Pew Forum, Millennials, and Authentic Christianity

A new Pew Forum study was recently released on “America’s Changing Religious Landscape.” I thought it was very fascinating, but beyond that I think it is helpful.

A couple realities that are interesting:

1) Many people continue to write articles and say things like, “What millennials really want” and then they describe a mainline protestant experience.

2) Nothing took a bigger hit than mainline protestants. Millennials aren’t running towards mainline protestant churches at all.

A few thoughts on this:

1) Millennials want what everyone wants- something genuine. No style of any kind will “reach millennials.” Millennials will only be reached by an authentic christian community declaring and demonstrating an authentically grace-filled gospel, just like every other generation.

2) People often say something like, “If the church is going to survive they need to change with the times.” They typically mean, “Approve gay marriage, move past Roe vs. Wade, etc.” Well, that is what mainline protestants have done and they are dyeing quickly. Evangelicals haven’t budged on those social issues and they held par.

3) Authentic christianity will always be fine, no matter what country they are in and no matter what their culture hates about them. The gospel is the power of God to salvation and God will keep saving people.

What did you find interesting about the research? 

Enjoy People As God Enjoys Them

We always say things like, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” and “I am made in the image of God.” These are true and good to be applied to ourselves as we reflect on the love and value that God has given us.

We should also consistently apply it to people around us.

We are not just loved, valued, made in God’s image, and enjoyed by our creator. We are also given the opportunity to love, value, and enjoy other people in the way that God does. God deeply desires genuine relationship with people. God deeply loves and values people. God gets genuine joy from fellowship with people.

What we see in the gospel is that God doesn’t view people as pawns to be manipulated. Instead, he made himself lowly that he might have genuine relationship with people. He was willing to die to have joyful fellowship with people.

A lot of us say we want to have deep, genuine relationships. Yet, we view and approach people as a means to an end. We approach relationships as “what can we get out of this.” This, I believe, is why many people are lonely and missing out on a lot of joy.

There is an immense amount of joy to be had when we stop viewing people as a means to an end and instead be willing to give of ourselves and approach people as image-bearers to be enjoyed. They are deeply love, valued, and enjoyed by God. When we deeply love and value people they will be become a great joy to us as well.

I think we often times underestimate the power of sin on our horizontal relationships with one another. We get that sin separates us from God. We don’t spend as much time on analyzing how sin has perverted how we view people and our relationships with them.

What does it look like to really enjoy people as God enjoys them?

It has to start with loving and valuing them as God does, which is the opposite of being self-serving. When we love and value people the way God does we stop trying to get anything out of them, we just try to really know them. I believe, once we do, we can’t help but to enjoy them.

God loves us, values us, and really knows us. He enjoys us. He sings over us. He delights in us.

There is an insane amount of joy to be had when we enjoy other people as God enjoys them. Their laughter, thoughts, sorrows, and even the mundane are things to be experienced and enjoyed.

Why The World Needs The Bible

Psalm 19:7-11:

The law of the Lord is perfect,
    reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
    making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right,
    rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
    enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean,
    enduring forever;
the rules[d] of the Lord are true,
    and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
    even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
    and drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
    in keeping them there is great reward.

All of humanity is seeking ways to “revive the soul,” “make the heart rejoice,” have their eyes “enlightened,” and “become wise.”

We just tend to look in all the wrong places. We need warned, we need the “rules” that are “righteous altogether.” Why? Because they are good for us, they are more precious than gold, and they are sweeter than honey.

It is in His word, his law, his precepts, his testimony, and his commandment that we can taste and see that the Lord is good. It is only in these things that our soul is revived, we can be made truly wise, and our heart can rejoice with an eternal hope.

The world needs the Bible, I need the Bible.

 

How Should Christians Respond to #BaltimoreRiots?

Yesterday, Ferguson, and today, Baltimore. A city burns and a nation roars. This is not the first time and it is more than likely not the last time we will see rioting in the streets. It is heart breaking and disturbing.

But, how should Christians respond? How does the gospel speak into this?

1) We can put ourselves in the rioters and protestors shoes. 

It is really easy to simply dismiss the hurting and the broken when they choose to riot, loot, destroy, and even peacefully protest. But that isn’t a response that lines up with the goodness of the gospel. God did not simply dismiss us as we rioted against him in our sin, destroyed ourselves and everything around us. No, God stepped into our madness, our rioting, our “thuggery,” and delivered us from ourselves.

If anyone can sympathize with the rioters it ought to be Christians. We were the rioters until Jesus filled the gap for us. Remember, it was while we were yet sinners that Christ died for us? It wasn’t after we realized our rioting against him and our sinfully destructive lives were wrong. Yet, that is typically what I see from a lot of Christians as they respond to #BaltimoreRiots. Many want to sit back, arms crossed in arrogant judgement and condemnation of the rioters as if that could never be them. Christians, the gospel shows us that it already was us. 

2) We can have compassion when others don’t. 

One popular response to #BaltimoreRiots is to scoff at the rioters and ignore their pain. We can have compassion without affirming behavior. As Christians, we ought to love people, really love them. Sometimes loving people means sympathizing with them and having compassion for them even when they are acting sinfully out of their hurt. Is that not what God did for us?

I do not want to see buildings burned. But, I also don’t want to ignore the pain that has led to the burning. Both of those errors are wrong.

In the parable of the prodigal son you have a kid who was in a horrible situation, a situation he put himself in. Yet, did the Father sit back and say, “You did this to yourself. You greedy, ungrateful, entitled brat!” No, he ashamed himself out of his radical love and the compassion he had for his hurting, weak, and broken son. Christians, the gospel shows us a way of compassion that is other worldly. 

3) We can hope for true justice one day. 

If this world is all that their was… I would riot. I would be forced to. I would always be forced to take up my own causes, defend myself, and fight against all the injustices around me because no one else would… if this world was all their was. 

Thankfully, the gospel shows us that we have King that is perfectly just and perfectly loving. We have a King who will return and make all things right. He will undo all the sad things and he will right every wrong. “Vengeance is mine, says the Lord.” Vengeance indeed. We are free to not riot because God will riot on our behalf when Jesus returns to establish his new heavens and new earth. We can trust that true and final justice is coming. It isn’t right for people to riot, it isn’t right to take vengeance in our own hands.

Justice needs to happen. Corrupt authorities need to be exposed, stripped down, laid bare, and destroyed. Justice needs to happen. Those who destroy need to be subdued, stopped, and shown a better way. We have to be willing to see injustices that are on every side and “seek justice” for all.

Christians, that justice is coming and we can have hope that corrupt authorities and those that destroy won’t have the final say. 

4) We can show a new, better way…

The saddest part about #BaltimoreRiots might be the reality that no one knows what to do about it. One side says, “Get rid of all the corrupt cops! That will solve everything!” The other side says, “Put the thugs down and their will be peace again!” Christians, we know better than that. We know that sin runs deep and gets us all.

We do not need to “pick a side.” We need to hold fast to Jesus and his Word and be people who shine a gospel light by sympathizing with the hurting, having compassion for the angry, and working positively towards justice knowing that final justice is not in our hands. The world does not need more Twitter warriors. The world needs christians who are willing to pray, be compassionate, champion justice, and act.

We can simply be the people that don’t condone lawlessness, but also don’t ignore the hurting. Christians, our side is King Jesus and we can demonstrate a new and better way. 

Why Are Christians Attending Church Less?

Let me start off by saying I love church. I absolutely adore the opportunity to gather with the bride of Christ on a weekly basis. What a blessing it is to be surrounded by hundreds of brothers and sisters in Christ to lift high the name of Jesus through songs of praise, reveal the nature and purposes of God through the peaching of His Word, pray in unity with one another, and simply get to hug our big adopted family. What a blessing it is to meet with the Father with our brothers and sisters.

Yet, across America all the stats show that even committed christians are attending church less often. But why? Why has church just become another option to so many christians? Why is it that church competes with a morning in the park with the family, a little camping trip, and sleeping in? Why does a sporting event, a fun experience with the family, and many other things so often and so easily trump going to church?

All sorts of great people have given a bunch of reasons, but I don’t think they ever get to the heart of it.

Martin Lloyd Jones, to me, gets to the central issue when he talks of christians who have the right beliefs but…

They go to God’s house, not with the idea of meeting with God, not with the idea of waiting upon him, it never crosses their minds, or enter into their hearts that something may happen in a service… The idea that God may suddenly visit his people, and descend upon them, the whole thrill of being in the presence of God, and sensing his nearness, and his power, never even enters into their imaginations. 

There is no conception that God may suddenly meet with them, and that something tremendous may happen. We must examine ourselves. Do we go to God’s house expecting something to happen? Or do we go to just listen to a sermon, and to sing our hymns, and to meet with one another?

How often does the vital idea enter into our minds that we are in the presence of the living God, that the Holy Spirit is in the church, that we may feel the touch of his power? How much do we think in terms of coming together to meet with God, and to worship him, and to stand before him, and to listen to him? Is there not this appalling danger that we are just content having the right beliefs?

I believe christians attend church less because they simply don’t believe that God is going to do anything. I think if people really believed that God was there to meet with them and that he could do something tremendous in their lives they would be there every chance they could. We have lost an expectation of God meeting with us as we gather and doing something incredible in our lives.

I simply believe the Bible, “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.” Do we go to church to draw near to God or because we are simply used to going and so we go to hear a good sermon, good music, and to see friends?

If it is for anything less than meeting with God, drawing near to him, and expecting him to do something tremendous in our lives than I understand skipping a church service when fun things come around. And therein lies the problem…

There is a special power, a special presence, and a special experience with God that can be had when the church gathers. Isn’t that worth more than, well… anything and everything?

Christians, we have a wonder working God who desires to meet with us, with our gathered family, to draw near to us and work his wonders in us. It isn’t about “church”, it is about God and what he wants to do in you.

Let us not rob ourselves of the glorious opportunity that we are blessed with every Sunday, every week.

Good Friday Meditation

Christ the Wisdom and Power of God

18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
    and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom,23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

It is Good Friday. Today we reflect on the glorious and gory day of when Jesus was crucified on the cross. To the masses, it is folly, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

A crucified Christ indeed shows us the power and wisdom of God. The reality of the cross can only have one of two impacts on us: a stumbling block or all that we need.

May we take time today lifting our hearts in thankfulness for the atoning work of Jesus.

Here are some passages I encourage you to read today: 

Luke 22-23

Isaiah 53

Psalm 31

Hebrews 4:14-16

 Here is also my favorite Hymn that is very appropriate for Good Friday:

How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

What I Want More Than Anything In This World

In the book, “Revival,” Martin Lloyd-Jones describes what life in the church is like in the midst of revival and in the seasons of the church when it is simply full of life.

Here is what he describes:

Then the church was filled with life, and she had great power; the gospel was preached with authority, large numbers of people were converted regularly, day by day, and week by week. Christian people delighted in prayer, You did not have to whip them up into prayer meetings, you could not keep them away. They did not want to go home, they would stay all night praying.

The whole church was alive and full of power, and of vigour, and of might. And men and women were able to tell of rich experiences of the grace of God, visitations of the Spirit, a knowledge of the love of God that thrilled them, and moved them, and made them feel that it was more precious than the whole world. And, as a consequence of all that, the whole life of the country was affected and changed. 

What I want more than anything is to experience that type of movement of the Spirit, that type of life within in the church, and that type of impact in our community and beyond.

May God awaken us and shake us out of apathy. May we “run the race” in order to “obtain the prize.”