Separated Life

At a recent Youth Retreat many youth responded for prayer. The first person I went to pray for was one of the young men. I immediately sensed a strong impression that he was called to a “Separated Life”. I sensed that he was called to such high and holy things that God wanted him to avoid all contamination that could spoil his future destiny.

I prayed with him and encouraged him to receive my exhortation as from the Lord that he was to protect his heart and mind from grimy things of this world that would spoil the high destiny on his life.

As I stepped to pray for the next young man in line I had exactly the same impression. He too was to protect his life from contamination and from things that would take from him the glory and wonder of what God had for him.

At that point I realised that this was not only a message for individual lives, but a calling across a generation of young men and women, called by God to live a separated life and distance themselves from the tacky and dishonouring things of this world in the life they would otherwise be drawn into.

Nazarite Vow

Living a ‘separated life’ was so much a part of God’s chosen people in history that Moses made provision for a vow to be taken by a person to live for a time under special restraint, set aside to seek God and worship Him. This was the Nazarite vow.

The Nazarite vow meant that no alcohol was to be consumed and the hair was not to be cut for the duration of the vow. After the time set aside for special devotion was completed the person could cut their hair and drink wine and eat grapes again.

Samson and John

Two famous Nazarites in the Bible are Samson and John the Baptist. Both were set apart for God before they were born. They lived their whole life under the Nazarite vow. Their whole lives were separated for God’s purposes.

When Samson’s parents were visited by an angel and told they would have a son the mother was warned not even to eat grapes, let alone drink wine while she was carrying the baby. Not only was the boy to be separated from wine and grapes, he was even to be protected from them while in his mother’s womb.

John the Baptist’s birth was also announced before he was conceived and he was dedicated for God’s calling from that very moment.

Crumpled Lives

Several years ago I hosted a series of Impartation meetings in which a ministry team prayed for those who waiting on the Lord. The ministry team members sought to hear from God and share a personal word of encouragement or Biblical truth that would be beneficial to those on the prayer line.

One church I visited I had never ministered in before, so all of those who responded were unknown to me. As I stood before a young woman who would have been in her high school years I had a fleeting impression of a beautiful flower meant to bloom for the Prince. The image had a fairy tale quality of a Prince riding his horse through the forest and coming across the beautiful blossom and choosing it for himself.

However in that fleeting moment I also sensed that there was a bear nearby in the forest who was simply stomping around and messing things up. My heart went out to the young lady that the Lord wanted to protect that which was beautiful and precious in her life from the ignorant and selfish bear that would simply crush and mangle her.

I prayed earnestly for her protection.

Many at Risk

What troubled me that night was that as I went on to pray for the mixed crowd of men and women, I found that each time I came to pray for one of the young ladies I had the same sense of their danger. I spoke with my wife about it later, sensing that there was a high level of moral danger for today’s youth. They were in danger of being trampled on and having all that is precious in them crumpled.

The Prince was not going to find their beauty and be delighted with them once they had been trodden under foot by the careless bear.

I became concerned for those Christian youth who consume the world’s messages about who they are and what they are to expect in life. They are being lied to so they can be trampled on and miss out on the blessedness which God has for them.

Separation

There are many reasons to live a ‘separated life’ and one of them is to be protected. Dads and mums don’t have the same sense for protecting their children and youth today as we saw in past generations. Family break-up contributes to that, but so too does the intimidation pushed at parents who want to hold to healthy standards and who believe they have a responsibility to protect and guide their children into adulthood.

There is a calling on today’s youth. God intends to do amazing things in the earth in the coming decades and young Christians today will be at the vanguard of that awesome work. However, those who have become entangled, broken, polluted, distracted and mired by the world will not be in the place of mighty men and women of God when the time comes for them.

Call To Separation

It has never been easier to be entangled and damaged. The internet, mobile phones, social networks, ubiquitous media messages, self-serving people in every place you turn, and the lax social norms of today combine with the evil in man’s hearts to make it tough for those who don’t take care.

Unless you are choosing to live a separated life you will almost certainly be damaged by compromise and much more.

So hear the Word of the Lord to your heart. Come out from among them and be separate. Don’t do it because you think you’re special. Do it because Jesus IS special. God’s call on your life and the destiny He has for you in His kingdom are far more precious than all the trinkets and shallow amusements that will tempt you this way and that.

I don’t promise you any special joy and spiritual experience. It’s not about you and what you get from doing this or that. It’s all about Him. It’s about God being God in your life. It’s about you humbling yourself and submitting to God.

Your part in the years ahead may be hard and unrewarding in human terms. This is no calling to a party or a glory ride. I call you to set yourself apart for the Master’s use as something dedicated to Him. It’s an act of worship. It’s your reasonable service.

And it’s the best thing you can possibly do with your life.

Making New Friends

The bow felt strange in Anatoli’s hands. The arrow refused to line up against the string. He tried twice to lift the loaded weapon before him but each time the arrow slipped out of place. Exasperated he turned a pleading expression to his tutor.

“You have been shown time enough. You must do as I have told until you master it.” The wizened face of the instructor bore the expression of one who had seen it all too many times before. He had interminable patience for the task.

Anatoli fiddled with the arrow and string again. Lined up the shaft and slowly lifted the bow before him. The arrow slipped and Anatoli cursed under his breath. When he turned to see his instructor the man was busy watching a bird fly to its nest in a nearby tree. The youth returned to his morning task.

archer

This was now the third day since he had arrived. He was given modest quarters near the stables, befitting a junior employee. Since then he had not seen the master at all, but had been placed under a number of men whose task it was to fit him for his career. Why in the world archery was included in the lessons Anatoli could not understand. And why the lessons began at dawn was also a mystery. Possibly it was that the days were already so full. He had to brush the horses, tend the plant nursery, work in the store room and study numbers, all at different times of the day.

Anatoli finally let the arrow fly, if fly be an accurate description. The shaft wobbled its way forward like a wounded animal and fell lifeless to the ground mockingly close at hand.

Just then the master approached on horse back. He was dressed for business in some nearby town and came to pass a quick greeting.

“How is it going, lad?” He asked as his dismounted, but his gaze went to the old instructor who took the reins and flashed a glance heavenward as if to say, “This is a hopeless cause.”

“Are you getting the hang of it?” The master asked with energy.

“What a stupid thing it is!” Anatoli let burst. “I cannot for the life of me see why a wealthy man must learn to shoot an arrow!”

“There are many things you will not see, lad. Many, many things. Some you will feel, some you will never understand. Some you will miss so completely you will go to the grave in ignorance of them. Yours is not always to SEE but to learn the lessons in the doing.”

The master took the bow from Anatoli, fixed a shaft against it and let it fly heavenward in a glorious sunlit arch. “It is as simple as that.”

The lad shook his head.

“The lesson here,” the master confided, “is not to become an archer, but to become familiar. This bow is an unfamiliar thing to you. The arrow is the same. But in time both will be your friends and companions.” He handed Anatoli the bow.

“In time many things will become your friends. Numbers and ships and lands and lenders. Houses and servants and bags of coin. They cannot be your friend while you are a stranger to them. Handle these things and make them your friend, for you shall want them at your side for many years to come. The bow is a friend I wish to introduce to you. Be kind to him. Get to know him. He may one day save your life.”

With that the master swung upon his steed, nodded and galloped away.

Anatoli watched him ride off then looked at the huge curved wood in his hand. He stroked it for a moment then plucked the string. “Good morning, my new friend.” He spoke to himself. Then taking his stance and drawing an arrow he tried yet again to become acquainted with the bow.

* This is excerpted from a story by Chris Field (Copyright CGF) and shows the attitude we need to have toward new challenges. Many of the things we struggle to learn are to be viewed as our “friends” and the process is simply that of getting acquainted.

Most of us remember our school days when new skills seemed impossible to master. Now, in our adult years, those skills are just an everyday part of our lives.

So, have a look around at the “friends” you need to get to know. Approach those skills and the drill and practice sessions as a simple matter of getting acquainted and expanding your set of “friends”.

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.

Why Old Men Dress Trendy

Have you noticed that some older men dress without any care for how they look? They ‘dag’ around in untidy, unfashionable clothes that do nothing to flatter their figure or give them any sense of relevance to the image-conscious younger generation. No wonder there is a “generation gap”!

Have you seen the hair styles on some older men? They still think ‘short back and sides’ or a flourishing mane make them look good! And what about their colour choice? They completely ignore the latest colour trends, preferring to wear something from yesteryear that has been out of fashion since Noah was a boy.

Trendy Old Men

To help us understand why some men care little for their appearance let us take a look at those trendy old men who keep a ‘with it’ eye on what the younger generation want of them. Let’s consider those men who read the teen magazines, go to the latest fashion stores, buy the extra-expensive brand-label outfits, trash their wardrobe at the end of each season and wouldn’t be seen dead in anything they grew up to know and love.

Now, I don’t know any old men who fit that description, so I’m going to have a stab at guessing why anyone would care to take on that fashion lifestyle. My guess may be miles off the mark, but I’m silly enough to do my own ‘imagineering’ here and come up with assumptions which play right into my own perspectives. Are you OK with that? Bad luck if you’re not, because here I go.

Teen Slaves

Old men who live to look trendy wake up each morning deeply concerned for the approval of snotty nosed, cynical and foolish 13 year olds who hold them in contempt.

They cannot bear to think that those louts loitering around the milk bar would look at them without the utmost respect and admiration. These old men desperately need to know that they have value, and they know that the surest and soundest source of value is those kids who were in diapers just a few years ago, but who are now the target of mass-marketing exploitation.

You see, these men desperately need the approval of today’s youth in order to find meaning and value in their lives.

In fifty or sixty years on the planet, these trendy old men have found no reason to be satisfied within themselves, from their family, career, relationships, social roles, experience, wisdom and mature perspective on life. Instead they still hanker for the teen approval they did not get on the school playground four decades earlier.

Uh?

Do you know why it’s so hard to find such men? They just don’t exist!

Anyone who has been around for any length of time at all can’t help but feel sorry for those young suckers who are dragged along by the nose (maybe even by the nose-ring) to be slaughtered on the altar of popular culture.

Those hip, disengaged, cynical youth who look contemptuously at the fat, bald, out of date buffoon who ignores them down the street, haven’t got a clue. They are full of pride in their independence, modernity, fashions and with-it-ness, and have no idea that all those older people around them have seen it all before. Many of them were victims of the same foolishness themselves, in a previous generation.

Trash and Burn

Each new generation is seduced into believing itself to be the latest and greatest. Fashion is a key to this impression. Those ‘daggy’ old people with their poor colour sense, dawky fashions, poor image, and out-of-date look seem inferior in the eyes of the fresh batch of youngsters. Even the older teens, who have not embraced the latest ‘with it’ styles are held in contempt by the new batch of pride slaves.

But very quickly the latest and greatest will be yesterday’s fashion. The world system works on ‘trash and burn’, ditching the newest thing, sending it into obsolescence, so a new group can drink the pride of truly ‘hip’ existence.

Old Fashion People

Underneath all those fashion labels, latest colours, cool outfits and trendy styles, are people. The humans are as old-fashioned as you can get. They are just as vulnerable to pride, shame, selfishness, insecurity, fear, foolishness, ignorance, deception, anger, exploitation, and all that kind of stuff, as every other generation. The exception proviso is that some generations did a better job of protecting their foolish youth through godly discipline, parental authority, strong restraints, godly wisdom and the like.

As each new batch of suckers grows up they quickly experience the trash and burn cycle that turns their latest and greatest heroes and fashions into has-been throw-away relics. They mostly end up slaves to sin and shame, victims of their emotions, pawns in other people’s games, and disillusioned and hurting people.

Arrogance Burn-Out

Eventually people get burned out by the continuum of new generations of arrogant idiots who think they have landed on the planet immune from their own humanity. People eventually give up on their empty pursuit for the world’s shallow acclaim.

Most people find their own meaning, insignificant as it may be. They get on with their own lives, doing their own thing, and distancing themselves from the ‘trendy’ set with their temporary superiority. Family, work, hobbies, friends and some set of familiar elements become their life and their source of satisfaction and meaning.

Eventually most people become immune to the scorn of callow youth who think they have something over their elders. Most people are even beyond feeling pity. Their only thought, if they care to give it a thought, is that the arrogant look on the young man’s face will end up being wiped away by life, in a few short years.

Most older people don’t even try to rescue the next batch of fools lining up to be fodder for the jaws of a voracious world system. As long as youth are baptised into pride there is little point in trying to sprinkle them with the holy water of wisdom.

Daggy Old Men

So the world fills up with daggy old men and women. The aging generation shakes off the worthless demands of an enslaving world, and settles down to making their own world, free from commercial exploitation.

We will never be spared the sight of fat, balding men and shameless women who wear what is comfortable to them, despite its clash with current trends. We will never be free from those who have seen it all before and who refuse to bow the knee to commercial manipulation, cultural exploitation and the demands of arrogant and foolish minds.

With any good fortune, we may even see some of the younger generation protected from the slavery their peers so readily fall prey to. But that will take a new generation of fathers who turn their hearts toward their children, and children who turn their hearts toward their parents.

Until that happens we will have to live with the curse of pride, arrogance, foolishness and cultural slavery.

“Lord, send along an Elijah who will turn those hearts, so generations can be saved.”

The Irrelevant Church

While reviewing a report on teen sexual behaviour I noted a comment that should sound a serious warning to the modern church. The comment points out that the church is irrelevant in impacting the behaviour of teens.

Oh, and I don’t mean it is irrelevant to all those people who have never been to church, I mean it is irrelevant to the very teenagers who attend church twice a month! I’m talking about the kids who are connected to the church and attend more often than many other people attend church.

Research Report

The report I was reading came from a study of 1,000 thirteen year old students in America’s south-eastern states, in 2006. The purpose of the report was to establish the impact of the mass media on the sexual behaviour of teens, compared with the influence from their parents, school, religion and peers.

The particular focus was on the impact of the mass media, since previous studies had looked at the influence of family, peers, religion and school.

Research Findings

The particular research, by L’Engle et al, confirmed that family did play a part an important part, including the child’s relationship with their mother, the level of hands-on parenting (arguing for a stay-at-home parent) and clear sexual values provided by the parents.

School grades, sexual attitudes of the school teacher and the sexual activity among the peer group also serve as indicators of sexual behaviour, so they have an influence on the choices children make.

Demographic factors were a high predictor of the child’s sexual behaviour. So the community in which the child is being raised has a strong influence on their choices and behaviour.

That last point is one which all parents need to take into consideration. Those involved in spiritual impact on their community should also take note. There is something about the prevailing condition of each local community which has impact on the behaviour of those who live there.

The Irrelevant Church

You will recall that the family, school, peers and religion were all taken into consideration. Of these factors, the most irrelevant is the church. Now, that is not because these kids are secularised heathen who never go to church. This finding was the same among those who did attend church regularly.

To quote the report: “None of the religious variables was significantly associated with sexual intention or behaviours.”

Rather than this comment referring to children who have no connection with the church the researchers were concerned that the sample group may have been “more religious than most adolescents”.

The report then explains, “almost two-thirds of the sample reported attending church two or more times per month”!

Did you get that? These kids are mostly good church attenders. Yet they are completely unaffected in their sexual behaviour by their church attendance. That is, the behaviour of those who attend church compared to those who do not is exactly the same. Church attendance is irrelevant to their sexual choices and behaviour.

Wake Up Parents and Churches

The foolish idea that going to church will make a difference must be removed from the thinking of both the parents and the church leaders. Churches were not always irrelevant, so it is the modern expression of church which has become impotent in bringing value and transformation to its members.

Parents cannot wisely abandon their responsibility thinking the church will do the job for them.

Churches cannot continue to do what they are doing and think that they are providing value to their audiences.

Families and churches need a new level of wisdom and function to empower them to bring value into the lives in their care. If youngsters as young as 10-15 can find no value in the church then how can the church assume it is giving value to any of its members?