A new commandment I give to you

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35 ESV)

According to David Kinnaman, from the Barna Group, 16-29 year olds have a very poor perception of the church. During a recent conference, Kinnaman presented some information that will be released in an upcoming book: unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity and Why It Matters. (HT: Marty Duren) So, how do 16-29 years olds perceive Christians and the church?

antihomosexual-91%
judgemental-87%
hypocritical-85%
old-fashioned-78%
too involved in politics-75%
out of tough with reality-72%
insensitive to others-70%

Now, I have heard many people explain away these perceptions. Some say that we should not expect unbelievers to understand Christians or the church. Others suggest that the church and the world have different priorities and concerns. There are probably many other explanations as to why the world would see Christians and the church as judgemental, hypocritical, and insensitive to others.

Regardless of how we try to explain away these perceptions, the fact remains that Jesus seemed to indicate that the world would be able to recognize Christians as disciples of Christ by their love for one another. Granted, this verse does not talk about our interaction with those who are not Christians, but I think the case could be made that believers are also called to serve and love and care for those who are unbelievers. If those who are unbelievers are supposed to be able to recognize us by our love, why is “love” not mentioned as one of their perceptions?

Why do those in this generation see Christians and the church as judgemental, hypocritical, and insensitive to others? Could it be that they hear our talk, but they do not see our walk? Could it be that our sermons condemn their actions, but our actions do not demonstrate the love of Christ? Do you think that they hear the Christian celebrities denouncing culture on CNN, but they do not see Christ’s love from their neighbor?

As I think through these questions, another verse keeps going through my mind: But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8 ESV)

Could this be the same kind of love that God expects us to show to unbelievers? Does God expect us to love unbelievers (and demonstrate that love to them) even while they are sinners? From the perceptions listed above, it seems that unbelievers are not experiencing that kind of love from believers.

by Alan Knox in The Assembling of the Church

Listen to sermon clips from some masters

This is from AW Tozer, but check the many links to other preachers on this site:

<http://www.praize.com/sermons/A.W.Tozer/&gt;

Check out some great lessons at

East Hills Alliance, Kelso, WA <http://www.easthillsalliance.org/media.php?pageID=5&gt;

and

Christ the Redeemer, Spokane, WA <http://www.christredeemer.com/resources/index2/&gt;

Live in the light of eternity

These words  taken from a John Piper sermon on Romans 2:6-10″

I feel such a burden for us as a church to swim against the tide of almost every current in our culture. More and more and more, America is a nation given over to play. The industries of play are huge! Houses are built today with entertainment centers. Computers and videos and television and stereo all coordinate to give us ever more stimulating and captivating distractions from the realities of the world. When we need to be dreaming, for the glory of Christ, about how to spend our lives alleviating ignorance and sickness and misery and lostness, we are becoming more and more addicted to amusement.

Make a little test of evangelical vocabulary, and calculate, for example, the increasing frequency with which we use the world “fun” to describe almost everything we like. But when do we describe our good experiences as “meaningful” or “significant” or “enriching” or “ennobling” or “worthwhile” or “edifying” or “helpful” or “strengthening” or “encouraging” or “deepening” or “transforming” or “valuable” or “eye-opening” or “God-exalting”?

Examine yourself with this text: Whatever else it teaches, this is clear, it teaches that after death there is eternal life and glory and honor and peace, and there is eternal wrath and indignation and tribulation and distress. And in the twinkling of an eye, even before this service is over, you could be irreversibly in the one or the other. I am a watchman on the wall. And I have warned you as clearly as I know how. Get ready and stay ready.

Live in the light of eternity. And I do mean light, not shadow. When you have come to know your God, and love his Son so much that you can say, “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain,” then living in the light of eternity will replace your “fun” with deeper, higher, wider, longer, more unshakable, more varied, more satisfying, more durable, more solid pleasures than all the fun that entertainment could ever give. O come, and let us be a different breed of people for the few short years we have to live upon this earth! Dream some dream of making your life count for Christ and his Kingdom. “Only one life, ’twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

When we really look at the cross

“Every time we look at the cross Christ seems to say to us, ‘I am here because of you.  It is your sin I am bearing, your curse I am suffering, your debt I am paying, your death I am dying.’  Nothing in history or in the universe cuts us down to size like the cross.  All of us have inflated views of ourselves, especially in self-righteousness, until we have visited a place called Calvary. It is there, at the foot of the cross, that we shrink to our true size.”

John R. W. Stott, The Message of Galatians, page 179.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5

How can I tell if my trust in the Lord is wholehearted?

One way is this.  Do I let the Bible overrule my own thinking?  It says, “Do not lean on your own understanding.”  So, do I agree with the Bible, or do I obey the Bible?  My dog sometimes agrees with me, but she never obeys me.  If I merely agree with the Bible, then my positive response to it is not obedience but coincidence.  The Bible just happens to line up with the prejudices I’ve soaked up from my culture.  But what do I do when the Bible contradicts what I want to be true?  If I’m looking in the Bible for excuses for what I want anyway, my heart has already drifted from the Lord.  But if I trust him wholeheartedly, I will let the Bible challenge my most cherished thoughts and feelings.

Dr. Mohler to church leaders

Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. informs us, “Researchers George Gallup and Jim Castelli put the problem squarely: ‘Americans revere the Bible–but, by and large, they don’t read it. And because they don’t read it, they have become a nation of biblical illiterates.’ How bad is it? Researchers tell us that it’s worse than most could imagine.

Fewer than half of all adults can name the four gospels. Many Christians cannot identify more than two or three of the disciples. According to data from the Barna Research Group, 60 percent of Americans can’t name even five of the Ten Commandments. . . .

According to 82 percent of Americans, ‘God helps those who help themselves,’ is a Bible verse. Those identified as born-again Christians did better–by one percent. A majority of adults think the Bible teaches that the most important purpose in life is taking care of one’s family. . . .

A Barna poll indicated that at least 12 percent of adults believe that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife. Another survey of graduating high school seniors revealed that over 50 percent thought that Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife. A considerable number of respondents to one poll indicated that the Sermon on the Mount was preached by Billy Graham. We are in big trouble.”

This is on our watch. What can we pastors do about it? Here are a few obvious ideas. Please help me by adding your own:

1. Memorize the Bible together, as a church. One verse per week in your service. It can be fun, and it provides a moment of connectedness and participation together. It says a lot to guests about what your church is passionate for.

2. Gather a small group of eager men and go deeper. I believe every man should be able to think his way through the argument of the book of Romans, for example. That can happen, with great effect, in a small group.

3. Read the Bible in every worship service. Is this too obvious to say? I don’t think so. And end the reading with the faith-filled declaration, “This is God’s Word.” That solemnizes the moment in a gentle, non-spectacular, factual way. It’s a tactful way of saying, “Okay y’all, now we’ve got to deal with this for what it is.”

4. Preach from the Bible, and from the Bible only. Again, does this need to be said? One thing’s for sure. The Bible is fascinating, disturbing, offensive, sweet, alarming, comforting, stretching, shocking, controversial, caressing, strengthening. No way are you and I that interesting. Let’s put the Bible front and center and let it be itself and do its thing, whatever the impact. Submerging the Bible for the sake of our cool personas isn’t really cool at all. It’s a way of avoiding risk, chickening out.

5. Approach church problems and opportunities with explicit reference to the Bible, chapter and verse. Some may expect us to preach from the Bible but will be surprised if we lean hard on the Bible when everything is on the line. A corporate experience of realigning ourselves with the help of a specific, powerful and relevant verse of Scripture at an important moment in a church’s journey can be unforgettable.

6. Saturate your church’s children and youth with the Bible faithfully and enthusiastically, week by week, year by year, and they will still be drawing strength from it fifty years from now. They might not remember our names, but we will still be there in their lives, speaking the Bible into their hearts and minds and consciences.

Have you Gotten Your Daily Dose of Jesus?

The book of Hebrews opens with a beautiful description of the son of God.  This is fitting, for the theme of the entire book of Hebrews is the superiority of Christ.  That Christ is better than the angels, better than Moses, better than anything or anyone.

I believe that there is no greater thing for the Christian than to learn about and then to meditate upon the person of Christ.  What he is like, what he loves and hates, his glory.

Hebrews 1:1-4 says,

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

There is an ocean of truths that we can dive into in just these four verses.  The author of Hebrews says that Christ is the “radiance of the glory of the God.”  He is the visible manifestation of the invisible God.  Christ is also not the reflection of the glory of God, but he is the radiance—the glory of God emanates from the very person of Christ.

This means that we should be seeking to know the glory of the Living God everyday more and more.  We should take heart that we can somehow catch a glimpse of this glory in Christ.  Read Matthew.  Read Mark.  Read Luke.  Read John.  Read the Bible.  See for yourself what is this radiance of the glory of God.

Rub shoulders with the crowds, feel the desert heat, smell the salt air of the Sea of Galilee.  Don’t skim through the Bible like it’s just words on a page.  The glory of God is to be seen in Jesus turning water into wine, in Jesus feeding the five thousand, in Jesus rebuking the demons and healing the blind and raising the dead.

Hebrews 4:12 says that “the word of God is living and active.”  Do you want to know the living Christ?  Come to the living word and meet him, know him, behold his glory, love his person.
Have you gotten your daily dose of Christ today?  Is it as important as breathing, or eating, or sleeping?  Is Christ the medicine for your spiritual sicknesses?  Is Christ the cure for your debilitating sins?

He is.  It’s Bible reading time.