Bucket of Questions continues to be one of my favorite nights of youth group.
The concept is simple: students provide the questions, everyone gives input, we give an answer. The questions range in topics (as you will see), but we our aim is to give a Biblically-grounded, gospel-driven, Christ-centered answer, one that has application and meaning for each of us.
Instead of making a 10,000 word blog post (which no one would read), I want to break it up for you throughout the week.
So, as always, these are real questions from real students:
My parents were hesitant at first about me getting an Instagram because they were worried about what I post. Does that mean they don’t trust me?
Why won’t my mom let me have an Instragam?
What kind of thing should I post on Instagram?
We have already given some time to instagram but I want to talk about parents. Typically, parents are older than their children (I’m still trying to find the exception to this rule, but have yet to find one), and parents care and love their children well. So, the idea I tried to present at this question was this: Who wants you to have more joy for yourself, you or your parents? The majority of the students understood and said, “my parents” but some were hesitant. Some said, “I do!”
That’s preposterous! Luke 11:11-13 gives some background to this idea:
What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Even bad parents aren’t going to give bad gifts! Even bad parents want good things for their kids! Now, sin does skew this. Don’t misunderstand me when I say this, but even bad parents want good things for their kids. A parents joy is to want their children to experience more joy, more happiness, more peace, more love than they have. You, as a parent, want your child to experience more joy in their life than your child does.
So, why might a parent be hesitant about Instagram? Because mostly, they have no idea what Instragram is and they aren’t on it themselves. Our Youth Elder and his wife last night said, “It isn’t that I don’t trust [their son], but that we want him to be safe and secure. We want what is best for him.”
We assume things far to often. We let things slide and don’t talk about them when we need to. Parents, please, be in active conversation with your kids. Talk to them about this idea that YOU as a parent want them to have good things and not go through bad things! Say, “I want you to have good things, so lets go get ice cream.”
When should we start dating?
It has been and will still continue to be the policy of this Youth Director and my predecessor that students should not date in middle school or high school. I have many reasons, but here are a few:
one) Practically, it is dumb. Most kids can’t drive. Most don’t have jobs. So, how romantic and loving is it for a guy to take a girl out to the movies paid for by dad and chauffeured by mom? It’s a little sad.
So, if you think you’re doing okay on these two ends (you have a job and you can drive) …
two) It’s dumb because it’s not even about love and more about hormones and sex. Be honest with yourself. What you are thinking of as love right now is a result of new hormones in your body. Song of Solomon speaks of this, “Do not awaken or stir up love until it so desires.” Mix that with Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick; who can understand it?” and you get the understanding that the passions for the opposite sex at a young age are more of a sinful, lustful, deceitful longing for acceptance, fulfillment, to be known, to crave a sexual desire rather than love.
So, if I am practically not ready and dating in high school is more about my desire to be known, fulfilled, accepted, crave a sexual desire, how then do I handle that?
three) There is a more important relationship to invest in. No matter the issue, the heart of the matter is a matter of the heart. For you and I and the world that we live in, the biggest problem that we face is that there is a separation between us and God. So, when it comes to dating, how can I know what love means and how I can love someone else without knowing and experience and joyfully living in a relationship with which my heart most fully desires; a relationsip where I am loved unconditionally and unequivocally? It seems crazy to think that a relationship with the Lord can be put on the back burner so that I can date someone else. We love because he first loved us. Marriage is the image and metaphor that expresses God’s love, unity, desire, commitment, and relationship to us, it is not the end all.
Advice to get out of the Friendzone?
Get out of it? Live in the friendzone! Guys, spend time together with other guys and girls in a group, together. Don’t be stupid and hang out solo in your parents’ basement with the lights out. That’s dumb. Live in the friendzone. No need to get out of it yet.
How do you forgive yourself?
I’ve been reflecting on this since last night. I feel satisfied with my answer I gave to the students last night, but I think I need to go somewhere else to answer this question.
We don’t forgive ourselves because we think we are the King, Ruler, President, Master, CEO, Lord, Head, center of our own universe.
When we are the king, ruler, master, president, center of our own universe it is our responsibility to dish out punishment to those who don’t live up to the standards set up by the king of the universe.
The king’s standards are always perfection.
So, when we screw up, the king/ruler/center of the universe has to give out the due punishment for not living up to the set standards for living.
And when you are the center of your own universe, you will never be able to forgive yourself for the mistake that you make because there is a standard and you fell short and justice has to be served. Things have to be right in a universe in order for the ruler/center of the universe to not be divided. So the punishment has to be given out.
The punishment is guilt, shame, condemnation, disapproval, fear, doubt, worry, anxiety.
You will never be able to forgive yourself when you are the center of the universe.
When Jesus is the center of your universe, things are different. When Jesus is the ruler and king of your universe, life is different. Forgiveness can only happen when someone else is at the center of your universe. Forgiveness can only happen with Jesus.
Because there is a standard. That standard is perfection, and guess what, we fall short.
But instead of the God of the Universe guilting us, shaming us, killing us as punishment, God (the same God you offended, hated, sinned against) sends his Son, Jesus, to live like you could never live and die the death you deserve. It is called propitiation (God’s punishment on us was satisfied and fulfilled in Jesus on the cross.” 1 John 4:10 says that this idea of propitiation is how we know that God loves us. Because of Jesus, there can be no condemnation or hatred or angry for us from God. (cf. Rom 8:31-39).
God is not angry at you. Read that last sentence again. Say this out loud, “God is not angry with me.”
You are going to screw up. You probably already did today. There is a sin you probably have never shared with anyone else that you are too afraid to share, lest you be exposed as a liar and hypocrite.
But God in his infinite knowledge knew you you sin and shows his love for you and me that while we were still sinners, he sent Jesus to die on the cross for our sake.
There is not one of your sins, past, present, or future, that the grace of God does not cancel out. There is no sin past, present, or future that has more power than the cross of Jesus Christ. No one alive has the ability to out-sin the grace of God.
How do you forgive yourself? Believe and trust that you aren’t God and that the true God of the universe has forgiven you through the cross of Jesus Christ.
On the slate for tomorrow: gay marriage, sickness and the biggest challenge as a teenage Christian.
Thanks for reading. Tomorrow, I will be adding an email address so I can get your feedback.