With Thanksgiving fast approaching, I can’t wait for the second year of my family tradition. You see, I’m NOT a fan of turkey. That’s right, I said, and I am ok with that. Before you cast me out as unamerican, in my defense- most historians agree that turkey was not present at the first Thanksgiving. The spread included duck, deer, and seafood- so unless you are eating Bambi this week, I think I get a pass on not liking turkey. However, I do gather at two family Thanksgiving meals (one today), one at my parents and one at my in-laws. We eat these meals on days other than Thanksgiving Day. It has just gotten to hard to get everyone together on that day. So, last year, my wife and kids decided (actually I decided since I’m the cook of the house) that we are going to do our own Thanksgiving feast on the actual day. We have a nice spread of mashed potatoes, green beans, maybe peas for my wife and the boys (I eat greens), and my preferred meat of choice…..STEAK!!!!!! Now, this is not another post about Thanksgiving or being thankful- I’ve already covered that. This is actually about food…..well, sort of. Let me explain.
Our story takes us back to the wanderings in the wilderness- yes the story of Moses. Moses, one of my favorite biblical heroes. We even named out second born after his brother. Anyway, back to the story of food. We find the Israelites still wandering the wilderness, but this wandering is coming to an end. At the beginning of Chapter 8, God is warning them not to become prideful and He reminds the Iraelites how they were humbled by hunger until God sent the manna from Heaven. Deuteronomy 8:3 tells us, “…that man does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” This verse is very profound, so much so that Jesus references it almost 1500 years later in Matthew 4:4 when he is being tempted by Satan to turn stones into bread. He reminds the devil what the scriptures say. In essence, this passage in Deuteronomy, referenced by Jesus, tells us that God created us to have more than just a physical need for nourishment- we have a spiritual need to be fed as well. So, I ask, what are you doing to feed that spiritual hunger?
I have written before that our society is engaging in fast food religion. We swing through the drive thru on Wednesday and Sundays, but we don’t feed ourselves spiritually the rest of the week. When I challenged my youth and some of the students at school with this through FCA, the response I got was very eye opening. The research I did, simply asking students about their spiritual appetites, revealed that we as the church, we as youth pastors are missing a possible catastrophe that could have eternal consequences. I’m talking about raising a generation of malnourished Christians. We have allowed our teens and young adults to pull together the equivalent of an 80’s mixed tape of theology and it is a recipe for disaster. The theology isn’t necessarily flawed, but it is vastly incomplete. So I want to take a moment and look at this concoction and break down the inadequacies of living on bread alone.
We live in a very dessert-first oriented society. We recently had our church-wide Thanksgiving dinner (yes a third time I have to eat turkey or ham) and the line is always long. We always let the senior adults go first, followed by parents with small children. Well, my youth, the older children, and many adults have figured out- GO TO THE DESSERT TABLE FIRST while everyone else is getting their food. We see this all the time in restaurants, especially since I have two small boys who have no problem acknowledging their sweet tooth, children want dessert firts. Our discipleship and bible study has become a lot like this as well. I liken the desserts to the conferences, the camps, the concerts, the music events (like Winter Jam or Winter Xtreme), you know, the sweet stuff that everyone likes to attend. While each one of these things are very good, [they each leave you with a sweet feeling about Christ, even if He convicts you of sin; their is resolution in attaining His forgiveness or salvation,] by themselves they will not make a very good Christian. Now, I love Christian music. I go to Winter Jam every year, I go to Carrowinds Christian music night, and as I am writing this, I am listening to Tenth Avenue North; but the music is not enough to sustain me and grow me into a mature Christian. I love conferences as well. We just returned from hearing David Nasser and Kyle Idelman at Hearts on Fire Youth Conference in Gatlinburg this past weekend. However, and I think both men would agree with me, listening to David or to Kyle once a year will not make a great, growing Christian. I fear that we have a generation that has allowed TobyMac to be their savior instead of Jesus Christ. I fear that Newsboys and Casting Crowns have taken the place of church and discipleship. Listening to Christian music no more makes you a Christian than standing in a garage makes you a car. All of these artists are great and I know they feel the same when I say that music can not make you a solid growing Christian anymore than eating only dessert your whole life will make you a healthy growing person. We can not live on dessert alone.
Likewise, prayer and discipleship (spending time in church or getting plugged into a youth group) are the mashed potatoes and green beans. Both have very healthy qualities and are essential for healthy growing Christians, but if we spent our whole lives only eating potatoes and green beans, again we would lack essential nutrients to be healthy Christians. We need an active prayer life. It is essential for survival and is welcomed and longed for by our savior. The Bible tells to pray without ceasing. Just as much, discipleship- the process of being taught how to live the Christian life through active membership in church and a youth group or small group- is a necessity to grow. But even as important as prayer and discipleship is, we still would not be a healthy, complete Christian if that is all we did. We are lacking something that can not be replaced in our spiritual diet. our protein. We can no live on vegetables alone.
God’s Word, the meat of the situation, the place where we get the truth of Christ. The Word of God, where we are told of the wonderful gift of salvation given to us by a loving God. This is the steak, the filet mignon, the porterhouse of our spiritual growth. This gives life and truth to the other parts of the spiritual meal. The Bible gives us our foundation and only through the truth found in the Bible can we understand the nature of our sinfulness and more importantly, our need for a savior.
It is vital as parents, leaders, pastors, friends that we make sure that this generation does not fool themselves or others into thinking that all they need to do to be saved or discipled is pop in the latest release of For King and Country or Jamie Grace. We need to make sure that our young people are being fed more than once or twice a year at a conference or concert. These are all quality venues for worship, but it can not replace the word of God, studied daily, bathed in prayer, and guided by a local church, pastor, or small group. We need to ensure that our young people are getting a balanced spiritual diet. If we look close enough, we might even see that our own diet is lacking in essential nutrients whether its a quality quiet time with your Bible and the Lord, or perhaps strengthening your prayer life. In the end, the strongest, most developed Christians will have a balanced diet of all of these components. Let’s all make it a priority to grow better, stronger Christians because man can not live by bread alone.
In Christ Alone,
Rev. Bro. Coach