Friends Your Age Are Not Enough

I'm writing on desiringGod today about a subject near and dear to my heart: intergenerational friendship.

We like people who are like us. Beginning as children, we’re corralled by different categories and compartmentalization. Age may be the biggest. From grade school to Sunday school to the workplace, we tend to intuitively gravitate to those who are the same age as us.

Many churches (surely unintentionally) feed this anti-intergenerational message: children go here for Sunday school, teens go here for youth group, separate Bible studies and classes for college, career, parents, and seniors. Quietly and subtly we come to believe that our friends should exclusively be from our generation.

Yet while having friends of the same age is normal and natural, we miss something special when we don’t have any friends who are of different ages than us, particularly in Christian community. Christians share a bond and identity that trumps everything else — job, race, and most definitely age. If there’s no longer Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, there should be neither old nor young (Galatians 3:28).

Age should not build walls. Jesus should tear them down. When we put aside our preference for people just like us, we broadcast the beauty of our shared union with Christ.

And intergenerational friendship is not just beautiful, but necessary. We need intergenerational friendship. We need the balance, perspective, and experience of people who are walking through different stages of life than us (1 Timothy 4:12; 5:1–2; Titus 2:3–5). Teenagers, you need older Christians. Seniors, you need teenagers. Young moms, you need empty-nesters. Empty-nesters, you need twenty-somethings. We all need each other.

Photo courtesy of desiringGod.

When the King Came to Tell Stories: Part 2

If you missed Part 1, check it out here.

“Once upon a time, a king came to earth to tell stories, and the stories contained the mystery of eternal life.” - Jared Wilson, in The Storytelling God

The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37)
The parable of the Good Samaritan is one of the most (if not the most) culturally well-known stories that Jesus told. Pretty much everyone today thinks they know this story and its beloved morals. You've got a stellar cast of characters: the Traveler who gets robbed and beaten on his journey; our antagonists, the Priest and the Levite who, despite their seeming righteousness, don't bother to help the Traveler; and then the hero, the oh-so-good Samaritan, lowly and looked down upon, who stops and does help.

Yet we have plucked this story and its characters from its context, slapped it in thank-you cards and on soup kitchen walls, and missed the whole point.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's go back to the beginning. A lawyer had just come up to Jesus and asked Him how he could have eternal life. The question at first seems beautiful. You've got a humble lawyer throwing himself at Jesus' feet and asking how to be saved.

But unfortunately, that's not how it went.

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25)

This lawyer had no intention of humility. He wanted to test Jesus. And that is about the worst motive in the world. Jesus responds to him with a question,

“What is written in the Law? How do you read it?”

To which the lawyer replies,

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

Jesus, knowing the man's heart, tells him that he has answered correctly. "Do this and you will live." The lawyer knows he has not kept this command. Jesus knows that He has shown the man his sin. And so, "desiring to justify himself, [the lawyer] said to Jesus, 'And who is my neighbor?'" The ESV Student Study Bible said,

A deceitful question, because the lawyer was trying to eliminate responsibility for others by making some people "non-neighbors."

At this question, Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan.

So Jesus is responding to a question of deceit and selfish justification. This parable is in the direct context of the gospel. Its purpose is to demonstrate that the gospel informs our practice. The fact that we love God means we must love others.

When Jesus ends the parable and asks the lawyer which of the characters was the true neighbor to the Traveler - the Levite, the priest, or the Samaritan - the ESV Student Study Bible later says:

Jesus' question corrects the lawyer's deceitful question (v. 29). The question is not "who is my neighbor?" but "how can I be a neighbor?"

As Christians we have a responsibility to love, to care, to show kindness and compassion - even when we don't feel like it. And the reason we do that is not because we're just good people. It's not because we're nice. It's not because we're in the mood. It's not because we've done good works. It's because of the gospel. Faith and practice go together. Faith without works is dead.

The Good Samaritan was not good because he helped someone. Anyone could do that. The Good Samaritan was good because he understood the gospel and instead of asking "who is my neighbor?" he asked "how can I be a neighbor?" The centerpiece of this parable is not the Samaritan. It's the gospel.

Modern Youth Culture and the Plague of Affluence: Part 1

I have never seen a movie that portrays modern youth with such vain and shallow character as the movie Bratz (based on the line of girls dolls of the same name). Besides being a poorly done movie (with a paper-thin plot and one-dimensional characters), it is the depth of moral character and selfishness of affluence that really stunned me. The movie follows four best friends, all girls very well-off, starting high school and attempting to overcome the peer pressure of splitting up to join other cliques.

To the best of my knowledge, Bratz intends to send a deep-ish message - the bonds of true friendship defy the pressure to conform to a made-up social order. Unfortunately, that message gets swallowed up in the weakness of moral character of the girls presented, both in their affluence and their shallowness. Today I'll briefly highlight this plague of affluence:

The Plague of Affluence
I wonder why the writers of Bratz wanted to portray the four main girls in the way that they did. My guess is that it had nothing to do with sending a cultural message. Yet that's exactly what happened. Like I said before, these girls all live in nice suburban homes, and as the movie opens, are all video chatting on their computers about what to wear on their first day of high school. They each survey their walk-in closets jam-packed full of clothes and pick their outfits. So yes. They are your typical affluent youth.

But later in the movie, we get a "twist." They're invited to a big party and decide that they naturally all need new outfits. So they go shopping at a designer clothing store when suddenly, one of the girls, Cloe, whose mood has all-too-quickly sunk to the floor, gloomily announces,

I'm not going to Meredith's party, okay? I can't afford to buy anything new. You guys need to go without me.

We later find out that Cloe is raised by a single mom who is a caterer and is not even sure if she can put Cloe through college. Thus Cloe is now pitted as the sympathetic character. When I watched this for the first time, I actually wondered if it was supposed to be a joke. Now, granted, I have never been raised by a single mom, nor have I wondered if my parents could put me through college. I am not undermining that that is a difficult thing. But still. Cloe lives in a nice house, goes to a nice school, has a computer and a video camera, a walk-in closet full of clothes, and can't afford to buy a designer outfit - and she's supposed to be the mark of poverty?

This is the plague of affluence. We in North America have so much that when someone else has something more than us, we feel less-than. It is the hunt for materialism that consumes us - especially us teens. From the magazine covers to the Disney Channel, clothes and styles and toys and things grab at our attention. And though some of those things may not necessarily be bad, when they become our focus, they become idols. When our eyes widen with wonder at the gifts and close in boredom at their Maker, our affluence has suddenly cheated us.

In the end of Bratz, the girls perform in a talent show in order to win a college scholarship for Cloe, a valiant action that should be praised. Yet based on their actions throughout the rest of the movie, their obsession with shopping and clothes and parties and material goods, this action doesn't seem so genuine. The plague of their over-abundance of affluence has made this kindly act seem fake. And now perhaps the deepest point of the movie culminates in that another one of their affluent friends gets to go with them to a wealthy college. This is supposed to warm my heart?

But this post isn't really about Cloe or the rest of the "Bratz." It's about me, and it's about you. Though perhaps not as shallow in character as these girls (stay tuned for part two), we can be just as materialistic and consequently cheated by our affluence. We have so much, yet we want so much more. Why is that? It's because we're discontent with what we have, and we lack thankfulness to God. It's a stinging truth. We look at pictures of the slums in India, and we say, "Boy, am I thankful for all the stuff that I have!" But are we really? Or are we just so consumed with goods and dictated by social polity, that we feel obligated to say that? And now the guilt is alleviated.

But then we look back to those Indian slums, and we see Americans or Canadians wading through the muck, giving up all of their affluence to serve the poor and the weak, and they are singing hymns, full of joy. Are we really better off than them? Is our affluence a blessing or a curse? That's all a perspective. God has placed you where you are for a specific reason, and He has given you what you have for His glory. Is your attitude toward Him one of gratitude and worship? Or is it selfishness? And perhaps maybe you are called to give up more. Maybe you're called to sacrifice affluence for India. But maybe not. Maybe you're called to use your affluence right where you are to further the kingdom of God.

Is affluence a plague? It can be. But it can also be a great blessing. Look to God today with gratitude, seek His will, and use what you have for His glory. Reject the message of the Bratz, and embrace the hope of the gospel.

My 16 Favourite Memories of Camp

I got home from summer camp late Friday afternoon and was pretty tired. Yesterday was a come-down day and today we spent three hours or so after church setting up for our Vacation Bible School, which takes place this upcoming week. I had a lot of people ask me how my summer camp experience was today, so for those of you who asked or those who haven't asked yet, here's my 16 favourite memories of camp:
  1. the campfire on the last night (it was such a neat time - the first half we sang silly camp songs and told funny stories about our camp experience, and then in the second half we got serious and sang worship songs and shared testimonies of how camp has changed our walk with Christ)
  2. going swimming in Dollar Lake (we had a beach day on Wednesday and drove to a lake about 20 minutes away - so much fun! We rode in a big bus and belted camp songs all the way there and all the way back. The water was a beautiful temperature, and, all in all, it was a great day!)
  3. going horseback riding for the first time (I went horseback riding Monday and Tuesday. So cool!)
  4. the food (yes, though camp food is usually pretty bad, the food at Mount Traber was great! From a turkey dinner to sloppy joes, it was awesome!)
  5. the Bible class (the teacher, Miss Angie, was so kind; she was also very bold. She didn't pussyfoot around sensitive topics; she was as bold as the Bible is on those topics. Each day we'd have 4 rotations - crafts, Bible class, swimming or horseback riding, and then a different activity each day (i.e. Archery, rock climbing wall, warrior training). Bible class was my favourite!)
  6. winning the Memory Verse award and the female Christian Character award (Dad and I have memorized a chapter and a half of Colossians, so I recited that and other verses. The Christian Character award goes to the guy and the girl camper who have most demonstrated the fruit of the Spirit in their actions and words during camp)
  7. the Woofy the Witnessing Dog that was my memory verse prize (he's so cute!)
  8. meeting three really sweet, really kind girls (When I left camp, I had three girls from my cabin's e-mail addresses and am sending them a list of books that I recommend! They are kindred spirits.)
  9. the great music (a nearby church's youth band played in chapel every night, and we rocked out and worshipped Jesus until we were exhausted)
  10. cabin devotions (every night before bed, we'd have cabin devotions that our counselors would lead. We got some great discussions going!)
  11. playing Minute to Win It (at the beginning of camp, we were divided into four teams. Throughout the week, we did team events and this was one of them! I had to unravel an entire role of toilet paper around my arm in a minute - crazy!)
  12. getting nicknamed 'Anne of Green Gables' (I took this as a compliment, since I just finished reading through the entire Anne of Green Gables series before camp!)
  13. pulling a tractor, yes, pulling a tractor (this was crazy! We had to hang on to this thick rope and pull a tractor across a field to a certain point - nuts! But we did it.)
  14. telling all my lame jokes (and still having friends at the end of the week)
  15. winning the best cabin award (each cabin got tokens for things that they did during the week (like good behaviour, clean cabin, etc.) We got 80,000 points at the end of the week and 2nd place got 20,000 – memorizing Colossians earned us a lot of points!)
  16. and learning a million new camp songs that will drive my family nuts for the rest of the summer

4 Trendy New Ways to Honour God this Fall-Part 1

Happy September readers. To kick off the first few days of September, we will be looking at 4 ways to honour God this upcoming school and work year.

  • Love the unlovable co-worker or classmate
This is something difficult to do, but God really wants us to do it (Luke 6:27). If you're asking me what I mean....

Susie and Jill have been best friends since kindergarten. They are excited to be entering 7th Grade and a new school. As they walk down the hall at the Jr. High for the first time, they see the bully. The bully's real name is Mary-Jo. Nobody calls her that, though. Jill sees Mary Jo and shakes her head. Everyone who grew up with Mary-Jo knew that her parents were having problems. They were getting a divorce. In Sunday School, Susie's friend Rebecca prayed for Mary-Jo and her family. Susie could hardly believe her ears. Later when she asked Rebecca why she would pray for someone so mean, Rebecca said that God wanted her to love her enemies. Susie thought that that sounded kind of fishy, so she looked it up in her Bible. There it was in Luke 6:27. The next day when Susie saw Mary-Jo she saw her through God's eyes. She saw a lonely girl who had problems. Susie decided that Mary-Jo needed a loving friend. Offering a quick prayer, Susie headed over to Mary-Jo, to make a new friend.

This is a fictional story, but a real circumstance. This is an example of a loving Christian loving the unlovable. Susie saw a whole different person when she decided to love Mary-Jo. Loving does not mean you have to become BFF's with them, though. You can love them without spending every waking minute with them. God wants us to pray for people we don't like. It may take a while, but with God's grace and power, you will learn to love the unlovable, if you try.

But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you
-Matthew 5:44

A Good Friend According to the Bible

Proverbs 17:17-"A friend loves at all times." That is a great verse. Welcome back to Jaquelle's Rose Garden. In this verse we learn about a great quality that a real friend has-love. If you've ever had a loving friend you know what it's like. When John writes his first letter, he tells the reader(s) to love one another. We need to be a good friend and love one another. Love isn't the only quality that a good friend should have, though. A good friend, according to the Bible, should have the following qualities:
  • Ready to lay down his life for you. (John 15:13) This means that your friend has your back and is ready to stand up for you at any time and any place.
  • Never going to forsake you. (Proverbs 27:10) This friend is not going to disappoint you.
  • Loves you. (Proverbs 17:17) Like I said before, a loving friend is a great friend.
These are just a few qualities that the Bible says a good friend should have. We know that the qualities of a good friend, that the Bible tells us, should be our main example to follow. Of course, our number one example to follow is the perfect friend, Jesus Christ.