Categories
faith teens youth

A VISIT TO A TEEN’S RELIGIOUS WORLD

Neal Pollard

I love the World War II generation and the enormous impact they have had on our nation!  Perhaps no generation has had a greater challenge since them than the one presently coming to maturity.  Last night, at Teens In The Word, we asked the teens to describe the religious philosophy of their peers as they interact with them at school, their jobs, and their extracurricular activities.  It was heartening to see and hear our teens’ conviction, knowledge, and heart, but disheartening to discuss the fruit of a couple of generations of our culture’s social experiment to reprogram the thinking of people, especially this burgeoning generation.

Our teens attend schools in Douglas, Jefferson, and Denver Counties, go to large High Schools, charter schools, private schools, and homeschools. Despite these diversities, what they encounter is remarkably similar.  It might surprise you that many of their peers believe in a Higher Power and would consider themselves spiritual. More than anywhere else, these peers attend community churches.  Whatever the church growth gurus and experts claim, the teens that go to these churches tell our teens something very different.  Their religious experience is heavily dependent upon entertainment, doing fun things with a party atmosphere, not motivated or influenced by much biblical teaching, segregated from adults, hard-rocking music, dancing, and overall a very tactile experience.  What impact does it have on “faith”?  If speaking in terms of growing closer to God and learning more about Him, not that much. The prevailing worldview of many of our teens’ friends is “what’s right for me may not be right for you,” that God and the devil, heaven and hell are mindsets more than realities (really just your conscience inside of you), and that essentially the only or worst sins, the “objective wrongs,” are offending others and judging others.  When our teens seek to assert objective truth from scripture, they sometimes encounter scorn or rejection. While our teens know a varying degree of peers whose faith and beliefs are more concrete and committed, perhaps the most frequently observed comment last night was that many of their peers “believe in God but not the Bible or Christ.”  They see the Bible as a book of myths or fairytales and not the revealer of truth or a standard of authority.

As we closed our class last night, I was left awestruck.  Our teens are among my most cherished heroes.  They are on the frontline of faith, battling in a world more opposed to truth than that of any generation now living which preceded them.  We were struck with more than admiration, though.  We felt determination, the need to redouble our efforts to establish and defend the trustworthiness and integrity of the Bible, the existence of God, and from that the authoritative nature of Scripture.  Not only will this bolster the faith of our teens, but it will help them in dialoging with those among their peers possessing good and honest hearts (cf. Lk. 8:15).

Here are four things you can do right now for our teens.  (1) Pray for them. (2) Live Christ without hypocrisy before them. (3) Actively encourage them. (4) Help equip them.  Look for heroes where you will.  I have found mine!

Our teens recently feeding the homeless (photo credit: Lexi Hoagland)
Categories
endurance success

BENAIAH’S BRAVADO

Neal Pollard

In December, 2003, Dave Young, Sr., Jim Dalton, Keith and Kim Kasarjian, Cy Stafford, Kathy and I all stopped for lunch at a picnic area in Tarangire National Park south of Arusha, Tanzania. We stood a short distance from our vehicles, and I prayed for the food.  About midway through the prayer, a lion roared.  The sound felt as if it went straight through us, and every eye popped open to see exactly where the big cat was.  Afterward, Cy told us it could have been a mile away.  The roar was so powerful, it felt like he was spitting (eating?) distance away from us.

Since then, every time I read about a particular conquest of Benaiah, one of David’s mighty men, I think back to that hot African day.

2 Samuel 23:20 so nonchalantly reports, “…He also went down and killed a lion in the middle of a pit on a snowy day.”  Notice three things about this exploit.  First, the foe was ferocious. It was a lion, one of nature’s fiercest predators.  It is likely to be an aggressor when confronted by a man.  Second, the field of battle was foreboding.  Try to put yourself in Benaiah’s position.  You are down in a pit facing the king of the jungle.  It is very unlikely one can outrun a lion on flat ground in ideal circumstances, but where do you run down in a pit? Finally, the forecast was definitely a factor!  What was the traction and footing like for David’s mighty man in this battle? Yet, the outcome, incredibly, was that Benaiah faced this foe and won!

Have you ever found yourself in a seemingly impossible circumstance?  Maybe a powerful temptation, a chronic illness, a perpetual enemy, a prolonged financial crisis, a wayward loved one, or other thorn in the flesh or spirit?  Maybe you felt like giving up.  Maybe you have given up.  I urge you to be a Benaiah, fighting valiantly adorned with the whole armor of God (Eph. 6:10ff).  Realize that you do not fight alone, that God will aid you (1 Cor. 10:13) and lead you to victory every time (1 Jo. 5:4).  Your lion, pit, or snowy day may be figurative, but that makes God’s aid no less likely.  You keep fighting, and He will give you victory!

Categories
Uncategorized

JAMIE MOYER AND PERRY COTHAM

Neal Pollard

Kathy and I went with Wes and Teri Autrey to the baseball stadium Tuesday night to watch the Colorado Rockies take on the San Diego Padres.  Not only did I know the potential history on the table, I was hoping I had not been getting my hopes too high.  The Rockies starting pitcher that evening was Jamie Moyer.  The significance of this fact is known, especially now, to even a great many non-baseball fans.  For the rest of you, Moyer was 49 years and 151 days old when he took the mound.  When Rafael Betencourt finally recorded the third out of the ninth inning for the save, Mr. Moyer became the oldest pitcher in the storied annals of baseball history to earn a victory.  At this point early in the season, he is the most effective pitcher on the Rockies’ roster.  According to statisticians, his slowest pitch was a 67 mile per hour curve ball and his fastest was a 79 mile per hour “fast” ball.  For non-baseball fans, that is s-l-o-w.  He has always pitched that way.  Steady.  Crafty.  Consistent.  Patient.  Successful.

I remember when Tillit S. Teddlie turned 100 in 1985, a song writer in the Lord’s church whose songs included “Don’t Wait Too Long,” “Heaven Holds All To Me,” “In Heaven They’re Singing,” “What Will Your Answer Be?,” and many, many others we have sung in worship.  As a teenager, I was awed and thought of him as the epitome of longevity.  Brother Teddlie lived to be 102.

But as a preacher, my picture of an enduring “legend” among preachers is Perry Cotham.  About the time I remember the birthday celebration for brother Teddlie, the church where my dad preached had brother Cotham for a gospel meeting.  The Texas evangelist had to be in his early 70s, and as such already ancient in my young mind.  I heard tales of his mission trips to India, Malaysia, and Thailand.  He told of his debates with Pentecostals and others.  His lessons were filled with Bible and interesting stories.  I have maintained contact with him through the years and have spoken with him on several programs.  In 2008, we were together in Calaveras County, California, preaching at a campground (the late William Woodson was also there; we roomed together at the same house).  He was 96 at the time, and after hearing his preaching all weekend two adult women responded to be baptized.  My last information is that brother Cotham is still preaching, though his health has declined.  He is 100 years old!

As much as I enjoy baseball, I love preaching.  As great as Moyer’s feat was, brother Cotham’s eclipses it.  What a reminder to us that it is not our age, but our willingness to keep on going however long we have serving the Lord with all of our might!