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One of the things we hear a lot is this: "What do you guys do for youth group?"
Searching the scripture, we see nothing about "youth group". A friend of mine once quipped, "The only youth group I see in the Bible got eaten by bears". Of course, the commandments of Deuteronomy 6 apply here. Catechize, Catechize, Catechize.
But what about youth get-togethers, youth bands, youth groups, etc, etc. Aren't there supposed to be youth ministers, and youth specialists, teen groups, tween groups, etc.
Really, all we are doing is creating an entire sub-group of human sponges who are perpetually adolescent. As the Church of God, we should take responsibility for it. We are to blame for Jersey Shore, Real World, and people living off of their parents until they are over 30. We started it by erecting "Youth Group". We do not expect that our children are capable of receiving instruction, maturing in the faith and becoming responsible adults. Instead, we created a new spot for them in the church - not quite children, and not quite adults. Then we brought in bands, really cool preachers with soul patches who say nothing and expect nothing, who teach our children that they are the center of the universe, just like they thought. Then we called it "Youth Group" and congratulated ourselves in our âoutreachâ. It never occurred to us that our young people have no idea how âaccepting Jesus into their heartsâ can free them from the bondage of sin, misery, shame and guilt. We just turned the music up loud and hoped that they wouldnât notice. What our youth actually need is the same thing that we all need: the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They desperately need the âfaith once for all delivered to the saintsâ, not the sound-bite theology of the modern church. This faith is beautifully summarized in the Heidelberg Catechism, which was written for this very purpose.
Biblically, the purpose of youth is to get out of it as soon as possible. Instead of enabling them to become permanent adolescents perhaps we should teach them to become the people God expects them to be.
Looking at Deuteronomy 15:11, Psalm 82:3-4, and James 1:27, it struck me that the church would look a whole lot different if the young people visited the sick, assisted the elderly in lawn-mowing and yard care, cleaned the houses of the infirm, visited the shut ins and the lonely, and looked to assist the body of Christ in whatever ways they could find. Sometimes it is just spending an afternoon playing scrabble with someone who lives alone. Perhaps they could help a widow cut back the brush in the yard, or assist with shopping. There are so many needs in every church.
The deacons oversee this, but too often we expect them to do it all. The officers of the church can never fulfill every need. Instead of training our young to be leaches, we would be better served teaching them that they are forever members of the body and bride of Jesus. We confess the communion of the saints; we should teach the youth what this means.
The advantage is apparent. First, it is honoring the commands of Christ (See Matt. 25:32-46). Service to the least of His people is service to Him. Second, God crowns his gifts. When we are faithful in a few things, God will make us faithful in many. Third, what better way to prepare our youth for a life of service than this? By training our youth to âredeem the timeâ (that is, to use time wisely for the advantage and welfare of the body of Christ), we are at the same time preparing them to take on the responsibilities of life and marriage.
Hab. 3:17-19 17 Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: 18 Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. 19 The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds' feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places.
When we look at the circumstances of our life, we very often can become discouraged. We ask ourselves âHow can God be good? Why is there so much pain and suffering if God is good?â
We make the mistake of thinking that God is like his creation. With created things, we look at the object or circumstances and make a value judgment. We declare something to be good or bad by comparing it logically to a standard of good.
The logical argument runs like this: âGood apples are crunchy âThis apple has the texture of wet cardboard âThis apple is not goodâ
We do the same with people that we meet. âAll good people are kind and loving. âThis person is kind and loving. âTherefore, this person is good.â
This type of argument in itself is a good one, and valuable for discernment, assuming that the premise is defined biblically. But when we attempt to use this argument to determine the goodness of God, it falls flat, for God is not a creature. There is nothing higher than God to which he can be compared (Isa. 40:25). âGoodnessâ then is not a standard that lies outside of God to which he can be compared, but is identical to God himself, for âGod is goodâ.
The logical argument used by the atheist runs something like this.
Good gods do not wish their creatures to suffer evil. Powerful gods will act to prevent evil. There is evil in the world. Therefore, God is either not good, and wishes his people harm; or he is not powerful, and is unable to prevent it.
We will assume as fact the minor premise. There is indeed evil in the world, and no Christian would deny it. No informed Christian would claim that this is "The best of all possible worlds", for there is one far greater that is to come.
We confess that God is almighty. We deny the modern theologiansâ argument that God would never interfere with manâs free will for this thought denies the sovereignty of God and is foreign to scripture. It also does not solve the problem. Suppose a man unlawfully enters my home intending harm to my family. I am able to stop it but chose not to out of respect for that criminalâs free will. How can I be called âgoodâ? Would not even human courts find me criminally negligent?
So our God does whatever he pleases. He even turns and thwarts manâs will. How then can this be squared with the existence of evil? The atheist then responds to us that we have a God who is not good. Many times even as Christians we struggle with Godâs goodness and love. Is God there? We know he can prevent suffering, so why doesnât he?
The bible gives us two answers: First, the history of Godâs redeeming acts on behalf of His people clearly shows that he is good, and that he loves his people with an everlasting love. God repeatedly brought to Israelâs memory his goodness and kindness towards them, primarily in their deliverance from Egypt.
Mic. 6:3-5 3 O my people, what have I done unto thee? and wherein have I wearied thee? testify against me. 4 For I brought thee up out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed thee out of the house of servants; and I sent before thee Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. 5 O my people, remember now what Balak king of Moab consulted, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him from Shittim unto Gilgal; that ye may know the righteousness of the LORD.
But the deliverance from Egypt was merely a picture from history of Godâs true and greatest act of redemption. The ultimate show of Godâs love and goodness is in His Only Begotten Son.
Jn. 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Rom. 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
In Christ alone God has shown his love and kindness. There is no other. Outside of Christ, Godâs goodness requires judgment, not blessing. We are all lawbreakers and at war with God. Godâs goodness requires judgment upon his enemies. But in Christ, Godâs goodness and love have been displayed to the whole world. But we who have come to Christ still experience trials, hardship, cruelty and seemingly random acts of violence. How does the scriptureâs teaching of Godâs goodness square with our experience, especially when we are in Christ. This brings us to the passage in Habakkuk. Godâs goodness is not a conclusion at the end of a logical argument, for this would make him a creature â subject to laws outside of Himself. Rather, Godâs goodness is the unquestionable first premise from which the entire argument proceeds. To clarify, look again at the atheistâs argument against God from the existence of evil: Good gods do not want their people to suffer. Powerful gods act to prevent suffering. There is evil and suffering. Therefore God is either not good, or not powerful. Now letâs reword this from the biblical perspective. Premise 1 and 2 are undeniably true, and taught to us by God himself through His Word and Spirit.
God is good. God is powerful. There is evil in the world. Therefore, God has a purpose and a plan that we are not privy to, but it will be good and it will indeed come to pass, for he is able to do it, being almighty God, and willing also, being our faithful father.
Rom. 8:28 28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
For Habakkuk, Godâs goodness was celebrated. Habakkuk could take joy even in the midst of the most severe difficulties, because he knew that even though he didnât see Godâs purpose in the sufferings to come, God was still good, and he was still powerful. Therefore whatever God brought to pass would be good for Godâs people.
Godâs promises could be completely trusted, even when the way was dark. God would provide strength and joy in his own time. Habakkuk could rejoice in this, and so can we.
Last night I watched a documentary by David Attenborough about eagles. He had filmed eagles (I forget which species) that migrate to Africa every year. One of the most spectacular shots was of these eagles flying over Israel. They find the thermal updrafts and catch them with their wings and glide mile after mile with very little effort. They can go for 3,000 miles without stopping to rest, because they expend very little energy. They are carried by the thermal updrafts, not their brute strength. I can picture Isaiah watching them down below thousands of years ago. He writes, "Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall. But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint" (Isa. 40:30-31). From the perspective of this view of God's creation, God is not saying that we will somehow find the strength within ourselves to carry on, for an eagle that tries to flap its wings for 3,000 miles will fall out of the sky in exhaustion. Rather, he is saying that those who "wait" on the Lord will find themselves lifted up by God's strength and carried by His wind. The rushing "wind" of the Holy Spirit came upon the church in Acts chapter 2, carrying the weak and helpless band of 120 people throughout the world spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Spirit is still with his church today - but we are too busy trying to find strength within, refusing to admit our own helplessness, and trying to "carry on" in our own power. May God be pleased to lift us up by His Strength before we fall out of the sky.
For he hath looked down from the height of his sanctuary; from heaven did the LORD behold the earth; To hear the groaning of the prisoner; to loose those that are appointed to death; Ps. 102:19-20
âTomorrow I will be a better person.â
How many times have you told yourself that? You may have gone to therapists. You have gone to the meetings. You may even have tried âreligionâ. But you still find that your conscience accuses you. At night you lie on your bed unable to sleep as your mind plays your failures over and over again. You are told that you are basically a good person. Perhaps you have addictions â sex, drugs, alcohol. Perhaps you just canât control your urges or your temper. You lash out at your loved ones. You stay up at night browsing porn sites until early morning. No matter what you do to stop, you still find yourself doing the same things. You have seen the religious experts. They may have told you to try harder. âFind an accountability partnerâ, you are told. If you would just quit sinning and if you had better influences around you, you could overcome this. But long and cruel experience has told you otherwise. None of your good intentions can break down the walls of your prison. Is there any hope? You have tried everything. Promises have been made and broken. You have been promised that this time it will be different. But it isnât. The Bible tells us what the problem is. The human race is in bondage to sin. The reason that you canât keep your promises is that you are enslaved; you are a prisoner in the prison of your own making. You cannot break free. What you need is for someone to break down the walls of your prison and deliver you. But the only one that can do that is God Himself. Only the Creator of heaven and earth can set you free. But now there is a problem. The Creator of heaven and earth has placed you under the death penalty â and He cannot lie. He said, âThe soul that sins shall dieâ. You have sinned. âBut,â you say, âI have had some lapses in judgment, but I am really not all that bad.â But God doesnât grade on a curve. God has told us very clearly what sin is. It is even clearer than the speed limit sign posted on the highways. Donât steal. Donât kill. Donât lie. Donât commit adulteryâŚ âBut I havenât done these things,â you say. But God doesnât just look at your outward behavior. He looks at the heart. Have you lusted after a woman in your heart? Have you ever told a lie? Have you ever hated someone or held a grudge against someone? Have you ever wanted to steal? You know in your own conscience that you are guilty, and the Judge is a hanging Judge who will NEVER acquit the guilty. If you need to be delivered from your sins, if the only one who can deliver you is God, and if God has pronounced the sentence of death upon you, then how can you possibly be set free? Imagine that you are on death row. The crime that you are accused of is a capital offense. In a few hours you will be taken from you chamber, marched down the corridor, strapped into the chair and executed. You have no appeals. You did the crime and you know you did the crime. You know that the judge is perfectly just and will never go against his own justice. He has never once granted clemency. What hope can you have? You may have heard that the prison is only in your own head. You just need to declare yourself ânot guiltyâ and walk out. But you know better. You may have heard that âGod is loveâ and He would never execute judgment. But you know better. You may have heard that all you need to do is exercise your free will and do better, and the prison doors will magically swing open. But you know better. There is only one hope: When you are executed, the sentence is carried out. Only then can the demands of the law be satisfied. In other words, only when you are dead and buried can you be free from the walls of your prison. But that isnât good news. The good news (gospel) is this: âFor God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting lifeâ (John 3:16). The only way to be truly free from your prison is if the death sentence is carried out. You must either do it yourself (eternal death and damnation) or believe in Jesus, who did it for us. He came into the world in the womb of the virgin, Mary, for only one purpose: to take our curse and our death sentence upon himself. He did this on the cross. He died a death that was accursed of God, so that we might be assured that he truly took the curse upon himself. Then, on the third day, he rose from the dead â raising us up out of death with him, so that we might have the eternal life that he has. If you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, then his death on the cross is your death; and his resurrection from the dead is your resurrection from the dead. The prison walls are broken down forever, because you were already executed, taken out of the prison, and buried with Christ. But he didnât remain in the grave. If you believe on him, you are also raised with him to everlasting life. When you have exhausted every other possibility; when you have reached the end of your rope; there is nothing else to do except come to the only one who can set you free. Isnât it time that you quit trying to do that which is impossible? Isnât it time that you quit pretending that you can escape from your prison in your own power, free-will and wisdom? Isnât it time to come to Christ, and say, âLord, have mercy on me; a sinnerâ?
In the beginning, Satan attacked the authority of the word of God. God very clearly told Adam not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:17). Adam, through the instigation of the Satan, questioned Godâs word and disobeyed the command. Through Adamâs fall, all mankind is born under the bondage of Satan. But they think that they are free and able to decide for themselves the nature of truth (Gen. 3). Satan has no new devices. He continues to question the sole authority of Godâs word. At the time of the Reformation, the Bible was unknown. The pope and the councils of the church were considered the sole authority, speaking the very words of God. It was considered heretical and worthy of death to possess a copy of the Bible in the common tongue. The Reformers, on the other hand, recognized that the only authority for faith and life were the writings of the Old and New Testaments. The attack on Godâs word continues. The authority of men is elevated, whether in popes, celebrity preachers, scientists, or other experts. The Word of God is relegated to the background â a mere collection of antiquated anecdotes and moral fables. Today, inner personal ârevelationsâ and mystical feelings take the place of the study of Godâs word. As Reformed Christians we reject all additions to the Bible, since it is in the Bible alone that we find all that is necessary for faith and life. In the days of Paul, there were many who had their own message. They taught that the Bible wasnât enough. To the words of the Bible, one could add popular philosophy, scientific discoveries, or newly discovered models of behavior to make people better. Paul wrote to Timothy not to be fooled by them. 2 Tim. 3:16-17 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. Everything that is necessary for a Christian to believe has been written in the Bible. It is sufficient and clear, and is to be believed as it is the very words of God Himself. Therefore, to find who God is and how He is to be worshiped we turn to the Bible alone. To find who we are and what we need to do we turn to the Bible alone. We do not turn to our inner voices, our feelings, or the opinions of famous preachers, psychologists, or scientists. We only need to study the Bible. God tells us all that we need to know in the Bible. The problem is that we are sinful and blind, and must have our eyes opened to see what is clearly there. To be reformed means that we change our thoughts and learn to think Godâs thoughts after Him. Godâs thoughts are revealed to us only in the Bible. (Romans 12:1-2). We reject all those who teach that God must change His thoughts to match ours.
From the Belgic Confession, Article VII The Sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures to Be the Only Rule of Faith We believe that those Holy Scriptures fully contain the will of God, and that whatsoever man ought to believe unto salvation is sufficiently taught therein. For since the whole manner of worship which God requires of us is written in them at large, it is unlawful for any one, though an apostle, to teach otherwise than we are now taught in the Holy Scriptures: nay, though it were an angel from heaven, as the apostle Paul says. For since it is forbidden to add unto or take away anything from the Word of God, it does thereby evidently appear that the doctrine thereof is most perfect and complete in all respects. Neither may we consider any writings of men, however holy these men may have been, of equal value with those divine Scriptures, nor ought we to consider custom, or the great multitude, or antiquity, or succession of times and persons, or councils, decrees or statutes, as of equal value with the truth of God, since the truth is above all; for all men are of themselves liars, and more vain than vanity itself. Therefore we reject with all our hearts whatsoever does not agree with this infallible rule, as the apostles have taught us, saying, Prove the spirits, whether they are of God. Likewise: If any one cometh unto you, and bringeth not this teaching, receive him not into your house.
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; (Eph 5:25 KJG)
Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered. (1Pe 3:7 KJG)
There is a growing problem among young men today. Pornography is so available that a large majority of men are not able to love a real woman, even physically. A young woman is simply an object, whose sole purpose of existing is to cater to a manâs whims and moods. A real woman is to be understood and loved, and this is too much to ask for todayâs young man.
It is easier to drop out of reality, turn on the screen and love a fantasy, which is simply another word for loving yourself.
This is not love.
Men have become perpetual children, demanding and petulant. A woman is seen as an impersonal collection of various body parts, designed to be used until she has no more to give â and then discarded.
A child demands sex; a man longs for intimacy. A child refuses to give anything; a man gives his heart.
So the streets and the clubs and the bars are filled with children, demanding satisfaction, searching for their next toy to use and destroy.
Some young men seek marriage, but are unwilling to give their heart. They play with a womanâs heart until they âfind the right oneâ and then they inadvertently âfall in loveâ - Cupidâs next victims. But a victim of Cupid is a victim, not a man. He was not man enough to choose a wife; he was not man enough to love the one he chose. He simply allowed the currents of desire to carry him this way and that. He falls in love. He falls out of love. He leaves behind him the wreckage of broken and hurting young women who were naĂŻve enough to believe him when he said, âI love youâ.
This also is not love.
The question that I have for young men is this: Are you man enough to love a woman?
Are you man enough to love your wife as Christ loved the church?
Are you man enough to live with her with understanding; or do you simply wish to never be inconvenienced, smashing the vessel of her heart on the floor like a cantankerous child?
Are you strong enough to protect her heart? To never do anything that would damage her reputation?
Would you rather die yourself than do the least thing to damage the soul of the one you love?
Are you strong enough to ask forgiveness? Courageous enough to call her lovingly to repentance?
Are you bold enough to reconcile?
Are you man enough to turn off the television and listen to her?
Do you understand her fears, her desires, her longings? Do you have the courage to hear her?
Do you have the courage to open up your heart to her?
Do you have the courage to talk to her about your fears, your desires and your longings?
Do you have the courage to admit that it is not good for you to be alone?
A child desires a mother. A man seeks a wife.
A mother is a tremendous blessing for a child. She nurtures, feeds, cleans, bathes and provides for the childâs every need.
But a mother is not a wife.
Are you man enough to leave your mother and your father and cleave to your wife?
It is a great calling â but most are not strong enough, courageous enough or man enough to take a wife.
It is easier to turn on the computer and fantasize about pixels of ink, rather than love a woman, so most choose the fantasy.
They do not know that it is for their life.
But a woman wants a man.
A man is strong enough to give himself for his wife. He demands nothing; gives everything.
He is man enough to make her place in his heart safe; he is man enough to win her heart and trustworthy enough to keep it.
He is courageous enough to hear the question âWhat are you thinking?â and actually understand it and answer it.
He is courageous enough to hold her in his arms and wipe away her tears.
He is man enough to see when she is at her end, and cook a meal, do the dishes, watch the kids, clean the house and still have enough left to hold her and pray for her and know the right things to say.
He is man enough to at least try to understand her, without resentment, bitterness, impatience or rage. If he is a man, the understanding will come in time.
He is man enough to forsake all others and cleave unto his wife.
He doesnât whine and complain when there is dust on the windowsill or dinner is late â these are the actions of a child, not a man.
He has nothing to prove; he will not hide behind a faĂ§ade of bluster and words; he never has to be the âman of the houseâ nor the âking of the castleâ.
He is strong enough to take the lowest place; be the servant of all; wash the dirty feet himself.
For he is man enough to know that being a leader doesnât mean being the boss.
A child tells everyone what to do. A man leads the way.
A man is strong enough to set his wife as a seal upon his heart, as a seal upon his arm:
For a man knows that love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame. (Sol 8:6)
A man is strong enough to keep the flame going; bold enough to never play with a womanâs heart; courageous enough to never use a woman as a toy to be discarded at whim.
A man is one who trusts the Lord with his whole heart. He therefore does not seek proof of his manhood on the earth, for it is safe with his Lord.
The man who trusts the Lord is ready for a wife; for a man who trusts the Lord has nothing to prove to anyone.
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