Youth Plants and Builds

Today’s pop culture acts as if youth is the time for indulgence, independence and unbridled pursuit of self-fulfilment. That idea is not only a deadly and useless one, it is a modern notion that defies the time-tested ideas of youth as a vital time to plant and build.

Let me take you back to some concepts of youth from yesteryear. Three thousand years ago King Solomon instructed youth to give special attention to God. The fear of God is something Solomon saw as vitally important for youth.

“Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth..” Ecclesiastes 12:1b

Solomon dedicated the book of Proverbs to his son, giving abundant sound advice about the pursuit of wisdom, avoiding fools, keeping away from immorality and so on. The best kind of youth is first established on the fear of God and a desire to go God’s ways and fulfil His plan for our life.

Another concept from yesteryear is that of ‘sowing and reaping’. What you sow is what you reap, according the both Biblical wisdom and human experience.

“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatever a man sows is what he will also reap. For he that sows to his flesh will reap corruption from the flesh; but he that sows to the Spirit will reap life everlasting from the Spirit.” Galatians 6:7,8 (Apostle Paul)

“For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorn bushes, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush.” Luke 6:44 (Jesus Christ)

Trees take time to grow. What starts out as a small plant becomes, in time, a huge tree or a dense bush. When young people plant things in their life they may not see the consequences for a decade or two. Initially there is no evidence that they will have any bad outcome. But if they have planted thorn bushes and brambles, they cannot expect to harvest figs and grapes. What they sow is what they are going to reap.

So take note of this quote from this important eighteenth century American writer, Thomas Paine. Paine wrote many things that were central to bolstering the revolutionary cause and maintaining commitment during the long and wearing struggle for independence.

“Youth is the seed-time of good habits”, Thomas Paine, ‘Common Sense’ 1791.

Youth is a time to plant. In fact, youth is the time when planting happens, whether the youth realise it or not. They are planting character and sowing seeds for harvests to be enjoyed throughout their lives. Time well spent and choice seeds sown in youth will provide much to draw from in later years.

Another historic reference point for the importance of youth is the idea of building things for the future. A notion which was popularised in Christian homes in recent centuries is that of our life being a house which we build when young and have to live in for the rest of our lives.

Just as a young man growing in frontier territory must learn the needed skills to build his own family home from raw materials, so too, he must learn to build his moral character to be strong and independent of outside influences.

This concept is given attention in Ralph Moody’s stories, “Little Britches” and “Man in the Family”. Moody explains, “My goal in writing is to leave a record of the rural way of life in this century, and to point up the values of that era which I feel that we, as a people, are letting slip away from us.” (Quoted in New York Times Book Review Aug 6, 1967). Consider the following quote from “Little Britches”.

“…you have injured your own character. A man’s character is like his house. If he tears boards off his house and burns them to keep himself warm and comfortable, his house soon becomes a ruin. If he tells lies to be able to do the things he shouldn’t do but wants to, his character will soon become a ruin. A man with a ruined character is a shame on the face of the earth.”

In Moody’s short story, “I Meet the Sheriff” a lad must act responsibly, or face his father’s accusation that he is “running away from the law and tearing boards off my character house”.

Youth is a time to plant and build, in the fear of God. Wise youth follow God’s instructions, are attentive to what they allow to take root in their hearts and minds, and they discipline themselves to learn the skills required to build strong character, even when the raw materials are hard to come by.

I exhort each young person to consider your creator and live in the light of His searching gaze. Plant wisely and guard against wild seed being sown in the soil of your life. Build wisely and learn the disciplines that empower you to build and re-build again and again.

God bless you as you do.

King of America

I am an Aussie and so I am not into American patriotism. I leave that to them. Since American influence over western culture is ubiquitous much is written and said that is tinged with that patriotism. What I am writing here is not to suggest any idolatry of the American nation, but simply to share with you something I recently found which honours God with a significant place in that nation.

But first, some background.

Nations have their own deities, leaders, values, etc. These things have more impact on the nation and its future than might be anticipated by some. So when a nation makes a strong statement about what it is and what it stands for or worships, you can be sure there will be repercussions in the future.

The nation of France, as an example, made a deliberate mockery of God, during the French Revolution. Catholicism had been France’s national religion, but on November 10, 1793 Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris was rededicated as a Temple of Reason. An opera dancer, Mademoiselle Maillard, draped in the colours of the new republic, was enthroned as the goddess of reason on the altar of the Cathedral. The Cathedral was then used as a food warehouse during the revolution.

That rejection of Christianity in all its forms has had profound impact on France and Europe in the centuries since.

In 1606 the Spanish explorer Pedro Fernandez de Quiros arrived at the Pacific islands of New Hebrides (now Vanuatu) and dedicated all the lands from there to the South Pole as “Terra Australis del Espiritu Santu” – the “Great South Land of the Holy Spirit“. This dedication is held to have significant prophetic fulfilment yet to be enjoyed in Australia and New Zealand.

So, now to America. I was delighted to be shown the following excerpt from a tract titled “Common Sense”, written in 1791 by an Englishman who took up the revolutionary cause of the Americas. Thomas Paine uses the term “king of America” and directed it to acknowledge God’s significant role in that nation, which at that time had not yet developed its constitution or gained statehood.

Paine declares that God is the King of America and rules via His Law, which is found in the Bible. Thus a crown should be placed on the Bible itself, to show that God’s law is King and there should be no other. Then scatter the crown among the people to show that the law belongs to them.

“But where says some is the King of America? I’ll tell you Friend, he reigns above, and doth not make havoc of mankind like the Royal Brute of Britain. Yet that we may not appear to be defective even in earthly honors, let a day be solemnly set apart for proclaiming the charter; let it be brought forth placed on the divine law, the word of God; let a crown be placed thereon, by which the world may know, that so far as we approve as monarchy, that in America the law is King. For as in absolute governments the King is law, so in free countries the law ought to be King; and there ought to be no other. But lest any ill use should afterwards arise, let the crown at the conclusion of the ceremony be demolished, and scattered among the people whose right it is.” Thomas Paine “Common Sense”

(For a full text of this tract go to: http://www.earlyamerica.com/earlyamerica/milestones/commonsense/text.html)

Thomas Paine proclaimed, before the formation of the fledgling nation, that God is the sovereign and God’s Word, the Bible, is the holy law upon which the nation is established.

That’s a wonderful start and is just part of what has made America a significant player in world affairs over the past 2 centuries. Note that the French mockery of religion dates to 1793, while Paine’s profession of God’s centrality occurred almost at the same time, 1791. In the 200 years since we can see that Reason did not produce the same national significance that godliness brought to America.

We need to be careful about what we dedicate ourselves to, at an official and practical level. Future generations are at stake.