THE BERLIN WALL ALL OVER AGAIN?February 25th, 2011
Like teetering dominos, the Islamic giants of the Middle East fill our news. Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Algeria, Morocco, Libya, Iran—will Saudia Arabia, Jordan, Syria and the smaller nations be exempt from the sweeping unrest that has already spread across the desert sands of these neighbors?
Regarding this time of immense instability and uncertainty in the Middle East, I ponder these two observations. Number one, clearly this political and social upheaval is being fueled by the young of these Islamic societies. Banded together and spurred on by the social networks, Facebook and Twitter, it is dominantly the young who are the driving force behind the revolutionary upheavals. The YouTube clips, the nightly news coverage, the tweeted messages crisscrossing the region in nanoseconds—belong to youthful faces and voices. I wonder what would happen would the young of Christianity, the young of Adventism, the young of this university—were they to band together and become an indomitable force for the God of the universe. What will awaken the sleeping giant of the young here in the West—do you wonder, too?
My second observation grows out of the memory of how stunningly fast the “iron curtain” of communism came down in 1989. What the world and even the church had resigned themselves to—an unbreachable wall of separation between the East and the West—literally overnight collapsed. And lands forbidden, as it were, to the everlasting gospel were suddenly opened and accessible. And for one brief and shining moment, the hungry masses “behind the wall” poured into public lecture halls to hear for the first time the everlasting gospel. Could it be that the Middle East itself might yet open similarly? While the socio-religio-political dynamics are radically different between Eastern Europe in the 1990s and the Middle East in the 2010s, nevertheless the possibility of a similar brief and shining moment of opportunity is just as real, is it not?
Who will be ready to respond? Will the church? Will you?
I would like to appeal, particularly to the young who are reading this blog—could it be that God will call you (irrespective of your degree or career) to become part of his frontline, rapid-response team in the Middle East one day? The more I read, the more I ponder and pray, the more convicted I am that God has raised up this community of faith to be a connecting bridge with our Muslim brothers and sisters. The fanatical elements of both Islam and Christianity would seek to destroy any divine bridging, but a generation of young radical followers of God in our faith community could be the very catalyst God needs to communicate his endtime appeal to the human race, to his Muslim children the world over. And so I urge you to make this notion of becoming a radical missionary for the Kingdom a matter of earnest personal praying. Who knows but that “for such a time as this” God has personally raised you up! (Listen carefully to “The Radicals”—Part 6.)
We are all watching history in the making. God help us, however, to do more than watch. Instead let us help write the history God has always dreamed could be: “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands” (Revelation 7:9). Let’s make that history for God.
Have you read this survey on teenagers?February 17th, 2011
Have you read this survey on teenagers? George Barna, the Christian demographer, released a national survey of 602 teenagers, in which they were asked to describe what they think their lives will be like in ten years. And their responses are intriguing.
Boding well for an academic community like ours, their top-rated priority for the future was finishing a college degree (93% of them declaring that by the age of 25 that would definitely or probably happen). Their next highest ten year life goal was to “have a great paying job” (81% of these teens believe it will definitely or probably happen). Their third highest goal was to “have a job where you can make a difference” (80%). And just behind that was their #4 goal, to have “a close, personal relationship with God” (72% felt such a relationship would definitely or probably be a reality ten years from now). The rest of their top ten ten-year goals in this survey were: #5, travel to other countries (71%); #6, to be “actively involved in a church or faith community” (63%); #7, to be married (58%); #8, to regularly serve the poor (48%); #9, to have children (40%); and #10, to “be famous or well-known” (26%).
Interestingly, George Barna notes, “Current church attendance appears to be a better predictor of future religious activity than is a teen’s religion affiliation. Among weekly attenders of religious youth groups, 60% said they definitely will be involved in a church in the future, which compares to just 22% of teens who attend less frequently and 14% among teens who never attend such religious functions” (http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/13-culture/366…).
So how is it with our Pioneer teenagers? Take, for example, this morning’s worship platform filled with our own “tweens” and teens, active members of our Pathfinder Club, the Evergreens. Take a long, hard look at these kids who are “our own”—bright young Seventh-day Adventist Christian teens. And then ask yourself the question, How high a priority should it be for this congregation to invest its best energies, its most dedicated leaders, its deepest sacrificial giving to ensure that “our own” survive their own uncharted voyage into the next ten years?
After all, look at the world they’re inheriting—political upheaval dominoing through the Middle East, economic uncertainty East and West, moral confusion in Hollywood and a society practically salivating for our teens’ immersion into its culture. Shouldn’t their church, our church be a safe haven for young hearts? That’s precisely why I’m so grateful for the men and women who lead our young—in our Pathfinder and Adventurers Clubs, in our Sabbath Schools from nursery to youth, in our church schools at Ruth Murdoch and Andrews Academy. They remain year after year our unsung heroes in this battle for the heart and soul of every generation! And to them the rest of us owe a genuine debt of gratitude.
“Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth” (Ecclesiastes 12:1)—if ever there were a divine injunction (and promise) for Creator-worshiping Adventist kids, wouldn’t it be this? And if ever Creator-loving Adventist grownups needed to seize the moment to support their young with all the time and money and volunteering energy we can muster, wouldn’t this be that time? Won’t you help us help them?
Will You Be Mine?February 11th, 2011
I know it isn’t a church holiday, but when we were kids, giving each other those little red and pink cards on Valentine’s Day was a favorite pastime. I don’t suppose we ever really figured out the meaning of that innocuously short query that we scribbled in third grade penmanship on those floppy heart-shaped cut-outs. Nevertheless we handed it out to all our friends at school: “Will you be Mine?”
It’s the call of divine heart, is it not? “Will you be mine?” asks the God of the universe who for millennia now has been desperately trying to win back the hearts of a runaway and rebel race. “Will you be mine?” Why it’s as if all the children God already has around his dinner table in heaven aren’t enough—as if he’ll never be really, truly happy and contented until we say “yes” and come and join him, too. “Will you be Mine?”
When I fell in love with Karen, before I’d even gotten to know her, it was the utter preoccupation of my teenage heart to get her attention. I knew each day that as I headed for the cafeteria at SMC (“Southern Matrimonial College”), she’d be coming out of one of her nursing classes and I could pass her on the sidewalk. And so every day, in one of those foolish (but effective) teenage rituals, I’d drop my head when I spotted her and pretend to be deep in thought while staring at the sidewalk in front of me, but all the while maneuvering my steps so that I would practically run straight into her. Then there’d be the burst of laughter, the quick apology about “not” seeing her there, and with her face fresh in mind I’d be on my way. Who can know “the way of a man with a maiden” (Proverbs 30:19 NIV)?
But then, the ways of Love divine are as inexplicable at times, aren’t they? Explain to the rest of us, please, the compelling passion that drives a God from his great white throne to our dark, fallen earth, all for what? That we might be granted the chance to cry at the top of our lungs, “We have no king but Caesar”? And with that ugly refrain repeating inside of him, this rejected God stumbles on to the place of his execution. And as they stretch out his naked frame and pin him to that stake, with every thud of the mallet upon those nails, the question he came to earth to ask is hammered out: “Will you be Mine?”
“‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life’” (John 3:16). On Valentine’s Day it will be this story that I will be sharing. Join us in South Bend (7 p.m.). Pray for me and us right now, so that God’s “Will you be Mine?” will be an arrow through every listening heart.