Delaying Life

Have you noticed that people don’t start life until very late these days? By the time their grandparents were their age that earlier generation had built a career, raised children, taken responsible roles in church and community and gained maturity from each of those ventures.

Today, however, adults are still locked into the insecurities of youth: uncertain in themselves and non-starters in the journey of life. People today are delaying life, in the hope they can get enough momentum to have a go!

While there have always been people who struggle in life, it is now as if whole generations have fallen into that pattern. They fill their days, but never seem to move forward in the very things they want to do.

Insecurity?

Is the problem insecurity? Youth are normally insecure. They are moving into new territory and changing emotionally, physiologically and socially at the same time. So the insecurity of youth is to be expected. But do we really expect people who have lived half of their natural life to still be in the same condition?

It is as if modern culture, with all its “advanced” thinking and godless concepts, has left whole generations without a foundation for moving forward. The “If it feels good, Do It!” philosophy has produced a much weaker strain of human than the “This is your responsibility, Live up to it!” philosophy.

Self-indulgence and being pandered to by the culture have caused endemic insecurity. And that insecurity also manifests in the ever-growing dependence on psychologists and other props

Religion is a Prop

I recall with a smile those who would taunt Christians with the accusation that “Religion is a prop!” They were suggesting, of course, that they did not need props and were somehow more self-sufficient and complete than Christians.

I like the answer one of my friends gave to that “prop” taunt. He said, “Jesus Christ is not my prop. He’s my Iron Lung! I don’t just lean on Him. I am totally dependent on Him!

I think it is fair to say that faith in Jesus Christ provides a very real additional support to the human heart and our life in general. The Holy Spirit is our ‘parakletos’, meaning the one who is called alongside to help us on our journey. The Angel of the Lord surrounds and protects us. God’s wisdom sustains us. Faith in God gives us peace that passes understanding, provides solutions to heart issues that would otherwise eat holes in our lives, and enables us to be set free from sins that would otherwise totally enslave us.

So, “Yes”, I think it is true to say that Christianity is a much needed support for human existence. I for one certainly would not like to face life without it.

What’s Your Prop?

I have met many non-believers whose whole existence is dominated by something they totally rely on. My neighbour was a drunk. I have met womanisers. I know many ‘workaholics’. Australia has many sports fanatics. I have met ego-maniacs, sex-addicts, political animals, control freaks, entertainment junkies, computer game slaves, food fiends, choc-aholics, academia idolaters, fantasy escapists, gambling addicts, druggies, and the list goes on.

If people do not have the divine means of resolving life’s issues they have to become dependent on weak and beggarly things. Despite their pride in self or confidence in their chosen life focus, they are leaning on a broken stick. Their football final won’t solve the problems in their life. Money won’t buy them happiness. Multiple relationships won’t heal the soul.

But, I digress – let me get back to the delayed life.

Life On Hold

Many of those whose life is in a holding pattern think that it is normal to be where they are. Their peers are probably in much the same boat.

Youth are put on a slow paced and ever expanding academic treadmill. The degree they may achieve in their late 20’s is inferior to what students achieved up to a decade younger, less than 200 years ago. Today’s youth are not “getting an education”, but “getting swallowed up in a system of delay”.

Youth are also distracted with all manner of meaningless and mindless things. Their great achievement in life is to master some intangible and vaporous thing, like a new level in a computer game that will soon be obsolete. Instead of achieving tangible things that will be the foundation for their future, they spend their energies on illusory distractions, thus denying them the maturity that can only come from reality.

In these and many other ways today’s youth are put “on hold” and they can stay in that pattern for much of their life.

Admiral Farragut

A famous American naval officer, during the American Civil War, was Admiral David Farragut. What impressed me about this man is not his achievement in his latter years, but the fact that he was a great achiever as a lad.

Born in 1801, young David became a midshipman by the time he was 10 years old. That role was normally given to young lads from well-to-do families, so they could be trained up in the officer stream. A midshipman was required to learn navigation and other skills in preparation for taking charge of a ship in due course.

At age 10 young David revealed his capabilities, by capturing an English ship. David was given command of his own ship at the age of 12 years!!!!

Now, think about the 10 year olds you know and tell me whether the training processes of our culture have prepared them to capture a ship yet? Think of those who are 12 years old, and tell me whether they have any hope of being made captain of a ship, over a crew of full-grown men.

Cheated

I suggest that today’s youth are being cheated. They are being robbed of their true potential, by a social order that lulls them into complacency, blocks their maturity, eats up their years in dumbed-down processes, distracts them with vaporous illusions, fills them with silly notions, cuts away their foundations, and leaves them to flounder in uncertainty.

Meanwhile the siren song of the media and pop-culture asserts that we have ‘evolved’ to new heights and new levels of self-fulfilment. We have not moved forward, but backwards!

It’s all a “matrix”-like delusion. And the real evidence is the multitude of people who have spent half their life and have nothing to show for it. They are still insecure, holding onto scraps instead of substance. They have filled their life with samples, but never bought the real product.

Sampling Life

Marriage has been replaced with cheap samples of sex, and throw-away relationships, supposedly in preparation for the real thing. Family has been replaced with the age-streamed peer-group. Direction has been replaced with the latest pop-culture fad. Self-actuation has been replaced with addiction.

Responsible leadership has been displaced by illusory status-symbols. Moral character has been displaced by academic learning. True achievement has been displaced by material goods.

Generational integration has been displaced by the drinking buddies. Wisdom has been displaced by information.

All anyone has after a life-time of these fraudulent substitutes, is a bag of samples. They cannot show a family lineage or a life proven by consistency through the decades and against all the storms. They have not developed character or earned things of substance to pass to their descendents. For many there is little connection or care for those ‘descendents’ anyway, since the mess of their life has damaged those ties.

Disclaimer

Now, I am not saying that to be single at 35 means that life has been wasted or that people are lost in insecurity. I know many who have very purposeful lives and who are yet waiting to find a spouse.

What I do see, however, are people who reach that age having been through a series of cheap relationships and half-hearted ventures with silly ideas about themselves and the world in which they live. These are the ones I am concerned for.

Those who seem incapable of doing the things their grandparents had no difficulty achieving are the ones who have been deceived and had their lives stolen from them.

The Solution

At heart, the solution is for people to find their true selves, under God’s direction. The problem is that the cultural messages are so overpowering that God’s truth is filtered and watered down, even as it is received.

There is a corporate blindness which the enemy has blanketed western culture with. It is endemic deception, such as Christ identified to the Apostle Paul in launching that ministry 2,000 years ago.

Jesus appeared to Paul in a vision and told him that Paul was to turn people from the blindness which the devil held them in.

“To open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so they can receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith that is in me.” Acts 26:18

We need an “eye opening anointing” upon this generation. They are blind and are being led by the blind. Only when people know the truth can the truth set them free. So, please pray with me for deliverance for today’s generations, so people can stop delaying their life and become powerfully effective in the destiny for which they were created.

Youth Violence from Websites and Media

We all know that what we see influences us, yet many people defend violence in the media and in computer games. Opinions reflect each person’s bias on the matter, so it’s always helpful when research clarifies the facts. Sadly we have such a high level of scorn toward some truths that we need empirical evidence to confirm what any sensible person knows intuitively to be true.

Websites Linked to Violent Behaviour

This is the headline for a Reuters report from November 6 this year, quoting the results of research from Dr. Michele L. Ybarra of Internet Solutions for Kids. Dr Ybarra’s investigations support the claim that many other studies have already underscored, that young people exposed to violent media are more likely to lash out violently themselves.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has already come to the conclusion from evidence already on hand, that because media violence contributes so much to child violent behaviour it is “the single most easily remediable contributing factor” to youth violence.

Media Influencing Teens

Ybarra’s study into media influencing violence is consistent with research into the media’s influence on the sexual behaviour of adolescents. The Journal of Adolescent Health reported in 2006 that “The mass media are an important context for adolescents’ sexual behaviour”.

The report by L’Engle, Brown and Kenneavy confirms that increased exposure to sexual content through television, music, movies and magazines correlates with a higher level of sexual activity and an increased intent to engage in sexual activity.

Encouraging Violence

The Ybarra study looked at the influence of violent websites on the violent behaviour of 10 to 15 year olds. They specifically looked at “seriously violent behaviour”, defined as shooting or stabbing, robbery, committing aggravated assault, or sexual assault.

Of the 1,500 people surveyed (48% female) 38% reported that they had visited at least one type of violent website. 5% reported having engaged in one of the seriously violent behaviours in the past year.

Children who reported having visited more than one type of violent website in the past year were 50% more likely to engage in a seriously violent behaviour. Those who indicated that most of the websites they visited showed “real people fighting, shooting or killing” were five times more likely than their peers to engage in seriously violent behaviour.

The Web Has the Power

A key insight from the Ybarra study is that violence on television, movies, cartoons, games and music was less likely to correlate to higher levels of violent behaviour than internet violence involving real people.

We all knew instinctively that the cartoon violence of a Foghorn Leghorn character beating up a dog has negligible impact compared to realistic images of real people engaged in violence. Now the research confirms that realistic violence depicted on violent websites has potency above the other violent media depictions available to young people.

A Supply Problem

Some argue that such things as internet violence or media sexual messages do not inherently change people’s behaviour, but they attract those already committed to the course of action. I disagree, and assert, as the L’Engle study in to sexual behaviour indicates, that increased supply of harmful influences results in an increase in the bad outcomes.

I believe the presence of harmful influences is causative in increasing the level of harmful behaviours.

However, even if I am wrong on that point, the problem is still one of ‘supply’. If people are inclined to wrong behaviour and readily addict themselves to and respond to negative influences, then the very supply of those influences is a problem. We have a Supply Problem. Not an undersupply but an oversupply of the wrong influences.

During the Prohibition Era there was a direct correlation between the supply of alcohol and the number of men who were alcoholics. Whatever the underlying predisposition of the drunkard, limiting the supply kept many men and their families from the degradation of alcoholism.

Curb the Supply to Protect our Society

The solution to the problem is in reducing the supply of these harmful influences. Violent realism on websites, sexually arousing images in the media and ready availability of alcohol have all been proven to increase the incidence of people’s harmful behaviour.

Remember the quote earlier from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which says of youth violence that media violence is “the single most easily remediable contributing factor”. If we remove media violence we will reduce youth violence. Curb the supply and you reduce the bad behaviour, thus protecting the society.

Fathers Protect the Vulnerable

One of the roles of fathers is to protect the vulnerable people in their care. That is why parents monitor, limit and regulate the influences that reach their children. That is also why fathers of our society, those who are in positions of responsibility to protect us all, must also monitor and regulate the harmful influences that impact our society.

Sadly there are people who use their demand for free speech to overturn all attempts to regulate the harmful influences already taking a serious toll in our society. Until we have true ‘fathers’ in our societies we will continue to unprotected and harmful influences will continue to invade homes and communities.

At the domestic level, parents can set healthy standards for their children and teach those children to understand the dangers. Informed children who have developed healthy self-control can avoid the evil influences that may abound around them. Sadly there are not many parents who understand the problem, let alone feel empowered to act effectively to protect their own children.

Pray that things change for the better.

What is True Freedom

Today’s Christians have lost sight of true freedom. They think that the level of survival which they have attained is the scope of their freedom. This is spiritual blindness and holds whole churches back from the freedom that is theirs in Christ.

I have discussed freedom in various ways over recent months, but a recent discussion prompted me to realise that many people are absolutely blind to the issue. And the implications are serious.

The Politician

Many years ago I met an Australian state politician who was a relatively new Christian. He was serving in the parliament and attending a big church with a well-known minister in one of the capital cities.

A friend introduced me to this older man and we enjoyed a catch up one afternoon. As we chatted privately he confided in me that he had a very real struggle in his role. He attributed the problem to the fact that he was a Christian working in a key area and thus coming under stronger spiritual attack.

His personal struggle was with immoral temptation. He found himself strongly distracted by immoral thoughts and interest in women.

Having once been addicted to immoral thoughts I knew from personal experience that it is possible to become completely free from such things. I knew the joy of freedom and the sweet simplicity of life that comes from the liberation which Christ brings.

I therefore ventured to suggest to this man that he did not have to struggle as he was. I proffered to him the suggestion that he could be completely liberated and released from the temptation.

His response was a firm and emphatic rebuttal. He assured me that there was no freedom from this pressure and he knew that for a fact. He knew it because he had gone to his own pastor, the high-profile pastor of one of the leading churches, and told him about the problem. The pastor responded by explaining that there was no release from this problem. The pastor confided that he too lived with a constant daily battle against unclean thoughts and immoral temptations.

Thus advised by his pastor, the man would not hear that there was any other freedom to be enjoyed. He deemed that his high-profile pastor had more status on this point than I did, despite my personal testimony of deliverance and freedom.

Some months later the politician vacated his position prematurely. I suspect that he could not stand the on-going personal struggle he was in.

Besetting Sins

Christians use the expression ‘besetting sin’ to describe a sin that defies their efforts to overcome it. The concept is extended to suggest that every Christian has some weakness that they will never conquer and so they must continue to rely on God’s grace to carry them through an on-going, life-long battle with their besetting sin.

That idea, however, is a contradiction of what the Bible teaches about besetting sin.

“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1,2

In the only reference to sins which ‘beset us’ the verse tells us to lay aside those sins. They are not sins which we cannot conquer, but rather are to be disposed of. There is no Biblical doctrine teaching that sin is unable to be removed. Instead the Bible teaches that sin is able to be completely extracted from our lives.

“Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.” Romans 6:12

“For sin will not have dominion over you: for you are not under the law, but under grace.” Romans 6:14

Anger Management

My son, Jonathan, tells of a meeting he attended where the topic was Anger Management. The presumption was that everyone had a problem with anger and that anger had to be managed by each individual. When Jonathan advised the coordinator that he had completely resolved his anger problem by realising the forgiveness of Christ for his own sins and then by applying the same grace of forgiveness to those who wronged him, he was ignored. The leader of the discussion did not take up Jonathan’s claim, probably because they did not believe it could be true.

No Concept of Freedom

It is as if today’s generation has lost all sight and understanding of true freedom. They have no concept of freedom. Just like that high profile pastor who lived in a daily struggle and the Anger Management leader who could not relate to a testimony of freedom, those who are leading today’s world cannot bring their followers into freedom. If the leaders do not have true freedom themselves, then they cannot lead their followers into freedom.

Porn Addiction

Surveys of Christian leaders indicate that a high percentage of them have an addiction to pornography. When pastors and leaders are addicts and slaves to sin and degradation there is no way they can lead their congregations into freedom. In fact, they have no real testimony or concept of true freedom.

Jack Sonnemann, the highly effective anti-pornography campaigner in Australia, told me recently that he finds few young pastors who will welcome his anti-porn message into their churches. His American associates tell him that this must implicate those pastors as porn addicts themselves.

Whatever the case, it is yet another evidence for the absence of true freedom in the church. When leaders struggle with lust, are addicted to porn and can only restrain their anger, then they know nothing of the true freedom Christ has for them.

Freedom in Christ

Consider a few verses which announce what true freedom is like and what all Christian leaders should be living in and bringing to their congregations.

“If the Son therefore makes you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36

“And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” John 8:32

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” Galatians 5:1

Freedom is what we are called for and it is given to us by Christ who sets us free and gives us true freedom. Truth is one of the power tools which Christ uses to set us free. We are to stand in that freedom and avoid being enslaved again.

It is time the people of God took hold of the true freedom which is their’s in Christ. Please do so.

Wasted Youth

Among the young men and young women I get to help from time to time I find that a common problem is the wasted life. It is easy for youth to think they have an abundance of time and opportunity stretching before them and that they can well afford to waste it.

Several young men have discussed with me their addiction to computer games. They know it isn’t good for them, but they find it hard to pull themselves away. This is a clear sign of much wasting of life in the future.

How to Harvest Youth

In an ideal situation there would be several ways in which a young person could harvest their potential and make the most of their youthfulness. What I am about to suggest here are not the final definitive observations, but some thoughts that will direct people in the right direction.

A key to harvesting youth is Protection of many things which children are born with, but which, once destroyed, cannot be replaced.

Another key is to develop the Potential which lies in each life. Talents, intelligence and time that can be well spent provide great potential to each young life. If that potential is developed there will be a great harvest in years to come.

Yet another key is found in Principles being built into the young life, to guide and guard the future years. Where people do not have guiding principles to refer to they become vulnerable to destructive influences and foolish choices.

The harvest from a youthful life is also enhanced by Persistence. The ability to persevere, persistently pushing past obstacles and staying the course in the face of temptations is of great value. As one entrepreneur once pointed out, those who start and project and succeed differ from others in only one main respect – they persistently persevered with their project, while others gave up. Persistence proves character and that kind of character will stand every life in good stead for the future.

How to Throw Youth Away

Maybe some people will better grasp the challenges of their youth by seeing how easy it is to throw their youth away.

Take, for example, the student who does not do his work and who barely scrapes through during the years of his education. Once he has reached his young adult years he will have little opportunity to invest himself in study compared to the years of his youth. Others, who have done the extra work, learned the extra languages or covered the extra subjects, will have great advantage in work, business, social and personal life.

The youth who gets drawn into a destructive and undisciplined life, connecting with others who are wasting their lives, will be drawn away from things that provide a hope for the future, such as education, skill development, trade skills, productivity, discipline, etc.

Time spent in front of the television, or chatting aimlessly with friends, or scouring the web for trivial amusements, will be time thrown away.

Audit the Harvest You Can Expect

Another way to look at harvesting youth is to check out the harvest that you can expect. God warns us not to be so stupid as to believe we will harvest anything other than what we planted. If you sow thorns then that is what is going to grow in your life.

The young people who invest themselves in the latest computer game and spend thousands of hours becoming the top player can expect a harvest. Five years later they will be the master of an obsolete game which no-one cares for any more. They will only have meaning in a small subculture of gamers who have chosen not to move on to the new generation of amusements.

If that same young person had invested the same amount of time and interest in mastering a musical instrument, or a foreign language, they will have a vastly different harvest five years later. The skills learned will still be with them and will enable them to keep moving ahead in that field.

So, have a look at the things that consume your life right now. Everything that has no future is going to leave you with a barren paddock. Everything that has a future value, progressing to something else or being a platform from which other things can be built, will provide you a fruitful field for good harvests in the future.

External Discipline

Young people recognise that they are unlikely to demand high levels of commitment and discipline from themselves. That is where good parenting proves very valuable. External discipline, guiding and demanding certain levels of performance and productivity help youth to take advantage of their opportunities.

Some tasks are unpleasant simply because they are new and hard to master. But once they have been mastered to some degree they become enjoyable and can be very rewarding. External discipline drags people to those tasks and forces them to persist, until the benefits are discovered and the harvest is in preparation.

When a child is left to himself he will waste his potential. He will not learn perseverance, and he will be unprotected. He will not learn the principles which can and will guide and guard him. King Solomon pointed out that when a child is left to himself he will bring shame to his parents.

“The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself brings his mother to shame.” Proverbs 29:15

Endangered Youth

The increased collapse of family life endangers youth. It robs many of the protection they need and it allows them to waste their potential, without principle or perseverance. Many more children are being ‘left to themselves’ these days, due to the absentee parents, either by family break-up or by both parents being pulled into the workforce.

Once a youth has grown up without good parenting their potential has mostly been lost, their character has not been formed, precious things in their life are likely destroyed and they are mostly without principle to guide and guard them. Sadly we have a generation of endangered youth forming around us right now.

What’s the Solution?

The first step toward a solution is the saving grace of Christ. When a person is born again they become a new creature. That newness is an invaluable asset in rescuing anyone’s life. People who have been drunkards, fighters, murderers and the like have been totally transformed and rescued from degradation through faith in Jesus Christ. So that salvation has to be the first and foundational aspect of a solution for youth.

The next step is resolve. If external discipline is not being provided by godly parents, then each youth must determine to press ahead with godly disciplines in their life. Making themselves accountable to others is a very helpful tool in this process. Parents and guardians must resolve to assist the youth to gain personal disciplines and to have a productive routine that builds their potential and plants good seed for a good harvest in the future.

Add to that wisdom. Godly wisdom enables us to manage the ebb and flow of motivation, opportunity, responsibility, and so on. Crushing burdens normally crush people. Too little discipline weakens people’s muscle for the tasks. Keeping a balance requires wisdom and divinely inspired leadership.

Look for God’s grace. When we abandon ourselves on God we can call out to Him for gracious assistance, wisdom, opportunity and so on, which would otherwise be outside our experience.

Then There’s the Military

It has been noted that some young man who have become wayward and undisciplined find themselves drawn to the military. It is as if something inside them recognises their need for strong leadership and they find that in the challenges of a disciplined military life.

It was anecdotally acknowledged during the Vietnam war that many aimless and wasted young men were able to harness their life and their potential through being called up into the army and going through the rigours of military discipline.

While I don’t suggest that all undisciplined youth go into the military it is worth noting that the more extreme forms of discipline and personal demand embodied in boot camp and military training have proven effective for others.

A Prayer For Youth

Parents Can Pray: “Lord God, I give to you my undisciplined child. I repent before you of failing my child, by not providing them the godly discipline which You want in their life. Lord, forgive me. And now I ask You to take possession of my child and to deliver them from evil, rescuing them from their own wasted life and bringing into their life the richness of Your undeserved grace. Lord, deliver and heal my child and use him (or her) for Your glory and in Your service. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.”

Youth Can Pray: “Lord God, I have already wasted much of my life and I repent before You of destroying the life which You gave me. I forgive all those who have let me down and I take responsibility for who I am and where I am going. Lord, rescue me from everything that traps me. Lift me up and put my feet on solid ground. Grab hold of me and teach me how to love and serve You with all my might. I give myself to You and I allow You to discipline me so I become the person You created me to be. I do this in the powerful name of Jesus Christ, Amen.”