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?

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:


Check out some great lessons at

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


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.

Server or servant?

“Then he (Jesus) poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him” (John 13:5).

I love serving the Lord…usually.  What do I mean by that?  Well, for instance, there are many ways I enjoy serving at Lighthouse.  For a couple of years I served in the Flashlights ministry.  The kids were fantastic, the other teachers were wonderful to work with, and the snacks were great.  I served as an usher for a while, too.  It was a good feeling knowing I could provide a program and a seat all for the glory of God.  I also enjoyed being on the Connections team.  It’s amazing how a simple smile can make a big difference to a newcomer.  And now, I serve on the Shelps team.  We help set up and clean up each Sunday morning.  Again, the guys and gals who help are all fantastic.  Plus, I’d much rather set up the mics and amplifiers than sing or play music into them.  Like I said, I enjoy serving the Lord…usually.

I say “usually” because there are certain times when I find it difficult to serve.  The hardest time for me to serve is when I perceive someone to be treating me like a servant.  When someone expects me to serve, or when I’m looked down upon in my service, then I have a hard time serving the Lord. (Of course this never happens at Lighthouse, but you understand what I’m getting at).  Suddenly, my service to the Lord becomes unpalatable because I’m being treated like a servant.  It’s as though I’m saying to the Lord, “I’ll serve you, Lord…as long as I don’t actually have to be a real servant.”

In John 13, Jesus washes His disciples’ feet.  He takes on a lowly, dirty, and humiliating job.  Jesus humbles Himself before His disciples in an act of love and devotion.  He acts as a servant with all His heart.  He does not separate serving from being a servant.  Later, during Jesus’ greatest act of humility and servanthood, He goes to the cross as people spit on Him, mock Him, and physically torture Him, even though He is serving the very people who are attacking Him.  Jesus’ acts of love and service represent a genuine servant’s heart and not simply service rendered.

Are you a server?  Or are you a servant?  The former is someone who performs good acts occasionally.  The latter is someone who serves from a heart of true humility and love for the Lord.  May we be true servants of the Lord and follow the example of Jesus.

Lighthouse blog

Why me?

Don’t rush through this. It is worth reading slowly and repeatedly, for in it there is deep and profound wisdom. So often the initial reaction to painful suffering is Why me? Why this? Why now? Why? . . . [God] comes for you, in the flesh, in Christ, into suffering, on your behalf. He does not offer advice and perspective from afar; he steps into your signifi

Don’t rush through this. It is worth reading slowly and repeatedly, for in it there is deep and profound wisdom.

So often the initial reaction to painful suffering is Why me? Why this? Why now? Why? . . .

[God] comes for you, in the flesh, in Christ, into suffering, on your behalf. He does not offer advice and perspective from afar; he steps into your significant suffering. He will see you through, and work with you the whole way. He will carry you even in extremis. This reality changes the questions that rise up from your heart. That inward-turning “why me?” quiets down, lifts its eyes, and begins to look around.You turn outward and new, wonderful questions form.

Why you?

Why you?

Why would you enter this world of evils?

Why would you go through loss, weakness, hardship, sorrow, and death?

Why would you do this for me, of all people?

But you did.

You did this for the joy set before you.

You did this for love.

You did this showing the glory of God in the face of Christ.

As that deeper question sinks home, you become joyously sane. The universe is no longer supremely about you. Yet you are not irrelevant. God’s story makes you just the right size. Everything counts, but the scale changes to something that makes much more sense. You face hard things. But you have already received something better which can never be taken away. And that better something will continue to work out the whole journey long.

The question generates a heartfelt response:

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget any of his benefits, who pardons all your iniquities and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion, who satisfies your years with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle.

Thank you, my Father. You are able to give true voice to a thank you amid all that is truly wrong, both the sins and the sufferings that now have come under lovingkindness.

Finally, you are prepared to pose—and to mean—almost unimaginable questions:

Why not me?

Why not this?

Why not now?

If in some way, my faith might serve as a three-watt night-light in a very dark world, why not me?

If my suffering shows forth the Savior of the world, why not me?

If I have the privilege of filling up the sufferings of Christ?

If he sanctifies to me my deepest distress?

If I fear no evil?

If he bears me in his arms?

If my weakness demonstrates the power of God to save us from all that is wrong?

If my honest struggle shows other strugglers how to land on their feet?

If my life becomes a source of hope for others?

Why not me?

Of course, you don’t want to suffer, but you’ve become willing: “If it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Like him, your loud cries and tears will in fact be heard by the one who saves from death.

Like him, you will learn obedience through what you suffer.

Like him, you will sympathize with the weaknesses of others.

Like him, you will deal gently with the ignorant and wayward.

Like him, you will display faith to a faithless world, hope to a hopeless world, love to a loveless world, life to a dying world.

If all that God promises only comes true, then why not me?

David Powlison, “God’s Grace and Your Sufferings,”  in Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, pp. 172-173

Walking in the grace of the gospel

Also contributing to restless impatience is a failure to love as we should. In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul begins his eloquent treatment of love by reminding us that nothing can compensate for a lack of love. The ability to speak in human and angelic tongues, the gift of prophecy, miracle-working faith and costly self-sacrifice are all reduced to nothing without love. Then when Paul describes the kind of love he is talking about, the first characteristic is patience. He writes: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs” (vs.4-5). Impatience characterizes our age. We want everything now and we want things done yesterday. God, however, is not in a rush. He takes his time and works out his purposes according to what is best. Our problem is that we cannot always understand what he is doing at the time. Often we are are not good at seeing the bigger picture because our field of vision is too narrow and as a sad consequence of our narrow focus we are ready to run over anyone who gets in our way, and this, in the name of God and truth.

The antidote to inexperience, pride and impatience is to humble ourselves under the hand of God. He is sovereign in all areas of life and he will fulfill all of his promises and carry out all of his threats. By his grace we have a role to play during our brief time on earth. In the big scheme of things our role is very, very, very small, and yet, because it is a role he has assigned, it is significant, and important that we fulfill it. Our job is to believe and live out the truth in our lives–all of the truth, not just parts of it. We must embrace the truth of the gospel with gratitude and work out its implications in our lives. But we must do so recognizing that God is working on many fronts simultaneously and his thoughts are not our thoughts nor his ways our ways.

One other thing to keep in mind is that God reserves the right to surprise us in how he works out his plan. Therefore we would be wise to remain open to what he is doing in the world. Cookie-cutter Christians, churches and ministries fly in the face of who God is as the creator who has made the world such a beautiful and diverse place. While the truth of the gospel is one and fixed in Jesus Christ, the way the gospel colors our lives, churches and ministries is diverse and glorious. Giving people space to be all that God wants them to be as they experience the grace of God is vital for spiritual health, vitality and outreach. It is my prayer that we will not only produce people who grasp the essentials of the Christian gospel but whose view of God will be big enough to produce in them patience, humility and love so that they are gracious, winsome and balanced representatives of Jesus Christ in a world in desperate need of authentic role models.

Kirk Wellum, principal of Toronto Baptist Seminary