53. Substance

“There is precious instruction to be got
 by finding we were wrong.”
— Thomas Carlyle

 

On September 28, 2011, the highly respected Barna Group published an article titled, “Six Reasons Young Christians Leave Church.” It was based on research comprised of interviews with teenagers, young adults, parents and pastors, and it focused on young adults who had been active churchgoers during their teen years but felt a disconnect after age fifteen.

The study revealed that no single reason dominated. Instead, six significant themes emerged as reasons why nearly three out of every five youth left the church either permanently or for an extended period of time.

Reason #2 on that list read: “Teens’ and twentysomethings’ experience of Christianity is shallow.”

For over two decades I have written Christian education curriculum for teenagers and pre-teens. The most rewarding assignments that I’ve received were from editors responsible for online teaching supplements, called “Real Life Downloaded” (David C. Cook Publishers).  I enjoy that type of writing because it’s purpose is to add additional substance to print lessons that are already in the hands of teachers in classes happening every weekend in churches across the nation. Each RLD supplement gives a current, pop culture option that helps kids better relate to the topic being explored.

This is something I can believe in and feel proud of contributing to. In my humble opinion, that’s what teens and twentysomethings need – not just a lot of fun socializing activities meant to keep them coming back each week expecting more entertainment. All Christians need fellowship. But when fun and play outweigh the depth of purpose that an individual can experience by truly connecting with Jesus Christ, the amusing house of cards erected only by tantalizing human interaction will eventually crumble.

The challenge: Create balance between the two.

That’s where “prophecy connections” come in. Let me show you what I mean.

We’re going to start with Jesus’  “end of the age” timeline that we looked at in Devotion 52. Imagine that I am presenting this illustration to you via a Power Point presentation.

First we review the timeline recorded in Matthew 24. Each point will appear as “Jesus said” notations.  Next, I place a plastic overlay on top that shows the substance of selected verses taken from Revelation 6. This is to show the common factors in what all four of the gospel writers documented. These appear as “Revelation 6” notations in my presentation. Then we compare the two and come up with a summary, which appears as “SIMILARITY on the Power Point screen.

Here’s how it might look …

Jesus said: Many will come, claiming, “I am the Christ,” and will deceive many.

Revelation 6: When “the Lamb” [Jesus]opened the first of seven seals, John saw “a conqueror bent on conquest” riding a black horse (Rev. 6:1-2).

SIMILARITY: “Many” individuals seek power as conquerors by claiming that they are the Messiah, and they manage to deceive people who are not aware of Bible prophecy, which confirms the true identity of the Christ.

Jesus said: There will be wars and rumors of wars; nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.

Revelation 6: When the Lamb opened the second seal, John saw “a rider [on a red horse] given power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other” (Rev. 6:4).

SIMILARITY: A spirit of conflict arises which is GIVEN POWER to cause infighting among nations and kingdoms, resulting in bloodshed and death.

Jesus said: There will be famines, earthquakes, and pestilences.

Revelation 6: When the Lamb opened the third seal, John saw a rider [on a black horse] with scales in his hands, foretelling consequences of financial imbalance (which would include the aftermath of natural disasters).

SIMILARITY: Famines, earthquakes and pestilences can cause significant financial imbalance, resulting in poverty and starvation.

Jesus said: There will be death, persecution, wickedness, hate, and betrayal.

Revelation 6: When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, John saw “Death and Hades” killing over a fourth of the earth by sword, famine, plague and wild beasts.

SIMILARITY: “Death” comes upon individuals who have refused the gift of eternal life, offered by Jesus when he sacrificed His earthly life on the cross as payment for the sins of mankind. “Hades” describes the spirit of the underworld, also known as hell.

Jesus said: Christians will be persecuted, put to death, and hated by all the nations.

Revelation 6: When the Lamb opened the fifth seal, John saw the souls of those who had been slain because if their testimony for Christ.

SIMILARITY: The souls of those killed because of their dedication to the Son of God and to His message have a special place in God’s kingdom as they await His second coming.

Now I would present charts that show significant era’s throughout common era history – from the times when Jesus stated those prophecies until the present. We would see that in His timeline, Jesus gave an overview of Satan’s handiwork and carnage that would be repeated throughout centuries into the future.

So, IF these are common occurrences that have taken place within every generation of modern history — not separate events reserved for individuals who are “left behind” following a pre-tribulation rapture — would it be safe to surmise that the spirits represented by each of the first 5 seals, were “released” into the world as they were opened by the Lamb?

Jesus said:And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14).

I’m thinking that perhaps experiencing teaching like that in churches may have motivated the teens and twentysomethings who were polled to come back for more.

 

“All these are the beginning of birth pains.”

(Luke 21:15)

 

A RUST REMOVER …

The Lord God loves a good mystery, and there will always be things that He’ll choose to keep hidden. But He encourages us to continually  “ask” and “seek” (Matthew 7:7) until we find the answers to our questions – even though many of our wonderings won’t be explained until we see Him face to face.  But then, will it matter?