Monday, May 24, 2010

Running High School Graduates and a Chasing Gracious God

Last week I spoke at my daughter’s Senior Chapel. As a Pastor, speaking to Christian School audience, you would think the talk would be on making a great impact on the world with great the Christian education they acquired. Not this time. Using the Biblical book of Jonah, the theme was “Running from God!” Why? The statistics below say that, of the 45 seniors in the 2010 class at least 30 will run from God over the next months and years of college.
Here are some of the findings cited by the Youth Transition Network (YTN), a coalition of some of the nation’s largest denominations and ministries that are working together to help reduce the dramatic loss of youth from the church:
“An Assemblies of God study showed a loss of 66% of their students within one year of high school graduation.”
“A Southern Baptist transition project estimates an 82% loss of youth within one year of high school graduation.”
“Fifty to eighty percent of high school students walk away.”
These are staggering statistics if your child is graduating this year. My concern is Karen, she graduates in late May.
What does Jonah have to say about this crisis?
There are 2 basic reasons anyone runs from God – even prophets like Jonah, Christian young people or even you. They really think that God has a propensity to give us less than the best, and that the world has so much more to offer them. The second reason is that we know what God wants from us and we are unwilling to follow his lead. So the desire is to leave God is the rearview mirror on the way to college.
The problem with that strategy is that you cannot run from God. He loves you so much, He will pursue you!
When you run there are some common characteristics:
            You never run to safety but to dangerous, self-destructive places. The Jews were landlubbers. For a Jew to get on a ship for ANY reason was serious business. But think about it – as Jonah later said, "I am a Hebrew and I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land." What sense does it make to get in a dangerous boat?
Jonah – don’t get on a boat!  (Have you said things like that to friends? You are doing what? Seeing who? Marrying who? NO WAY – DON’T DO THAT!)
                        Secondly, when you run from God everything seems great at first, but eventually your life tends to unravel. One common result is the tendency to make the worst relational decisions of your life.
            I told the senior class to make sure not to marry anyone while running from God – a serious mistake. Someone needed to tell them!
                        Thirdly, you always hurt the ones who care the most for you, when you run.
The great news for those that truly know the God who made the sea and land is that you cannot win a race with Him. He always pursues. Running and chasing are synonymous with sin and grace. God is gracious to pursue!
            The senior class loved the story I told about how Karen responded to spankings. She was unique compared to our other 4 children. She would fight it, making it much worst for her. Why would parents inflict pain in the form of a spanking or grounding? Good parents know that rebellion and pain must always be linked, even if there is a quick repentance. I think Jonah repented when he saw the big fish but there was still the first 3-day submarine ride he had to endure. The reality for our Christian children, when the parents are not there, is God will link rebellion with pain and it will always bring a result of repentance, because if they are truly one of God’s children, He will not let them go. They will come back, maybe with a limp, or tattoos, or grandchildren.  Even if 75% of High School seniors run from God, 100% of His children will come back. They will come back and God will run to them. (see John 15 in the Bible) Parents be ready to run to them too!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010