What Every Christian Millennial should know about Significance

The millennial generation loves meaningful action. Fast Company reports that 62% of Millennials believe they can change their communities, and 40% believe they can change the world. We strive to make a difference, to be significant. But let’s stop for a moment and ask, “How is our desire to be significant satisfied?”

Photo Credit: Impact Retreat via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Impact Retreat via Compfight cc

Christian or not, this desire for a meaningful life is carried across my generation. Today you easily find speakers and books talking about realizing your potential and accomplishing incredible goals. Most Millennials I know have a cause they champion.

I’m not speaking against ambition. Personally, I get jittery if I sit on my hands too long. I hate feeling useless. Yet I’ve realized sometimes my personal ambition becomes a self-centered striving for significance. Ambition can be twisted into pride and selfishness if not unwaveringly centered on the Gospel.

Here are several lies I’ve believed (this week) about being useful:

  1. If I’m not being useful, I’m missing God’s will.
  2. I need to be useful all the time.
  3. If I’m not useful, I’m useless.

At the root of it is one lie: My definition of “useful” is the same as God’s; therefore, my definition of “significant” is the same as God’s.

Finding the Why in our What

In the last few weeks I’ve been a part of a meetings for a new community my church is planting. We could spend a lot of time talking about exciting topics:

  • Where will we meet?
  • How are we going to grow?
  • What do we want to look like in five years?

Instead, our group has spent the last three meetings coming together, worshipping, and discussing one question: Why are we here?

[share-quote author=”” via=”CamdenMcAfee”]Before you understand your what, define your why.[/share-quote]

You might have a passion to serve others. Before asking the question, “How can I serve others,” ask yourself, “Why do I want to serve others?” That might seem basic, but unpacking the answer could be the difference between running a sprint and running a marathon.

God cares far more about your character than about your action. He doesn’t want to redefine your big moments; He wants to redefine every moment. The Gospel keeps us from selfishly striving after great things for God; instead, it motivates us toward the greatest thing—knowing God.

Yesterday morning I sat down with my wife and opened our daily devotional from Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest. Here’s the beginning of that day’s devotional:

“In the natural life our ambitions alter as we develop; in the Christian life the goal is given at the beginning, the beginning and the end are the same, viz., Our Lord Himself. We start with Christ and we end with Him—“until we all attain to the stature of the manhood of Jesus Christ,” not to our idea of what the Christian life should be. The aim of the missionary is to do God’s will, not to be useful, not to win the heathen. He is useful and he does win the heathen, but that is not his aim. His aim is to do the will of his Lord.”

I don’t know what your passion or gifting is, but I know God wired you to care. Whatever your ambition, I challenge you to bring your “what” to God until you have a clear “why.”

The more we know God, the more our “why” will be defined, and our “what” will follow as we follow Jesus. Our greatest aim is not significance; our greatest aim is knowing God. 

 

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10 Words for Broken People on #WorldSuicidePreventionDay

Over the last three years, I’ve talked to a lot of hurting people. Some I’ve met face-to-face, and others I’ve spoken to through social media. The stories of pain I’ve heard are incredible and real. In the middle of astonishing hurt, I believe there is hope.

Razor Blade and Bullet
Real objects turned in at events I’ve helped put on. Photo credit: Nick Hall.

Here are three things I’ve told people struggling with suicide and other pain, summarized in ten words.

1. You are not alone.

One of the first lies struggling people believe is “I am alone.” And while it’s true that no one understands your pain but you, I guarantee there are others facing the same struggle (I’ve heard dozens of their stories myself).

If they have found victory, you can find victory.

2. God loves you.

When I tell someone hurting, “God loves you,” they’ll often reply, “How could He?”

Whatever you believe about God has been shaped by your worldview and experiences. Instead of basing God off these variables, go back to the source. See what the Bible itself says about God loving a broken world. Dare to believe these promises:

Psalm 34:18
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.

Isaiah 53:5
But He was pierced for our transgressions;
He was crushed for our iniquities;
Upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
And with His wounds we are healed.

Romans 5:8
But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

God isn’t waiting for you to overcome your struggle before you come to Him. I’ve personally heard dozens of stories of lives saved by the love of God. Check out this video from speaker Nick Hall about suicide.

3. Find someone you trust.

The final four words are the hardest. Suicide is often accompanied by incredible guilt or shame. Sometimes it’s tied to a certain event; other times it simply arises from our crushed view of ourselves.

God isn’t looking on you with shame. He looks on You with love. And if God looks on you with love, then His children are going to look on you the same way.

The challenge is this: Find an older Christian man or woman who you trust, and tell them your struggle. Maybe it’s your pastor or youth pastor; maybe it’s a family friend. Whoever it is, don’t keep this struggle to yourself. Share your struggle with someone else, and get the help you need.

Suicidal thoughts and actions can spring out of many causes, mental and medical. This struggle is worth finding help. This is your life, and God made you with a purpose. Ultimately, the fight against suicide is a fight to see ourselves the same way God sees us.

[share-quote author=”” via=”CamdenMcAfee”]Ultimately, the fight against suicide is a fight to see ourselves the same way God sees us.[/share-quote]

 

What ways have you found to help friends or family struggling with depression or suicide? If you’ve had these thoughts, how do you fight against it / what questions do you still have unanswered? Share in the comments below! [comments]Comments[/comments]

The Devil Comes Slowly

“Why, Lord?” I asked in frustrated prayer.

Lion
Photo Credit: Chris Eason

Within a day of each other, I heard of two Christian leaders who failed morally. I didn’t understand why so many stumble down this path. Gently, I heard the reply: “The Devil comes slowly.”

The enemy of your soul

In the Bible, a ferocious picture is painted of Satan.

1 Peter 5:8
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

Have you ever looked up the word “prowl?” Here it is: To move about restlessly and stealthily, especially in search of prey.

Restlessly and stealthily. The devil constantly tries subtle means to draw us away from God. These lies start small. No leader who faithfully follows God will look at sin one day and say, “Sure, why not?”

That’s the problem with deception: You never see it coming. Before you know it, it’s too late.

The erosion of the soul by the deception of sin leads to our destruction.

How to avoid moral failure

Why would God record many of the moral failures of His people in the Bible? If He wanted people to believe the Bible, wouldn’t He rather skip over those moments?

Not according to the Bible.

1 Corinthians 10:11-12
These things happened to them [in the Old Testament] as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!

God’s Word is the best way I know of to avoid traps of sin. It may sound ‘Old Testament’ to talk about the fear of the Lord, but think about it. If you lived aware of an all-knowing, all-just God, you wouldn’t pursue “secret” sins. The people most apt to be deceived are those who feel impervious.

Here are a few other ways we can safeguard our lives against the slippery slope of deception.

[callout]

  1. Recognize your weakness. Loneliness and fatigue are inevitable; don’t keep an invincible mindset.
  2. Remember to rest. Physically, emotionally, and spiritually, no one can go at 100% all the time. Rest isn’t an obligation; it’s a gift.
  3. Bare your soul before others. Share everything with one or two friends who love you enough to speak the truth, and listen. “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses” (Proverbs 27:6). As Oscar Wilde wrote, “A true friend will always stab you in the front.”
  4. Bare your soul before God. It’s a powerful exercise to spend time with God and ask, “What do You want to purify in my life?” When I ask honestly and listen, God is never silent.

[/callout]

[share-quote author=”Oscar Wilde” via=”CamdenMcAfee”]A good friend will always stab you in the front.[/share-quote]

In all this, realize our goal is to safeguard, not moral perfection. Jesus commanded, “Be perfect” (Matthew 5:48), and the Bible plainly says, “No one is righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10). In other words, we have to be perfect, but we can’t.

This is where the Gospel comes in. As Tim Keller says, “You are more sinful and flawed than you ever dared believe, but more accepted and loved than you ever dared hope.”

Anyone who believes God’s grace gives a license to sin doesn’t know God. God’s kindness is meant to lead us to repentance (Romans 2:4).

David understood God’s character and moral failure. His heart cry in Psalm 139 should echo in the heart of every leader.

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!

What do you think? What other principles or practices help us avoid moral failures? [comments]Share in the comments below.[/comments]

“Quiet” Time with Jesus

Sometimes “quiet” time with God feels more like trying to read a book in a mosh pit.

Quiet Time with Jesus
Photo Credit: BenThereDoneThath via Compfight cc

I’ve experienced it before, and I bet you have, too. You settle down for some quality time with your heavenly Father—eyes closed, journal out, Bible open—when the onslaught comes.

Sometimes it’s physical: Your stomach grumbles, your phone buzzes, your dog barks, your kids cry. With a little bit of training, it’s often possible to plan past these distractions: Bring a cup of coffee or a snack, silence your phone, and plan for early morning or late night.

For me, the physical distractions often aren’t the problem. The mental distractions are.

I’ll sit down with my Bible, journal, and Jesus when the floodgates open. Did I wash those dirty dishes yet? I need to remember to email so-and-so today. Remember that one time when….

The list goes on. Ten, fifteen minutes will pass before I realize I haven’t even finished the chapter I’m reading in my Bible. Every prayer feels like I’m starting from square one. God doesn’t feel close; on the contrary, He feels quite distant.

Social media-paced culture can be dizzying, distracting, even enslaving. The onslaught of thoughts, texts, and tweets can be overwhelming.

Make the Most of Distraction

Personally, I’ve tried many ways to keep myself focused during devotional times. Below are a few ways that have helped me keep focus.

  • Pray out loud. If it won’t disturb the people around you, try praying audibly. Saying the words that come to mind keep our minds from wandering. This also helps to keep our prayers succinct.
  • Journal what you pray. Sometimes, when I have a pen and paper, I’ll write my prayer. Occasionally, I’ll write my prayers, word-for-word. However, more often than not, I find it most effective to create a bullet-point list of prayer requests on my mind.
  • Keep your distractions separate. I remember a coworker who would always come to prayer with her Bible and a notepad. She would use the notepad to keep track of the daily tasks that came to her mind while she prayed.
  • Be devoted. It may be redundant, but devotionals require devotion. Commitment—choosing to stay in one place and focus—is hard. But when we commit, more often than not our prayers get prayed.

Finally, after all that work, I need to clarify: The goal of “quiet time” with Jesus is not quiet. The goal of “quiet time” with Jesus is Jesus. If your mind is pulling you in a hundred directions or you’re distracted by the day’s tasks, remember that “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve” (Mark 10:45). Jesus isn’t rating your quiet time. He’s patiently waiting for you to make an intentional, devoted, imperfect, probably distracted effort to meet with Him.

And all those distractions, all that chaos that comes by choosing to slow down life to be with Him, is in the end unquestionably worth it.

Learning to Dwell

I remember Chicken Nugget Tuesdays at college. We had chapel every day before the lunch hour. Sometimes, if a message or worship was really good, people would linger past 11:45 when we were allowed to go. But not on Tuesdays.

Dwelling in Church
Photo Credit: photobypatrick via Compfight cc

On Tuesdays, students would leave the chapel in a storm to get to the cafeteria. Our cafeteria, like most college campuses, was a picture of gourmet cuisine—minus the flavor, variety, and quality. Thus, when Tuesday rolled around, every student knew they could get the one thing the college consistently, satisfactorily made: chicken nuggets.

I was pretty in tune with this culture myself, until I heard one of our professors share something one Tuesday. It’s a silly quote—but it impacted me to the point that I remember it three years later. He said,

I don’t want a chicken nugget to get between me and what God wants to do I my life.

That simple, silly sentence caught me.

It caught me because I realize how true it is for me—not only at college, but at every Church service I’ve ever attended. The pastor closes his sermon, there’s usually a closing song, and perhaps the pastor gives a benediction.

And then people leave.

But what if God wants more? What if He wants more for our lives than small talk, Sunday lunch, or football? Are we willing to give it to Him?

The Promise of Dwelling

I started a practice during chapel, and it impacted my entire spiritual life. Instead of running to the next thing, I decided to dwell.

Psalm 27:4
One thing have I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
and to inquire in his temple.

To dwell means “(of one’s eyes or attention) linger on (a particular object or place).” To dwell in God’s presence is to stay there, looking only to Him. Grammatically, David lines up “dwell” to mean, “to gaze upon.” The word “inquire” can also be translated “meditate.”

Not only does David desire to dwell in the presence of God, but dwelling is part of a promise.

Psalm 91:1
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.

In essence, “The person who dwells with God will persevere under God.”

Dwelling in God’s presence isn’t about being super spiritual or having a heart like David’s. Dwelling in God’s presence is a promised anchor in a fast-paced, unstable world.

Simple Ways to Dwell

Doubtless, there’s many ways this principle of dwelling can be applied. Here are a few ways I found helpful after chapel services, which could be equally applied after a church service.

  • Dwell by review: What did the pastor just say? Reviewing the whole service in your mind can help cement the words that were said.
  • Dwell by reading: Go over the Scripture that was read. What common threads do you see? Does anything strike you?
  • Dwell by praying: Ask God to make His truth real in your life. Tell Him that you want to learn and grow, and pray through the message as applicable for your life.
  • Dwell by discussion: Find one person (or a group of people) and talk about the truths you heard. Don’t try to be the smartest sounding—just rephrase what was said, what you noticed, and how it applies to you. And listen to others.
  • Dwell by action: How does this service make a difference in your life? What will actually be different this week because of it? Make intentional decisions to specifically apply the words spoken.

Believe me when I say God wants more for your life than chicken nuggets. When we dwell, we enrich not only our lives, but also the lives of those around us. If you truly want to see God, stay awhile.