of earlier ages.  I always found sixteenth and seventeenth century paintings of children to be somewhat creepy: adult heads on tiny, immature bodies, as if the artists had no real concept of youth and childhood that allowed them to depict faces as such.   Strange, isn’t it, that the airbrushing techniques so often used in today’s glossy magazines seem designed to have precisely the opposite effect: to place young heads on bodies that we know are much older.  The concept of old age is perhaps slowly but surely being airbrushed out of representations in the popular media.

Numerous incidents over recent years have brought the sad effect of all this home to me.  As a professor at university and seminary, I have had too many run-ins with students who act like five year olds and, when held to account, express all the pouting resentment that one comes to expect from a generation that demands respect but refuses to put in the time and effort to earn it.  You see them on the blogs, screaming their abuse and demanding to be heard, carrying on their tirades long after the threshold of Godwin’s Law and any semblance of decency or credibility has been passed for the umpteenth time.  They have achieved nothing – but they demand that you respect them!

The inept Islamic suicide bombers in Britain are just the most extreme, pestiferous example of this immaturity: incompetent, spotty juveniles who make portentous suicide videos and then fail to blow anything up because they forgot their car keys, or bought the wrong ingredients for bomb making from the local store, or were amazed that putting in an order in for two-hundred bottles of peroxide aroused suspicion at the local hair salon who contacted the local police: `I see, madame, and can I assume that Mr Mohammed is not actually a natural blond…..?’. These thugs demand respect in the most extreme ways; but their behaviour inspires less horror than it does simple derision and mockery.

But it gets more disturbing than simply finding people in their twenties and thirties acting like spoiled children.  Parents are becoming increasingly involved as well. With two sons in travel football (that’s soccer to any American readers), I have stood on too many touchlines where parents act like frustrated two years olds as the game does not develop as they would like; and, again, as a professor, I have had unpleasant experiences with parents too.  Being told by a parent that their child is `young and immature’ works for my wife – she teaches at a church nursery, dealing with three year olds – but it wears a bit thin when the problem child is eighteen, nineteen, twenty….thirty….  And that this kind of stuff seems more common in the church than in the secular world is disturbing.  It does not inspire much confidence about the future and, if anything, provides anecdotal confirmation to those who see religion in general and Christianity in particular, as a refuge for the emotionally retarded.

So what are we to do?  I am tempted to say: return to the world of my grandfather! but that would be foolish.  I hated that world for what it did to him.  Yes, he grew up fast and took responsibility for himself and his family, but at what cost?  Indeed, I hate that world as much as I despise the glib talk of `the dignity of manual labour’ that drips from the lips of the chardonnay-sipping chatterati for whom manual labour is not scrubbing floors to make ends meet, as it was for my grandmother, but pruning the roses and putting out the recycle bin once a week — no doubt full of empty bottles of Bolly and Krug.

The answer, then, is not a naïve, nostalgic hankering for a return to an era of poverty and cruel hardship.  Rather it is surely obvious: we need to put aside childish things and start acting like adults.  Pascal put his finger on the problem of human life when he saw how entertainment had come to occupy a place, not as the necessary and momentary relief from a life of work, but as an end in itself.  When entertainment becomes more than a pleasant and occasional distraction, when time and income become devoted to entertainment and to pleasure, when sports teams become more important to us than people – even the people to whom we are close – then something has gone badly wrong.   The frothy entertainment culture in which we live is a narcotic: not only is it addictive, so that we always want more; it also eats away at us, skewing our priorities, rotting our values as surely as too much sugar rots our teeth.  My grandfather was lucky in this one thing: he did not have time to be immature because he did not have the surplus income that would have granted him that luxury.  That is not to exalt the virtue of poverty – poverty is an evil – but it is to underscore the dangers that come with wealth in abundance.

Second, we need to stop idolizing our children.  At twenty seven, I had a wife, a child, a Ph.D. and a monograph from Oxford University Press. I looked for all the world like an adult.  Then I got myself into a bit of financial difficulty, to the tune of about two-hundred pounds, a small sum but not when you are at the bottom of the British academic payscale and a one-income family to boot.  I phoned my father for help.  He read me the riot act about financial irresponsibility, helped me get out of the immediate fix, and told me that he never, ever wanted me to call and tell him I was in such a fix again.  He loved me but he did not idolize me; he knew it was time for me to stand on my own two feet. I loved my dad, but he scared the daylights out of me with that talk.  Yet, looking back, that was one of the moments which was the making of me: look, son, you’re big boy now; look after yourself and don’t come crying to me every time you screw up.  A sobering, critical moment in the relationship between father and son; but, in my dealings with others, it finds increasingly few parallels.  Touch the child, even the one with the beard, the wisdom teeth, and the warm fuzzy memories of the time when New Kids On The Block were all the rage in High School, and you touch the sacred idol; you can expect the parents to come a-calling.

You are, of course, what you worship, as Psalm 115 reminds us, and thus, as long as we idolize our children and the culture of youth, we can expect to – well, be just like them: pouting, irresponsible, hormonal, unpleasant and, frankly, as creepy as those sixteenth century portraits of little children with adult faces.  Trapped in Neverland with no hope of escape.

I think if we worship anything but God, we will inevitably become what we worship!!!

Justin

Hey Parents,

Welcome to our first Thursday Thoughts.  I enjoyed meeting many of you on Sunday, and I look forward to serving you and your families in the coming year.  I hope you and your student will be encouraged to be a community that is informed and shaped by the cross leading to new creation.

My son Jed is now a big seven years old, but I am already experienced some tight lips when I ask him questions about school and life.  Some days he can talk till our ears ring and other days it is rough to get a peep.  At the Shepherd Press Blog, there was a great entry on Monologues and Teenagers:

The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge;
the ears of the wise seek it out. Proverbs 18:15

One of our readers left the following as part of a comment to the post, How Sin Works – Application to Teenagers:
“It is hard to dialogue and not monologue with a 13 year old who doesn’t respond. Any suggestion?”

This mom is not alone. Parents are frustrated by contrasts. Contrasts, such as when you observe your teenager talking a mile-a-minute with friends and yet, when you talk with him, his exuberance collapses into strained monosyllables.
Did you have a good day? Sort of.
How was your test? Okay.
Do you have homework? Maybe.
Do you have plans this weekend? Not sure.
Is anything bothering you? No.
Did you clean your room? Not yet.
I thought maybe we could talk later on. Why?
What did you think of the sermon? It was okay.
Why are you so hard to talk to? Aw, mom.
After you finish with a well-intended assessment of how things can be better, including appropriate Bible verses, your son says, Can I go now?

Such exchanges are disheartening. After the time and energy spent in raising your child to the teenage years, with all the love you have in your heart for him, it seems unfair and confusing for your child to act as though your relationship with him is such a burden. So what do you do – think of more creative monologues?

You can read the rest of part 1 here, part II here, part III here

Have a great week! Don’t forget to post comments and tell me what you think.

Until all have heard,

Justin

Your Fearless Leader



Your Fearless Leader

Originally uploaded by veritas6point0

Sunday at Veritas, we are starting a new series titled:  “wasted:  keeping our lives from the bottom of the barrel.”

In this series we will examine how to live that counts.  Below are some of the things we will look at during the semester:

  • Don’t waste your life
  • Don’t waste your pain and suffering
  • Don’t waste your humor
  • Don’t waste your sports
  • Don’t waste your relationships
  • Don’t waste your money
  • Don’t waste your work
  • Don’t waste your sleep
  • Don’t waste your family
  • Don’t waste your fun
  • Don’t waste your mind
  • Don’t waste your mission
  • Risk is right, better to lose your life than waste it

Join us each and every Sunday night at 6:00 in the basement of Trinity Harbor Church.

As you are probably aware already, we have our second Veritas 6.0 MEETING of the school year Sunday night.  Looks like Hurricane Ike will be coming to visit (probably will be a tropical storm by the time it hits us).  The rain shouldn’t be a problem for us, though, and we’re planning on having the meeting.

Don’t forget parents (or students, don’t let your parents forget) that we are having our first Parent Meeting of the semester.  Here are the details:

  • Parent Meeting at 5:00pm
  • Dinner for Parents and Students at 6:00pm
  • Meeting at 6:30pm
  • See you there!

Here is a weekly quote from the great pastor and theologian Sinclair Ferguson:

The evangelical orientation is inward and subjective.  We are far better at looking inward than we are at looking outward. We need to expend our energies admiring, exploring, expositing and extolling Jesus Christ.

Doesn’t this quote have much to say to us.  I think the young adult culture is extensively focused on the self.  With twitter, facebook status, blogs and the like we can be almost obsessed on looking inward.  We also have a tendency to take this to our relationships with Christ.  We think we have a good week, when we feel close to God, and this feeling of closeness is based not on Christ and His Person and Work, but rather on our quiet times, avoidance of sin and overall inward feelings or outlook.  This quote by the William Wallace of preaching and the pulpit, reminds us that true vitality is found only when we take our eyes and energies off our self and get busy exploring the greatness and beauty of Jesus Christ.  We need to take our self-focused efforts and direct them instead to Jesus.  Read this verse:

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

According to 2 Corinthians 3:18, looking outward to Jesus has the power to transform us and the great news is that even dim beholdings of Jesus are enough to change us.