Monthly Archives: January 2012

Millennials: The Promising Generation

Millennials want to make a difference because they are pampered and sheltered.

When generational experts, Neil Howe and William Strauss, wrote their defining book on Millennials, they highlighted our generation’s pros and cons, namely, that we had a desire to achieve greatness, and our parent’s generation was the driving force behind this.

We are the result of a domino effect.

Some mothers will recall the tragic crime in September 1982, when “a cyanide-tainted Tylenol triggered an October wave of parental panic over trick-or-treating” (Howe and Strauss, 43). On its heels was a “national hysteria over the sexual abuse of toddlers,” an immediate distaste for classic 80’s horror flicks victimizing children, replaced with a flood of sitcoms portraying kids as the heroes. While parents filtered the family television, American school teachers experienced a newfound pressure to raise better kids in the classroom. And the trend continued.

Our generation is almost entirely conditioned for greatness

By the time we reached grade school, we had already adopted a skip in our step (or perhaps a leap in our step). And why not? We were being preened to take over the world by an earlier generation that wanted to leave a better legacy. We evolved from the latchkey kids of our ancestors to kids inheriting all the keys on the latch.

Millennials are unlike any generation that has gone before. And because of this, there is an overwhelming pressure to succeed. Unfortunately, the opportunities available to an aspiring millennial are underwhelming enough to damper the passion of the most resolute college grad. Our parents didn’t just leave us with a different outlook on life, they left us with a different life. Look no farther than a broken economy, steep living prices, and a job famine. It’s as if someone taught us how to fish in the middle of the Sahara. The world’s greatest generation, pampered with hopeful expectations, and sheltered from the grim truth of everything our parents never wanted us to experience. How do we handle this? Can we take advantage of the momentum we’ve been given?

What do you do when someone promises so much and gives back so little?

How to read through the 1st five books of the Old Testament

Setting Yourself Up For Failure

Go with me on this for a few minutes…

Billy Graham has preached the gospel to 2.2 billion people [1]. According to his staff, 3.2 million people have responded to his gospel message.  Gnarly numbers, right?

Now imagine that God’s calling on Billy Graham was to preach the gospel to 4 billion people. What would that do to his numbers? Wouldn’t that mean that he was unfaithful with his calling?

Now imagine that God put you where you are, to work the job that you have, and cultivate the relationships you are in for the glory of God. And let’s say that God had a calling on you to preach the gospel to that one person you’re always eating lunch with in the cafeteria. Let’s also imagine you did, and the person got saved. That would mean you were faithful to God’s calling on your life. Oh, and it would mean something else…

You were more faithful than Billy Graham!

You see, hidden in much of the Millennial’s drive for significance is the mistaken assumption that our lives must be remarkable in order to fulfill our calling. We like to see change, and we love to be instruments of change, so it make sense that our litmus test for success is how much we are able to accomplish.

Does God have the same standard we have for ourselves? Are they even related?

To think that God has been waiting centuries for you to come along and shake things up, or that he was loosing sleep until Billy Graham showed up is a bit anthropocentric. God does not think more highly of charismatic leaders than stay-at-home mothers. And if we live with expectations like that, we are weighing significance much differently than God, who once noted that “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones” (Luke 16:10). He wasn’t trying to motivate Millennials to climb over life’s stepping stones to get to better things; he was accentuating loyalty.

God wants faithful servants, not superstars.

There is enough of the latter invested in his Son, Jesus Christ. If he so chooses you to be the next Billy, than by the grace of God, you are who you are (1 Cor. 15:10), but stop idolizing what others have told you is “radical.”

Of course, all of those previous situations were hypothetical; I have no way of knowing the specifics of what God called you or Billy Graham to accomplish; I’m pretty sure Billy Graham has been faithful, and at the very least, beloved by all who call on the name of Jesus.

But the point still stands.

We make too much out of our own accomplishments.We keep score, and God does not. The problem with scorekeeping is that our identities get wrapped up in the excentric nature of a particular calling, to such extent that Millennials may become depressed if they are not doing something as remarkable as “everyone else.” The solution to this is to remind ourselves that nothing we do is extraordinary; we are “unworthy slaves” doing what we ought, in the presence of an extraordinary God (Luke 17:10). He can save 3.2 million people through Billy Graham, Billy Jean, and he could have chosen anyone to do this because he is the one actually saving.

What God wants are a few faithful men and women, vessels in the hands of a master craftsman.

E.V. Hill ~ “Making the Enemy Run”

In liu of our One-Year Bible readings, here is a short excerpt from the late Reverend, E.V. Hill in 1993.

8 ways to deal with critics

What I’ve learned (the hard way) the last three years from critics.

1. Pray hard

When you know you’re going to encounter an ugly conversation, ask God to help you speak with grace (Col. 4:6).

2. Err on meekness

A soft answer turns away wrath – Pro. 15:1. More often then not, people who unload on you want someone to listen to them. You might be surprised at how quickly their rage dissipates when you repsond with mercy.

3. Learn from critics

Billy Graham once wisely advised leaders to turn “critics into coaches” (Myra & Shelley, Leadership Secrets). They may have some good things to say, even if you have to dig it out of their shouting, but you will have to bite your pride in order to get it. Some of the biggest improvements in my life have come through the constructive (and sometimes deconstructive) criticisms of others.

4. Chew/Spit

My pastor, Britt, used to say “chew on the meat, and spit out the bones”—just because you ran into an argumentative velociraptor, doesn’t mean they can’t offer you some insight amidst the vomit. Sometimes critics may have some useful constructive criticism, of course, other times it’s pure nonsense, and still even more often it is a combination of both. Salvage what’s good, and leave the rest with God.

5. Share your heart

There will be times when you can’t learn anything from a particular critic, perhaps because they are being unreasonable or rude. It is ok to disagree with differing viewpoints; Scripture doesn’t demand that we remain agreeable all the time; it’s the way we disagree that is tantamount. And let’s face it, we could use a few more Christians who are able to hold contrasting discussions with grace. Not every disagreement has to end in a fight, and not every debate has to be a war. If I disagree with someone, I will usually let them know my perspective, while also honoring theirs. If their view is unreasonable, or it feels like they simply want to “win” the argument, I’ll politely bow out, and go eat some hotdogs….or anything more flavorful than the conversation at hand.

6. Lovingly correct

Other times a person’s criticism is straight messed up. If it is something that needs to be addressed (e.g. legalism in their criticism, judgmentalism, etc), I’ll try to point out errors in a gentle, non-condescending way. I’ve found that the best way to do this is through dialog, asking more questions than giving answers. In fact, shooting out rapid answers and absolutes usually shut the other person down, while making you look arrogant. It is entirely appropriate to correct a brother/sister who is in error, but there are a variety of ways to do this. I try to err on the side of humility, and it’s harder to come across overconfident when you’re asking questions :-)

7. Don’t take it personally

If someone says something erroneous, pointed, or just outright cruel, forget about it and move on. Serious. Dwelling on bad criticisms will only keep you up at night.

8. Pick your battles

Not every discussion requires your exhaustive effort. Some discussions are worth engaging in, or revisiting—others aren’t worth the trash to throw them in. Don’t waste your time.

How do you deal with critics or criticisms? Anything I should add to the list?

Christ-centered without lip-service

To pray in the name of Jesus means more than just a quick mention of his biological name. Praying in Jesus’ name means that we pray according to all that is true of Jesus Christ!

To sing in Jesus’ name means more than just peppering song lyrics with his namesake (though we definitely should), it means to sing for joy about who he is and what he has done in response.

To conversate about Jesus means more than inserting his name into every statement, but to bring people through the story of Christ, so that when we do mention his name, it will have a beautiful backdrop.

Christian liturgy should lead people to God in Christ. But a Christian gathering has to be about more than a few icons or decorative elements. The message of Jesus must be holistically driven throughout the entire gathering. In other words, if the sermon is pragmatic, the worship is anthropocentric, and the foyer is full of college students who are there only to be social, well then…exchanging a Christmas tree for a cross will do nothing to change consumeristic hearts.

But this is nothing new, if we think about it.

We’re already familiar with authenticity. We call anything less, “lip-service.”

Think of any human relationship…

My wife knows I love her, not because I tell her I love her (although verbal articulation often does score some points), but because I show her love in tangible form.

So do pronounce and remember Jesus’ name this year. But more importantly, be remembering, speaking, acting, singing, and living in such a way as to broadcast WHO he is and WHAT he stands for.

In the presence of grandeur

“Do people go to the Grand Canyon to increase their self-esteem? Probably not. This is, at least, a hint that the deepest joys in life come not from savoring the self, but from seeing splendor. And in the end even [those] will not do. We were made to enjoy God.” – John Piper

Why you should write a personal mission statement

Last week I railed about the mess of New Year’s resolutions that are motivated only by a longing for self-worth.

Assuming it sunk in, I want to back up the drama horse a bit and balance that chariot. See, the LACK of structure or goals can have the same effect. It goes something like this…

Well, since Jesus loves me, I’m not going to be proactive.

Well, since my wife loves me, I don’t have to vacuum the carpets anymore.

Well, since my boyfriend loves me, I don’t have to tell him I appreciate him.

Well, since Y3K is coming eventually, I don’t have to create a budget.

You get the point. It’s still good to plan, and even New Year’s resolutions can be fine, if they flow out of your identity as an image-bearer of God instead of sucking on your identity.

But instead of making New Years resolutions, I prefer to make personal mission statements.

Ever make one of those?

Remember those nice corporate buildings in the 90’s that always sported those engraved plaques in their foyers with a pithy statement expressing why you should care about them?

Those were mission statements.

A mission statement is a short description of an objective to which you are called.

Business do these a lot, and some are really good…

“Finding the very best ingredients raised with respect for the animals, the environment and the farmers.” – Chipotle

Simple, clear, and driven. They know what their goal is, and whether or not they’re reaching that goal.

Other mission statements, well, not so much…

Guided by relentless focus on our five imperatives, we will constantly strive to implement the critical initiatives required to achieve our vision. In doing this, we will deliver operational excellence in every corner of the Company and meet or exceed our commitments to the many constituencies we serve. All of our long-term strategies and short-term actions will be molded by a set of core values that are shared by each and every associate. – Albertsons Read the rest of this entry

News Years Resolutions

New Year’s resolutions don’t work.

It’s simple math, really; hurting people plus good intentions makes for a lot of well-intended failure.

You can’t resolve to do better when your deepest intentions are fallen. That’s why people like the Apostle Paul went straight for our wicked hearts by calling out humanity as utterly in need of a divine Savior (Romans 3:10-28).

Yet, I want to grow; it feels a bit nonsensical to sit on my rear and claim “fallen sinner” while the world falls apart with me in it. The beauty of being saved by grace is that we get to walk in the very grace that changes our hard hearts.

“Let go and let God.”

What a silly statement. God grasps us that he may be grasped by us; he saves us that we might experience our salvation; he takes the wheel, then tells us to put the car in gear. We have a Dad who wants to do life with us.

Grace is a game changer for New Year’s resolutions.

There is still value to approaching 2012 with a desire to move forward; to mature in our thinking, ambitions, spirituality, mission. But instead of resolving to be better people, or do better things,

Why don’t we resolve to enjoy Jesus this year?

This was a paradigm shift for me; it’s so simple, as to be nearly laughable. But the powerful truth of the Christian gospel is that we grow by being transformed in Jesus, not by trying to attain him. And oh, how we easily blur those lines! This is akin to me washing the dishes out of love for my wife, and after letting the years of routine sink in, begin to wash the dishes to prove to her that I’m worth loving. How backwards we have seen God’s love!

I even find my backwards love affecting the day-to-day rhythms of my spirituality.

e.g., Bible reading.

Adorn, our college/young adult gathering on Friday nights, just started a through-the-Bible-in-a-year excursion—which can be interacted with by searching the hashtag, #1yearBible, on Twitter—and even in such a rich pool of Word-driven community, lingers the same danger to revert back to trite religiosity.

How fascinating, and utterly disappointing, that the very things I cultivate to be in relationship to Christ can be turned into an idol against him?

Yes, even the Bible.

So, how do we treat idols? We take them captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). I often battle the urge to get my Bible reading “out of the way,” by blasting through verses without paying much attention. Taking thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ in this situation would mean choosing to sit on a particular passage, instead of trying to reach my Scriptural “quota.” I may choose to meditate on a particular verse that stands out to me until I fall at the feet of Jesus in reverence and awe.

It’s going to look different for all of us, but for all of us it will come. January marks all that we’ve tossed away the prior year, with its baggage, to set our record straight in the pursuit of significance. But you and I know, significance is hard to come by.

Jesus, who signifies true purpose, unyielding love, and relentless grace, stands at the door and knocks.

What are your resolutions?

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