Playing With Fire

Playing with fire

Among God’s glorious obsessions, his concern for the generations to come ranks near the top. He cares about our sons and daughters, and their sons and daughters, all down through the ages. His promises are for us and for them. His revelation is for our sake and theirs.

This theme pulses throughout Scripture. God’s covenant with both Noah and Abraham is “for all generations to come” (Gen. 9:12, 17:9), a phrase that then repeats in the Pentateuch like a drumbeat. God reveals to Moses his sacred name – Yahweh – and then declares, “This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation” (Ex. 3:15). The Psalmist pleads with God not to forsake him until “I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come” (Ps. 71:18). Paul prays that God would be glorified “in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!” (Eph. 3:21). The psalm Jesus prays from the cross – “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” – ends with a vision of what the cross will accomplish: “Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it!” (Ps. 22:30-31).

On and on it goes, filling Scripture top to bottom, end to end.

Here’s a piece of hard-won wisdom: anything God obsesses over, obsess over too. I am late to this party. I absorbed, osmotic-like, the obsession of my generation, which is to obsess over my generation: to care mostly about what I accomplish here and now, and what I will be remembered for.

But I’m starting to awaken to this deeper theme – that real success is measured by how faithfully I tell the next generation of God’s goodness and faithfulness, his ways and deeds, his words and promises.

It’s hard to imagine a better way to do that than mentoring. Mentoring is getting close enough to another person that the fire in you ignites the tinder in them. The Apostle Paul puts it this way to his young protégé Timothy: “I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands” (2 Tim. 1:6). Paul sparked into flame a deep-rooted faith and God-given gift in Timothy, and then urged him to keep stoking it.

Which helps make sense an ancient prophecy the Apostle Peter quotes at Pentecost to explain to bewildered onlookers what is happening when the fire of the Holy Spirit falls: “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams” (Jl. 2:28; Ac. 2:17). The fire of the Holy Spirit releases an intergenerational synergy, where our sons and daughters speak God’s words with authority, and where the visions of young men fuel the dreams of old men, and the dreams of old men breathe life on the visions of young men. When the Spirit shows up, the generations come together, and we all get to play with fire.

That’s worth getting obsessed about.

This month’s To The Point is authored by Mark Buchanan (10th Class of the Arrow Leadership Program).  Mark has written seven books and serves as Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology at Ambrose University College. Mark’s first novel, David: A Novel is set for release later this year. You can learn more about Mark at www.markbuchanan.net.

Rose Thompson

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