Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas is Happening! (An Advent Adventure)

I stumbled upon this website last week, and I've absolutely loved it.  It's an Advent calendar of sorts: a daily reflection on the coming of Jesus through a combination of visual art, music, poetry and scripture.  Word on the street is that it's done by the boys of Mumford & Sons.  Today's poem is too good not to be shared:

A stranger came to the shores of the world
that we might be strangers to follow Him home.
Divinity distilled in a human babe
with eternal hopes placed on His name.
So the righteous king laid down His rights
and took on flesh, born into the night.
So small the babe whom stars obeyed,
and lit the way for new songs of praise,
for shepherds and kings, the low and the high,
He came to unite, and He came to divide.
For one thing is clear, and one thing is new:
that those that find Him become strangers, too.
And into the land of the divided sea,
His time not yet come for his life's destiny.
For Christmas is joy and Christmas is peace,
but only He could pay for the price of release.
So anthems of angels still ring in our ears,
“Yeshua, the King, the Savior is here!”
So in the cold light of a dusty old church,
as we sing the same songs and hear the same words,
we think upon Him like generations of old,
He arrived and He lived and He died and He rose.
The stranger still from a different time zone,
He came to our hose to carry us home.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

What You Need To Know About Grace

Fuller Youth Institute just released this video for High School seniors - certainly relevant for all students.  A zinger by Steve Argue from Mars Hill Church:
"Tomorrow morning, you wake up, you open your eyes, and you take your first conscious breath.  In that moment, you remember that you are made in the image of God.  And you also remember that God loves you before you've experienced a success or a failure today.  And you've been invited by God to participate in making this world more beautiful.  That is grace."  
We're looking forward to FYI's Stick Faith college transition curriculum for High School seniors, set to release this summer - check it out here!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Preaching NOW for Instant Gratification Generation

“I want what I want, and I want it NOW!” could be the mantra of the instant-gratification generation that student ministers serve in the postmodern era. And, you know what, it’s not just that they want it now, in many ways, it's that they get it now.

Desires and things that our generation had to wait on, kids can have exactly as they want it, when they want it. Want to hear a song? No waiting on mom to take you to the Camelot Music store. Download it right now. Want to see your friends? No waiting until school tomorrow. Video I-Chat means you can see one another here and now. Want to see your favorite team play? No waiting until CBS picks up your favorite team. Cable packages and ESPN360 let you watch any game at anytime.

Teenagers have deep needs and desires like we all do: they’re just conditioned to believe that they can have it immediately, whereas previous generations were accustomed to waiting. Given the nature of the instant-gratification generation, students ministers need to preach to the immediacy of student’s need for the here and now.

With respect to teaching, though, the message that Jesus saves you from hell and ensures you eternal salvation when you die, has little sticking power with students. As a teenager in the 1990’s, this was the message I received. Jesus secures your soul for heaven. Now go try hard and be good. That message actually stuck with me, as I thought hell for eternity would not be so cool.

While the message of eternal salvation is essential and true, justification when you die will not resonate with kids with such an acute level of demandingness and expectation. Being rescued from eternal judgment needs to be preached, but students need to hear how the Gospel effects them right this second. They need to hear how it affects their life on this earth, because death is 10,000 years away.

The good, and often forgotten, news is that the Gospel promises freedom and life for this lifetime. Jesus says in John 5: 24, “Whoever hears my words and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” Jesus speaks in the present tense when saying a believer “has” eternal life. He is not speaking about the eternal life in heaven; he’s talking about eternal life right now. Beyond that, in Greek, verbs are either continuous or completed. Continuous verbs describe an action or state that goes on continuously for perpetuity. When Jesus speaks of eternal life, he consistently speaks in the present tense, demonstrating that He was offering life to his audience in their present state and in their life on this earth.

The caveat in this line of speaking is not to cultivate false expectations that Christ offers circumstantial happiness and pleasantness in this life. But the Gospel does offer freedom for believers here and now. The Gospel offers increasing (not absolute) freedom from fear, performance, and pressure. It offers the perfect love that man was made for and never finds outside of Jesus.

While the offer of eternal salvation has value, week in and week out, the proclamation of the freedom and love of the Gospel for this life, this week, this day, this minute needs to have urgent priority in our ministries to postmodern students.