Sunday, September 18, 2011

Notice These Posts Have Been Reordered

Please note the posts in this blog have been reordered to a top-down order and grouped all within one month for your convenience. The posts give a better read when the #1 etc. sequence is followed.

These posts are only suggestions you may use at your own discretion.

The guarantee you'll want to hold tight to is quoted here from Psalm 126:6

He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.

My own mission is in the "Grandfather's Psalm" 71:18:
Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come.

#1 - Ya Gotta See The Doctor

Some think Jesus doesn't care about teenagers because very little is taught about them in the Bible. In fact, many will tell you the Bible says almost nothing about Jesus as a teenager. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In the minds of most folks, they think of Jesus in the manger and he somehow shortly began his public ministry. It had to be manger to maturity and miracles... no in between, they think. If this is what you see of Jesus, YA GOTTA SEE THE DOCTOR! You really do!

To learn all we can about Jesus Christ, the divine Son of God, we must look at scripture; first and foremost. You do need to know those scriptures are much like a diamond mine. In seeking gems you must look closely and often dig a little. Our Bible is just like that diamond mine.

The Bible is divided in two parts; the Old Testament and the New Testament. The New Testament begins with the birth and genealogies of Jesus Christ. The first four divisions in the NT are called the Gospels. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These gospels each have their own personality, but all are solidly connected by the critical truth of salvation only in Jesus Christ. Matthew wrote about Jesus to the Jews, Mark wrote to the Romans, Luke to the Gentiles, and John to everyone. When God inspired the writers about Jesus, no ethnic group was left out, yet the unity of God's sovereignty and provision is preserved. It reminds us that teenagers all have different personalities and character, but every one must obtain salvation only at the foot of the Cross.

Luke was the only gospel writer that was not Jewish. He was a gentile doctor of medicine; a physician. As a physician, he was most interested in teaching us about the person and purpose of Jesus in his humanity. While many places in scripture teach us about Jesus' maturing years, we'll zero in on just one chapter that the doctor (Luke) has provided for us.

As we begin looking at teenage Jesus, turn to Luke chapter 2 and read it more than once. Read it very slow. Remember we'll shortly begin mining for diamonds.

I can almost picture a teenage Jesus walking to the market to buy bread and cheese. As he walks in those quiet moments, he can still recall the stories his mother told him many times about his strange birth, and those wonderful birthday gifts some wise men traveled so far to bring to him. What questions he had asked, many times of the rushed life-saving trip to Egypt, his family made. Because Jesus was tempted in all points as we are, I'd say it's likely he had some peers that may have bullied or befriended him.

My grandfather heart tells me that some truths and principles for teens are so special; so tender, they can't really be put on paper – in spoken/written words. God has saved those to be given directly into every teenager's heart searching for love, truth, purpose, and provision. But for now, let's do some diamond mining as we see the doctor; doctor Luke, that is.

Friday, September 16, 2011

#2 - Here He Comes! Get Ready!

As the theater lights dim and just before the spotlight is pointed onto Jesus' teenage life, we'll take just a minute more to emphasize the importance of those growing years, that, for you and I, have presented so many stormy challenges in learning who we are and why we're here. These elementary and teen years are so very important to us recognizing who we are, and God's provisions to us along the way, we live through them again, in the lives of our own children.

If nothing else moves you to put great emphasis on those growing years, take note of two simple facts Jesus teaches all the disciples and those others around Him. He states the heart of every one that is welcomed into eternal Glory must have a humble heart like a little child. The other is that Heaven has, always on duty, a guardian angel keeping an eye on youth and how others treat them.

These few words are meant to lead you to prayer, much as you begin meals with knife and fork. Ask God to strengthen your knowledge, compassion, and efforts as you find the promised diamonds to all those who reach out with Heaven's love to those of our God-given harvest fields of souls.

Set your heart in anticipation for another view of the Creator that hung on a cruel Cross, in fulfillment of prophecy, and slamming the coffin lid on Satan's evil march into the hearts of youth starving for meaning and victory in their future.

As you learn from scripture all the struggles Mary and her husband Joseph went through to deliver Jesus to his teen years, you must gain an appreciation, even now, that Jesus' young years entering his teens, must have contained powerful lessons that you and I need to learn and apply.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

#3 - Growin' Glorifyin' God

The POWER LIST of Jesus' maturing begins in Luke 2:40 and then continues to the end of the chapter. The impatient attitudes that you and I so often have to wrestle with, prompts us to skip to the last verse and somehow expect to see the rainbow of answers we seek; those answers so badly needed to minister to the youth in our neighborhood, or maybe even under our own roof.

I WILL WARN YOU! This is not the right time to skip anything. God has inspired Luke, the physician and writer of the gospel book that bears his name, to write these words that have been protected by God, down through the ages. Don't skip, just search and savor and store and share.

Verse 40 begins with “And the child grew...” Now that doesn't sound like much. But do you see that it is at the beginning of the list (to the chapter end). “Law of First Mention,” suggests we should pay particular attention to “grew.” This little four-letter word has the powerful job of drawing our attention to the fact that Jesus went through a maturing cycle that most every young person does. He wasn't the divine son of God that was plopped right into the Jewish community.

Now I don't know if Jesus ever had a tooth ache, a skinned knee, or some bullies that taunted him. Actually I don't want to know. My response is to simply know that Jesus was exposed to all the evil that most every teen has... yet he did not sin. Notice why these 'skinned knee' details are omitted. God doesn't want us to be sidetracked with little details, and not relish the next attribute. Are you ready for this?

The next attribute of Jesus is described with four words, not just a four-letter word. “waxed strong in spirit.” When I see the word 'waxed' I think of strengthening, of preserving, of sealing something that is valuable to me. I really drink in the importance of dealing with the 'spirit', listed here. I am to preserve my strong spiritual character, as I mature and become more Christ-like.

“Filled with wisdom” is the next in our Power List. Notice it doesn't say 'knowledge' or 'data' or 'facts'. It specifically says 'wisdom'. That's the ability to properly and lovingly use that knowledge. Was Jesus satisfied with just the average amount of wisdom? You know, just enough to get by? Wow! Look at that word, “FILLED”. Discuss with those youth you minister to, to describe what that “FILLED” really means. How did Jesus get FILLED? How do we get FILLED? How are we different when we're FILLED?

The fourth factor in Jesus' maturing is maybe the best. “and the grace of God was upon him.” This is another one of those attributes that doesn't give any details. It's like the “grew” that we started with. God's grace doesn't have a part number, or a manufacturing blueprint. It's a gift we don't earn (and don't deserve either.) God's grace is tailored to just exactly what our all knowing God is sure we need. His grace for us today may be different that it was for us last Thursday, or when we were trying to find the words to tell that teen about His bountiful love.

The important thing to desire each and every day, is God's grace and that it be upon us, in a way that magnifies Him, strengthens church folks, and empowers us to reach out to discouraged hearts around us. God's grace helps us look past the unusual appearances and unexpected actions we, at first, don't feel comfortable around. Reach out with compassion, but first reach up with expectation and trust.

Next time, we'll take a good look at some of Jesus' schooling. You'll hardly believe what happened!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

#4 - The Teen Teaches Teachers

This incredible POWER LIST of maturing attributes of teenage Jesus is a place we could spend days and pages of descriptions of this Creator of all that is, and our one and only Savior. Previously, we mentioned the diversity in personality of the gospels of Jesus Christ. Remember? Matthew wrote to the Jews, Mark to the Romans, Luke to the Gentiles, and John wrote to everyone. The picture to see, is that God leaves no one out, as He presents His plan and provisions for you and I, no matter where we live or how we live. God has His compassionate eye on each of us, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

As John finishes his book of the “Gospel of John”, he feels swamped. He feels he hasn't even scratched the surface, of all that Jesus has done, around us, for us, and inside us. His closing words tell us,

And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.” John 21:25

In Luke 2:42, we see some key facts, that each hold more diamonds than we can describe here. First is that scripture tells us that Jesus is now 12 years old. After his next birthday, the Jewish society would then consider him an adult, with all the responsibilities that come with it. The Bar Mitzpah ceremony proclaims this transition to the world. (Girls 'become adults' one year earlier.)

We see in just these few verses that Jesus stresses his parents out, in their 3 day search and rescue for him. When Mary and Joseph ask him why he's done this, his response had not a drop of apology in it. They didn't even understand his response. He told them, he was doing His father's business. His response began a transition from being just Mary's little boy, to a servant of the Most High God in heaven.

Taking responsibility for our actions and seeing God's claim on our life and mission, is a monumental transition. It may come in a blink of an eye or take days to take our life in our hands and hold it up to Heaven, and humbly say, “For whatever it's worth, Dear God, here I am; here's my life. Let it be a tool; a testimony to your unfathomable undying love and Lordship, upon me, and those around me.”

Those youth we minister to, have to come to this same place of recognizing their place and purpose in God's plan. Only then can they view each sunny or stormy day in their lives as God's shaping their character and talents to magnify Him. This also gives us all a deeper understanding of God's character as we seek intimate fellowship with Him in Glory, for our eternity.

In Luke 2:46 and 47, I see a teenage Jesus in church (the temple). Wow! What a perfect place for every teenager to learn about life and God's love. Being in the right place at the right time is more than half of any battle, isn't it? This is a powerful truth that teens of every age need to understand and act upon.

My heart pushes to paint a picture of young Jesus right in the middle of all the lawyers and priests. In his quest to learn all he could about church and God, Jesus wasn't a back seat student in any fashion. I see him sitting and listening to all that was being taught, during those three days his parents were searching all of Jerusalem for their young son. Sitting and listening is not a real easy thing to deeply do. Most of us listen just close enough to form our replies. And our replies are often meant just to impress our listeners how smart we are (or think we are). 

Jesus certainly heard the lawyers teach some things that were not true. This happens to us every day. We must be good at discerning truth from tale, fact from fiction. The youth we minister to, have incredibly poor ability in doing this. They become sidetracked; they become distracted the same way Eve was sidetracked by Satan in the Garden of Eden.

'Sitting and listening' also has a powerful influence on others, that we cherish. If we first listen to them, they'll more likely listen to us. It's a good partner to asking good questions that move us closer an understanding and actions that please God and produce our FULL JOY promised in scripture.

In asking good questions, Jesus got strong attention from his 'teachers'. This resulted in Jesus TEACHING HIS TEACHERS. More than that, he amazed them with how much he knew and how rich his answers were, to their questions.

As you minister to those troubled young hearts around you, do you compassionately listen to them? Can your heart be humble enough to expect they can teach you some things. We silver-haired mentors have a great deal of misconceptions about teenagers today. Our mentoring will never get to first base unless we want our 'students' to become our teacher, for a time. Can you deeply thank God for allowing you to minister to that teenager? Do your prayers show this? Can you pray with that young heart in a way that draws you both into the very center of God's grace and mercy?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

#5 - Deadly Consequences

It was a blow to my life, that I'll never forget as long as I live. It happened on the very first day of my new job as Director of a chapter of Youth For Christ, in a southern Ohio town. I was quietly seated in the rear of a juvenile court watching something happen, I still find hard to believe. Standing before the judge was a mother and father, almost in tears. Between them stood their teenage son, with no idea what is about to happen to him.

I clearly heard the parents both tell the judge to take this; their son and do with him whatever the judge wanted to. Their sorrowful testimony told everyone present, their teen would not mind them in any way. Right in my hearing, these two parents were giving away their own son. It wasn't until years later that I learned just how truly fortunate this teenager, standing between his parents, were.

Of the Ten Commandments presented in stone to Moses on Mt. Sinai, one stands out from the rest in a very special way. The fifth commandment says to honor thy father and thy mother and adds a promise. That promise is,

that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.”

The truth of that promise is detailed in a commandment for us in Deuteronomy, the fifth book of the Bible. Chapter 21, verses 18 through 21 order a stubborn and rebellious son to be stoned to death. That teenager in juvenile court that day has no idea what his future does or could have in store for him.

An easy to overlook phrase in describing the teenager Jesus, is back in Luke chapter 2, tucked in the middle of verse 51. It tells us, “...and was subject unto them;” Most every adult has tasted the daily struggle of balancing the beginning responsibilities of adulthood with the respect and honor due their parents. It's a skill that demands compassion and love, and remembering our roots. I fully believe this same struggle into adulthood was a part of Jesus' growing years. It figures into his being “tempted in all points, like as we... yet being without sin.”

Drawing life-long lessons in wisdom from our teenage years is not minimized or made trivial by scripture or all of Heaven. God made those searching stretching years a very necessary part of our lives, as He did his own only-begotten son that someday would open the only door needed for us to obtain salvation and all the eternal glory and gifts that come with it.

In prayer, prepare long and hard to show teenagers that to submit to authority. Show them it doesn't make them a second class citizen, but beautifully prepares them to better lead others away from the viscous jaws of sin and its consequences.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

#6 -The 50 Gallon Milk Shake

Now don't jump to the wrong conclusion! Jesus didn't make or enjoy a 50 gallon milkshake mixed with a real outboard motor. But I always think of this event when chewing on our next items on the POWER LIST of attributes in the growing life of teenage Jesus. I'll describe the milkshake and sticky gymnasium another time. Right now we have far more powerful things to look at.

The Gentile medical doctor, Luke, tailored his gospel about our Lord Jesus, to the Gentiles, in a fashion you'd expect from a doctor like him. It was so much centered around his humanity; what made Jesus much like you and I, and our every day challenges of growing. Though Luke didn't make any of the chapter divisions, it is, though like the frosting on the cake, that the best of the teenager Jesus descriptions were saved until now. Let's take a good look at them. They form a quartet; a wonderful group of four that becomes a four-part lesson for us to share with those troubled teens God has put in our field of ministry.

This quartet is simply listed in Luke 2 verse 52, as follows:

And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.”
We see here the quartet that is so critical in giving meaning and order to every teenager, and Jesus too!
'Wisdom' we'll call MENTAL, 'stature' we'll call PHYSICAL, 'favor with God' is SPIRITUAL, and 'man' is SOCIAL. Got it? Mental, physical, spiritual, and social. If we leave any of the quartet out, or shoved into a corner, the teenage life becomes mixed up and prime territory for Satan to plant his seeds of sin and doubt.

I'll say here, that much of what follows, is adapted from my Youth For Christ training. (A.K.A. Campus Life – Balanced Life ).

It may be a small point, but one that nags me to include here, my '3 dash 4 principle' I see in scripture so often. I find trios; sets of 3, quite often representing simple STRENGTH and STRUCTURE. Foremost is the divine Trinity; God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The structure of each of us is also a trio: Body, Soul, and Spirit. You can also see the strength in structures like the triangle bracing of bridges. I suppose you could think of the structure of water as liquid, ice, and steam. Ask the teen you are ministering to, for other examples to add to the list. Help them to begin tagging their thinking to strength and structure, that their lives so desperately need.

The other part of my '3 dash 4 principle', is the large number of quartets; the sets of 4 in our Bible. For me, they seem to always be presenting PROGRESS and PRODUCTION. We've already been getting glimpses of the 4 Gospels that produce the life and attitudes that please God and build up others. They have their own way to daily move us along toward greater challenges in serving our Lord; that's progress.

Some other quartets you might also discuss with your 'student' teenager, are the four purposes of scripture. Those were the rules, testing, discipline, and learning that are so vital to our progress in our following the Lord in trust and experiencing the FULL JOY we are promised, along the way.

Can you add some quartets from scripture?
God is not about just putting STRENGTH and STRUCTURE, PROGRESS and PRODUCTION in out lives. He wants to tie it all together with something the world and all its technology know nothing of. It's REAL JOY... even better than that, it's that FULL JOY we touched on earlier.

Next we'll take a look at each of the Luke 2:52 quartet.