9/20/12

It will get worse


"I'm Good" by @TripLee116

I am not a prophet. I do not know the future. But I am passionately convinced of something. The students we lead will need spiritual tools in the near future that we have rarely used up to this point in our American cultural Christianity.
But all this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come. “Then you will be arrested, persecuted, and killed. You will be hated all over the world because you are my followers. And many will turn away from me and betray and hate each other. And many false prophets will appear and will deceive many people. Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. - Jesus (Matthew 24:8-13, emphasis mine)
A President has mentioned that the United States of America is not a Christian nation. Anti-American riots are happening all over the world. Christians in the USA have been arrested, even in the good ol' Southern Bible belt. In a small community college in Mississippi, two Christians were told they could not bow their heads and silently pray over their lunch in the cafeteria. Groups are vigorously seeking lawsuits to attack the practice of public prayer at public schools.

The USA will be no longer be known for its Christianity very, very soon. But that does not keep me up at night, because Christ is Lord of godless nations, just as He is of semi-Christian ones. (Just ask the ancient pharaoh of Moses' Egypt whether who was god after the ten plagues were over.)

What does keep me up at night is something else entirely. In ten very short years, my oldest child will be a senior in high school. She will need spiritual tools that I have never really needed. She, and the teenagers I lead every week, will need to be able to see persecution as a blessing within the next ten years, if not before. They will need to be ready to be arrested if need be. They will need to see Jesus as the only thing their life really needs, and be eager to grow closer to Him as a result of suffering, remembering that He, too, suffered. And HE suffered for THEM, so what a blessing that THEY could suffer for HIM!

"Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing." - James, the brother of Jesus (James 1:2-4), emphasis mine

But how do I effectively teach that which I only marginally understand? We lead from our own hearts, and while I think that my faith is strong enough to find joy in being arrested for Christ, I am praying that my faith and joy would be as faithful and joyful as Paul and Silas.

So the jailer put them into the inner dungeon and clamped their feet in the stocks. Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. (Acts 16:24-25, emphasis mine)

But if I am not yet that faithful and joyful, then may I show the next generation of Jesus freaks that their faith and joy can be, and should be.

We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.
 After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin. (Hebrews 12:2-4)

My country will probably not be know by its passion for Jesus. But I will declare this. My life will be filled with a passion for Jesus. I pray others will see it. I pray I will faithfully pass it on to my daughters. I also pray that the students I hang out with will catch a little of that passion, and that they will be ready for what is coming. Because it most certainly is coming. But we can be ready. Let us all keep our eyes on only one thing - Jesus.

9/11/12

Awaken


As I write this, I think back to September 11, 2001. I remember exactly where I was that day, and what I was doing on the campus of Mississippi College. I witnessed that morning on TV such evil as I had never before seen in my young life.
9-11-11 WTC Tribute In Light from Jersey City, NJ

Today, our world is not less evil. And the evil in our world is more insidiously imbedded into our American culture than we realize. The enemy is not Islam. The enemy is sin, and this enemy is thriving in our local schools. But I have hope. I am awakened to the knowledge that Jesus has not left our schools, no matter what school administrators can or cannot do. I know this, because I talk to students who are bringing Christ and His love with them to class every day. They are frustrated by the sin they see in their schools, and they are passionate about seeing Christ change their entire school. And I, too, believe that He can do just that!

Paul, who was given a special task to deliver Christ's good news to all non-Jews, wrote a letter to the church in Ephesus, declaring to them that he was praying that God would help them see that His love was broader and longer and higher and deeper than what was first believed, and it included not merely the Jews but also the entire world. This God-breathed passion of Paul's sent him to his knees. We, too, can find ourselves on our knees, begging God to change our schools through an upcoming event called See You At The Pole. Their theme for this year is "Awaken," and they emphasize the passage I just described, Ephesians 3:14-21.


Paul tells the Ephesians he is praying for them, and finishes with the following words:

These words are why I believe that Christ can change our schools and our world. (1)He can do more than our dreams can imagine. In fact, he has done just that time and again! (2)He deserves glory for making available forgiveness and love to every single student, every single day. (3)Also, Christ deserves glory year after year for moving in his people. I attended See You At The Pole as a high school student. Years later, I am encouraging our high school students to do the same!

But for change to occur, a first step is necessary, which is prayer. And See You At The Pole could provide that step. However, it is possible for SYATP to be done in a way that does not take that first step at all.

Last year, I and other youth workers were not satisfied that our students cried out to God for Him to change them and change their schools. I thought instead that most of the schools in our town staged an event with songs and a verse or two and a prayer. But the purpose of this event when it began two decades ago was not to produce an event. It was to PRAY! To cry out that God would save them, and would save their school! I am urging that students not organize a shortened worship service at their flagpoles, but to organize a time to truly pray.

Adults, please pray for the students all over this big, sin-filled world who will be praying at the flagpole of their respective school on Wednesday, September 26, 2012. Pray that God will prick hearts about the enemy of sin, and that His glory will shine in the cries of His people that day!

Thank you for your hopeful prayers.