Talking About: Aging and Retirement

Here is the thoughts going into another flyer for our Neighbour 2 Neighbour initiative at our church. J.I. Packer’s short book ‘Growing Old With Joy’ has been a major influence in putting this together, and can highly recommend it for some light reading to help understand this very important issue.

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WHAT CULTURE SAYS!

In Australia we have an increasing aged population. This means that one size no longer fits all. J.I. Packer makes reference to “younger olds, medium olds and eldest olds”. All three of these age groups encounter similar yet different advantages and challenges.

Younger olds (65-75) are people who are about to, or have just retired from the workforce. Retirement is almost always bitter-sweet. On the one hand, many Australians idolise retirement as the period after work where they can pursue lifelong dreams without the constraints of work and children. It can be a time where life priorities change and couples can focus on things that are important in their eyes. It can be a time of travel and exploration and reconnecting with age old friends.

On the other hand, retirement can be scary time for those who might feel unprepared. In most cases income substantially decreases and expenses often increase. Daily routine changes, often with much more time than people anticipate and when coupled with the death of family and loved one’s days can seem prolonged and bleak. When people leave work and transition into retirement often their social connections change and they are at risk of losing touch with key people they’ve known for many years.

With the rapid development of technology and global knowledge it’s not long after one leaves the workforce before their expertise is outdated and no longer valid. This is especially difficult in a culture where people find their identity in work feeling useless. Younger generations might be tempted to think that ‘old people’ have nothing of value to contribute because all their knowledge is outdated.

Medium olds (75-85) are facing a new set of challenges such as fragility of health, increased financial burden and the sickness and death of loved ones. Often it’s in this period that people make their final move into a retirement village or aged care facility. In addition to personal health concerns, it’s in this period that children are often in their 50’s and grand-children and great grandchildren open up a whole new world of positive and negative experiences.

Eldest olds (85+) are those who generally begin to heavily rely on family and care facilities for everyday tasks. Aged care homes are perceived to be a place for ‘old people’ who are unable to care for themselves. Sickness and death become a prevalent part of daily life, often with friends and remaining family suffering all kinds of illnesses. People experience a loss of control, both over their bodies but also their minds. Fear, anxiety and depression can be linked with people venturing into their 90’s. Finally, loneliness is a key factor at this stage of life. People who are facing death can be tempted to doubt their assurance of salvation, this can be true even for devout members of the church.

From our wider community we often hear people talking about aging as a problem that needs to be fixed. In western cultures we are seeing an aging population where the median age is increasing, and with it the ‘burden’ on government resources and funding. With people living longer there is much longer between retirement and death than in previous generations.

WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS!

The bible empathises with those who are aging. For example, Ecclesiastes 12:1-5 is a picture of loss, weakness and apathy leading to death.

But it’s not the whole story in the bible, nor is it the complete story for us.

With age, (and grace) comes wisdom, that is, an enlarged capacity for discerning, choosing and encouraging.

In Proverbs 1-7 an elderly father teaches realistic moral and spiritual wisdom to his adult, but immature, son. This concept of passing onto the next generation wisdom becomes a key component of humanity, and is very much contraindicated in today’s society.

Psalm 71 reflects a journey with God from youth to elderly maturity. It reveals a fierce commitment to God despite an aging body. God becomes the central figure in one’s life, ideally from birth to death. At every point of human existence, we should be aiming to follow, love and serve Jesus as our King.

Psalm 92 suggests that a righteous person will still be effective even in old age. And this is essential when it comes to understanding our purpose as God’s children. Our ability to be useful and effective is not tied to our earthly bodies but rather bound up in our existence ‘in Christ’.

WHAT WE CAN SAY!

We can certainly join with the Scriptures in showing love and empathy for those who are journeying through a period of aging and retirement. Unlike the cultural view of aging and retirement, the two extremes of pleasure seeking and suffering aren’t necessarily the only experiences Christians have to look forward to.

For those who love Jesus and intend to live out their days following him there is a third path to navigate. We can surround ourselves in Christian community, experiencing the love, and comfort of God first hand through his people.

There is a great hope for dignity and value for those who grow old in the Lord’s covenant community. A chance to pass on knowledge to younger generations. An opportunity to continue to invest time, energy and money into things of eternal value. The opportunity to continue to learn and grow in Christian maturity and discover new meaning and value in life.

When people meet Jesus their outlook on life inevitably changes, and death no longer has a debilitating sting. The hope of life after death is not only a comfort in tough times, but also a reality that inspires to persevere until the end.

Just like a marathon runner, who keeps a little in reserve for the final sprint, so too should those that are retired and aging view their final years as the final push toward the finish line. The race isn’t over, in fact, a mature Christian outlook on life might see the final lap as the fastest lap where the runner exerts the last of their energy to claim their prize.

Talking About: Jesus

What does the world say?

In recent years our society has dissected Christianity from everyday life. Our culture says that Christianity is just another religion, and all religion is irrelevant. Religion has no effect on daily life and we are masters of our own destiny. Our culture may accept and adopt certain moral values from Christianity, yet it leaves behind the necessity of a relationship with God.

This means that our culture has particular things to say about Jesus, who is at the centre of the Christian movement. People in our secular culture generally hold one of two positions regarding Jesus.

The first secular view is that Jesus existed as a man, but was just a moral teacher, not God. Within this view, many hold that Jesus’ teachings are outdated and have run their course. This view might suggest that we should pick and choose the teachings of Jesus as they suit us in our current era.

The second secular view is that Jesus is only one of many paths to God. This view says that all religions relate to the same god(s) in different ways, and no one way is wrong. With this understanding, spirituality should be encouraged and everyone should foster their own beliefs that ring true for them.

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Finally, our culture is heavily influenced by pragmatic reasoning and analytical thought. It defines faith as being belief without evidence. Therefore, our secular culture often believes that faith in Jesus in accord with the bible is illogical. Modern reasoning understands the bible to be untrustworthy.

What does the Bible say?

The bible is wholly trustworthy as it is the inspired Word of God. It is useful for teaching, correcting and training in the ways of the Lord. [2Tim 3:16].

From the time of the fall in Genesis to this very day, every culture has been an anti-Christian culture in one form or another. The claim that ‘Jesus is not God’ is not new, in fact, it’s thousands of years old. The bible is an historical account which teaches that Jesus was an historical person, who shared humanity with us [Hebrews 2:14].

Jesus himself claims to be God. [John 10:30]. Some at the time saw the validity of this claim (Peter), some were unsure (brother James), and some did not (Pharisees).

Jesus claimed that he was able to forgive a person’s sin that leads to death. He claimed that he could give eternal life for anyone who trusts and follows Him. These claims ultimately led to a public rejection of Jesus and his death on the cross.

Jesus doesn’t command blind faith, in fact, those who God commissioned to write down the history of Jesus encouraged their first century readers to investigate the claims for themselves. They listed many names of people who were still alive at the time of writing.

Finally, the bible is explicit when it comes to Jesus’ desire to have a relationship with his people. Jesus showed his followers that to be in a relationship with him two things need to happen. The first, is the acceptance of Jesus as Lord and Saviour. The second, is to reject sin by setting out to follow his teachings.

What can we say?

The historical evidence of Jesus existing in the first century is inexcusable. There is little doubt amongst mainstream scholars that Jesus was a key historical figure.

The teachings of Jesus are just as relevant today as they were 2000 years ago, as they speak to the condition of the human heart which has not changed in all that time.

It’s often helpful to talk about our personal experiences as a Christian. If you’ve had a spectacular  conversion or witnessed a miraculous event, then other people will often be inclined to listen. You might mention how Jesus has changed your outlook on life, your values or behaviour.

You could also talk about how Jesus makes the most sense of your day to day life. Among other things Jesus explains what true love is, what right and wrong is, why there is suffering in this world, what happens when we die, how to love those who mistreat us. Remember, that even Jesus encountered both people who believed, and people who doubted and rejected him.  When we talk about our faith, we can expect the same responses.

We can tell people that they should investigate the claims of Jesus for themselves because it’s necessary to have an informed opinion about the man who has determined the last 2000 years of human history. We can show people that the most logical place to start that investigation is at the source of the claims, the Bible.

C.S. Lewis poses three possible outcomes of such an investigation. Jesus is either a liar, a lunatic or is indeed the Lord. Lewis then asks: Is it plausible that those who personally knew him would die for his cause? Is it plausible, that a liar or lunatic would heavily influence western culture for almost 2000 years? In the eyes of Lewis, the only logical answer is that Jesus is Lord.

For great resources on this topic you can direct people to an online resource page such as:

http://thinklifethinkjesus.org/

 

Talking About The Bible

At our church we are about to release a series we are calling ‘Neighbour 2 Neighbour’. It’s encouraging and equipping members to talk about Jesus to the people the encounter during their day.

Here’s one of the first we’ve put together. What do you think?

What does the world say about the Bible?

Our secular culture does not hold much regard for God’s Word. There are many who would claim that the Bible is outdated, inaccurate, irrelevant, self-contradicting, and even fictional, and that it cannot be supported by logic.

In Western cultures, there has been a rise in a more overt atheism, mobilised to attack the Christian message in many areas, and most namely, the Scriptures. This influence has permeated popular culture. Along with a general decrease in knowledge of the Bible (compared with ages past), modern Australians tend to be suspicious of what the Bible has to say – even to the point of thinking the values it promotes are harmful to the Australian way of life.

What does the Bible say about itself?

The Bible claims to be God’s Word [2 Timothy 3:16]. It is living and active, able to speak to our hearts and change us [Hebrews 4:12]. It is written so that you may believe in Jesus and have life in Him [John 20:31].

The Bible points us to Jesus

Jesus is the fullest revelation of God [Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:1-3]. In Jesus, we see the Word who became one of us, full of grace and truth [John 1:1-18]. Jesus explained that the Old Testament (made up of the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms) pointed to and was fulfilled in Him [Luke 24:27,44]. In Jesus, we see all God’s promises finding their fulfilment [2 Corinthians 1:20].

The Bible claims to be historical

The Old Testament is an historical document containing narrative, cultural poetry, songs, wisdom for life, dialogue with God, and teachings about life with God, and prophecy; including promises about the coming Messiah and His age to come.

The New Testament Gospels claim to be historical biographies of Jesus’ life and ministry. For example, Luke’s opening statement demonstrates the carefulness and accuracy he used in researching who Jesus is and what He did [Luke 1:1-4]. The Gospels each record details about geography, political situations, and architectural descriptions that have been corroborated by centuries of archaeology and historical investigation. The rest of the New Testament documents likewise record real people, places, and events that mean we can read them with great historical confidence.

The Bible is understood by the Holy Spirit

Jesus promised the Holy Spirit to all who believe, and it is only through Him that we may truly know and understand the truth [John 14:17]. The Holy Spirit reveals the truth through the Bible. Even though the Bible makes the most sense of our human experience, it requires the Holy Spirit to overcome the prejudice of human sinfulness that rejects God’s Word.

What can we say about the Bible?

The Bible is Historically Reliable.

There are a variety of archaeological, geographical, and sociological details found in the Bible that have been found to be both accurate and verifiable even today. Especially concerning the New Testament, there are parallel accounts from Roman and Jewish historians that all help to confirm the reliability of details found in the Scriptures.

Discoveries over the past century have contributed enormously in demonstrating its reliability and accuracy in its preservation. This has been seen particularly in the comparison with the Old Testament documents and the Dead Sea Scrolls (discovered in a cave at Qumran in 1947).

The sheer quantity of fulfilled prophecy within the Bible’s pages speak for the reliability of God’s Word itself. God’s promises can be trusted, and His faithfulness is demonstrated page after page.

While we don’t have the original manuscripts that were directly inspired by God, we do have so many historically verifiable copies, that we can have total confidence that what we have today accurately reflects those original manuscripts. In fact, the authenticity of ancient biblical manuscripts surpasses all other ancient literature. The Bible transcends culture and language in such a way that it can be faithfully translated into any language with meaning and accuracy.

Australians desperately need the Bible!

If God really has revealed himself in such a way, then we ought to pay attention to it! Without this knowledge of God, we will never truly understand ourselves. We may be able to see the majesty and power of God through the created world, but we will never know God personally nor his redemption for us apart from His self-revelation in the Bible. Our deepest need is to know our Creator and Redeemer.