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The Lonely Text

A tragedy in much of the modern church is the lack of Bible-centered preaching. Perhaps you have sat in on a worship service where the biblical text sits alone by the wall while the one who brought it to the dance goes off and dances with something else. The scenario is familiar to many of us: a Scripture is read and the sermon hardly, if ever, acknowledges the text again.

Whenever I sit in such a service, I look around at all the people filling the sanctuary and think to myself, These people are starving for the Word of God. They come in and out of here each week looking for what the Scriptures have to say, and leave empty handed. It is my sincere hope that folks in such churches have the wherewithal to know that they are being spiritually undernourished and seek to be fed elsewhere.

With so many preachers delivering up “puff pieces” to congregations each week, it should come as no surprise that people are ill-equipped to deal with the challenges we face in the world. Consider this, according to research by the Barna Group, the top 6 reasons young people leave church are:

  1. Churches seem overprotective.
  2. Teens’ and twenty somethings’ experience of Christianity is shallow.
  3. Churches come across as antagonistic to science.
  4. Young Christians’ church experiences related to sexuality are often simplistic, judgmental.
  5. They wrestle with the exclusive nature of Christianity.
  6. The church feels unfriendly to those who doubt.

Popular “puff pieces” will never overcome these six items. The results of Barna’s research indicate that shallow and simplistic sermons simply will not do. A well-read, thoughtful, pastor who has a heart for Biblical preaching, however, can serve as the antidote to the poison that is destroying the spiritual life of so many young people.

So, getting back to the lonely text. There is simply no way that a person can leave church feeling that the Bible is relevant for today if the preacher ignores while instead choosing to tell fluff stories. If you are a pastor: feed the people! Don’t leave the text for that day’s message leaning up against a wall looking for someone else to come along. Be about the work that you have been called to and preach the Word of God.

New Book!

Looking for an apologetics book for late-elementary or middle-school kids? If so, then this is the book for you. Informative and entertaining, Traveler: One Girl’s Amazing Journey of Spiritual Discovery, tells the story of one young girl who travels to various parts of the globe and learns how Christianity stands apart in a world of different religions.

Topics covered in this book include:

  • The resurrection
  • The deity of Christ
  • The reliability of the New Testament
  • The Trinity
  • Salvation
  • Persecution

World Religions that Anastasia encounters include:

  • Judaism
  • Islam
  • Buddhism
  • Hinduism

If interested, click here to order the book at Amazon.com.

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Free Audio Book

Great news folks!  Christianaudio.com offers a free download each month to registered users.  This month, the audiobook is I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.  This is a spectacular deal.  Frank Turek and Norman Geisler do a superb job in this book of laying out a case for the Christian faith.  I had the pleasure of reading this book, along with J. Warner Wallace’s Cold Case Christianity (Amazon.com or Christianbook.com)this past summer, and I must say that I enjoyed both books tremendously.

Christianaudio.com is a wonderful source for all sorts of Christian audio books.  If you like, you can sign up for a membership and receive a certain number of credits each month to put toward audio books.  However, if you just want to purchase an audio book, and do not care for a membership that comes with a monthly payment, then you can always make single purchases.

I am in no way connected with the website, but I do feel it is important to let people know of such businesses.  The one beef that I have with Christianaudio.com is that they do not have an Android app.  This was a huge turn off before I got an iPhone, which they do have an app for.

Anyhow, I hope that you take a moment to check out the site and consider downloading the book.

 

On claiming and being

Anybody can claim to be anything. Examples of this can readily be found on the internet. For instance, on occasion, men dressed as decorated war heroes are revealed to have never served in the military. While such behavior is problematic, I would say, that the trouble is even more pronounced in the realm of Christianity.

Jesus tells us in the Bible that the wheat and chaff will grow together and will not be separated until the harvest (Matt. 13:24-30. The chaff is recognizable to those who work the land, but it is easier to harvest everything together and then sift out what is undesirable. However, to someone who is less knowledgeable about farming, the wheat and chaff will appear rather similar. In the same way, there are scores of people claiming to be Christians who, quite simply, are not.

Now, before you go into spasms, contort your face, and call me judgmental, think carefully about my claim. Polls will tell you that more than 70% of Americans are Christians. But, seriously, as you look around to your left and right and across the spectrum of our society, do you sense that 7 out of 10 people are followers of Jesus Christ? Do 7 out of the 10 people you run into act and speak as if they have a relationship with Jesus Christ that informs the way they live. I am not talking about perfection, not at all. Indeed, followers of Christ stumble and fall all the time. Still, I do believe that a true follower of Christ, even in the midst of stumbling, has Christ as his or her goal and will continue to move in a Christ-oriented direction.

Remember, chaff and wheat are similar in appearance. However, only one is acceptable to the farmer. In the same way, a follower of Jesus Christ and someone who simply claims the title of Christian for the purpose of a survey will appear similar in many ways. But, I would say that there are differences that may be noticeable. After all, we should bear fruit according to what we believe.

Now, let me make certain one thing is clear: the laborers can notice that something is amiss, but it is only at the harvest that judgment takes place. In other words, I may have a hunch that a lot of people who claim to be Christian for cultural reasons are not, in fact, followers of Jesus Christ. But, Jesus says to let the wheat and chaff grow together until the time of harvest. There will indeed be a time of sifting at the judgment, but that is not for me.

So, why do I write this? Is this all just a rant? Possibly. I am certainly not above that. A nice rant feels good from time to time. But, I do not feel that this is a rant. Instead, this is a warning to all those in the body of Christ that take comfort in the idea that 70% or more of Americans are Christian. I believe that number has far more to do with people being “cultural Christians” than being any kind of a true indicator of the beliefs of our fellow Americans. As the “nones” and other religious or irreligious demographics grow, I feel that the 70% figure will begin to dramatically decrease. Simply put, nonreligious people that presently claim to be Christian will feel more comfortable identifying as such. Historically, when Constantine came to power over the Roman Empire, approximately 10% of the population was Christian (and I am quite convinced they were true believers). After Constantine made Christianity legal and identified himself with the faith, the number of Christians in the empire exploded. Suddenly, Christianity was culturally valuable. But, what happens when the tide turns? I believe that people will bail out and much of the chaff will voluntarily remove itself.

The consequence of this is that Christians should not sit around on their hands, but instead should actively engage the world around us. Invite folks to church, have a home Bible study and ask neighbors or friends if they would like to attend, get engaged in the religious upbringing of your children or grandchildren, the options are manifold. In short, as followers of Christ, we should be actively engaged in carrying out the great commission to preach the gospel to the world.

Is a Christian Education a Quality Education?

Ever so often I will have a conversation that calls for me to mention the testimony of an expert. Occasionally, the person I am talking to will call into question the credibility of the scholar I refer to because they studied at a Christian school. I must admit, the first time this happened I was taken aback at the atheistic snobbery on display before me. I wondered what exactly it was that would cause a person to think that the only good education is either a state education, or one that comes from a private secular school. So, let’s consider the general subjects that a person studies in school to see what would give an atheist pause.

  1. Language (grammar, composition, and literature). Are Christian schools teaching a unique form of grammar and composition that is incompatible with the surrounding culture? Perhaps it is the literature component that causes the problem.  After all, a Christian school would introduce Christian Literature and have tighter reigns on regulating vulgarity. While possible, I have serious doubts that this is the issue.
  2. Math. I am pretty well convinced that 2+2=4 and that algebra, geometry, and the like are the same at Christian schools as they are at their secular counterparts. So, I also doubt that this is the issue.
  3. History. I am also confident that in 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue regardless of where you go to school. Now, it may be true that you are more likely to run into the teaching of American exceptionalism at a Christian school (Oh! The horror!). And, students will be exposed to elements of church history in addition to the standard material. It would seem to me, however, that this would be a plus for students at Christian schools. Surely, this is not the problem.
  4. Science. Considering that none of the other subjects appear too problematic, that brings us to the subject of science. I am certain that the periodic table of elements, speed of light, and so forth are the same regardless of where you go to school. But, there is one area that I can really see troubling the atheist: the teaching of evolution.  Most Christian schools will teach their pupils that the God of the Bible is the Creator and, as such, created the heavens and the earth.  I am not familiar with every Christian school, but I do know that many, if not most, teach their students about the theory of evolution. However, students will often learn not only the mechanisms of evolution, but also how to evaluate it critically. Again, it seems that this would be a bonus for students at Christian schools. To the secularists, though, this is the most egregious offense. Evolution permeates the secular, humanistic worldview. And, the secularist knows that without molecules-to-man evolution the only other recourse is to turn to the supernatural for a creator. So, I am pretty sure that it is the teaching of science with an eye to critically questioning evolution that causes the secularist to think that a Christian education is a substandard education.

Sure, there are other subjects that could be listed, but I doubt that the teaching in any of those subjects would be as contentious as it is in science.

From where I sit, there is no reason to question the education of someone that attends a Christian school. Both systems of education teach a faith. One teaches faith in the God of the Bible, while the other teaches faith in evolution.

Suggestions for impacting culture

Have you ever felt concerned about the ever-present reduction of moral values in the world around us? Maybe you have even wondered what a positive Christian response might look like. I know I have. In fact, I have come up with a few ideas that I want to share.

  1. Evangelize. Without a doubt, the single greatest way to impact our culture for good is to share our faith through word and deed. As the number of faithful Christians increases, the surrounding culture cannot help but be transformed.
  1. Pray. The Bible instructs us to pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17). The prevailing culture is certainly worthy of our prayers.
  1. Support Christian owned and operated businesses. If you are upset that Christian values are not being upheld by the businesses you frequent, perhaps it is time to start spending your money with those holding similar values. Now, this does not mean business should be conducted with someone simply because he or she has a fish or some other symbol of the faith on their car or business card. Anybody can pick up a sticker and slap it onto their car. In fact, a business owner may even be a church going person, while at the same time holding entirely secular values. It is imperative that the body of Christ identify and support businesses that are owned by faithful Christians. If the good or service needed is not available from such a business, at the very least we should do commerce with establishments that are sympathetic to Christian values. To this end, I encourage you to check out the Faith Driven Consumer Index.
  1. Support Christian entertainment. This goes along with supporting Christian owned businesses, but it can extend further. For instance, a secular film maker may produce a movie about part of the Bible that is faithful to the text, or a family friendly film with values that are in line with those espoused in Scripture. In this case, supporting that film would send the message that such products are desired by the viewing public and profitable to the film company. Even more, I believe it is important for Christians to support entertainment companies that are owned and operated by our brothers and sisters in Christ. People often complain about the lackluster quality of Christian films while at the same time giving all of their entertainment dollars to secular companies that propagate an unbiblical worldview. Imagine the quality of Christian movies that could be produced if they enjoyed the multi-million dollar opening weekends that so many secular films do. To this end, I want to share with you a few of the options available for your viewing pleasure. For streaming video, you can use Parables.tv, PureFlix, the Dove Channel, the Trinity Broadcast Network, or the National Religious Broadcasters to name a few. For streaming audio, there are numerous radio stations available on the internet.  As far as subscription based services go, there is only one that I am aware of: The Overflow.
  1. Be active in the political process. In other words, vote. I am not advocating for a particular political party, but for an active Christian witness in the constituency. In the American political system elected officials represent the people within a certain geographic area. If the politician you support does not share values similar to your own, then let them know how you feel about that disconnect. If you are loyal to a party and are unsatisfied with the values of a particular candidate, then throw your support behind someone more in line with your values and beliefs. If this is still unsatisfactory, consider becoming involved and perhaps running for office yourself. You may find that this is the very thing God has been calling you to.

I limit this post to five suggestions, it is simply a starter and not exhaustive. The last three of these suggestions do take into account the fact that money drives a lot of decisions in our society, entertainment has an enormous impact on shaping values, and the political process is the way our government hears our voices. Again, this list is not exhaustive and you may have some ideas that are worth sharing and would be profitable for a brother or sister in Christ struggling with how best to impact our culture.

God is not fixing this?

“God is not fixing this.” That was the headline recently seen on a newspaper in New York. The startling statement was written in response to a mass shooting in California and certain politicians reacting by offering prayers. I would like to take just a moment to speak to this idea that God is not doing anything about our worldly problems and how we as Christians can do more to influence our culture.

To begin, the headline would lead us to believe that God is unable to make an impact in the world and that, instead, humans should figure out our problems without turning to God. While this sounds like a laudable idea, there are a few items that should be raised.

  1. Is it not possible that the reason we are in this mix to begin with is that we willfully cast off God and His guidance years ago when we began to remove His influence from the public sphere? Accordingly, we have shoved God to the side, ran into a problem, and then blamed Him for not fixing it.
  2. Is it not possible that God does have a fix for our social problems, but we simply do not wish to hear His solution? After all, God’s solution may cramp our style somewhat and cause us to say that some behaviors are wrong, take responsibility for our own actions instead of blaming others, and perhaps change some of our activities.
  3. Is it not possible that God has chosen not to hear our prayers because we have chosen not to listen to Him?

Still, let’s work with the idea that we can solve all of our problems in an entirely humanistic manner, totally devoid of God. Are there good examples of such a program working to solve the problems facing humanity? Communism has not exactly been a blessing to the human race. At least, it sure hasn’t been very beneficial to the folks who endured living in the Soviet Union, or those who still reside in North Korea or those parts of China not in special economic areas where capitalism is allowed. Eugenics is also something that I would say the human race is not proud of. And, if what I understand is correct, abortion has accounted for the deaths of more than 50 million unborn babies in the United States alone. What else have we come up with that is totally devoid of God?

Some will say that science is our contribution to fixing the woes of humanity. But is this so? Weren’t most of the founders of science theists of some sort? In fact, many of them were devout Christians. But, maybe you reject that idea and declare that despite these early examples of believer scientists, the field of science is totally devoid of God. While you may say to yourself that scientific work can be carried out without recourse to God, you might want to look over your shoulder and consider where those ethics come from. Ask yourself, why is it that we don’t tend to experiment on human beings (of course human experimentation does take place, but this is typically only after extensive testing on other mediums).

Science does not give us ethics. Again, ask yourself, what ethic can we completely derive from science? Can we deduce that it is wrong to hurt others, or is this something we import from outside the field of science? A person may not want to acknowledge where these ethics come from, but when the dust settles I think it will become obvious that the ethics we use have their basis a theistic worldview.

So, if entirely humanistic methods for solving our world’s problems are insufficient for the task at hand, perhaps it would be best if we turned back to the creator, sought His guidance, and then acted accordingly. Notice that we do not simply seek guidance, through prayer and the diligent study of the Bible, but we must then transition into action. God created the world, provided the redeemer for fallen humankind, and has left us His revealed will in Scripture. In a sense, the headline has a great deal of merit: we should not sit back and stare at the sky, but should instead be busy carrying out the work that he has already laid out for us.