Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Statistics


We hear a lot about percentages and statistics. For many they are of great importance. People keep a close eye on their portfolio and rate of return. Sports fans are interested in the statistics of the game. When we hear of the chance of dying from a particular disease our interest is elevated. During election season we keep a close eye on the percentage points of potential votes for the various candidates. I could go on and on describing our interest in statistics. 
I recently read a statistic that seems alarming in some ways. Among Millennials the percentage of those claiming to be Christians now stands at 49%. This is the first time in the history of our nation that the majority has not professed Christianity. This is truly disturbing. We’ve known for a while that we are a thoroughly secular nation, but to see it in black and white is grievous to consider. It is far worse when you consider that among those who profess Christianity, only a fraction are truly regenerate. This means the number of Christians in our nation is quite small.
What does this statistic mean to us a Christians? How are we to interpret it? On one hand it means living in this world as Christians is continuing to be difficult. It is hard to live in a world where most hate Christ. But, there is nothing new about this. This is the condition every generation of Christians has faced.
What about the impact upon evangelism? Doesn’t this make our work much more difficult? With so many people denying the claims of Christ should we be smitten with fear? Actually, this statistic offers greater opportunities for the Gospel. How is this true? What if 90% of Americans claimed to be Christians? We know that our nation is thoroughly pagan so it would mean that we would spend much of our work in evangelism describing the nature of genuine Christianity and laboring to explain to many that they do not actually know Christ. A person has to be lost before he can be saved. But if less than half profess Christ it gives us a clean slate. Our great work is to tell lost sinners the good news of the Gospel of Christ.
The truth is, statistics mean nothing in our Gospel work. The command of Christ is still, “Go make disciples.”                              

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

The Celebration of Christmas


Luke 2:9-10 - "And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people;"

December has arrived and the Christmas Season is upon us. The celebration of the birth of Christ is all around us, even in the midst of our secular observance of the holiday. The question is, what is the proper response to the birth of Christ? Some choose to ignore His birth. They have no place for Him in the world they have fashioned around themselves. For others, there is much greater hostility. They cannot tolerate Him because He is too threatening. There were many of these during the brief life of Jesus upon the earth. There was king Herod who saw Jesus as a threat to his reign. He sought to destroy King Jesus in order to maintain his own position. The Pharisees also wanted to destroy Him because they too were threatened by His authority. Then there was the mixed multitude who could only shout, “Away with Him! Crucify Him!”

But what is the proper response to the birth of Christ? Jesus was born in a manger, in a most meager condition. His birth was first announced to the shepherds, who were in the field watching over their flock. When the angels appeared to them they were terrified, frightened to the core.

The angel comforted them and encouraged them not to be afraid. Immediately the shepherds made haste and came to Bethlehem to see the Christ child. What did they see? Was it merely a baby laying in a feed trough? What they saw was the eternal Son of God. They believed the words of the angel. They saw far more than a human baby. “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). They saw the Savior of God’s people.

What we read next is the proper response to the birth of Christ— "The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen” (Luke 2:20). They knew they had witnessed the extraordinary. They had seen the Savior. Their response was the only proper response. They returned believing, and rejoicing, praising, and glorifying God for the wonder of His excellent gift. And then they went sharing the good news with others.

May God fill our hearts with wonder and awe as we celebrate this wondrous season. God has shed His love upon us in sending forth His Son that we might be reconciled and adopted as His own children

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

THANKSGIVING

The fourth Thursday of November is set aside as a day of Thanksgiving, a time marked by family gatherings, good food, and a time of reflection upon the rich bounty of our great God. 

The first Thanksgiving was celebrated in1621, the year after the arrival of the Mayflower. It was attended by 53 pilgrims, the only colonists to survive the long journey across the ocean and the first winter in the New World. This was just over half of the original 102 who set sail for the new world in 1620. They were helped through the winter with supplies of food from the local Indians, but the ultimate supply came from the unseen hand of God's Providence. As they gathered together to celebrate the first harvest, they had much for which to be thankful. The first celebration wasn't called Thanksgiving. It was simply a harvest celebration, but it was full of gratitude to God for His provision. 

There are many different opinions surrounding this first Thanksgiving. There is one point that cannot be disputed. These early pilgrim colonists were Christians. They looked to God for their provision, even in the midst of their terrible ordeal. The Christian heart is full of gratitude. While the first Thanksgiving was most likely not called by this name, two years later they held a "Thanksgiving" that was primarily a religious day of prayer and fasting. In time these two events became intertwined. They regularly gathered for a season of Thanksgiving to God.

It is God's will for His people to live in a continual spirit of thanksgiving, gratitude that is directed to Him for all of His great blessings. The Psalmist writes, Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name" (Psalm 103:1 KJV). We praise and worship God with our whole heart, all that is within us. We praise God in all things and in every circumstance. Paul instructs us, "in everything give thanks, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thes. 5:18). This is all-inclusive--"in everything."

As you prepare your heart for the 2019 season of Thanksgiving ponder deeply the countless blessings God has poured out in your life. Even the things we consider trials are actually God's wondrous work in us preparing us for glory. And as Thanksgiving begins the Christmas season, begin to ponder anew the greatest blessing of God's gift of His Son.

 

Friday, October 4, 2019

Despising God's Word


“The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, ‘There is one man by whom we may inquire of the LORD, but I hate him, for he never prophesies anything good concerning me but always evil’” (2 Chronicles 18:7 NASB).       

            After the death of Asa Jehoshaphat his son became king over Judah. He reigned for 25 years and the Bible describes his reign favorably, doing right in the sight of God. His one flaw was in aligning himself with the kings of Israel who were consistently wicked. “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers” (Psalm 1). He became united with Ahab, king of Israel, by marriage and went to visit him at Samaria. Ahab convinced Jehoshaphat to join him in going to war with the Arameans. Jehoshaphat being a righteous man agreed, but first wanted to hear from God. Ahab gathered together his prophets, 400 in all—not a one being a true prophet of God. Each of them assured Ahab of success. Jehoshaphat was not impressed by their credentials nor their words. He turned to Ahab and asked, “Is there not yet a prophet of the LORD here that we may inquire of him?” It turns out that in all Israel there was a single prophet of God, but Ahab wasted no time in expressing his opinion of this man of God, “I hate him.” Ahab hated Micaiah because he spoke the clear Word of God. The wicked man cannot endure sound preaching, while a righteous man cannot endure the false.

            Ahab’s words express plainly the heart of most men regarding the preaching of the Word of God. They despise it. Paul described them, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teacher in accordance to their own desires” (2Tim. 4:3). Ahab despised Micaiah, not because of his actions, but because of his words—“he never prophesies anything good.” Many people share the heart of Ahab. They despise preaching. They cannot imagine themselves sitting for an hour listing to some man rant about a portion of the Bible. And if they do attend, they will often take offense over what they hear.

            Sadly, some Christians are not far different from Ahab in their approach to the proclamation of God’s Word. They fail to comprehend the weightiness of the words. Some dismiss the words because they don’t care for the preacher—”I hate him.” In our generation many dismiss the words because they have been conditioned by their endless exposure to media. They watch TV or movies for entertainment, but don’t really expect any life-changing impact upon their lives. There is no authority contained in a movie. They are exposed to the many news sources but dismiss much of what they hear as “fake news.” They enter the worship service as a spectator and see the preaching as yet one more form of expression to be received or rejected at will. They are just words and ideas spoken by a man. If they don’t like the words they like they reject them, or perhaps even despise the one who spoke them. Few see preaching of the Word of God as a matter of life or death. This puts a weighty responsibility upon the preacher. Like Micaiah, he must be careful to preach only the Word of God.