This past week we celebrated Veterans Day, and I always associate that, of course, with heroes. We all have heroes in our lives, I hope. My dad was my hero up till the day he died, Thanksgiving Friday, in my home, 24 years ago. But the first person I called the day he died was a man I greatly looked up to—Colonel Logan Weston. This man came to our camp each summer to speak to the campers and staff, and each time, it was like “Iron Man” had come to camp. Photographs, autographs, standing ovations, etc. He was a hero. He served in WWII, Korea and Vietnam.
He would come to our dining hall wearing his full military uniform with a chest full of medals. One camper asked if these were really all his medals, and he poured out on a table of other medals and said, “No, these are all my medals”. He was rumored to have been the most decorated military man in our history if you include the medals that foreign governments also gave him.
He died May 5, 2003. I was honored to conduct his funeral. The man was a “man’s man”, a patriot, a devout believer, a passionate father and dedicated husband. He was my friend and he believed in me and my work when I felt like no else did. He was always careful and uplifting with his words to me and helped me trust more in God and my own abilities. I still miss the man.
He lived by these verses:
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:1-14, NIV
We need hero’s today for our young people. Young men and women today are challenged by the same things that youth have been challenged for 1000s of years:
Breaking the law—-and family and community mores and rules
Ignoring instruction and advice
———-but not like before. It’s different today.
When I was young, my brother and I would sneak into Marty’s tree house and look at National Geographic showing native women in the Amazon—and each time feel a bit ashamed for doing it. As a teenager, some of my friends would sneak a cigarette, and occasionally you’d hear about high school seniors bringing beer at a party. But things ARE different today friends.
These five vices I mentioned earlier are celebrated in our media, Saturday night live, twitter, Facebook, youtube, commercials, and even in our education system. Try to think of one modern day hero for our kids to look to that is truly a role model of modesty, self-control, and a humble life. Mr. Rogers is gone -- so are Roy Rogers and Dale Evans (and their horses Trigger and Bullit)!
Previous generations were isolated or insulated from knowing just how far one could go with sex or materialism or lawlessness, but youth now have at their finger tips with the:
Liberal laws on kids rights
Rotten role models.
And for every one of us telling them that something is “wrong”, there are 10,000 tweets telling them it’s “their right”—- “go ahead, everybody does it”! And what’s worse, kids think that because they read some factoid on the internet that it must be true! The internet contains dishonesty and deception. It’s frequently wrong and its addictive and opens up the wrong doors at times.
Paul’s answer to the young Christian, and to you and me, about how to get your head clear of sins is simple, really:
-Set your hearts on things above—-remember that we’re just passing through. This is not the end of all that life has to offer.
-Set your minds on things above—not earthly desires—-i.e. keep your thoughts in Jesus. He will keep you at peace if you are dwelling on Him. Try it!
-PUT TO DEATH: (And I think that “put to death” really means——HATE!
-GET RID OF: (Throw it out as if it were filthy water!)
But it is not possible to remove these things unless you replace that void.
And in place of these things you will either put inferior habits and pastimes or you can choose to put the best. Paul tells us to clothe ourselves with:
BEAR with one another and forgive—this is an essential matter if you want to keep teenagers in your home! Bear with them and forgive them.
..and above all LOVE ONE ANOTHER!
Now these are great words; inspired and truer words have never been uttered by any mortal man on the face of the earth! So why aren’t youth (and the rest of us!) living in this excellent way that Paul so eloquently states? Most youth, today, would snicker at such suggestions. Most see anger and profanity as signs of manhood. They might even laugh if you told them that they should fill their hearts with compassion and humility and good manners, etc. Why is this?
Because they don’t see real men and women doing it enough!! And if they only watched the election debacle each day how could they? There are far too few real heroes and saints for our youth to look to! Paintings and marble renderings of Godly men are not enough—-where is the humility, the gentleness, the kindness, the compassion, the forbearance, the chivalry? Is it in our pulpits?…… in the office of the President of the USA?…in our Congress?…..on TV or the Big Screen? Do we read about it from men and women that have succeeded in sports or business?
Then where do young men and women find a hero—-an example of how they SHOULD live? Who was your hero when you were a child? Not comic hero, I mean what movie star, or military leader or athlete? As I child I loved Tarzan. Johnny Weissmuller was my first childhood hero, but later it was Roy Rogers. These guys never lost a fight, always did the right thing and could not be out-witted. They also never used a bad word, never told a lie and were faithful to their wife. Do you have people like that that you still look up to?
Let me be clear, the ONLY being that can fill that hole in the young person—that yearning, that screaming voice that is begging for purpose, is Jesus Christ! Every other saint or teacher or father or camp director is a poor substitute! But until a teenager or child comes to the realization of their need for a savior….. until they finally hit the bottom of their arsenal of hate and disregard for others…until that time comes… they need to see saints, examples, roles models of flesh and blood—-real women and men—that are courageous—-and yet compassionate ... that are disciplined and determined—-and yet humble and gentle ... honest and trustworthy—-but also gracious and forgiving. And our young people in the USA are not seeing this often enough!
This is my mandate as a Christian! And let me comment that this church is doing an excellent job of loving the youth and children! My sons look to many of you as their heroes already
A recent medical study was made that suggests that there is an “evolution” and growth of the human brain that affects our level of consciousness.
Much of the research comes from Joseph Chilton Pearce and his book, The Biology of Transcendence. The study of neuroscience and brain development indicates that we are wired for transcendence—-i.e. we live for experiences beyond the normal or physical level. We’re wired for a bigger picture of just what we see day to day; but ability to be transcendent is all highly dependent on being exposed to living models and personal nurturance as we move from one stage to the next. We all need living models. A young person left to himself or herself cannot fully develop! There is a real need for youth, particularly young men, to gather around enlightened, transformed, loving people so that they rub off on one another. Beyond models, we also need nurturing: mothering and fathering, loving, and partnering at the critical stages of brain development, which are almost all in the first twenty-five years of life. If it does not happen by the 25th year, the individual will be forever handicapped.
Throughout childhood and adolescence, the individual regions of the brain and the pathways connecting them are still under development. Between the ages of fifteen and the early twenties, excess gray matter and unused neural pathways are pruned to make the brain more efficient. Research shows that our human brain is not fully developed until around age twenty-five.
Teens are much more sensitive to peer approval than they were as children or will be as adults. We often see this in teenagers as a desire to do something wonderful, to be someone great, to connect with something momentous. It's actually transcendence they are searching for. But because there are no living models around them of saints, or of mystics, or of people who've got the big picture, they settle for rock stars, movie stars, or professional athletes. That's the only greatness offered to them in a secular culture. They will try to become rich or famous, which looks like greatness, and yet it is not yet the fully connected self or to God.
If, between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five, the young person has role models and enough nurturance, the visionary, idealistic worldview takes off for the rest of his or her life. That's why such a person pushing himself to greater things, is never fully satisfied and keeps searching for more transcendence, yearning for closer connection with God, with others, and with the universe. I hope you know such a person. They are the prime movers for all of us.
If during this early period there are no strong models or wisdom elders, the prefrontal cortex does not keep the neural pathways for transcendence active and accessible. The young person becomes just the opposite: cynical and negative, with a deep, cosmic disappointment that this greatness will not happen to them. "I'm not part of something momentous," he or she concludes. "I'm just dumb old me." So to give himself a feeling of significance he decides that it is hopeless and looks for “happiness” in drugs, alcohol, sex, or may attempt for greatness by competing on a music or dance show or even join ISIS--anything big and noisy. Researchers say that this is what we see in many Western teenagers today, because we haven't offered them anything greater or deeper--or within.
Hopefully life…. and ultimately God will bring new opportunities--through experiences of great suffering or great love--to "rewire" our brains even if we have not experienced the nurturing and guidance we needed at key stages. But more often than not, the young man that misses out on finding hero and role models never becomes the man or woman who could have been.
So ladies and gentlemen, I challenge you to continue to be heroes, role models, the saint that some young person is looking for…. even now as I am speaking these words, a young person might be looking to you as that saint. Are you up for it?
Teach, by your example, the joy comes from Him—not others. Show them how to love TOTALLY, without expecting love back. Remind them that God’s purpose is not to make them happy—-but holy. Allow them to see you showing gratitude but never demanding it back and allow them to witness, day in and day out, how you seek HIS GLORY, not your own.