Diamonds in a Sewer 5/2/99

Proverbs 22:6

Jesus Christ was teaching on an occasion when a group of little children interrupted the scene. Stern adults tried to usher them away. “Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 19:13, 14).

This warm response by Jesus reveals His love for youth. After all eleven of the twelve He chose to follow Him were at the time of being chosen teenagers, that same kind of love for children and the family needs to be evidenced by the church.

John Steinbeck, the noted American author, wrote a delightful book called “Travels With Charlie.” Steinbeck felt he had gotten so out of touch with America that he put his dog Charlie in his pick-up truck and they took off across America traveling from Maine to California.

He relates how he started his pilgrimage by attending a little white clapboard church in Maine. The people who comprised the congregation were not particularly outstanding and the pastor lacked pulpit skills. The pastor spoke of every sin he knew of in the congregation. Forcefully he decried their shortcomings.

Steinbeck said, “I listened to that haranguing and that pastor had more fire in his soul than you could imagine. He preached loud and long and the sermon was not well devised, but there was one note I heard in that church that I didn’t hear anywhere else.”

“I heard a man who loved his people enough to warn them and to call them to accountability. I didn’t hear that from the rest of my journey.”

He continues, “As I went across America I was told how to feel good. I was told not to worry. I was told how to look at obscure points of theology and understand them. But nobody made me feel like he loved me like that preacher in that little white church in Maine.”

Today as I speak of the deterioration of our society I hope you will sense the love and compassion with which it is done. Hear me knowing that to be my heart.

A Princeton research group recently posed the following question to a broad based random sampling of persons. “What do you think is the biggest threat facing American society?” The collective response revealed: “Youth of today pose a greater threat than any foreign power.”

The second question: “Do you think youth of today will make the world of tomorrow a better place?” Two-thirds of the Americans interviewed said, “NO.”

Third question: “What three adjectives describe the youth of today?”


To youth listening, don’t quit listening now. Many of you who don’t fit that profile would, however, agree it does fit many youth. Unfortunately it is the perception of many.

Incidents in the youth society of today raise serious questions. Appropriately question number one is “WHY?” What is causing trends among today’s youth that has resulted in some social scientists predicting that the dawning of the new millennium will be greeted by youth gangs controlling the streets of America?

Current conditions are appalling among students.

In the last six months 24% of 13 year olds, and 60% of 17 year olds have attended a party where marijuana was available.

34% of 13 year olds and 75% of 17 year olds have friends who are a regular drinkers.

19% of 13 year olds and 51% of 17 year olds have seen drug sales on school grounds.

8% of 13 year olds and 27% of 17 year olds have class mates who died because of drugs or alcohol overdose.

In the last two years across America there have been 6,000 reported incidents of youth carrying weapons to school. One year only five cases were prosecuted. The next year only eight were prosecuted. There is no need having a law if it isn’t going to be enforced.

These facts help construct a profile descriptive of many youth. However, there is a vast mass of youth that don’t fit. There are many with integrity, commendable character, virtue, high morals, and admirable attitudes.

For example, April 20, 1999, two youth in Columbine High School with a student enrollment of approximately 1,800 captured the nations attention. Two students. That day approximately 1,798 students went to that high school to cause no problems.

Yet, youth violence, the youth crime rate, juvenile delinquency, and disrespect for human life and property is at an all time high. Legitimately, the question is asked: “WHY?”

Hillary Clinton authored a book entitled, “It Takes A Village.” The title comes from the expression, “It takes a village to rear a child.” Though the village of her reference is basically the government there is a sense in which one’s total environment impacts life.

If it takes a village to rear a child there is an open sewer running through the village today. In that sewer there are some beautiful diamonds, some outstanding youth.


Let me share three factors contributing to the cause that can be a part of the correction.

Three elements are involved as determinants in a person’s conduct. When there is a horror such as Columbine High School answers are found in these three elements.

In a day when people are professionals at playing the blame game we have become adept at not assuming our own responsibility. There is a book on the subject entitled “I’m Not My Fault.”

The blame game isn’t new. It was first played in the Garden of Eden right after the first sin. Adam said to God, “Don’t blame me, the woman you gave me she…” Basically, God my eating of the fruit of the forbidden tree isn’t my fault it is the fault of you and Eve.”

Eve responded, “Don’t blame me, the serpent he…”

The serpent, “Don’t blame me. Look, God you are the one who put the tree there…”

In the final analysis individuals who perform deeds are accountable for those deeds. Other influences are brought to bare but ultimately there is individual accountability.

Parents when children are little you make decisions for them. Prayerfully work at making good ones because you are patterning for them what is right and what is wrong. There comes a time, however, when the parent can no longer decide for the child. The parent can influence the decisions but can no longer make them for the child. That is a difficult time. Especially when the child is seen to be making wrong decisions. This transition from making all decisions to not being able to make them for a child isn’t an instantaneous act it occurs gradually. In a moment I will talk about this time of transition.

Ultimately for the child individual accountability is a factor in conduct.

Members of the Trench Coat Mafia said they were picked on and made fun of. Who hasn’t been. Try being a 6’4″, 135 pound red head in the ninth grade and see if you get picked on.

Bill Gates, do you have a mental physical profile on him as a youth. Do you suppose he was picked on?

The things that happen to you are going to make you bitter or better. You personally are accountable for which.

Part of the blame falls on our morally and spiritually decadent society. In our demands for freedom we have licensed excesses.

One historian said of the ancient Greek culture, “When the freedom they sought most was the freedom from responsibility then they ceased to be free.”

Freedom must have limitations. The only true form of total freedom is anarchy. Every society has to draw lines. Some of ours must be redrawn.

For example, the youth involved in the Columbine massacre were heavy into Nazi philosophy, music, and paraphernalia. In Germany, the home of the Nazi movement, today it is illegal to display a Swastika or other Nazi emblems. Nazi music is forbidden. Virtually all Nazi materials obtained in Germany today have to come from America.

If America is the village involved in rearing our children there is an open sewer running through the village. That sewer is certain interactive video games, particular TV programs, various internet sites, and different music. Once attracted to any of these a child becomes resentful if anyone makes critical reference to them. However, there is much empirical evidence showing they tend to desensitize persons to morality and virtue.

As a result a segment of our youth culture that has been over exposed to these negative influences has lost regard for property and human life.

Over three decades ago when the taking of a pre-born babies life was legalized it was said the day will come when some will feel since it is OK to kill a child before birth why not after birth.

That great theologian Dolly Parton in an interview with Barbara Walters hinted at our problem. Barbara asked her “How would you describe your dress style?” With a twinkle in her eye she said, “When I was growing up, they called people who dressed like this ‘trash.’”

A recent article described the American culture as a “trash culture.” Many have made their minds moral landfills in which trash is dumped. When the Jerry Springer Show enjoys its currently popularity and is joined by Sally Jessy Rafael, and Montel Williams, that’s trash. Bevis & Butthead, the Simpsons, and O.J Simpson get high ratings, that’s trash. Certain rappers and Hammerstein, that’s trash. Jimmy Swaggert and Jim Bakker, that’s trash.

An appeal was made to the Christian in the morally decadent Roman society: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12: 1, 2).

It is an appeal to avoid the group mentality. A modern translation of this passage reads: “Don’t let the world push you into its own mold.”

To avoid being molded after the world’s style resolve:

Parents are counseled to “Train up a child in the way he should go ….”

Once a person becomes a parent the number one responsibility assigned by God is to parent that child well.

For generations parents attempting to rear their children well have partnered with three entities: THE HOME, THE SCHOOL, AND THE CHURCH.

THE HOME: Here a child is to be nurtured and groomed. Here values are established. The absentee parent or the detached parent results in children not being trained in the home. The process of training is time consuming and demanding. Parents spend time with your children one-on-one. Build trust and rapport. You will find it enjoyable and gratifying.

To a child “love” is spelled T – I – M – E! Spending time with a child gives a sense of importance. Listen to your children, talk with them, observe their world, and be involved in their lives. Tell them you love them and then show them you love them. Start the day they come home with you. There is normal stress as children grow into adolescents but if a foundation is built in infancy problems are resolved.

THE SCHOOL in America is where many misdeeds are enacted and thus the school is blamed. However, when you consider the condition of many youth as they arrive on campus you have to concede teachers have a challenge not of their making. Tragically our schools are deprived of prayer and the Bible, however, there are no laws prohibiting them in the home. Mom and dad, get in the Book with your children. Don’t rear Biblically illiterate children.

An old proverb says, “As the twig is bent so grows the tree.” The application is obvious. If a small tree is bent in a certain way, that is the way the tree grows. Likewise, when a young child is taught certain concepts and conduct, that is the character developed.

I want to make it clear I am not stereotyping either students or teachers. There are some super youth who have deep faith in Christ, evidence obedience to His Word, and seek to live their faith. Thank God for them.

There are many Christian educators who are doing all they can within the guidelines superimposed on them by bureaucrats to live their faith and help their students.

I would be remiss if I didn’t pay tribute to these and acknowledge my admiration and love. However, there are trends that are cause for concern.

Perhaps you saw her as Barbara Walters, not your typical conservative, standing before a large American flag and peering sternly into the camera and saying, “The alarm has sounded. The clock is ticking. But most of us are still asleep.”

Of what imminent danger was she warning? Acid rain? AIDS? An inflationary crisis? No. She was referring to the deterioration of the American educational system. She shared statistics evidencing test scores are plummeting. Most students surveyed thought the Holocaust was a “Jewish holiday.” Many could not locate the United States on a world map. Others had never heard of the Federalist papers.

Our schools are experiencing a one in four drop out rate.

There is a high degree of functionally illiterate. Some estimate there are 60 million illiterate adults. One study indicates that 61% of all 17 year olds can’t read their high school textbooks.

A commission of educational, political, and business leaders issued the “Code Blue” report on the problems of American children. One conclusion: “Never before has one generation of American teenagers been less healthy, less cared for, or less prepared for life than their parents were at the same age.”

Metal detectors, gun control laws and other external laws won’t curb what is happening in America. If you build a ten foot fence someone will build an eleven foot ladder. If you then build a twelve foot fence someone will build a thirteen foot ladder.

The change must be internal not external. It is the polluted mind that must be dealt with.

THE CHURCH: A significant segment of America including the media has gone cold turkey off the faith community. For many the church is not a player in rearing their children. Thus one major player in character development is omitted.

Emerging out of the story of Columbine High is the story of the Burnall family whose daughter Cassie was one of those killed there. Their story was chronicled on “20 – 20” recently. Earlier I made reference to there coming a time in the parent\child relationship when the parent can no longer make decisions for a child but can only influence the decisions.

Cassie started running around with the wrong crowd and became rebellious. She started dabbling in Satanism, using alcohol and other drugs. She was in the vortex of self-destruction. Her parents intervened and drew new well defined lines. They forbid her to associate with her old friends, the wrong friends. Placed restrictions on her and allowed her only social outlet to be going to church. Sounds like a horror story, boot camp, doesn’t it? New friends invited her to go to youth camp. There she encountered Christ and embraced Him as Savior. She returned home and told her mom, “Mom, I have changed, I have really changed.” A new refreshing Cassie emerged. The parent\child relationship became a joyous one. Cassie’s friends tell of her warmth, charm, and genuine love for all. Her faith grew stronger.

April 20, 1999, a member of the Trench Coat Mafia held a gun on her and asked, “Do you believe in God?” Her deliberate response knowing what the result would be was an emphatic “Yes!” The gun sounded, Cassie lay dead, a martyr for her faith, and was escorted by angels into the presence of the Lord. A diamond had been removed from the sewer.

Cassie refused to let the world press her into its mold. Instead she was a transformed person.

Several primary factors led to her transformation: one, her home, two, her new friends, and three the church.

That brings us back to square one, individual accountability. Cassie assumed the accountability for her own eternal destiny. In doing so she prepared for eternity by embracing Christ as Savior.